Saturday, February 26, 2005

Those Dysfunctional Windsors!

Now it is highly unlikely that his Royal Highness Prince Charles, he of the House of Windsor, is a country music fan but should he find comfort in the hurtin and the cheatin genre, he would certainly relate to Toby Keith's "I wanna talk about Me".

Cause Me, Me, Me, Me, Me is what it all seems to be about at the moment. With his long desired plans to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles (soon to be Windsor) falling apart by the hour, His Highness as proclaimed his exasperation with his Royal subjects (and maybe Mama too).

Charles is an unhappy man, claiming that the people of England aren't showing him much compassion in his bid to wed the woman he loves.

The upcoming union is descending into farce and that's a bad sign for the Monarchy if ever there was one. The original plan to hold the nuptials at Windsor castle got sidelined when it was discovered that by doing that every Tom, Dick and Betty would be able to book the Dining room for a reception of their own.

So Plan "B" was put in place, a nice little ceremony at the local town hall would be fine, except Mama wouldn't be attending, not wanting to make a circus out of the special moment (as if things couldn't get anymore Barnum and Baileyish here).

Then there was the little problem revolving around the actual exchange of vows, quite a few constitutional observers and newspaper editorialists alike have all suggested that regardless of the Prince's plans any union in England proper would be pointless, as the marriage would never be considered legitimate, a situation that now finds itself heading for court of all places. Others say that a civil union is just fine, get on with the ceremonies. With these mixed messages comes the idea of a possible evacuation to Scotland (just like sister Anne did a number of years ago) was discussed as possibly Plan "C".

Now the Arch Bishop of Canterbury is urging the Prince to not allow television coverage of the almost "blessed" event, seems the Religious leaders are feeling a bit of heat over their plan to contribute an official okey dokey to the whole thing. Hence the idea of leaving the cameras on the outside, perhaps that is from the book of out of sight out of mind! We'll just have to wait for those Windsor family home movies to be made public.

Perhaps the BBC could get ahead of the curve on this and make plans for a weekly reality show called "The Windsors", much like the Apprentice, Growing up Gotti and such, we can sit in as Charles battles it out with Mom and Dad over the marriage and the inheritance of the throne. Not to mention all the other lovely feuds that pop up among the inhabitants of the House of Windsor. All of which should be leaving Camilla to sit in an easy chair, pondering exactly why it is she wishes to join this rather dysfunctional group of Royals.

Then again perhaps it should be comedy, the Windsors are making the Simpsons look positively family oriented by comparison. I don't know about you, but I'd take Marge, Homer, Bart, Lisa and Maggie over Liz, Phil, Charles, Andy, Annie and Eddie boy any day of the week!

Perhaps Charles and Camilla could do all concerned a favour and just elope! One thing is certain, Republicans in the UK must be in giddy glee, the Monarchy as an institution is taking it's hits, resembling of more a farce than a force these days.

CBC paints a giant bullseye on its back

You would think that in a week that the Federal Government increased its budget and smiled kindly on the Mother Corporation of Canadian Broadcasting, that they would be feeling pretty good. But nope at the CBC it's circle the wagons time as they find incoming shots from all directions.

First there is this curling fiasco, now in normal times the status of the roaring game would hardly generate the kind of negative press that the CBC is suffering these days, but with no NHL hockey to broadcast the glare of sport beats down on the corporations Curling Coverage and the judgment is that the CBC is messing up a pretty good game. I'll direct you to the seanincognito site for the wonderful expose of CBC incompetence in covering a rather easy to follow sport, sean has been having a field day over the last week or so tracking the backlash, the backlash, the backlash and the backlash over the unusual broadcast strategy employed by CBC Sports regarding curling. Did I mention there was a bit of a backlash!

But should one think this is a one time only faux pas, think again. Perhaps it's the disappointment over losing the rights to the Olympics to those evil specialty folk at TSN, Rogers Sportsnet and Bell Globe media (including arch rival CTV) but the CBC are on a serious losing streak. If this were Vegas even the pit boss would suggest they move on to the lounge for a break and rethink their plans.

In the last month the CBC has cancelled the most popular Hockey Day in Canada feature, which was one of those feel good tell a story about Canada that is supposed to be the network's mandate. Citing a lack of hockey and lack of revenue the suits in the Barbara Frum broadcast centre said small town Canada could do without a tribute to the grassroots this year.

Of course, one idiots decision is another guys brainstorm and the folks at TSN were quick to jump on the idea and put together their own version of Hockey Day, called Canada's Game: Hockey Lives Here. And it was just as good if not better than the previous versions on the CBC and that's without benefit of the triple header of professional hockey. In fact, the absence of the pros was hardly noticed as we traveled from coast to coast to coast to celebrate the great game. Why the CBC didn't think this would be a worthwhile idea is beyond me and beyond their own employees, or in the latest development their ex employee.

It seems one of the CBC broadcasters who spoke out loudly against the cancellation of the day of hockey was Chris Cuthbert, who spoke his mind in a planning meeting, no doubt suggesting that perhaps in a year without hockey this would be the perfect vehicle to show the game was more than just a bunch of professionals making obscene amounts of money.

For his intervention, Cuthbert was cut adrift earlier this week. The head of Sports Nancy Lee sending him packing, supposedly due to the lack of NHL hockey on the network this year. An interesting decision, as Cuthbert not only was on Hockey Night in Canada, he also was the voice of CFL football on the CBC. The CFL of course now can claim to be the only professional sport left on the CBC, with ratings rising over the last number of years, Cuthbert and Chris Walby brought the Saturday broadcast into prime time and made it every much as popular as the Hockey boys did on Saturday nights for the NHL.

The CBC fired Cuthbert without even bothering to inform it's partner in CFL broadcasts, the league. Something that no doubt will be addressed when the CFL contract comes up for renewal. The CFL has made great strides in its presentation due in no small part to Cuthbert's contribution, they won't be happy with his departure. For the CBC to eliminate such a versatile and talented broadcaster as Cuthbert under such a feeble excuse, smells of something that reaches far deeper into the politics of the CBC.

The Cuthbert firing has once again brought the CBC to the newspapers and like the Curling mess, the CBC comes up on the losing side of any PR agenda. With the various mis-steps of the last few months, one has to wonder if the people that run the CBC are really paying attention to who is getting fired around there, seems to an outside observer that the folks at the top of the food chain should be walking the plank before the network suffers any further embarrassment.

And unlike Cuthbert who shouldn't be out of work for any length of time (unless he wants to be) ,the bureaucratic morons making these questionable calls won't fare quite as well. Having taken a much respected department into this state of farce will not look particularly good on a CV.

Many times the criticism of the CBC is unwarranted, bordering on a blood lust from it's private industry competitors. But in this case everyone so far has been spot on, CBC sports is a mess, there's no vision, no competence and if things keep up like this there will be no viewers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Armed Forces Day!

