Chuq Von Rospach is a Silicon Valley veteran doing Technical Community Management and amateur photographer with a strong interest in birds, wildlife and landscapes. My goal is to explore the Western states and working to tell you the stories of the special places I've found. You can find out more on the About Page.
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Monthly Archives: January 2007
Then I remembered the Internet Archive Wayback Machine, a handy way of peeking back through the curtain of time to see websites as they used to be. Sure enough, In the Crease is in there, and in one of the oldest issues they have captured there, is a piece I wrote after getting my first press pass to an NHL game. This wasn’t just any old game, however, it was March 26, 1997, when the Colorado Avalanche came to Detroit to face the Red Wings, in Claude Lemiuex’s first visit to Hockeytown after the infamous Kris Draper hit.
We should probably remember that there was a time before the web, also. Laurie and I ran the first San Jose Sharks list (and at the max, about 35 hockey mailing lists), which came into existence before San Jose actually played a game. Early on there were a number of writers doing very detailed write-ups of games (most notably Nelson Lu, who was effectively the list’s “beat writer” for years). We’ve had a quiet and mostly positive relationship with the Sharks for years (more active when Matt Levine was with the team, but we still keep in touch, so to speak). It was in 1994, I think, that we first showed this interesting new thing to the sharks called a browser and a web page and suggested that the team that lived in silicon valley could use it to reach out to fans. They did (not through us….), and I believe they were the first NHL team with any kind of web site.
When Laurie and I ran the web site for the Spiders (1995-96), and hosted the Icedog’s web site (written and maintained by a friend down in LA), we both had full access press passes and photo passes, and Laurie also did some photo work down in Long Beach for the dog’s web site.
So this stuff’s been going on for a long time. It’s great to see bloggers hitting the mainstream and being taken seriously by teams; I still think that both teams and bloggers need to be realistic and understand that simply hanging out a shingle on a blog doesn’t make you qualified or worthy for getting special privileges, but there are definitely some writers on the net doing a much better job than many of the hockey “writers” that happen to get paychecks.
Me, part of me kinda wishes it was 10 or 15 years ago, when we were younger and more motivated to try to make things happen. today, honestly, I much prefer enjoying hockey games than working them, and our seats are a damn sight better than the ones in the press box. (this is one reason I don’t do the in-depth referee critiques I used to do; I got tired of taking notes at games and doing the research to make the critiques worth reading; be wary of turning your points of joy into jobs, boys and girls….)
I still have one project I’d like to do some day, At one point, Matt Levine approved it, if I could get the book contract, but I decided to focus on my computer work again. Now that I’m moving back into my writing again, maybe it’s time to dust it off and see if it’s worth doing. Hell, these days, it’d make a really fun set of articles for the Sharks web site instead of (or as well as) a book…. THAT might be fun….
Checking Line Â» Blog Archive Â» Bettmanâ€™s Biggest Failure:
Now letâ€™s get to where he actually messed upâ€¦
Ultimately, Bettmanâ€™s biggest failure as commissioner was that he didnâ€™t achieve what he did during the lockout years earlierâ€¦ and that goes for everything from the salary cap, to revenue sharing, to the changes in the rule book.
The game on the ice was allowed to slip for too long. Defense will always â€˜winâ€™ and coaches will always coach defense first. The league allowed scoring to drop too much before doing anything to counteract this effect. The changes they made during the lockout were years in the making and itâ€™s important that they realize now that if they donâ€™t do anything again for the next 10 years the game will again get â€˜boringâ€™. And fans need to recognize that being proactive is good for the sport, not the bad thing many so-called traditionalists make it out to be.
Off the ice, the league was unstable financially for too long and, despite what some people will tell you, the financial landscape did lead to a competitive imbalance. Expansion would be viewed as less of a failure if markets like Miami were more in a position to be competitive for their first 13 years of existence.
This is a valid point, but if people look back to the lockout of 1994-95, the owners came out of that stoppage with a CBA where they thought they’d “won” and fixed the problems. It quickly became clear that they hadn’t, as the agents found ways around things like the salary cap for rookies, and arbitration escalated salaries.
