Sports Outside the Beltway

The NHL Lockout is over

The most idiotic labor dispute in sports history appears to have ended. From ESPN-

A tentative agreement has been reached between the NHL and the players’ association.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr stood side by side in the early hours of Sunday morning to announce there was a framework in place for a new collective bargaining agreement.

Bettman and Fehr didn’t join hands and sing Kumbaya together.

The deal still requires majority approval from both the board of governors — as early as Tuesday — and the NHLPA membership before it can become official.

The tentative agreement is a 10-year deal with a mutual opt-out clause after eight years and includes contract term limits at seven years (eight years for a team to re-sign its own players), a source confirmed to

“I am happy deal has been reached and excited to get back to playing hockey,” Penguins star Sidney Crosby said in an email.

For the first year, the salary cap is $60 million but teams can spend up to $70.2 million in the transition period, while the floor is $44 million.

Sources said the 2013-14 salary cap, a very divisive issue, will be $64.3 million, while the floor will remain at $44 million.

Contract salary variance is capped at 35 percent from year to year, with the provision that the last year can’t vary more than 50 percent from the highest-salaried year, a source told

Revenue sharing will spread $200 million, with a $60 million NHLPA-initiated growth fund included.

The players did well after the last CBA was agreed to, and I expect the same result this time around. I think some owners may benefit also but the NHL has at least one team with severe financial problems and a couple more possibly waiting in the wings. This labor dispute cost the team owners millions and I wouldn’t be surprised if there is fallout from it.

Why did this dispute take four months to resolve? It came down to personalities, the owners don’t like Fehr and both sides complained and whined about the other instead of playing hockey. I’m a die hard Florida Panthers fan who can count the televised games involving the cats over the last five years that they have missed watching on one hand. Right now I have very little enthusiasm for a shortened bogus season.


Hockey fan buys dressing room toilet for $5,300

I’ve heard the people in Toronto are nuts about the NHL, now I believe it.

If the NHL decides to flush the rest of the season, Toronto Maple Leafs fan Jim Vigmond is ready.

The Ontario lawyer purchased a toilet from the home dressing room of Maple Leaf Gardens for $5,300 at an auction, according to the Toronto Star.

Vigmond had been trying to score a 1967 Stanley Cup banner but he said the bidding became too steep, so he went for the toilet. And he was willing to go as high as $10,000 on the commode, which his friends thought was a little out there.

“They thought I had money to burn, and surely there was something that I could have better spent my money on,” he said, according to the newspaper.


Maple Leaf Gardens was home to the Leafs from 1931-99. More than 100 items from the arena were up for auction. Vacant for several years after the Leafs left for the Air Canada Centre, the Gardens was recently converted into a small arena for nearby Ryerson University and a grocery store.

Vigmond told the Star that the toilet will go in his sports memorabilia room. He’d like to sit on it, light a Cuban cigar, drink some single-malt scotch and watch a Leafs game, if the season doesn’t go down the drain.- ESPN

As it stands, I don’t expect an NHL game to be played between now and December 31st 2012. The player lockout imposed by team owners is over two months old and no resolution is in sight at present.


Eight is Enough- Edmonton beats Chicago 8-4

Sam Gagner took part in every Edmonton goal last night. From AP-

It was a spectacular evening for Sam Gagner, who scored four goals and four assists to tie a club record and lead the Edmonton Oilers over the Chicago Blackhawks 8-4 on Thursday night.

Gagner’s eight-point game tied the club record held by Gretzky and Coffey and fell two points shy of matching the league mark of 10, set by Toronto’s Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976.

It was also the first eight-point game in the NHL since Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux did it on Dec. 31, 1988, against New Jersey.

The 22-year-old Gagner came into the game with five goals on the season.

I had never heard of Gagner before this morning.

The Blackhawks started the scoring six minutes into the game as Mayers fluttered a long shot from above the circle that fooled Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Chicago kept pouring it on but hit a pair of posts — a long blast from the point by Brent Seabrook and another from in close by Andrew Shaw.

Just 40 seconds into the second period Chicago made it 2-0 when Patrick Kane fed it to Sharp who found a clear lane to beat Dubnyk.

The Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Gagner earned his first point of the night. With a long pass Gagner sprung Hall who chipped in his 18th of the year past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. Hall has scored in three straight games.