Not perhaps since the Korean War has the Canadian Army been singled out as the one branch of Canada's military that must be equipped properly for a change. Ralph Goodale's budget of Wednesday was a coming out party for the much neglected Canadian Armed Forces.

When Goodale rose to deliver his financial plans no doubt mess halls at Army bases were at attention awaiting the good news for the long suffering troops. But for their counterparts in Air force and Navy Blues Wednesday was not a day of great celebration, with it's Army first tone the other two branches are suddenly relegated to bus driver status, they can look forward to new equipment as well, but the task will be to make sure the Army can get to where it's needed. Farewell flyboys and Bon Voyage to the fleet, this budget was for the grunts who will probably have a quick step to their marching for the next little while!

Normally subjected to belt tightening and broken promises at budget time, this year's financial blue print has a heavy olive green presence to the numbers. Providing the largest increase in military funding in over twenty years.

13 billion dollars will be spent over five years to bring the Canadian Armed Forces back into the modern era of military equipment. More troops for the Army and more reserves to back them up were two of the key planks, as Goodale addressed a growing problem of over extended troops constantly being sent abroad to wave our flag.

After that the Army is take care of the plan is to provide new helicopters, arctic aircraft perhaps even an amphibious transport ship to move troops in a timely manner to international hot spots. But all of that is the long term plan. One surprising omission was any mention of transport aircraft for the Armed Forces, we need think back only a month and the debacle of our DART expedition to realize we need some reliable heavy lift, yet somehow that has not been tagged as must get just yet. Of course perhaps it will come up when the much anticipated Defense Paper is released in the next few weeks. Bill Graham's document is set to chart a course for Canada's military for the next ten years and should go a long way to help spend the 13 billion dollars put aside today for the Generals at NDHQ.

Short term it's spare parts and repairs to aging infrastructure that is to be taken care of.

And while newly installed Chief of Defence General Rick Hillier might be pretty happy with the sudden affection for his troops, it's a case of show him some money. The 13 billion dollar amount sounds nice, but initially the money will arrive in a slow trickle. Only 500 million is tagged for the Forces in this year, most of that to go to salaries and parts. On top of that, some of this "new" money is actually "old" money from cancelled plans, drydocked ships and such. Not quite the giant step forward it's proclaimed to be, but hey any move forward has to be a bonus for the long taxed military.

The big ticket items come a little further along in the Martin government mandate, which if we all remember is a minority government at the moment. It's easy to promise billions of dollars down the line if you may not be around to actually have to deliver on your word.

Over the years the Armed Forces have been promised many things, only to have the "plans" change as the political fortunes would wane for the government of the day. And while they probably won't want to look a gift horse in the mouth here, the folks in Canada's military may wish to sit back and wait to see if they are delivered all that they have been promised.

While Canada's military history is long in valour it is equally lengthy in broken promises. Many a soldier has put in his twenty years and never seen a promise kept. They'll stand on guard for us day after day, but they no doubt will cast a suspicious eye at their political masters.

Today's budget was a welcome change and finally a bit of recognition to a much forgotten but frequently needed department. Lets hope the government sticks to the plan and delivers as promised Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A week of Essentials February 15-21, 2005

Postings were few and far between this week, a busier than normal schedule resulted in less computer time (and considering the computer's current fragile state probably a wise respite) for me this week. However, there were a few Essentials that made it to the blogsphere and here they are in recap form.

15-Feb-05 Deadline Day
15-Feb-05 Gordo sings; Happy Days are here again!
15-Feb-05 Sure we'll keep your money, just don't ask how much you have!
15-Feb-05 And he'll huff and he'll puff and he'll cancel those payments
15-Feb-05 Never a dull moment with Michael!
16-Feb-05 A merger in the axis of Evil
16-Feb-05 Take out the ice, the game is over
16-Feb-05 Dalton tackles Danny's tactics
16-Feb-05 Talk about a long distance learning
16-Feb-05 Road conditions call for steamy lanes
17-Feb-05 The Disappointing Mr. Dithers
17-Feb-05 Wedding at the town hall. Reception at the Pub?
17-Feb-05 Big Bank, Big Salary!
17-Feb-05 A cold, cold home for the illuminati?
17-Feb-05 Have you seen this guy?
18-Feb-05 No posts, took a break
19-Feb-05 No posts, took a break
20-Feb-05 No posts, took a break
21-Feb-05 No posts, took a break

Friday, February 18, 2005

It's the bizzaro world of NHL Hockey!

Here we go again. Just when you though the final spike had been punched through the heart of professional hockey, comes word that not only are the two sides talking again, but quite possibly a deal has been made and there may be hockey again this year.

The Hockey News broke the latest bit of information on Friday evening, a tale of a planned meeting on Saturday brokered by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Tales of player agents burning up the trans oceanic phone lines to clients in Europe telling them to get packing it's time to come home. The cancelled season apparently about to become uncancelled.

Of course as with any firestorm of rumour there's little to base the shocking developments in the great impasse of 2005. A 45 million dollar salary cap is apparently in place, leaving one to wonder the fate of the small market teams that claimed to need a cap in the thirties to survive. Instead of "making the game work properly" that Gary Bettman insisted was the basis of the drawn out dispute this time around, we seem to have a desperation bid to just get hockey back on the ice. How long a fix that will prove to be will be something to be argued for many years to come.

Just how many games any "regular" season might feature has not been disclosed, nor has a solution to many of the other sticking points in the last five months of point and counter point between Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman.

No one knows what triggered the renewed attempts to find some common ground and exhibit some common sense. Perhaps it was the veiled threat from ESPN that the only footprint the NHL has on American TV was about to cut it's losses and move on from any form NHL broadcast in the future. Then again it may have been a coup from within the players ranks, as a number of top stars apparently have expressed disappointment at how the whole scenario spun out of control on Wednesday.

Regardless, the hockey talk shows (check out the 9pm-midnight block on CKNW Friday for a sample of the interest) are alive with excitement as hockey fans jump on any glimmer of hope that the sport may return shortly. Listener after listener expressing a hope against hope that this wild rumour takes root and proves to be factual by Sunday.

The timing couldn't be better for TSN, Saturday sees the Canadian Sports Network featuring a six hour tribute to Hockey called Hockey Lives Here. How appropriate if they could report during the six hour marathon that indeed Hockey Lives, ratings for TSN on Saturday should be through the roof as Canadians gather around their television sets waiting for the puffs of smoke from New York City. The signal for a return to the rink for the players, whether the fans follow remains to be seen.

The above blog first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey and soap opera life check it out!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

PM the PM's setting sun?

It wasn't that long ago that Paul Martin was hailed as a steadfast champion for fiscal sensibility, his guardianship of the Canadian treasury as Finance Minister smiled upon favorably by esteemed economics professors and publications around the world.

