Thursday, January 25, 2007

They were talking hockey in Vancouver today, but not in a good way!

Well the NHL has its wish, fans in Western Canada were talking hockey after the all star break, but nobody was coming up with anything good to say. After a three day break of meetings, skills tests and a glorified practice skate and shoot, the league will soon be sent back to rigors of the regular season schedule.

While the players pick up their game from where they left off, the fans have much more to chew over. And it would seem that in Western Canada at least, there’s a pretty bad case of indigestion.

The Bill Good Show, a talk show on Vancouver’s news and information station CKNW, took on the topic of NHL indifference to the West on Thursday. Good had a number of guests for a one hour examination of how the NHL is treating the hinterlands, coming off the botched scheduling consultations of the last week in Dallas.

Good talked with CKNW sportscaster Neil MacRae, author, journalist and Fan 590 radio personality Stephen Brunt, Montreal Gazette columnist Pat Hickey and Ottawa Citizen Hockey writer Allen Panzeri.

The course of the one hour program went over a number of contentious issues in the West, such as the scheduling bungle this year and apparently now next year as well, the power of the Commissioner or lack of when it comes to the good of the game and rumours of yet another expansion, deemed by all as nothing but a cash grab idea floated by the current owners.

Macrae led the charge for the West, in his own caustic but correct style on this issue he basically said that the eastern teams were leaving their western brothers out to dry; such is their own course of self interest east of the Manitoba border. His point about scheduling explained all you needed to know about the mess the NHL finds itself in, where the Canucks will face the Minnesota Wild at least eight times in a regular season, but will seemingly never see the likes of Sidney Crosby or other rumoured eastern stars any time soon.

Hickey and Panzeri offered up some background on the possible thought process that goes through the Canadiens and Senators management teams, who seem to have turned their backs on their western cousins this time around.

The death knell was sounded for the CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada feature, which most likely will see an American team or two involved in next years production, should they decide to carry on with their tradition. With the same scheduling plan in place for 2007-08 there’s a very good chance at least one of the Canadian teams won’t be suiting up for the triple header of hockey worship. A boneheaded error if ever there was one by the NHL if it comes to pass.

Stephen Brunt gave an informative examination of the issues under Gary Bettman’s leadership, pointing out that while many would like to think Bettman can crack a whip, he really is at the beholden of those who employ him.

When the hockey folk weren’t providing their opinions, the audience took to the lines and were not happy in their comments over the direction of the NHL these days and the apparent dis-regard for what the fans really want.

It was a lively one hour discussion and proves just how passionate that folks in Vancouver and British Columbia can get about their game and the stewardship it is under from the NHL offices in New York City.

It probably will be helpful to Mr. Bettman in one thing at any rate, not that there is any danger of it happening any time soon, but if he was planning on a trip to the western territories, he might wish to take a pass. He won’t be the most popular guy at the rink should he show up in the next little while.

You can listen in to the entire hour program by checking out the CKNW audio vault here, the program aired between 9 and 10 am on Thursday, it will be left on the audio vault for the next two weeks. Giving the Commissioner and the eastern owners lots of time to test the winds coming in from the west!

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

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