There was a later time when the league had the option to open the CBA (1999, I think) and chose to extend it, instead. Was that a mistake? Yes. but it was also, it seemed, a practical reality. It has to be remembered that the labor stoppage wasn’t about the “league versus players” per se. It was more complicated than that, in that there are two factions among owners: the high revenue teams like Toronto and the Rangers, and the low-revenue teams like Calgary and Buffalo. Until the pain became bad enough that even the higher revenue teams agreed that something needed to be done, there was no reason to open the CBA, because politically, the owners wouldn’t be resolved and unified (enough) to get the changes needed to REALLY fix things. (it’s unclear they still have, although early indications are encouraging).
So it’s no failure if you come out of a fight thinking you won (and didn’t), and then later wait until you know what has to be done AND have the backing of your side to make it happen. opening the CBA early, only to have a faction of the owners agree to a new CBA that doesn’t solve the problem — well, it doesn’t solve the problem. probably makes it worse.
What this really comes down to is that you have factions of owners more interested in their own success than the league’s success (and yes, that is stupid and shortsighted but Bettman can’t fire an owner, he works for them), and the process Bettman and the varous ownership factions had to work through to generate concensus and actually unite the owners long enough to make change possible. And while that took a while, it looks like Bettman finally succeeded at it.
And it’s no failure waiting on a fight until the odds favor you. Unless of course, your business fails in the meantime. but the real look of the internal politic among the owners indicates taht it had to get pretty desperate before some of the owners would come along for the ride and admit they had to agree to some of the changes.
And bettman probably deserves more credit than he’ll get for getting that group of 30 rich, ego-driven, successful and stubborn businessmen to all agree about anything, much less about enough things to get this new CBA in play….
As I was processing this image in Aperture, I started to think a bit about the way I work through photos in that application. In particular, I was thinking about the way I balance editing decisions between evaluating the technical aspects of a photograph and the emotional impact.
I realised that I’m way too obsessed with the technical. One of the tools at my disposal that contributes to this is Aperture’s loupe tool. With the flick of a key, you’ve got a 100% view of the tiniest detail in your image. It’s very easy to detect a fractionally missed focus or slight motion blur in any image without first thinking about what the image really shows.
That’s not to say that the feature isn’t useful, or that such matters are irrelevant, but it has certainly led me down a path of technical obsession that I associate more with amateur camera magazine critiques than with the images I find personally compelling. Take one look at National Geographic, or the VII archives. You’ll find ultra-grainy, motion-blurred images.
i went through the same epiphany recently. I think this is part of the maturation of a photographer; It’s easy to focus on the technical (i.e. geeky) aspects of photography, and lord knows, photography is almost as much fun as scuba or computers when it comes to encouraging toy buying. But at some point, you start seeing what’s behind the technical details, you start seeing the whole of the photo, not just the pieces.
I’ve had a few of these ephiphanies. I remember reading articles and books that talked about sharpening, and looking at before and after, and going “huh?” — and I remember the day I looked at photos and going “oh. THAT’s what sharpening does”. Before, I could tell (some of the time) that one photo was clearer than another, but in most cases, sharpening is a really subtle improvement; you cna tell, but can you tell why? And then, suddenly, I could see it.
The second ephiphany was when I could really see OVERsharpening. And I think most photographers go through a “if a little is good, a lot is better” phase. I also have gone through a “let’s kick the saturation up a notch” phase. so… All of this is, I think, part of the process of really learning effective, quality photography. And I think what digital photographers are learning (or have learned, or will learn) is that despite all of the digital aspects of photography today, it’s still a very analog discipline, and the technical underpinnings are exactly that — underpinnings.
I’ve been trying to think about how to respond to Tom. Whether to. I’m not sure his CNHL needs any response, but I feel it deserves one. But not a mean or angry one.
Tom Benjamin’s NHL Weblog: Vive la CNHL Libre:
It’s too late to stop making it worse? It’s past time to stop digging, to climb out of the hole and to bury both Gary Bettman and the American Dream. It’s past time for the game to return to it’s roots. It’s past time for the owners of the Canadian teams to acknowledge that the American market has been lost and to decide that it is far better to be a very large frog in a small pond than to drown in the American ocean.
