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MILLIONS: An NHL season through COVID will be as tough on the owners as it will be on the players

Roger Millions writes that the return of the NHL is great news, but that operating during lockdowns could be financially disastrous.

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We should welcome the NHL going ahead with a regular season, be it 56 games, or something else. In the crazy world since COVID-19 took over how we act, how we think and what we do, its welcoming to see any sign of normality; but it’s not likely they have much of a choice. 

In a world where other professional sports have an enormous advantage, the NHL simply had to stay relevant even if the dollars make little sense. To be financially viable, hockey has to have people in the seats. 

The NFL has enough TV revenue. Even if no one ever showed up, American football in the United States would still be able to play and roughly break even.

Major League Baseball has television and a financial infrastructure that keeps it ticking.

The NBA’s appeal broad at an international level is the stuff of NHL envy. Throw in some curious support from Communist China and the dollars flow readily.

Hockey has TV revenue. Just not enough. Advertising yes, but again not on the level of the other big three professional leagues. The difference is attendance. There is escrow, where players sacrifice a large portion of their paycheques. Give some credit to the NHL players. They put their money where their mouth is more than other leagues. Still, putting bums in the seats is what matters to the bottom line at the end of the day.

If you want proof, then turn your attention to the words of Vegas Golden Knights owner Bill Foley. I was in Las Vegas in October and November and heard Foley on a local radio broadcast. Foley was as upfront and blunt as any NHL owner when he said that for the vast majority of NHL teams, they must draw at least 60 per cent of capacity to make it financially worthwhile. 

Unless we see a drastic change in how provincial and state governments deal with COVID-19, the NHL will head into the season in a financial deficit. In the short term, that may be work, but it is hard to imagine that it is sustainable for long.

The NHL is making some smart accommodations. There will be consideration of a Canadian division. Multiple games against rivals will take place in close proximity. 

For example, the Oilers and Flames will bang heads a total of 10 times this season. Travel will be reduced significantly. When you consider that many of these teams fork over between $2-to-$5 million in travel, this will be a significant factor.

Let’s hope that it can all happen with our teams remaining in Canada, because if the seven clubs must play each other in the US, that initial saving could go out the window. 

Still, there are many question marks remaining; starting with the Ontario lockdown under Premier Doug Ford. Both Toronto and Ottawa will be on pins and needles until that situation is clarified. Ontario is currently set to remain under lockdown after the NHL schedule is to begin. 

Then there is the reluctance to this point of British Columbia’s government willingness to consider Canadian NHL teams visiting Vancouver. This is curious, as the John Horgan government makes little noise about international flights out of Vancouver, but appears willing to violate the constitutional right of Canadians to move freely between provinces. 

And Quebec is as difficult to read on this issue as it is on any. 

The condensed schedule will be extremely hard on teams. Their rosters will take a brutal beating. The idea of a taxi squad makes a lot of sense. Injuries always play a role, and when we add the shortened time period, it will be markedly worse. Throw in back-to-back games and heated regional rivalries, and I am sure you get the picture. 

Of course, there is the grey cloud of COVID-19. How will teams deal with the inevitable positive tests for players? Will entire teams be required to go into isolation, and how will that affect game schedules?  

The National Hockey League sticking its neck out for a regular season is great. It’s potential for excitement is outstanding. But so to is the possibility of calamity. 

But true to the toughness of the average hockey player, the league didn’t turtle. 

Game on. 

Roger Millions is the Sports Columnist for the Western Standard

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Robert Reive

    December 26, 2020 at 4:02 pm

    These ‘bend the knee types’ aren’t worthy of my spend of my hard earned cash on their ‘style of entertainment’ live or, over cable.

    The “BHL” as governed by Bettman (and the Boston Bruin Owner) can all go take the vaccine and get genetically modified to become more complete remote controlled NPCs, they deserve that outcome.