However, every rose must lose it's bloom we suspect, for the Economist magazine has found the former Finance Minister to be a tad lacking now that he has the big job and the key to the executive washroom.

In the next edition (to be released Monday) of the widely read bible for the world's political junkies, the magazine finds our PM the PM to be a bit of a ditherer. Not really a surprise to the Canadian media which has been following his rather cautious attempts at governance since his grasping of the ring a year ago, but still as they say you're not a somebody til they notice you from afar.

The PM who has made a few stumbles on his path to power, seems to have lost that edge that he was supposed to bring to the table after not so gently easing the Sultan of Shawinigan out the door. Bogged down with mini scandals from the Chretien era, problems of his own making and a wandering agenda of his own, the first stages of the Martin years have been rather unenthusiastically received. There are constant reports of dissension within his inner circle and a blind loyalty to long time friends, some who may not be serving him very well.

The Economist article paints the Prime Minister as a bit of a hostage to his Premiers, showing a faltering image as leader and suggesting that perhaps the job is too big for him after all. It no doubt won't be required reading at the next caucus retreat.

Of course the article will find a rather welcome home in the study of a former Prime Minister, who when he's not bouncing golf balls at inquiries, likes to keep his legacy aspirations polished to a bright shine. It wasn't too long ago that the Economist put Canada on the cover calling it a cool place to be, progressive and well managed, points that the then Prime Minister took full credit for and lives on to this day.

For a man of Martin's stature, who has felt at home in the International world for a number of years now, the impression of a yokel stumble bum, incapable of expressing any kind of vision must surely take him aback. I mean this is the guy that had Bono show up for his leadership celebration to raise the profile of the third world, it was Martin who gave a passionate plea to get more involved in the world at that time, giving hope for a return to Canada's once respected place in the world's agenda. Other great visions were delivered at that time, still great on paper, yet still we slumber on. Is he a man of many great intentions, but one with no delivery?

Seemingly these points were not lost on the Economist (though they are certainly more disappointed in the fiscal side than the humanitarian issues) and now with next Monday's issue, they will be points to be shared with a wider audience around the world.

The cautious style of Martin seems to be working against him, provinces almost bully him into decisions, while his own party are at times at each other's throats over past transgressions. Perhaps the time has come to be a tad more of an autocrat, take charge of things and set some serious achievable goals to put a stamp on this version of the Liberal party.

All the whirlwind trips around the world will be wasted, if the image presented by the Economist stands the test of this Prime Ministers time. Image comes in the cost of a magazine at under five dollars an issue, all the PR in the world won't change the damage done over a few pages.

Some bold declarations need to be made, worthwhile legislation that will catch the attention of the Canadian electorate (and by design the parts of the world that know we exist). A course needs to be set soon, and followed through on, in order to regain the momentum Martin had when he received the leadership from his party and subsequently from the public.

Back then the Liberals were at least capable of making a few decisions (some good, some obviously bad), best to make a few more (preferably the good ones) before the Economist comes back our way in 365 days.

Look! Up in the sky, why it's the Sun!

After spending yesterday watching the the three Sports networks in Canada devote an entire day of broadcast time to Deathwatch 05, one would be forgiven if we awoke to find a darkened sky, cold blowing winds and freezing temperatures descending upon the land!(hmm, well ok bad analogy for folks living from Newfoundland to Alberta and places north, but you get my drift).

But hey the Sun did rise this morning, those that have jobs went to them. (Not so fast you folks at the NHL and NHLPA and rinks around the continent) and life generally went on as usual.

Despite the furrowed brows of Bob McKenzie, the grave insights of Brian Burke and the countless observations from pundits and prognosticators across the dial, we'll get on with life without the NHL.

The TSN broadcast, which is where I eventually settled down as the day progressed, was full of foreboding gloom, a dark and stormy day for all concerned. The music that of a funeral dirge befitting a Russian commitsar's funeral from the sixties. Was it my imagination or did the graphics just seem darker than usual, shadowy people in shadowy times?

For the most part the various panelists, while lacking in brevity, did a good job of explaining the gravity of the situation. Over six hours to explain a one theme happening may seem a tad overblown, but it probably was their final kick at the hockey cat (apologies to animal lovers everywhere) for a while.

What they all go on to do now is anyone's guess. Some of the lucky hockey analysts will transfer their skills to other sports, but many of these talking heads will be talking to themselves for a fairly long amount of time.

If things now drag on over a year (as some of the doosmdayers have predicted) we may find Pierre McGuire doing local weather "there's a Monster storm coming in, better put on that helmet and get ready to get rocked". Don Cherry won't torment the over sensitive censors at the CBC this spring, the people's network will be a bluster free zone for the first time in many years. Of course without the bluster there will be no luster to those Spring ratings books, the CBC probably makes a huge hunk of change from the hockey festival of April and May, the bottom line at CBC world headquarters is going to be a red line, expense accounts across the Mother Corp are about to take a huge hit.

All sports radio stations across the nation will find thin gruel to fill the waves without the game, with the exception of Toronto and it's ongoing basketball soap opera and those lovable Blue Jays down in Florida, the pro sports scene is barren until the CFL camps of May.

The repercussions for the business world without a hockey industry in Canada could be an interesting study, while the game may be a forgotten niche sport in the USA, it's a multi million dollar economic engine for the media, the lotteries and the merchandisers of Canada. Want to find some sad people, check those industries out, there's going to be some tough decisions made in boardrooms far away from Gary and Bob's offices.

For the HockeyNation the items no doubt will dwindle. Our blog will continue to monitor all things hockey, but to be honest there are other blogs out there where you can find your Euro hockey fix, follow the lower minor leagues and such. The Memorial Cup is coming up and the World Championships should be a far more competitive tournament this year, so there will be some hockey to follow. We'll take a closer look at the AHL with it's Canadian teams, but we won't be providing the same amount of output.

One thing we will do is sit in front of the television one more time this weekend. In an ironic bit of timing, TSN has scheduled their tribute to our game for this weekend, Canada's Game: Hockey Live's here runs from Noon- 6 pm EST (9 am-3 PST) this weekend. A cross Canada trek to see hockey as it should be played, not as it should be ruined. Perhaps it will help to rebuild our faith in great game, trashed by much lesser people!

While the two participants in this Hockey apocalypse retrench and rethink their strategies we'll keep track, but don't expect coverage of every mystic statement from these oracles of ineptitude. Should there be something of value to report we'll add it to the blog, but for now we're going to go enjoy the Sun!

The above item first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more (but now less frequent) items about Hockey check it out!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Thanks for trying your best guys!

Well it must have been hard to deliver the news today Mr. Bettman, such hard work all for naught. Your guys really burned the midnight oil, made some generous offers and certainly explored all options to solve this terrible impasse. The average hockey fan must really feel that you are on their side today.