It is time for the Canadian teams to seize the day and to separate. To secede. To fire on Fort Sumter. To stop subsidizing the American market. To form a more perfect union, the Canadian National Hockey League.
Revenues – and profits – per team would take a large leap forward even if they shorten both the regular season and the playoffs. If the American NHL survives, great. There can be genuine competition for talent between the two leagues. It is not hard to imagine a playoff (perhaps including a couple of European leagues?) in an international fight for the Stanley Cup. Gary Bettman can even keep trying to make his grand plan a reality. Good luck to him.
I don’t know if Tom realizes it or not, but he’s effectively picked up the call of Quebec separatism and mapped it to Canadian hockey. Canadian hockey is special. It’s distinct. It’s better off on its own, instead of as part of the larger hockey ecosystem. There are aspects of this — that are frankly true. it’s an emotionally powerful argument, one that I expect every Canadian hockey fan can relate to to some degree.
But like the Quebec “situation”, the problem is in the details. And the funding. I tried to take Tom at face value. I started analyzing the proposal and assumptions “Revenues — and profis — per team would take a large leap forward even if they shorten both the regular season and playoffs”.
Is that really true? Think about it. Let’s assume, for the moment, that the CNHL splits off. Add two teams: Winnipeg and Halifax (to make Ron MacLean happy). That gives you four western teams, four eastern teams. two conferences, no divisions.
So — how does revenue go up here? you add two teams, the TV contract from CBC (assuming it doesn’t go down) gets splits 8 ways instead of six (footnote 1). But in reality, Tv revenues go down — after all, we’re cutting the # of games. Fewer games, fewer ads shown. fewer ads shown, less ad revenue, lower payments to the league, which now get split 8 ways. Also, currently 2 canadian teams are (from best data I can find) paying into revenue sharing, while 8 US teams are. Two canadian teams (edmonton and Calgary) seem to draw on revenue sharing, to 7 US teams. So assuming revenue sharing doesn’t change, Montreal and Toronto will subsidize Calgary and Edmonton, but the overall share will go down, because there won’t be any US funds and more US teams were contributing to revenue sharing than taking back out…
Season: how about playing the other conference home and home (8 games total), and playing in conference — how many times? 7? 8? how soon will you get tired of seeing Vancouver, anyway? 7 x 3 is 21 games, plus 8 is 29. Okay, three home and home in the other conference (24), plus 21, is 54 games. or we could go 62, but I can hear teams whining about travel costs already. Vancouver flying to Halifax and back four times? fun!
54 games is a 35% reduction in # of games. 62 is a 25% reduction. that’s a loss of 1/4 of your gate receipts, and probably a loss of 1/4 of your TV revenues, and a reduction (but less than that) for other secondary revenues like boards and signage. But since the league is basically gate + CBC revenues, as the number of games go down, so will revenues, and so will salaries. Only thing that won’t go down is ticket prices.
Players: Tom, I think, is making the basic assumption that Canadians will go home and play in the CNHL, and Americans will play in what’s left of the NHL, until it blows up and fails. He doesn’t really talk about the Europeans, but there seems to be an assumption they’ll go home and play in Europe. Now Canada can staff up an 8 team league fine — no question. But he left a little bomb in his statement “competition for players”.
Anyone remember the WHA? Probably not. It’s a dim memory for most of us, but it was also the last time open competition for players happened; and what happened was salary inflation and illogical contracts: even more illogical than Alex Daigle’s deal was. Today, there’s competition for 2nd tier players between the AHL and the European leagues — in practice, the European leagues are winning most of those fights now. Players will go where the money is.
Tom seems to be envisioning an alliance of leagues based more or less on national lines, with some kind of “world cup” competition for the Stanley cup. Unfortunately, the IIHF does that today, and as we can see with problems like the russians and the transfer fees, not very well. Split the US and Canada in two, and put outright salary competition in place — and hockey falls into absolute chaos. Things like what we saw with Malkin would become common. Someone ask Igor Larionov if he thinks this would be a good idea…
No, more likely: the American owners who have deep pockets without US TV dollars will still have deep pockets. They’re paying these salaries today; they’re going to lose paying in a chunk of revenue sharing to the canadian teams, deepening the pockets some. With a 20-24 team league (compared to 6-8 teams in canada), a 70-75 game schedule, even an 80 game schedule is still very possible. that means that the net loss in revenue on the American side is a lot less than the net loss in revenue on the Canadian side.
