Nashville Is Becoming A Hockey City

KuklasKorner : KK Hockey : Nashville Is Becoming A Hockey City:

The Predators have sold out 17 games this season and have already sold out the last three Saturday games of the season. The team’s all-time sellout record is 20.

Last season, the Predators saw their revenues increase between 25 and 30 percent, and their television ratings have gone up 50 percent over a year ago and are continuing to grow.

Ever so slowly, the Predators are moving towards that magical moment when the buzz surrounding the team creates a demand for tickets that outstrips actual seats in the house.

Seemingly forgotten now that Nashville has turned it around is that at the time, many were screaming at the league and Commissioner Bettman to quit wasting energy trying to save Nashville and just hand it over to Jim Balsillie to move to Hamilton or Toronto, that Nashville was a lost cause. The drum beating was especially loud in the Canadian media where, of course, any bump in the road in an American team is a failure and the solution is to bring hockey back to Canada, where it belongs.

Speaking of air pockets, anyone take a close look at RIM recently, and what a good job Balsillie’s doing running it? Oh, wait. RIM fell apart, and Balsillie was replaced as CEO. I suppose in the mind of some canadian press members, that simply means he’d have even more time to be an even better owner, since he doesn’t have the distraction of a company to run and can focus more on the hockey team…

Bettman of course ignored all of this and just pushed to make the Predators work again — and now, they are. I would link to all of the press people writing pieces about how Bettman was right and they were wrong, but, well, I can’t find any. They’re too busy writing articles about how Phoenix has failed and just move it to Canada already…

So I will: good job on sticking to your guns and working to make Nashville work, Mr. Bettman. You were right about it.

Just as he was right about Calgary and Edmonton; it’s mostly forgotten that back in the days, not only did Canada lose Winnipeg and Quebec City, there was serious worry about them losing either Calgary or Edmonton (or both) as well. Bettman orchestrated changes in the finances of the league to help support and later championed changes in the CBA to help make it easier for Canadian teams to be viable. This has worked well enough that when it was clear Atlanta wasn’t going to succeed in Atlanta, it was able to move back to Winnipeg and the league has returned to that city. There are continuing rumblings about getting a team back to Quebec City at some point (a good idea, when a team is available), and even Saskatoon has popped up and expressed interest (that, frankly, is not such a good idea. Sorry, guys).

With a league with revenues as large as the NHL and as many owners and cities as the league has, there will always be struggling teams. Not so long ago, chicago was a disaster. Today, look at how well it’s doing. Nashville had problems, but the league found the right people to take it over, and now, it’s rebounding. Atlanta? the right ownership just couldn’t be found for that city, just like, in the day, nobody wanted to own the Jets and they had to move. Now they’re back.

This is typical: if you look at baseball, both the Oakland A’s and the K.C. Royals are struggling; in basketball, you have the Clippers, and Cleveland’s had trouble drawing fans for a while. Sacramento was strongly rumored moving back to Seattle (where the owners convinced the city to spend tens of millions of dollars on key arena and build a poor upgraded building, got tired of the building and demanded tens of millions of dollars to upgrade it AGAIN, and then left when seattle said no — now, a couple of groups seem on the path to building new arenas….) — a weak team is not the sign of a troubled league — necessarily.

Right now, the three big problem franchises are Phoenix (and IMHO, how Phoenix got into this lousy shape is a case study of things you shouldn’t do), and Columbus is struggling, and on Long Island, you have a team in a lousy building with poor prospects of getting a replacement built. These are problems that need work; it looks like the decision is to try to keep the team in Phoenix, if the financial issues around the arena and lease can be worked out. Glendale (where the arena is) has a rather unpopular choice: convince the local populace it makes sense to subsidize the team and eat some of the costs of the building — or lose the team to another city, and lose even more money because now the building is empty (but the bills continue). I always felt the deal in Glendale was a bad one; I’m not happy to have been proven right.