Likewise Mr. Goodenow, you and your player rep partners sure knuckled down to the task at hand, as each month went by I'm sure you all sat and pondered what was best for the game and for the fan. I can only imagine your disappointment in how things have turned out. Hockey fans no doubt also feel that you are holding a torch for us as we ponder our fates in our hockeyless world.

Oh, the hell with this. Who am I kidding anyways! The least important aspect of the developments today was the fan.

Give me a break, both sides of this incredibly stupid display of greed and self interest deserve whatever fate will befall them. There's something particularly sickening about billionaires and millionaires, unable to simply cut up a pie of millions of dollars so all could find common ground.

The dour expression on the faces of Mr. Bettman and Mr. Goodenow looked good on TV, but it didn't seem particularly sincere guys. The NHL announcement, followed by the NHLPA rebuttal more than testified to the lack of trust that has taken hold of the agenda. We get the feeling that you both are where you want to be, some kind of grudge match til the bitter end, regardless of the cost. One side ready to crush it's players, the other ready to bring the owners to their knees.

Our poster boys for incompetence can sit around their offices til the cows come home as far as we are concerned. You have fouled the nest guys, neither side has our respect, nor our admiration, if your lucky in six months time you may actually cross our minds. Hopefully in one of those "whatever happened to......" moments.

The game will always be The game in Canada, it is not the domain of the overpaid, pampered athlete, nor the playpen for the corporate greedmeisters that seem to prevail in much of industry today. Wherever there is a rink, a clock and a sheet of ice there will be a game played. It may not be the product put forth by the NHL, but then again that product has suddenly become a rather tainted offering of late.

Instead there will be the pure chase of the sport, whether it's a junior match, a senior game, pee wee tournament, other forms of minor hockey, University match up or beer league rec offering, somewhere tonight there's a game happening in your home town. It's there without the baggage, without the greed and without the self serving grandstanding. Just 60 minutes on a fresh sheet of ice for the love of the game. What a concept!

The NHL and it's opposites in the NHLPA can now retire to their neutral corners and stay there for the eight count, don't expect us back anytime soon. We'll return when you have earned our trust, our respect and most importantly the right to ask us for our money.

For Gary and Bob here's a bit of news that you probably never factored into those intense discussions of the last week or so. While you were busy trying to figure out what was best for you, you left out a very important part of your equation, what's best for us the fan. Stand advised we'll now take our time deciding if whatever you both eventually cook up will be worth our support. Because without us, you guys are nothing.

The last time a Stanley Cup went without being awarded was during the great Spanish flu epidemic of 1919, this time it's the fans who are sick!

Five months wasted guys, five months wasted. You both have now stepped to the abyss and apparently decided to jump! Thanks for nothing!

The above posting first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items on hockey check it out!

A week of essentials February 7-12, 2005

Well with all my computer and household mishaps of the last week, we fell behind a bit. So from the better late than never file, here's the essential recap.

7-Feb-05 Spending to save the Federation
7-Feb-05 Smilin' Jack's backbench revolt
7-Feb-05 153 million dollars that the taxpayer won't have to spend
7-Feb-05 The message IS the medium
7-Feb-05 No Call for Last call!
8-Jan-05 Small town cheap, tops big city lawyers on day one
8-Jan-05 Uncle Gordo says eat your fruits and veggies
8-Jan-05 But what if no one is listening to Gordo?
8-Jan-05 Bonnie Prince Spendthrift
8-Jan-05 Pull up your socks and your pants as well
9-Jan-05 No posts, computer crash
10-Jan-05 No posts, computer crash
11-Jan-05 No posts, computer crash
12-Jan-05 Back at the Vatican, Business as Usual
12-Jan-05 Collateral Damgae of the Walmart War
12-Jan-05 Yee Haw!
12-Jan-05 Keep em' on pussycat, whoa oh whoa ah
12-Jan-05 Portage and Main, Fourty Below, it's the town that sells out the show

One more shot of Novocaine please!

Finally our time in the dental chair of Drs. Bettman and Goodenow may finally be ending. This never ending root canal we've endured under their less than steady hand, soon to be but a distant throbbing in our gumline.

As our two surgeons bickered while we were trapped in the chair we've learned a few interesting things, one never doesn't necessarily mean NEVER, and math is still A topic of controversy when the two teeth pullers get together.

The "deadline" is set, (then again maybe not) for 1 pm EST, 10am PST when Dr. Bettman will finally lower the chair and tell us to go home, floss regularly and come on back for a check up in six months or so. Then again he may say, check back with us in two weeks for our special on cleaning and polishing!

The two sides are still a few million apart, the NHLPA sticking to a decision that a 49 million dollar cap is livable (so much for never surrender), the NHL seeking to reduce things by another 6.5 million or so (hmm, should Edmonton start packing? last we heard they needed a cap in the low thirties to survive!).

The final correspondences from Gary and Bob (well as final as things seem to be with these two guys) expressing that no more concessions are coming, the 6.5 million dollars the possible breaking point in this lengthy and apparently now pointless charade of negotiating.

Players are asking questions amongst themselves about how if a cap is now a cause for acceptance, why things weren't moved forward months (and many lost dollars) ago? Small market owners may be wondering whatever happened to the hard cap and linkage to cost certainty? That holy grail of the small and struggling.

Even as late as this last hour of negotiating (if that is what this has been!), the NHL's gatherer of financial facts Mr. Arthur Levitt has popped up to say that the league could survive even the embarrassment of a cancelled season. Perhaps his contribution is a sign to the owners that they need not back down now, there may be more blood to gain yet!

All will wait for Dr. Bettman to take to his stage on Wednesday and offer up a final prognosis. And finally we can either pick up our pom poms and cheer on our boys or turn our backs and say see ya next year, maybe. By 10 am PST tomorrow finally the game will be turned back over to the fans, then we can make our own statements, our own judgments.

For most this root canal type of slow motion posturing leaves us numb and sore, it may be a while before we schedule our next appointment at the Bettman/Goodenow Clinic of Pain!

The above item first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

These are not promising noises

Well my absence from blogging these last few days all comes down to noises. The computer has been making some "weird" sounds of late, (more frequently these last few days), weird of course is that word one uses when you just can't figure it all out. Two crashes in three days gives one the feeling that the end may be nigh. Rebuilding windows XP after each crash has taken up a fair amount of computing time here at Podunk central. We sit in pre meltdown mode again this morning as we type, the puter performing agonizingly slow, erratic in video and weak in spirit.

In between reboots, rebuilds and recriminations came a gurgling sound from the upstairs bathroom, yesterday gurgling proceeded to the next phase, the blockage and the back up. Hours upon hours of plunging has resulted in little relief of the situation.

Blogging sadly will take a back seat while we try and get the facilities back in working order (one has to have one's priorities heh), the plumber will be here today, wonder if he knows anything about computers as well!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The tie goes to the get away driver

One of the more interesting tidbits of the Gomery inquiry this week has been the revelation that patriotic sartorial style comes at a heady price.