End result: the Americans, no TV contract to speak of notwithstanding will be a lot more capable of sustaining high salaries than Canadian teams; figure a 10% loss of revenue to a 25% loss of revenue. So the logical result is that the CNHL has, overnight, turned into a AAA league.
Tom has, whether he wants to admit it or not, just invented the CFL. The US NHL may not have the national TV dollars — but that doesn’t mean they’re poor. And the US will still end up with the larger league, the better funded league, and the league with most of the premier hockey venues (NY, Detroit, chicago, boston), excluding Toronto and Montreal. With equal or better salaries, you can expect the better players to come to the US NHL. With the better players in the US, the CNHL will struggle to compete; of the three major reasons a player might choose one league over the other (“1) more money”, “2) playing against the best”, “3)playing for the home country, or near home”) Canada loses two out of three. And as all the Europeans in the NHL today shows – the third one isn’t a major draw.
The reality is — Canada needs the US in the NHL, warts and flaws and all. In reality, with or without a major US TV contract, there are a lot of rich old pharts down here in the states willing to put up money because they also happen to love Canada’s game — and where necessary, subsidize it and throw money at it to make sure it succeeds on both sides of the border. And they depend on normal people — people like me, and Laurie, and every other American who buys a hockey ticket every year — to help fund their love of the game. Lose the US, and you don’t have the magic of Tom’s CNHL. you have the CFL, arguing about what the quota for native players vs. imports should be every year.
A couple of data points that are somewhat relevant here, or at least interesting (to me). (*footnote 2)
Where 25 years ago 80% of the NHL roster spots were filled by Canadians, that number is just over 50% now. In the 2006 draft, Canadians were no longer the majority of players drafted — 83 Canadian, 120 not (half of those U.S, followed by Sweden, Russia and Finland). In a way, it’s clear that hockey is no longer JUST Canada’s game; it’s a world game, of which Canada is a very special part of it.
The last season the NHL was Canadian only was in — 1923. For the 1924 season, the league expanded into Boston. (The REAL original six, by the way, is arguably Hamilton, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, the Monreal Maroons and Boston; the current “original six” is really just a marketing hook, it’s the “six franchises that have successfully not kicked off yet”). In 1925, Hamilton went away, and Pittsburgh and the New York Americans joined. In 1926, the league expanded to ten teams, split into two conferences, and added the NY Rangers, teh Chicago “black hawks”, and the Detroit “Cougars”. We now have six teams in the US, and four teams in Canada (with the NY Americans evening out the Canadian division) — and never again would the league have as many (or more) canadian teams. So “Canada’s game” has actually had more franchises in the US than Canada for over 90 years now. The “Black Hawks” became the “Blackhawks”, the “Cougars” became the “Red Wings”, and various teams went away — and that’s how we ended up with the “original six” we honor today.
The Pittsburgh Pirates isn’t one of them. The great depression hit, and the owners of the pirates ran into financial difficulties. After the 1929-30 season, they “temporarily” moved the team to Philadelphia while they waited for a new arena to be built in Pittsburgh, where they played one year as the Quakers, and then went on hiatus, never to be seen again. Pittsburgh, in fact, wouldn’t return to the NHL until the civic arena was built in 1961 and the NHL brought the penguins to life as part of expansion in 1967. The civic arena is the building that now needs to be replaced — or the Penguins will again leave town, but I doubt they’ll call themselves the Kansas City Quakers. (Philadelphia didn’t see hockey again until the WHA moved the Miami Screaming Eagles (who never played a game in Miami) to Philly for 1972-72, where they played one season, then became the Vancouver Blazers for two years, and then the Calgary Cowboys for one final kick at the can. Two years later, they faded to black, and Philly didn’t get an NHL tam until expansion in 1967, Vancouver in 1970, and Calgary in 1980.