I’m not sure what the answer is in Columbus. Right now, I think the answer is patience; it’s struggling, but it can wait while people figure out what to do. I’m a lot more worried about the Islanders. Charles Wang has a real problem up there, and I just can’t see a good solution up there now — there’s a new arena in brooklyn, but it’s not hockey friendly in the same way the old arena in Phoenix, or the Thomas and Mack in Vegas, or the Key in Seattle wasn’t hockey friendly (and we’ve seen hockey in all three venues, and trust me, that footprint simply won’t work for hockey). I’m a little surprised Wang hasn’t said the hell with it and looked to sell the team to have it moved; I still think ultimately that’s what he’ll do (quebec city, white courtesy phone). And frankly, given how he was treated by the folks in Long Island, that’s what they deserve. But we’ll see.

It’s hard to see how some of these issues will work out. But what I do know is this: Bettman never does what the “easy” solution seems to be, at least to those that write about it without actually having to pay or live with the outcome think is easy. But his track record shows that the while decisions Bettman makes may not be popular in some corners, they’re typically right. And he won’t get credit for it when he’s proven right…


Posted in Sports - Hockey

It it’s march, it’s time for the eagles to nest.

It’s early March, and that means spring is springing in the bird world. The red-tails were building nests when I was down in Panoche valley, the Mockingbirds have arrived here in the neighborhood as they do every spring, the oak titmice are singing their lungs out, and it looks like the Bald Eagle pair near Calaveras Reservoir is nesting again.

Okay, technically, they are way above Calaveras reservoir, in the top of a high tension power tower. I’ve been watching this pair when I can since 2008; I believe their first year nesting here was 2007. In 2008, the nesting failed as far as we can tell. In 2009, they fledged one chick, in 2010, they fledged 2. In 2011, they abandoned this nest and built a new one down in the treeline nearby; my life at HP was strange enough that I basically had no time to watch them, so I have no idea if they successfully fledged. and here in 2012, they’re back in their original nest and starting again.

Typically they’ll work on the nest in late January and early February. Egg laying seems to happen in late February or early March. There was a report by one birder that they were working on the nest earlier in the week; when I checked in on Friday, as you can see, she (assuming it’s the female, she spends ~80% of the time on the eggs, her mate covers the other 20% but does most of the hunting) is in it. In the 40 minutes or so I watched, she never left the nest. This isn’t absolute proof they’ve laid —  I was talking to an expert today and eagles can have false incubations — but we believe, especially given their track record, that she’s laid and is sitting.

Incubation is about 35 days. If all goes well, at the end of March or (more likely) early April, they’ll hatch. Bald eagles can lay one to three eggs; they rarely fledge three chicks, typically, the weakest chick is ejected by the others at some point. If food is somewhat scarce, the strongest chick will prevail. The third egg is essentially an insurance policy in case something happens to one.

The parents will care for them; early on, dad is the primary hunter, as they mature, mom will be able to spend more time away from the nest and do more hunting. Bald eagles are typical fish hunters, but this pair is a pair that has adapted to the local area and hunt primarily ground squirrels, which number in the zillions in this area (the Benito County eagle pair does the same).

By mid-May, the chicks will be testing their wings. By early June, they’ll fledge and leave the nest, and the cycle will be done for another year. This pair is bonded, they will likely be together and nesting unless one of them dies. They’ll continue to breed throughout their lives, as long as 30 years if all goes well.

Here’s some video I shot of them in 2010 with the chicks close to ready to leave the nest.

My hope this year is to monitor them every couple of weeks until the chicks hatch and then every week or ten days or so through fledging. And get some much better video when I can. And probably borrow a bigger lens, since they’re far enough away that the 420mm setup I use just isn’t enough… The good news is the nest is nicely visible from the roadway for those that want to look, but visitors can’t really annoy or interact with the birds. the bad news is that you need good binoculars or preferably a scope to get good looks, and even my birding photo gear has trouble getting quality images at this distance against the wind and a common bit of heat shimmer that will show up when things warm up…

Doesn’t keep me from working at it, though…

You can see some of my photography of these birds from earlier years here.

