Thursday, August 14, 2008

August and Everything After

That's right, it seems like there hasn't been Hockey since that album was released. I know, we were in the SCF and then the NHL Awards... the closing of the 08 Season, and my feverishly erasing my primary NHL 08 file (which had my Create-a-93-goal-scoring-power LW) to send Hossa packing. No more riding Sid's digital coat tails on his way to 149 digital points.

So now, the only things in the Hockey world appear to be Toronto creating McCabe trades to see if they'll gain any traction, and Scandinavian all-star forwards who won't sign contracts, and the discussion of the proposed "Nordic League", which will have top Scandinavian club teams against each other. The early problem apparently is that this league would be made almost entirely of Swedish teams, with only 2-3 from Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

It is true that the Fins don't like to be called Scandinavian, but they won't actually confirm who they're tolerant of so as to link them to a major land mass. They're taking the aggressive "we hate everyone" stance. They share a border with Norway, Sweden, and of course, Russia... I'm really not sure where they feel they can leverage an argument that they aren't "part of Scandinavia" without being lumped into the Soviet sphere. You see, if you try to just say "We're independent of the larger countries", you end up being Estonia, the Haiti of Europe.

I also need to see more serious discussion about floundering NHL franchises being moved to Canada. I think this is the make-or-break season, hopefully, for such discussions. Atlanta doesn't have a shot in hell at signing Kovalchuk to an extension, and when he leaves via UF Agency, there will not be anything resembling an NHL franchise. This would be OK if the fans loved the team and could survive an honest rebuild, but I think there is already a lot of trepidation regarding the team's future. Sure, they drafted Bogosian, but who's their second most promising defensive prospect? Boris Valabik?

Florida, similarly, put half the rumor monger core out of business as they finally traded Olli Jokinen. They now cannot seem to gauge the interest long-term of awesome talent Jay Bouwmeester, who seems intent on playing for a legitimate team. That is the trend, players not wanting to end up like Kovalchuk or Hossa before him; making the dollars, but being out of the playoff hunt (in a terrible division) by February. Who can blame them? Who wants to only start making the playoffs by the time they've played 7 or 8 years in the league?

Carolina and Washington, on the other hand, have a future. Carolina has won a championship and remain competitive every season. There are quite a lot of transplants from the Northeast that keep their building rockin, and although there aren't any mega-stars in the lineup, they win games by committee.

Washington had better start selling their building out. Ovechkin is the most marketable commodity in the league (yes even more than Sid) because it is very easy for the casual U.S. fan to quantify his worth. Last time I looked, D.C. has a good economy in place and plenty of diversity in terms of who attends their games. Honestly, if they don't sell that building out every game after OV signed that ridiculous contract, I would rip that team away from them.

NHL Hockey exists for the most part on ticket revenue, so for the league to not squeeze every nickel out of their greatest asset is a horrific possibility. Washington can have a team back in 5 seasons or something, but a team worthy of playing in front of 80% capacity crowds. D.C. had better attendance figures on the road, which should be as embarrassing as shitting your pants in public, but the much-heralded love affair between the Southeast and Gary Bettman remains as incredulous as ever. Their ranking is #24 both at home and overall, meaning they're behind New Jersey in attendance.

Just for some perspective, Pittsburgh is #16, but not for lack of persons shelling it out to see the team. We average over 100% attendance at home (100.7) a n d on the road (105.5). Once we get the New Igloo with its' capacity of more than our average 17,076 fans, that will all change. We lead the NHL in average overall attendance with 103.2% of seats sold, with the only other teams breaking the 100% margin being Buffalo (101.8) and Calgary (101.7).

Washington? 88.2, good for 26th.

Look at the home % for Toronto, Buffalo, Ottawa, and Montreal. All above 100% home attendance, even as two of those teams miss the playoffs. Quebec and especially Ontario can facilitate these teams.

Before I forget, Tampa has a very respectable home attendance record. Also, it is a circus down there at the moment, too much fun to relocate... although you could argue the feasibility of creating 2 run-and-gun teams given the number of forwards under contract. Their strategy: Roll all six lines, like the trap-era teams of the mid-90's. Horrible.

Carolina, as it turns out, is putting up an 88.8% home figure. That isn't terrible, and their overall is padded by a 91.2% on the road. They remain competitive, have won a championship, and have a few legit NHL stars despite winning games by committee. There are tons of Northeast transplants in the Carolinas, and I could actually see each Carolina with an NHL team. That would be an instant rivalry... plus, the team concept is good. Yes, I just said South Carolina could have its very own NHL team, and still have one in North Carolina. What you do is take the team you erroneously placed in Columbus, change the logo's colors to reflect the Confederacy, move it to Charleston (Where Fort Sumter is), call the team "Rebels", and market the idea that "The Charleston Rebels; beating the North at their own game". Believe me, they'll support that.

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