Gagner then tied it just over seven minutes later when he picked up his own rebound, circled behind the net, and scored on the wraparound.

The Oilers took a 3-2 lead with seven minutes remaining in the second as Whitney ripped a shot from the point while on the power play for just his first of the season. Gagner earned the assist.

Chicago tied it two minutes later on a short-handed 2-on-1 as Dubnyk gave up a rebound to Sharp who buried his second of the night.

Gagner made it 4-3 two minutes into the third with his second goal of the night. Whitney’s shot sailed over the net but bounced in front for Gagner to put past Crawford.

The Oilers chased the Chicago goalie two minutes later when Barker fluttered a shot from the point that Crawford waved at as it went into the top corner. Gagner earned his third assist and Ray Emery replaced Crawford.

The Blackhawks got a goal back six minutes into the third as Bolland made a no-look backhand swat at a puck that squirted past Dubnyk.

Gagner completed the hat trick 30 seconds later to make it 6-4, as Hall spun around and found Gagner streaking for his sixth point of the game.

But he wasn’t done yet.

Eberle and Hall did terrific tic-tac-toe passing to get Gagner the puck, and he slapped his fourth of the game into a wide-open net as Emery slid to keep up with the play.

Gagner’s heroics brought a little bit to an otherwise dismal Oilers season. If not for the horrid Columbus Blue Jackets, Edmonton could finish with the worst record in the entire NHL. Just like they have the last two years.


The Comeback I- Pittsburgh Penguins beat NY Islanders 5-0

Sid the kid played hockey last night like he hadn’t suffered a concussion that sidelined him for nearly a year. From AP-

Sidney Crosby is back.

The superstar center capped his return from concussion-like symptoms with two goals and two assists in his season debut as the Pittsburgh Penguins roared by the New York Islanders 5-0 on Monday night.

Unleashing more than 10 months of frustration in 16 energetic minutes, Crosby put to rest all the questions that had popped up during his lengthy comeback.

Can he still skate? Can he take a hit? Can he play at his nearly peerless level? Can he mix it up?

The answer — for the first night anyway — is an emphatic yes.

“I don’t really have good words for it,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “That was special in a lot of ways.”

For no one more than Crosby, who celebrated his first goal in 328 days in decidedly un-Crosbylike fashion.

After a breathless sprint down the ice in which he weaved through the New York defense and beat rookie Anders Nilsson with a backhand, Crosby raised his arms in triumph and let out a roar punctuated by a hard-to-miss profanity.

He laughed while watching himself on replay and later apologized for his poor choice of words while admitting “I couldn’t hold that in.”

Crosby added assists on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Brooks Orpik and capped his comeback with a second tally, a backhand that fluttered by Nilsson early in the third period to provide the final margin.

Steve Sullivan also scored for the Penguins while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 29 shots to collect his 21st career shutout, one behind franchise leader Tom Barrasso.

The Islanders aren’t a good team and their goaltending is horrible but still Crosby’s performance last night beat any expectations I had for him in his first game. Pittsburgh had 25 points and was leading the Eastern Conference without Crosby. With him back in strength, the Penguins just became a whole lot scarier.


Costly mistake- Blackhawks waive Rostislav Olesz

Chicago is probably praying right this second that somebody takes the ex-Florida Panther off their hands. IMHO it is very unlikely to happen. Olesz gets 3.4 million this year and that amount will rise over the next two seasons till it reaches 4.25 million. This for a defensive specialist/4th liner who will score at most 30 points in a season. At the 18 game point of this year, Olesz has no points for the 6 games he suited up as a Blackhawk. If noone claims Olesz, he will play for Chicago’s AHL affiliate, Rockford Icehogs. Unless something miraculous takes place, I bet Chicago buys out Olesz’s contract at the end of this season. Rusty will most likely go play in the KHL or somewhere else in Europe.

I’m well acquainted with Olesz from his Florida days. He isn’t a bad player, but Florida took him far too early in the 2004 NHL Draft(7th overall) and then gave him an outrageous contract. Florida dealt him to Chicago for Defenseman Brian Campbell. Another player with a huge contract. The difference is- Campbell has 17 points this season, tied for the most among defenseman in the NHL. Campbell is also helping to lead a surprising Florida team this year which at this moment is tied for the Southeast Division lead. Washington has tiebreaks. The trade made still go sour for Florida, but right now Florida

The Campbell-Olesz trade, which I thought was a good trade for Florida from the start, could still go sour for both teams but at this moment the Panthers look to have made some of the smartest personnel moves of the last NHL offseason. Trading for Olesz, plus signing free agents Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann.