(footnote 1: this unfortunately reminds me of the old joke: a woman goes into a pizza parlor and orders a large pepperoni. The man asks “do you want it cut into 6 or 8 pieces?” she answers: “6. I can’t eat 8″)
(footnote 2: there will be a pop quiz. class dismissed)
1) take cats to vet for checkup
2) winter garden cleanup
3) put the rest of the christmas stuff back in storage
4) sharks game saturday night
5) go birding on sunday.
6) work on “outsider’s guides”
1) tear apart bedroom to find cats
2) take cats to vets for checkup
3) decide as long as bedroom is torn up it’s a good time to shampoo carpets
4) find out the carpet shampooer has died a hero (hey, it moved here with us from Mountain View….)
5) off to target for a new carpet shampooer
6) decide to watch the sharks from home — if we stay awake
7) we did (barely)
8) decide to stay home and take it easy, work on “outsider’s guide”
9) spend hours wandering around groups.google.com going “gee, did I really write THAT crap?”
10) afternoon nap
11) catch up on Mythbusters episodes
12) realize it’s time to crash…
How things change. Anyone who knows cats understands how the weekend went sideways. ours have this innate, psychic ability to know that the cat boxes have been pulled from storage, even if they’re not able to see that they’re moved. at some point, Archie will look at one or the other of us and canter off; we now know that he’s headed into hiding, and he usually grabs Manon and she runs off with him. If we’re lucky, it’s under the bed (if it’s not, it’s in the garage or storage room, and then we’re in big trouble)
extricating them involves tearing off all the bedsheets, then leaning the mattress and box springs against the wall with the door and closet closed and locked, and then grabbing the cats (who have welded their claws into the carpet) and stuff them in boxes. If we’re lucky, we can do this in about 20 minutes… We made the vets with 5 minutes to spare….
One of the things we discovered was that quiet, lovable Manon has another side to her. See, in the past, since Apple had christmas week off, we’d head down to my family in LA and board the animals, and the annual checkup and shots happened magically when we were gone. We’ve actually never been IN the room during a checkup since Manon’s kitten check. This year, with everything changed, we had to do the checkup ourselves.
Manon was mostly cooperative; until the vet went to take her temperature (I’ll stop a second while you ponder how cats get their temperatures taken; it’s not under the tongue). She just made it quite clear that wasn’t going to happen, and the vet smiled and declared it optional. More amusingly, when we checked her files, we found out teh ONLY time her temperature has been taken was her kitten checkup. Shots? Mildly annoying? Thermometer? not a chance.
Archie wasn’t happy, but he let us do the necessary.
Both are healthy, both are now up to date on shots and boosters. Manon is 14.5 pounds, and about a pound heavy. Archie’s 12+, and right on. All is well in the world.
And, as long as we have the bedroom torn apart, we can shampoo the carpets and get under the bed easily. No problem!
yeah, right. ohwell. I’ll finish the shampooing of the rest of the house next weekend…
I had a great time wandering through the old blog postings and the old USENET stuff today. wasn’t what I’d planned, but what the heck. Nice to run into some folks (virtually) that I haven’t seen in years. Interesting that I can go back 20+ years and document that I’ve averaged a posting a day that entire time. (note I said interesting; good? useful? productive? god knows…)
And we’re mostly up to date on TV again, except for the last two episodes of Battlestar, which I’d probably say was the best written thing on TV if it wasn’t for Dr. Who coming out of britain… just finished viewing 2nd season from Sci-Fi earlier in the week, and the way they ended year two blew me away. I’ll miss you, Rose Tyler. (now, how do they top this?)
Google Groups: net.singles:
Actually, I think the question of ‘What is love’ is really two questions.
The unspoken side of it is what I will deal with first.