During the testimony of Jean Chretien's chief of staff on Monday, Jean Pelletier expressed no regret at an original tab of 46,000 dollars for 480 Canadian flag embossed mens ties. As Pelletier put it, "I believed that Canada deserved a necktie that held its own". Pelletier did claim to be shocked at the profit taking of his minions in the project, a take that netted two Liberal friendly firms 13,000 dollars in fees on top of the 46,000 dollar cravats. Making the National unity fashion accessory ring in at a total of 59,000 dollars, a lot of cash just to look patriotic.

Now while we would never deny Canadians a chance to wave a flag around their necks, 46,000 dollars for 480 ties does seem a tad steep, working out roughly to 120 dollars a tie. At least they could have thrown in a couple of shirts and some cuff links at the same time.

What's even worse is it's doubtful that these ties would match the quality of say a Harry Rosen product, the high end Canadian mens retailer sells a variety of Men's fashion accessories and even offers free advice on how to tie them properly. They even have a sale offering up to 60% off going on at the moment, just think of how many ties we could have had with a bit of creative purchasing!

In fact since actually going out and looking for a cheap quality product might be too much like work for the sponsorship folks, just clicking on Ebay would have given them a world of ties from which to choose from.

The neckwear revelations which have already been snowed under by golfballs and theatrical rhetoric by the former Prime Minister, get to the heart of this sponsorship scandal. No excess was too much, money had no value in Ottawa nor did responsibility and once again it was the taxpayer who was left to hold the bag.

The above item first appeared in my Boondoggle blog, check it out for more items about governmental excess and malfeasance!

Paul Martin's migrane

Chantal Hebert offers up an excellent analysis of day one of Jean Chretien's testimony to the Gomery inquiry. Paul may wish to find another foreign destination to head off to, Out of sight and out of mind may be a worthwhile strategy for the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Golf balls keep falling on his head

Well it was a wonderful ambush the forces of Chretien launched upon the Gomery Inquriy on Tuesday. The former Prime Minister taking his place, opening with a fascinating defence of his unity moves that lead to the eventual sponsorship scandal, then moving on to showing boredom, indifference and occasional subtle jabs at the proceedings of the day. Oh and don't forget the twist of the knife on the next man to testify, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Chretien suggesting to the assembled crowd that of course Mr. Martin must have known about the program.

The presentation was vintage Chretien, one part folksy politician, balanced by one part of that arrogant leader of days gone by. With a posse of hangers on including trusted aides Eddie Goldenberg, Senator Jim Munson and featuring Darth Vader Kinsella in the wings, the former Prime Minister strode in like a rap star, ready to lay down his unity vibe and dismiss this silly notion that he oversaw some kind of money laundering scam to benefit chosen Liberals in Quebec.

For as he said if anyone benefited improperly from the sponsorship program then they should be prosecuted. Using his well know "love of Canada" as a defence for the program, Chretien played the protect the legacy card with gusto in the day long testimony.

But by far his best lines and the crushing blow to the Justice Gomery was the set up provided by lawyer David Scott, who brought up the topic of golf balls, the same golf balls that Justice Gomery described as "small town cheap" in an unguarded and public moment.

It was a comment that has irked Chretien since it was made back in December, and on Tuesday it was payback time. Chretien bided his time and used selected golf balls from George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, small town guys as Chretien described them. But then the final ball was dropped, a golf ball from the Montreal law firm Ogilvy Renault, which ahem, is the home law firm of Inquiry Lead Counsel Bernard Roy and also counts among its members a guy named Brian Mulroney and one Sally Gomery, the esteemed Justice's own daughter! As Mr. Chretien said no doubt with a chuckle in his throat, definitely not a small town cheap item coming from an Old Montreal Westmount law firm!

In golf this may have been a hole in one or at least beating par on every hole,
in tennis it would be Game, Set, Match.

Wonderful theatre for the media who love a good line, a worrisome stage setter for the current Prime Minister and a masterful sleight of hand from the master of teflon.

The set up of Gomery came a few weeks ago when Mr. Chretien's lawyer Mr. Scott called for the Justice to be removed from the hearing due to his outspoken comments. No need to remove him, not only was he silent for most of the testimony he was embarrassed on national television. Part of the set up phase included suggestions that the Justice was spending too much money, not getting to the point and dragging things on too long. No doubt he probably wishes he could have missed out on today's festivities.

We may be no closer to the truth which perhaps was the intention all along, but we were sure entertained while they played the ole shell game today. As a courtesy though, he should have led off his testimony by yelling Fore, before he drove those golf balls right down the middle of the Gomery course!

Having fouled our own nests, we now move on to the neighbours

Found this little item while surfing the seanincognito site, sean offering up a link to an astronomy picture of the day.

Seems that Earthling's leave traces wherever we go, one wonders what the fine on Mars for littering is?

No wonder most of our space movies suggest a Martian attack, if your neighbour kept dumping his trash over your fence you'd be a tad annoyed as well!

More of a habit than a passion?

Has Ken Dryden hit upon a secret that the NHL may not want to know. That many Canadians may be finding that this unrequited love affair with hockey can easily be replaced?

That may be the bottom line as the NHL/NHLPA stumbles on to its fifth month with little in the way of negotiating let alone hockey playing taking place. Dryden who it seems has been named minister of hockey affairs in the Paul Martin cabinet, gave a well thought out answer to the question of whether Canadians will survive without their hockey fix.

The cabinet minister and much respected thinker on all things hockey was offering his opinions on the state of the game, after advising that it was doubtful that the Federal Government of Canada would become embroiled in the increasingly bitter and fruitless discussions of late.

Dryden suggests that NHL owners may rue the day that they deprived the Canadian public with it's all encompassing fixture of hockey. The backlash against the misadventures of both union and ownership may be felt in future gate receipts and television ratings. Many fans may find that they get along just fine without a six hour marathon on Saturday night or a meaningless midweek game in January. For both sides in this dispute it may soon be a case of reaping what they have sewn!

The above item first appeared in my HockeyNation blog, for more items on hockey check it out!

Monday, February 07, 2005

The Essentials of January 31-February 6, 2005.

Another compilation of the weekly essentials..

31-Jan-05 Will he stay or will he go?
31-Jan-05 Backpeddaling Pierre!
31-Jan-05 The student salutes his professor
31-Jan-05 Not safe to fly on, Not safe to eat on!
31-Jan-05 Did Belinda want some lovin'?
1-Feb-05 Flu sends Pope to the Hospital
1-Feb-05 An error in judgement, not a pre-judgement
1-Feb-05 Pizza man to make no more deliveries
1-Feb-05 Grinding out a jury award
1-Feb-05 Get a trim, just like Kim!
2-Feb-05 Libs suggest a bout of Legislation flu
2-Feb-05 The State of George's union
2-Feb-05 Need a computer? Buy a Focus!
2-Feb-05 "No cause for alarm"
2-Feb-05 Before they were famous
3-Feb-05 No posts today, took the day off!
4-Feb-05 A General to follow into battle
4-Feb-05 And a General you wouldn't stay too close to!
4-Feb-05 A phony trail and a ruined career?
4-Feb-05 Fellow travellers in the propoganda game?
4-Feb-05 This Diamond ring doesn't shine for me anymore
5-Feb-05 No posts today, took the day off!
6-Feb-05 No posts today, took the day off!