Puck Drop- Florida Panthers start the 2011-12 NHL season

Tonight I’ll be back to watching my favorite hockey team. The cats open the year against the New York Islanders on Long Island.

Florida is almost a brand new team from last year. Considering that the Panthers were 30-40-12=72 last year and last in the Eastern Conference, the turnover should be for the better.

The new faces include Scottie Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Jose Theodore, Tomas Fleischmann, and Brian Campbell. Departing players- Cory Stillman, Tomas Vokoun, Rostislav Olesz, Darci Hordichuk, and others. I think the new additions are for the better with one exception.

Hockey pundits have weighed in on Florida. With one exception, none have picked the Panthers to make the playoffs. That would be 11 straight years without a post season appearance if they’re right.

I think Florida won’t make the playoffs. My prediction for them this year- 36-33-13=85 or 10th in the Eastern Conference.

Florida has the makings of a good offense. David Booth and Kris Versteeg have scored 25 goals before and I expect them to do so this year. Mike Santorelli had 20 goals last year but had little support. I expect him to up it to 25 at least. One of these players will get it 30, and I expect it to be Booth who did score 31 goals in 08-09 before he suffered a serious concussion the next season. Booth started slow last year, but looked back to his prior form at the end of the season. Stephen Weiss should be in the low 20′s in the goals scored department.

Besides those four players, Evgeny Dadonov, Upshall, Tomas Kopecky and Scott Mathias should be more than solid contributors. Dadonov is the sleeper, he being one of the few Panthers to impress me last year. He could be up in Santorelli-Versteeg territory on a full season.

Florida I think is in good shape Defensemen wise. They’re a mixture of youngsters (Dmitri Kulikov and Erik Gudbranson. Florida’s first round selections in 2009 and 2010 respectively) and veterans (Mike Weaver and 2nd time around Panther Canada Ed Jovanovski.)

The biggest problem Florida faces right now is their goaltending situation. Vokoun was one of the best goalies, but he is gone. In his place is Theodore who I have derided on multiple occasions. My opinion on Theodore hasn’t changed now that he is wearing a Florida uniform. He played poorly in the preseason and I’m not expecting good things from him in the regular season.

Florida’s #2 Goalie was supposed to be Scott Clemmensen. Who I used to deride on a scale similar to Theodore but I warmed up to him based on his play last year. That said, Clem isn’t more than a serviceable #1 Goalie and to make matters worse he will be out the first month of the season due to injury. So instead of Clem being on the opening day roster, Florida Panther Goalie of the future Jacob Markstrom, will be in the NHL rather than the AHL to start the season. I think Markstrom still needs minor league time, but Theodore has the potential to be an absolute bomb(He played poorly in the preseason, including a 7-goal disaster against Dallas) as starting goalie and that could cause the Swede to get the starting job earlier than anticipated and while he is still in need of more pro experience. The Florida Goalie situation is questionable at best and could be terrible this year.

Florida has a new head coach in Kevin Dineen. He and General Manager Dale Tallon look to have the Panthers going in the right direction. There are the usual skeptics, but hardcore Panther fans for the most part are more optimistic about the team than they have been for 5 years at least.

I’m being optimistic in predicting a 36-33-13=85 finish for the Panthers because I expect them to start poorly unless someone steps up at Goalie. The Panthers should get better as the year goes on and finish the year with a rosy future ahead of them as Jonathan Huberdeau, Quinton Howden, and others make it to the NHL. In a few minutes, we’ll begin seeing how my predictions will work out. Go Florida!

Hat tip- John at The Litter Box from whom I borrowed the above photo from.


Jet carrying Russian professional hockey team crashes

The KHL team, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl , was on board. This team had quite a few former NHL players on its roster. Pavol Demitra, Karel Rachunek and Josef Vasicek are three. Their head coach was Brad McCrimmon. Closer to home, former Florida Panthers(my favorite team) Ruslan Salei, Alexander Karpovtsev, and Karlis Skrastins played for Lokomotiv but early reports say Salei was not on board. The other players are all dead or believed to be. God bless the friends and family members of those who died.