What isn’t Love
Love isn’t living happily ever after. Love isn’t a solution, a way of life,
or an end of problems. Love isn’t never having to say you’re sorry (the man
that said that should be shot, he obviously has never loved). Love isn’t a
do all, a cure all, a see all, a know all, or a remedy for baldness, hay
fever, or hormonal imbalances. Love isn’t music whenever she enters the
room, marriage ceremonies, sex, children, rings, orgasms, or vows. Love
isn’t well understood, well defined, or (it seems, unfortunately) properly
What is Love
Love is trust. Love is letting someone inside that wall, where all the deep
dark secrets of your life are. Love is allowing yourself to be weak when
you can’t be strong, to be vulernable when you can’t be untouchable, to
allow someone the opportunity to really dig deep into your psyche and hurt
you because you know they won’t. Love is caring, and sharing, and wanting
your hopes and fears to be known by others. Love is laughing at the good,
crying with the bad, commiserating with the sad. Love is being there, in
body, mind, spirit, thought, or being. Love is hard work– it doesn’t solve
problems, it creates new problems; problems that you want to solve, but
solve together instead of alone. Love doesn’t happen, love is nurtured,
like a fine rose. If not properly fed and watered, love dies, just as a
vine will die of neglect. Love doesn’t cling, but love is the glue that
binds two very different people into a single being that is nothing like
either, but a lot like both. Love is stroking the hard, grabbing the
fingers, smiling, laughing, crying. Love is looking into each others eyes,
and knowing, without speaking. Love is all the joys and pains and hope and
fears and successes and failures and pasts and futures of two people
congealed into a single energy that allows them to share with each other in
ways others can’t understand. Love is knowing that you have something that
can be freely given, but never have less of; shared, and multiplied; but
never, never taken, stolen, or destroyed.
I think, though, that the most important definition is this:
Someday, some poor student working on a Ph.D. is going to try to explain USENET and how it operated (and didn’t) as part of their thesis; maybe they’ll be crazy enough to look at it in the wider context of the birth of the Internet in its current form, and whatever it decides to become.
I doubt there’s a better explanation for what it was like to live through USENET from start to finish than the USENET Olympics. Scott Forbes had this wonderful ability to both put things in perspective and make them horribly funny at the same time, without ever taking things very seriously. Sort of like Dave Berry, sort of like Scary Movie, finding the essence within the silly.
So running into this again today was truly a trip back to the past for me; for most of you, for all I know, this is going to be gibberish….
(and, in fact, I did actually use the phrase “they aren’t rules, they’re guidelines” in the last couple of weeks, and then laughed a bit. Much to the confusion of the people I was with at the time; I declined to explain then, because that was a rathole not worth travelling. But the answer is actually here in Scott’s piece…..)
[Chuq and Peter are walking away from Lawrence Stadium on a
road made entirely of asbestos bricks.]
>Isn’t there SOMETHING you can tell me about this place, other
>than the obvious “Wizard of Oz” parallels?
>You must find the answers for yourself. There is no other way.
>Who or what is at the end of the road? Emerald City? The Wizard?
>It will all be clear to you when we reach the end of our quest.
>Look, all I want to do is change the Guidelines. Why is –
[There is a terrifying high-pitched wail, trailing off into
frequencies beyond human hearing, and filled with terrible purpose.
A Rulewraith on a winged steed descends from the sky, blocking
the path before Peter and Chuq. The Rulewraith looks suspiciously
like Jose Martinez:]
>THE GUIDELINES ARE INFLEXIBLE! THEY MUST BE FOLLOWED TO THE
>EXACT LETTER WITHOUT ACCOMODATION! THEY MUST NOT BE BENT OR
>ALTERED OR MODIFIED! YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE THEM!
[Horrified by the evil in the words of the Rulewraith, Peter
stands frozen in sheer terror. Chuq calmly pulls a bucket of
water out of his cloak and throws it at the Rulewraith.]
>AIYEE! I’M MELTING!
[The Rulewraith dissolves, leaving an inky puddle. Peter stares
at the puddle, then stares at Chuq.]
>Please do not say those words again.
Greg dropped me an email on one of my other pieces, and so I went to read his writing over on Fourth Period, which is new to me.
I think he’s done a great job of some of the issues leading to the frustration I’ve had this year; I’m not as quick to blame the league for all of this — a lot of these things seem fairly small, except that the media has focussed on them and made them seem bigger than they are.
But having said that, read his piece, then come back and I’ll run further down this rathole…..
The hockey fan in me wishes the preamble to my obligatory snark-fest of year-end awards (see the end of the column) could focus on what the NHL considers to be reasons to rejoice.