Super Sunday Sell-a-bration!

Super Bowl Sunday it's the day given over to American excess done in the grandest, loudest most garish of scale. In the midst of the never ending pre game shows, the patriotic marching of the colours and in case we didn't get the patriotic tones of the day, there was the combined service glee club with the national anthem. There was the player introductions, ceremonial coin tossing, countless close ups of intense looking football players on the sideline and non stop nattering about the importance of the winner take all game, eventually they actually get around to playing a football game.

This years Super Bowl for the most part was at least close, but entertaining it wasn't I'm afraid. Sure the last six minutes had their excitement and certainly provided a lesson to grade school students everywhere to study their math, especially how to count time. But the first half was a sloppy affair, made up of many miscues on both sides of the field and on both sides of the ball.

The Ameriquest Half Time Show (everything at Super Bowl seems to be sponsored by somebody) gave both teams the opportunity to take an extended break in the dressing room, think things over and groove to the tunes that perhaps brought them into this world. Yep in order to avoid another bout of nippledom, we had the safest of all possible insects trotted out to centrefield. Paul McCartney, picked up a guitar did a few Beatle songs and a Wings effort and most importantly managed to keep his clothes on to boot. There would be no controversy this year, during the sell-a-bration of all things pure and patriotic.

The only possible whiff of controversy would have aired 2 and half hours prior to kick off, sandwiched into the pre game show was a short set by John Fogerty who played Fortunate Son, one wonders how many Senators sons, the fortunate ones were in attendance in Jacksonville on this Super Sunday. The visuals of the many US servicemen and women serving and sacrificing around the world, mixed with those of the platoons of expense account America bunkered down in Jacksonville was a tad ironic. At any rate Fogerty was not seen again in the actual game time broadcast, FOX execs no doubt in a hurry to get that kind of thing off the air.

The second half of football provided a few more thrills than the first, the two teams managing to move the ball a little more effectively giving the many thousands of fans in the stadium a chance to get up and stand and cheer, if only to pass the beer down the aisle. For the most part the game was non descript, a defensive battle which boiled down to the last six minutes of action. The Super Bowl must be the only major sporting event where those in the stands are at a definitive dis-advantage to those of us watching on the tube. Because when your in the stands you can't enjoy the one fact about Super Bowl Sunday that is indisputable, the broadcast is always better than the live event.

And what is it that makes the TV viewing of Super Bowl superior to a butt in the seat at the great spectacle? Is it the witty play by play discussions? No! How about the special camera angles utilized by Fox this year, including a pylon camera for the first time? No, nice if useless touch but that's not it. Maybe the Super, Duper Sloooooooo Moooooootion camera byplay, letting you watch that agonizing foot step just out of bounds, or that ball just go sloooooowly out of the reach of a wide receiver. No not even that makes the broadcast.

No, none of the special effects matters a hoot, it's the commercials that make a Super Bowl, yes the banquet of new ads for familiar and newly launched products(view them all here) keeps even the most bored viewer stuck to the TV screen. Over the years we've been treated to football player Clydesdales and smart talking chihauhas exhorting us to "drop the chalupa". Fortunes are paid to be on the show and made from the exposure. It's no wonder that major American ad agencies can bank their entire future on one hit ad.

And while tamer (and with the amount of control exerted by the NFL no wonder) than in past Super Bowls, this years crop once again had a few major hits and some rather disappointing efforts by surprising clients. The Big winner again this year apparently were the folks at Budweiser who found their ads receiving the best response, the funniest was the efforts of Cedric the entertainer and his revised wish list of beer, BBQ's and dogs over nagging women, the most poignant and the one to bring the tear to America's eye was the "homecoming ad" featuring returning American troops in an airport arrival lounge receiving the accolades of a grateful nation. Beer and patriotism, tis a heady elixir.

The newcomer of the year that wins big bang for their bucks was Ameriquest, not only were they presenter of the McCartney Magical Mystery tour of Half time, but they had two spots that were just plain brilliant in their content and appeal. The best of the two the moron on the hands free cel phone, telling his partner in telephonic convergence that they were getting "robbed", the Mom and Pop operators of the store mistake that for a robbery attempt and our cel phone carrying idiot met his just reward. Now some Americans may not need a mortgage but if they ever want to score some cash I guess they'll remember Ameriquest first.

The strangest campaign was McDonald's Lincoln Fries, a French fry in the shape of Abraham Lincoln's profile. It had the appeal of a box of fries left under the heat lamp for over an hour, it was limp, pour on some poutine and we could call it cheesy. Not suprisingly it did not fare very well in the post super bowl boxscore of ads, I suspect the vice president of advertising won't fare so well either.

The ratings for the actual broadcast were down from past efforts, perhaps a symbol of malaise at the same team in the Patriots returning for the third time in four years or signs of a backlash to the extravagance of excess showcased. The fact that most people can recount most of the ads, over the highlights of the game may tell us more about the presentation than anything else. In fact the NFL even includes a link to vote for the best Super Bowl commercials of all time, go figure!

The Super Bowl Experience lends itself wonderfully to the blog universe, I found this wonderful recap of the entire day (and truth be told, I couldn't remember half the events listed, I believe this is a good thing for me, but kudo's to the author for his dedication) If more people can tell you the order of the Diet Pepsi commercials over the scoring plays in the second half, we'll know that perhaps the game is starting to take a back seat to the event. But then at least the NFL knows they're watching I guess, good for marketing and profits, not necessarily a good thing for the sport in general.

Mild amusements for BC Voters!

Courtesy of an email from a friend of mine (thanks Norm), comes this little bit of computer humour to help the voting class through the day.

This one is of the anti-Liberal vein and designed for BC voters, but hey it's public domain, feel free to insert the politician of your choice.

How to start each day with a positive outlook:

1. Open a new file in your PC.
2. Name it "Gordon Campbell."
3. Send it to the trash.
4. Empty the trash.
5. Your PC will ask you, "do you really want to get rid of "Gordon
6. Answer calmly, "Yes," and press the mouse button firmly
7. Feel better.....

In my case, Gordon gets to go to the recycle bin (which would truly make him a federal Libearl one suspects), but the effect is the same.

Just think you can vote over and over again, until these politicians get the message!

The GG's ouija board.