    My Suggestion, If your religion truly is hockey, simply eBay buy EA NHL 90s used versions when men were real men, you will get more ‘real’ entertainment value. Don’t use Amazon they have eaten enough of the world already, including most local businesses.

    The NHL collective have earned this #stfuNHL

    r2

  2. Mars Hill

    December 24, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    Very few people give a crap about NHL players and owners and the ‘problems’ they have in staging their precious games. They can do their BLM virtue signalling and the rest of it down in the States and leave us alone here. Lots of amateur hockey and it’s more entertaining….Oh I forgot, the kids can’t play because ‘adults’ want to keep them ‘safe’. The hypocrisy is staggering.

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Sports

HARDING: The Oilers glory days are set to return

Gretzky told McDavid it’s just a matter of time.

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The 1984-85 Edmonton Oilers were the greatest NHL team of all time, led by Wayne Gretzky, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey. No team since had the top two leaders in points overall and the top defenceman – until now. Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, and Tyson Barrie just repeated the feat, spawning hopes the Oilers could at long last reclaim the Stanley Cup.

For the second year in a row, McDavid and Draisaitl have been 1-2 in league scoring. McDavid’s 105 points and Draisaitl’s 84 were well ahead of Boston’s Brad Marchand at 69. This year’s surprise was Tyson Barrie whose 48 points were top for defensemen. The missing ingredient of a marquee offensive defenceman had finally arrived.

In 2015, a poll of ten leading NHL agents named Edmonton the least desirable place to play, but that was before McDavid and a new arena were part of the mix. After Barrie had a mediocre year with Toronto, a one-year contract in Edmonton made perfect sense.

“For me, it’s a no-brainer,” Barrie said when he signed last October. “It just wasn’t about money this year, [but] coming in to re-establish myself and show the league that I’m still a pretty good player.”

Barrie has been stellar. His 8 goals and 40 assists gave him 48 points, one more than the Rangers’ Adam Fox.  To boot, Barrie did it logging just 21:24 minutes per game, the lowest total of the top 30 defensive scorers. Then again, he had McDavid and Draisaitl to pass to, plus his defensive partner, Darnell Nurse. Nurse’s 16 goals were second-best among NHL blue liners, while his 36 points were 12th best.

“It’s pretty incredible, the skill we have on this team. It’s world class – as good as it gets,” Barrie told Sportsnet’s Mark Spector in March. Oilers coach Dave Tippett said Barrie was an important part of the McDavid-Draisaitl magic.

“He’s an elite puck-mover and offensive player. We’ve had some solid defenders, but nobody with the instincts with the puck that he has,” Tippett said. “The top offensive players, they love it when they’ve got a defenceman who can make creative plays to find you with the puck. That’s why he’s fit in so well.”

In some ways Barrie is the Coffey of the current team, though Sportsnet’s Ron McLean says McDavid is in others.

“What you know about him [Coffey] is that he can stand at the goal line and be at the blue line in two strides,” McLean said. “McDavid has that same power. It’s just [an] other-worldly first step.”

Even Gretzky says McDavid just keeps getting better. “The maturity that he’s shown this year, he’s gone to an even higher level. And I don’t just mean in points. His physical play is a lot higher than it’s been in the past. His body language is that he doesn’t want to lose,” Gretzky told The Athletic.

“His work ethic has been the most important part of what’s been infectious throughout the hockey club and bringing a young hockey team to another level.”

Last year, Gretzky said he saw other parallels with the current Oiler team and those of the 1980s, since Mark Messier kept him sharp in practice the same way Draisaitl does for McDavid.

“They’ve become better players because they’re competing every single day with each other and not even really realizing it. And obviously those two guys are driving the train in Edmonton and they’ve done a wonderful job.”

Oilers goalie Mike Smith honoured ‘85 legends Grant Fuhr and late trainer Joey Moss on his mask this year, and Gretzky has praise for Smith.