Faster play. More scoring. Parity to the point of parody. Young stars who will carry this league on their shoulder pads (under their form-fitting aerodynamic new jerseys, naturally) for the next two decades.
The hockey cynic in me knows better than to swallow that sugar-coated dung. It used to be that the league was broken; now, regretfully, it’s the game as well.
Two years of rules tinkering have left the NHL with a baffling, damaged product â€” tentative where it should be explosive, passive where it should be physical, tedious where it should be tantalizing.
It has left players wondering what they’re allowed to do, what they’re allowed to say, and when body-checks and slapshots will be banned for safety’s sake.
It’s a game that would have left fans reaching for the remote control to change the channel, but that would assume the majority of them could find VERSUS or HDNet in their cable universe to begin with.
Yet the tide is turning. It’s no longer an issue that the casuals are not coming to the arena or watching on television â€” it’s that some of the diehards aren’t, either.
In the end, 2006 may be the year when we’ve all decided just not to take it anymore.
The biggest mistake we, as hockey fans, made was not holding the owners and players more accountable for stealing a season from us during the lockout.
We were just glad to have the game back. But the honeymoon is over. The alarm clock has sounded.
Cost certainty? The only certainty is that watching this game is costing more every season.
In 2007, we’ll be faced with more problems, from realignment and relocations to skin-tight jerseys and even tighter rules enforcement. Raise hell of you don’t like them, on the blogs and on the message boards and in the stands. And keep raising hell until the league corrects not only its most recent mistakes (hello, overtime format), but also its lasting ones.
Like acknowledging that VERSUS, with its empty promises and disappointing coverage, has become SportsChannel America Part Deux and that the league needs a new cable home in the U.S., pronto (though not necessarily ESPN).
Like dropping the instigator penalty, a move that would serve as a coded message to disenfranchised diehards: “Friends, please be advised that you can start watching hockey again.”
I’ve left in a few pieces I wanted to comment on — there’s a lot more, well-written and well-thought, over on his site (I TOLD you to go read it. I’ll wait….)
I think the biggest problem this year is simple: lack of patience, and that lack of patience is being fueled by the media. We’ve had one season under the new CBA, and the the wardrums are beating all around the league: the salary cap is a failure, Versus is a failure, reffing is falling apart, the intensity is out of the game…
The CBA is no miracle worker. To think that all of the problems in the league will be solved in ONE year by one piece of paper — to me, that anyone can think that way is insane. The new CBA is the foundation that allows the league to build on to solve the other problems. By declaring that those other solutions have failed when they’re barely starting is wrong. It’s like having a custom house built, and going out to inspect the construction, and, seeing the foundation and some of the framing going up, declaring that the living room furniture is ugly.
The CBA was about stopping the bleeding; the league was rapidly becoming one where four or five teams could spend their way to success, and seven and eight teams were out of the playoffs october 30th, every year — they had NO chance to compete. that’s GREAT for those five teams, but for the other 25? Not so. And for those seven or 8 teams that had the chances of the Montreal Expos?
Name another large sports league that’s suffered bankruptcy among its franchises in the last 15 years. We’ve had two.
the lock out sucked — but the alternative was worse. It was a league that was clearly going to shrink, and shrink violently. you think shutting the league down for a year hurts your ability to draw fans, think about having a team shut down and go away mid season would play among the media and the non-fans it speaks to. That’s where we were heading.
Now, team finances and competitive balance are being balanced. This is a multi-year thing, though, because of some of the contracts teams signed under the old CBA that have to be honored, and some of the (*really freaking stupid like the Rathje or Hatcher contract*) deals signed by teams that should have known better. Some teams have figured out how to thrive under the salary cap (the Sharks) and are. Other teams weren’t paying attention, and now they’re hurting. As they learn how to make deals under the new CBA, and as their old, stupid deals expire — this will settle out.
But the point is, we’re in transition. The league needs a few years to let the changes settle in, and the league needs to be willing to let them do it.
on the TV side — to me, ESPN vs. Versus (vs. anything else) is irrelevant. I’ve been doing some research on this, but not quite ready to write it. Basically, though, the best numbers I’ve seen are ESPN: 90 million households, Versus: 70 million. Relative ratings for the NHL on ESPN before the switch and Versus since are equivalent, with the different in total audience being mostly due to the smaller reach. Versus, however, continues to push to grow it’s reach in markets where it’s not available. What isn’t in there (and what I haven’t found yet) is ESPN2, which has a smaller reach and much smaller audience than ESPN.