Canada's representative of Queen Elizabeth, the much discussed, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, has once again attracted the lightning as only her rod of office seems to be able to do.

Stand In Queen Adrienne, apparently can add channeler to the dead to her Curriculum Vitae, in a recent entry to the National Post, (read it yourself if you want to pony up the cash to the Asper empire!), the GG explained some of the important work that she has done on the behalf of Queen and country.

Expressing pride in her Canadianess, her stand in-ness dropped a few names of International renown whilst showing the flag on our behalf. Among those she apparently had the pleasure of a chat with was Queen Julianna of the Netherlands, which if proven true would be quite a remarkable occurrence, as the much beloved Queen left our mortal coil in 2004.

This could be a worthwhile talent that the GG has and should be utilized to its utmost potential. Perhaps Paul Martin could channel up the visages of great Liberals of the past, Pearson, Trudeau and what should be an instant connection for the GG, MacKenzie King.

Likewise Stephen Harper could summon up the spirit of John Diefenbaker or even Sir John A himself and Smilin' Jack Layton could ask for some advice from Tommy Douglas, J. S. Woodsworth or David Lewis.

For this GG, even the simple things seem to cause controversy, she says a few nice things about Canadians in the world and her observations send the ungrateful proletariat to the barricades. However, even her Excellency has her backers!

Sondra Gotlieb (again you have to pay if you want to read, better to just take my word on this) issued a wonderful tribute to tradition in the Saturday Post portion of the paper and bulletin boards mocking the GG's faux pas are finding a few defenders for her crown as well as the more humourous and vocal detractors. So as they say any press is obviously good press.

There's so much potential for the GG now though, her newfound skills finally revealed. Indeed if harnessed properly her office may actually become relevant for a bit of time, as she plays out the string as Royal representative to the common folk.

And hey in retirement, she could always take over the moribund psychic hotline alliance from that other famous Canadian, Jo-Jo Savard, seer to the high and mighty (and a few lesser lights). For Adrienne, a whole new career could just be one seance away!

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Some will take a salary cap, Just not Gary's!

Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher and Kris Draper are getting the blades back out and are ready to hit the ice. But you won't be seeing them in Red Wing or Black Hawk colours this year, instead the trio will take to the ice on behalf of the Motor City Mechanics, a struggling UHL team based in a Detroit suburb.

Chelios and his pals Hatcher and Draper signed contracts with the Mechanics yesterday, with Hatcher the first on the ice on Tuesday as the Motor City boys took on the Flint Generals. And while the three get their skating legs back, there are rumblings about a bit of hypocrisy in their decision to get back to playing hockey.

The three ex-NHLers move to a league a tad far down the evolutionary chain of pro hockey. The UHL is one of those worker, lunch bucket types of leagues, made up mostly of career minor leaguers who on the best month probably only pull in about 700 bucks a week, 2800 a month or 36,400 a year. A far cry from the multi million dollar salaries that the newest Mechanics might be used to receiving.

The UHL operates under a pretty strict salary cap, one in place because frankly the league doesn't make much in the way of money, has no tv deals, no merchandising monies to speak of and a rather low profile at the best of times.

How Chelios and his buddies can reconcile taking jobs away from guys that may actually be depending on the UHL for a livelihood is best left to them to sort out. But more than one observer has pointed out the irony of the trio signing on with a league that not only has a salary cap, but depends on it for its very survival.

For the three it might have been a better choice to follow the rest of the exiles to Europe, there at least its a case of out of sight, out of mind. Better yet they should have bought the Mechanics, given everyone a raise and tested out running a hockey team on their own. It might have given them a different perspective on things, instead they're sending three journeymen to the showers while they play a bit of shinny.

If they really just wanted to get back on the ice, wouldn't it have been wiser just to go and rent some ice time and organize a little NHL pick up action. Instead they've put a spotlight on their actions and given their union brothers an unnecessary item to have to defend. Maybe Gary will mention the irony to Bob in Thursday's final gasp NHL/NHLPA meetings. If nothing else it will help them to fill the time before they break off talks and most likely end the season. Leaving us to wait for those Motor City mechanic highlights to come up on Sports Centre!

The above item first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Christy Clark's in motion and we should be too!

Christy Clark sits on the back bench of the Government side of the BC Legislature, a place far removed from her days as a major power broker in the Gordon Campbell cabinet. But the Liberal MLA for Port Moody-Westwood is starting to stir again, showing that her final months in the Legislature won't at least be lost in the shuffle. She has launched an interesting trial balloon for her fellow government members to ponder, while she waits out the session of parliament and then heads off to spend more time with her family.

And her idea is one that should appeal to tax cutters, parents and educators alike as she tackles the growing problem of child hood obesity.

Clark has come up with an idea to offer tax credits to parents that enroll their children in after school sport and arts programs. In effect giving parents a bit of cash back for those various sporting activities that seem to be spiraling out of control.

She plans to submit the idea as a private members bill in the next two weeks or so, giving hockey parents, basketball families and Soccer and Dance Moms and Dads a little bit of ca ching, ca ching in their wallets and purses at the end of the season. The side benefit a healthier group of young people, more physically active and participating in positive group activities, I believe in politics this is called the win/win scenario.

It's a novel attempt to get children to become more fit and could provide the added bonus of getting more parents involved in their children's after school activities as well. Which is always a good thing. It could also prove to be a positive development for the various sporting groups across the province looking for more participants and volunteers.

While private member's bills traditionally die a lonely death, hers might have a shot heading into an election campaign, what politician can resist the opportunity to promise more money to a voter. And while Clark won't be there to reap the applause of thankful parents, she'll have on her political resume a final entry as that of a campaigner for families and fitness. Which should help to counteract those controversial years in Education and Family Services, those dark cost cutting years of the Campbell era, now apparently long forgotten with each successive government spending program.

Should she decide to return to politics (and the rumours are that she will once Gordon Campbell takes his leave from the political scene) she'll be able to build on the base of being a Liberal in the traditional sense of the title and not the politically expedient variant that seems to populate the current "Liberal's" of British Columbia. With many of the more socially conscious Liberals making plans to "sit out" the next election, her chance to return to politics may only be a few years away.

At any rate, for a back bencher she's showing the flag again, just enough to remind people that she's around and still has a few ideas to offer up. Her website offers viewers a chance to sign an on line petition to get the ball rolling, so to speak. It will be interesting to see how many people take to her idea, which for the most part should cross all party boundaries.

UPDATE: Ms. Clark's motion is certainly attracting a lot of attention. As the featured item in the first half hour of the Bill Good gabfest on CKNW on Thursday morning (8:30-9 am), reaction was split among those not busy dropping their kids off at school. Some welcomed the opportunity to receive a bit of money back after putting their children through the many after school activities, others bemoaned the idea as another perk for the middle and upper classes.