Someone feel free to correct me, but I don’t remember incident like this involving a pro or college hockey team in either the United States or Canada. There have been aviation incidents where most or all of a sports team were wiped out. In most cases in the Americas or involving Americans, the teams were amatuers(The U.S. Figure Skating team aka Sabena Flight 548 disaster in 1961 or college teams like Marshall, University of Evansville, Wichita State) to name a few, involved college athletes.

Overseas is another story. In 1958 members of the Manchester United football were killed in a crash in Germany, the famous ‘Alive’ story involved uruguayan rugby team players. A Zambian soccer team was wiped out in a crash about 10 years ago. I recall a crash involving Italian athletes about 40-50 years ago but I forget the details. There have been other crashes.

Pro sports teams have to travel and with plane travel there is a risk. RIP to those who died today.

Hat tip- Donny at Litter Box Cats


NHL Referees beat Florida Panthers 3-2

The definitive proof of what I say is up above. Would you believe four game officials ruled that as not a goal?

Watch the video, particularly at the 2:25 point where Atlanta’s Goalie plucks the puck out of the net with the rules officials around. Were there four blind mice wearing stripes last night in Sunrise?

The NHL has a review system in place when a goal or non-goal was questionable. It was never used last night. Why? This Panther blogger wonders openly if the NHL has two sets of rules and Florida is on being judged by the bum set. There is a mounting pile of evidence from this season’s games that says just that. The kick in Edmonton to open the season, the tackling of Panther Goalie Scott Clemmensen by a Toronto player and the NHL rules official clearly said the referees that night blew it, and then this. Florida lost 15 games this year to other teams, and had three more games taken from them by scandalous rulings on ice. What the hell is going to be the NHL’s excuse this time?


Devil of a time- Minnesota beats New Jersey 2-1

Nothing is bouncing well for the NHL’s worst hockey team.

When Clayton Stoner drew up the first goal of his NHL career as a kid, it probably didn’t look anything like the game-winner he scored against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. From

Out of gas at the end of a shift early in the third period, the rookie defenseman of the Minnesota Wild dumped the puck into the zone and turned toward the bench. Stoner never saw the puck hit the stick of Ilya Kovalchuk, ricochet off the glass and carom into a vacated net.

The goal turned out to be the difference in the Wild’s 2-1 victory at Prudential Center.

“I was thinking about burning the tape and telling a different story a few years from now,” the 25-year-old said. “It was a lucky goal. It was one of those ones that sometimes you need that lucky goal just to win a hockey game. We needed those two points. That’s pretty huge.”

Here’s the goal.

Ilya Kovalchuck scored his 12th goal of the season last night. That would tie him for the team lead on the Florida Panthers. All that goal production for 6-7 million dollars a year.


New Jersey Devils fire coach John MacLean

His replacement, Jacques Lemaire, was Devils coach immediately before MacLean. From AP-

Jacques Lemaire, who led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup in 1994-95, is returning for his third coaching stint with the team, replacing John MacLean.

Lemaire told’s Pierre LeBrun Thursday that Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello called to offer him the job Wednesday.

Lemaire was on his way to Newark, and plans to be behind the bench Thursday night for the Devils’ game against the New York Islanders.

The Devils are 9-22-2 and tied with the Islanders for last place in the Eastern Conference with 20 points. They have lost three straight.

Here’s a list of problems New Jersey has at this moment

They signed Ilya Kovalchuk to a 15-year contract where he makes around 6 million a year. With the salary cap, this restricts the team’s personnel options.
What has all that money bought? Kovalchuk has exactly 8 goals and 10 assists and a -32 rating. Mike Santorelli of Florida has 9 goals. Mike who gets paid about one sixth what Kovalchuk does.
Perennial Vezina winner/contender Martin Brodeur is having his worst year in net with a save pct. under .900
Brodeur has been injured, so has Zach Parise, the team’s captain.
The team has scored just 59 goals this season.

New Jersey is a terrible point at this point. Firing the coach was easy, making the team turn itself around is going to be tough and it won’t happen this year. Lemaire has agreed to coach the Devils just to the end of this season. So what does MacLean’s firing accomplish?


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