And that’s my gripe on the whole “let’s go back to ESPN” thing. Move the NHL back to ESPN, and what you REALLY mean is back to ESPN2. the NHL would go back to being a team relegated to the “scottish strongman competition channel” station, not really on ESPN itself. Versus is treating the NHL like a big thing (which for Versus, it is); ESPN always treated the NHL like an afterthought and a time filler. Where is the advantage of going from being the big fish in a smaller pond to being a tiny fish in a huge pond. Personally, I think staying with Versus, who’s willing to try to work with the NHL to generate interest and where the league is a focus gives them a much better chance of making noise and getting seen than going back to ESPN, where the league will be buried on ESPN2 and pre-empted every time something ESPN likes better wants broadcast time..
But again — growing an audience was a magical act caused by the CBA. The CBA merely gives the league a good, solid starting point to grow an audience. That’s a multi-year project — and no, I didn’t expect to see gains this year. Last year was the year after the lockout, lots of pent up energy and interest in the fan base. Of course things will settle down a bit after that. but as I noted here, the league-wide drop in attendance is actually limited to three markets: Boston, St. Louis, and New Jersey. Two teams in strong hockey markets that, frankly, suck badly, and the fans have decided to stay home in droves, and New Jersey, which seems to be leaking fans primarily because it’s about to move to a new building, and fans that aren’t going to move are fading to black on them.
Everywhere else, a team that’s down attendance is offset by a team that’s up in attendance, and where attendance is up, you have a playoff-bound team playing well, and everywhere you have bad attendance (including St. Louis and Boston) attendance goes down. So the attendance changes aren’t nearly so much about new rules, CBA, or any of that — it’s about whether the local team is playing well or not, and how patient the fans are with the team. In both Boston and St. Louis, fans have seen a lot of stupidity and bad hockey, and clearly have told the teams to stick it. When the teams win again, they’ll come back (and, in fact, as St. Louis has clawed out of the cellar, that’s been true already this season). New Jersey has always been a weird market, since it is — sort of — the third team in the New york Market, except not really, sort of. It’s never been a great draw, even when winning cups, and this year is no exception. it’s still not a great draw. go figure. (frankly, I would have pushed the Devils to move to K.C. or Houston, not Newark….)
Problems? the league definitely has problems.
The big one? a seeming lack of backbone to let some of the things they’ve started finish. they’re over-reacting to media criticism, which is where the larger nets are coming from. Media is screaming that scoring is down again — which is true, but to me, misses the point that the games are a lot better flowing, faster and more interesting, and frankly, we shouldn’t want to become indoor lacross (stealth won this week, 17-16…). The scoring was less an issue than the slow, stodgy play, so I’d strongly recommend the league just shut up and leave it alone for a while. Let the rules settle out before making any significant structural changes again. unfortunately the league looks like it’s reacting to criticism instead of standing firm, which reinforces the view by the fans and media that it’s broken.
The schedule? IS broken. fix it.
the reffing? needs some work. the league does have to figure out how to allow battles around the slot — but not the abuse and obstruction of the old-school hockey. There has to be a reasonable understanding of “fair fight for the puck” versus “taking unfair advantage” — and then figure out how to get the refs to call it consistently.
The instigator rule? I’m sorry; you simply won’t convince me this league can be a major sport when the league and fans say that the referees should stay out of it and let the players police the game. that’s not hockey, that’s WWE. Or maybe Rollerball (the original, the remake sucked). Bring back the instigator, and you simply reinforce to the non-fans and the media that loves to jump on hockey that it deserves the criticism. And I’m not sure they wouldn’t be right.
But the big problem is people expect miracles out of the league, and many of the issues folks are complaining about are things that take time — and that time has barely begun. Unfortunately, it’s hard to see that when everyone’s running around declaring it already failed…
(OH, greg: no RSS? makes it hard to read you, because I have to remember to check you out… sigh)