Many callers expressed the opinion that those of the working poor or marginalized can't afford to send their children to after school programs anyways, so really it's just more rewards for the Liberal's base. Which is a valid point, however perhaps there is room to expand this idea even further to enable all to become involved. While I normally view some of the machinations of the provincial Liberals with a suspicious eye, I think anything that helps families get their kids out of the house and taking part in a positive activity is a good thing.

The nay sayers may have it right, but perhaps they can push the idea forward rather than just letting the debate degenerate into the typical left/right BC split. For those that want to learn more about the program and the reaction, Ms. Clark will be on Nightline BC , Thursday night at 7 on CKNW, if you miss that just click on their audio vault icon and listen in at any time.

Aspers to kill more trees!

The pulp and paper industry should prepare a thank you card for the CanWest empire out of Winnipeg. Word is leaking out that the Asper run newspaper chain (and all encompassing media conglomerate) is making plans to create yet another newspaper for the masses.

This one called the Dose, will be one of those commuter newspapers currently the rage in Toronto, The Dose will apparently be distributed for free in five Canadian cities including Toronto and Vancouver. Expected circulation will be 300,000.

The free newspaper will add to the growing concentration of print media controlled by the Aspers and no doubt will renew calls for a media watchdog to determine if this much control is healthy for a competitive and free press.

Described as a "hip" (a term I thought went out of vogue with groovy!) publication it will apparently be aimed at younger readers, who may be exploring the alternative press outlets, such as the Georgia Straight from which this tidbit has come.

Since they've gone from the old fogeys (hello) to the young hipsters, whatever could be the next Asperation for the Canwest crew. Perhaps a daily newsletter for the pre-school set, get them young before they can spell and perhaps they won't spot the errors when they get older!

One wonders if the Asper family go to sleep at night whispering R-O-S-E-B-U-D, before they nod off to sleep!

The Essentials of January 24-30, 2005

Another week's worth of essentials!

24-Jan-05 No posts today, took the day off!
25-Jan-05 No posts today, took the day off!
26-Jan-05 Dr.Dobson turns from SpongeBob to Big Paulie
26-Jan-05 Did So, Did Not!
26-Jan-05 Put your life on the line, but pay for your own meals
26-Jan-05 We Quit!
26-Jan-05 And the nominees are
27-Jan-05 When evil roamed at will
27-Jan-05 Gomery to go to court?
27-Jan-05 Call off the undertaker
27-Jan-05 Nothing more to say
27-Jan-05 In this corner from the Colonel Sanders Boxing Club
28-Jan-05 Bullets, Bombs and Ballots
28-Jan-05 It takes two bay, It takes two baby, just me and you!
28-Jan-05 Warren Buffet takes his cut from Gillette
28-Jan-05 Danny and Paulie sing from the same songsheet
28-Jan-05 When you gotta go, you gotta go!
29-Jan-05 No posts today, took the day off!
30-Jan-05 And then comes the counting
30-Jan-05 Up to a deadly dozen
30-Jan-05 Showdown at Gomery
30-Jan-05 O'Reilly takes on the CBC
30-Jan-05 50,000 reasons for Granny to sit down

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Gary's Anniversay Day!

One suspects that flowers and candy are out, all packages no doubt to be scanned as they arrive at the NHL Head Office in New York Tuesday. February 1st is the 12th anniversary of the reign of Gary Bettman over the empire that once was the NHL. And while the NHL execs hang around the office to eat some cake and maybe answer a phone, others are taking a look back at how the league has fared in the last twelve years.

Ah those heady days when Gary took over and the NHL was a bona fide major league sport, touted as one of the Big Four, Hot where basketball had become oh so cold. Gary who joined the league from the NBA oversaw an expansion to points south and west, an increase to thirty teams and for a while there, some actual media interest on the Big Networks. Even Fox, the hotshot new network on the block, took the time to test drive the sport, bringing the flashing puck to the game, before abandoning hockey and tossing the timeslot over the Nascar aficionados. But for a bit of time there, Hockey was the coolest game, the tickets were selling, the branding was hot and the players for the most part willing to play for the millions shoveled their way by spendthrift owners, unaware of the damage they were committing to their own industry.

But twelve years is a long time to rule an empire, players come and players go, many of the European arrivals had less interest in the almost religious aura of the game and just wanted the big money, if they could earn it without having to play in a brutal playoff tournament so much the better. The North American lads developed a greed gene as well, jumping from small team to the lure of the big cities and their huge contracts, endorsement deals and again early summers.

Along the way though Gary seemed to lose control of his employers, they began to outbid each other for players offering ridiculous sums of money for stars and slugs alike. The bell curve of financial expenditures rose fast under Gary's watch, leading to the state we are in at the moment. Unable to control his owners, Gary hopes to control the players. For the moment though the players are not coming onside to the plan. And so we sit and without games to watch, instead we have time to do some reading.

The reviews of Gary's years in the the retrospective pieces are not kind. A top five list of blunders here or a season killed due to stubborn commissioner story there, it all floods in as the last gasps of what would have been the 2004-05 season play out. Of course his reputation took a bit of a hit just after Christmas, with some blistering reviews from Business week and Sporting News. There are the calls for his head from the media and not to be outdone Bettman, is being haunted from the grave, hockey fan Archie Bennitz blasting both Bettman and Goodenow from his obituary, not exactly the way one would want to celebrate the 12th anniversary now is it!

Calls for full public disclosure are beginning to surface, hockey fans wondering just who really does have hockey's best interests at heart. The New York Post calling for a public vote on an NHLPA proposal. Allowing all owners to publicly stand up and say why they are against the plan. As any good emperor might realize, letting democracy rule is the beginning of the end to the empire!

Helpful players remind the owners that Gary promised them a salary cap and at the moment they are nowhere near that idea. Suggesting that Gary is on thin ice with his employer due to his inability to deliver the Holy Grail of a cap! The suspense continues with each successive meeting that takes place without him or Bob Goodenow being present. They apparently to the point of being more of a distraction to events, than a force for postitive development.

We now wait for the emperor to give us the sign, when the season will end or God forbid it now begin. And while the hockey peasantry await the announcement we notice the other trends. There are almost half (if not over half) of the players from NHL rosters with signed contracts in Europe, casting their votes with their feet. A testimony that Hockey is an ever changing business now, affiliations and loyalties last no longer than a contract and a dollar value.

But perhaps there is a more appropriate sign that all is not well; Jean Beliveau, Le Gros Bill, has decided to put his many valued items up for auction. While no doubt a personal decision by he and his family, the symbolism of it all though speaks volumes. Memories of seasons gone by are now up for auction, Monsieur Beliveau will probably reap a healthy reward for his treasures and deservedly so, but one hopes that somehow they stay close to hockey. But the sale tells a story for hockey fans on of a longing for a simpler time, one when the games were played on the ice and not in boardrooms and on telephones.

The above posting first appeared on my HockeyNation blog, for more items about hockey check it out.