Posted in Birdwatching

Are the Sharks a playoff team?

San Jose Sharks’ playoff quest hinges on improved defense, health of key players – San Jose Mercury News:

So who are these guys? Are they the tight, efficient defensive team that totally shut down the NHL’s most productive offense in beating the Philadelphia Flyers 1-0 on Tuesday night? Or are they the collective sieve that gave up 35 goals stumbling through a 2-6-1 trip. Give up that many goals, and you all but guarantee more losses than wins. The Sharks have 20 games — and if things fall their way, the playoffs — to provide the answer. But that “if” is what separates this season from the recent past and doubles the doubt that seems to surround the Sharks every spring.

Short answer, yes, although they are showing a distinct capability of messing it up enough to miss given how tough the west is.

Do I like the moves made at the trade deadline? Overall, yes. I like the three players (Moore, Galliardi, Winnick) Doug Wilson brought in. I think they’ll definitely help. I’m sad to see Jamie McGinn go, but he was something Colorado wanted, and I expect they’ll be happy with him. McGinn really matured this year, and showed himself to be a solid fourth going on third liner, but when his role was expanded and they auditioned him as a support player on the first and second line, that just wasn’t where he thrived.

McGinn was a player I really enjoyed watching this year. Simple play, hard play, consistent play. He reminds me a lot of Jeff Odgers (he is, actually, notably more talented than Odgers was); It would not surprise me to see McGinn play a third/fourth line role for a number of years in the league and it also wouldn’t surprise me to see him given an alternate captain position at some point. The Sharks did not give up on him or dump him, he was a value piece in the trade (unlike someone like Jed Ortmeyer).

He’s fun to watch. He brought the right attitude. He’ll help Colorado with it. Thanks for everything Jamie.

The incoming players will help the penalty kill, which we need. And hopefully make defense in general more consistent. What the Sharks really need is to get healthy; too many injuries affecting the wrong people. Losing Doug Murray hurt this team more than most folks seem to realize, and really hurt that long road trip.

I’d still play Greiss more and Niemi less, at least until Niemi shows he’s got his game back. The shutout was nice, let’s do two or three more games like that, and then I’ll relax. maybe.

The bigger question is not whether this is a playoff team, but a contender. Right now, I’m not convinced. My pick out of the west is Detroit, and I’d pick Vancouver over the Sharks right now, too. The Blackhawks are in the same “not convinced” mode as the Sharks, and I’m very wary of seeing the Kings in an early playoff round, and god help whoever meets the predators in the first round.

I just named six teams (including the Sharks) that are seriously worrying. In other words, there’s no easy first round. There’s no easy round; it’s three rounds of war to get out of the West (again). Let’s assume, just for the sake of it, that the Sharks somehow win the Pacific, and see the Kings in the first round, Nashville in the second, and Vancouver or Detroit in the western finals. Is that a set of teams the Sharks can beat in three rounds and still be able to compete in the cup final?

I’m not convinced. And if the Sharks fall to 6th or 7th in the west, and hit Detroit or Vancouver in the first round, and then have to play the Kings or Nashville, and then whichever of the Canucks or Wings they didn’t get in the first round? Good luck with that.

It’s important that the Sharks get it together and win the west, or the playoff trip is going to be beyond perilous. Even under best circumstances, winning the west is amazingly tough. and if they fall short? It’ll be more because of health issues than the trade deadline deals (or lack thereof). It’s just an amazingly tough conference — and I know fans won’t be happy at the prospect, but I’m just not convinced this is the best team in the west. it’s maybe the third best. Or even fifth, but the difference between third and sixth or seventh is really tiny. No margin of error, and this year, the sharks have been on the wrong side of that margin more often than not.

I guess we’ll see.


Posted in Sports - Hockey