“I’ve played with a lot of great goaltenders. Andy Moog. Grant Fuhr. Curtis Joseph. Kelly Hrudey. Mike Smith is the first goaltender I’ve seen really energize a hockey club from being in goal. Whether it’s his feistiness on the ice, whether it’s how he handles the puck and moves the puck, how he battles every game.”

In 1985, the Oilers went 49-20-11 in the regular season then dominated the playoffs. They swept L.A. and Winnipeg, beat Chicago in 6 games and Philadelphia in 5. Gretzky’s 47 points and Kurri’s 19 goals remain records, as do Coffey’s 37 points as a defenseman.

With a record of 35-19-2 this Oilers team is not the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, Edmonton has only the tenth-best odds to win it all. Even so, Gretzky told McDavid it’s just a matter of time.

“So when you guys do win — and you will win a Stanley Cup — the feeling is just over the top. You work your whole life to do that,” Gretzky said. “You will lift it one day, you’re too good.”

Lee Harding is the Saskatchewan Political Columnist for the Western Standard

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Canucks’ star Vertanen benched after sex assault allegation

NEWS 1130 tweeted an Instagram account dedicated to sharing stories of sexual assault posted allegations from a woman who claims Virtanen sexually assaulted her in a Vancouver hotel in 2017.

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The Vancouver Canucks have put star Jake Virtanen on “leave” after allegations he sexually assaulted a woman in a hotel room came to light.

“Our organization does not accept sexual misconduct of any kind and the claim as reported are being treated very seriously,” the Canucks said in a statement.

“We have engaged external expertise to assist in an independent investigation and we have placed [Virtanen] on leave as we await more information.”

Canucks’ tweet

NEWS 1130 tweeted an Instagram account dedicated to sharing stories of sexual assault posted allegations from a woman who claims Virtanen sexually assaulted her in a Vancouver hotel in 2017. 

Nicknamed “Shotgun Jake” by Canucks fans, right winger Virtanen, 24, was drafted by the Canucks sixth overall in the 2014 draft.

In 38 games this year he has five goals and no assists.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard
dnaylor@westernstandardonline.com
TWITTER: Twitter.com/nobby7694

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The Rock writes: ‘Calgary Stampeders changed my life; I love the CFL’

“I was still grateful to a man who would eventually become a mentor and friend, Wally Buono, for even giving me the opportunity.”

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The CFL changed my life.

When you have nothing and you’re scratching and clawing for everything you can get – all in the spirit of making your football dreams come true. You become the hardest worker in the room. You will not be denied.

I knew in my heart I was going to make it in the CFL – and parlay that into a very successful career in the NFL. Maybe even win a Super Bowl…But neither of those dreams came close to coming true.

Truth is, I just wasn’t good enough and it wasn’t my time.

The CFL sent me home. I was still grateful to a man who would eventually become a mentor and friend, Wally Buono, for even giving me the opportunity.

Wally Buono. Courtesy Wikipedia

I had $7 bucks.

But it’s funny how sometimes life comes full circle. Now I’m back. Same hungry kid, but much different man.

As an owner of the XFL, our discussions with the CFL have been very exciting. There’s a real pulse here because you can feel the unique opportunity we can potentially create together.

Wherever it all leads, I can tell you this one is personal to me and is driven by all my passion – because me being cut by the CFL was the greatest thing that happened.

It set me on a path that years later would lead me right back to the league. To help create even greater and bigger opportunities for all our players and all our fans.

As an owner who’s had his hands in the dirt – my loyalty will always lie with the players and fans.

I’ll keep you posted as our XFL/CFL discussions unfold. Got your back. So yes, the CFL changed my life, in ways I could’ve never imagined

🙏🏾🇨🇦🏈#gratitude

#legacy

#respect

#pulse

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tried for the Calgary Stampeders in 1995. He was cut during training camp. He went on to become a wrestling superstar and movie action hero. He wrote about his experiences on his Facebook page

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