Sports Outside the Beltway

Florida Goalie Tomas Vokoun gets no respect

Scott Burnside at ESPN writes-

Of all the teams still fighting for a playoff spot or set for the playoffs, perhaps no team relies more emphatically on its netminder for success than the New York Rangers.

Burnside clearly has a case of New Yorkitis. Lets examine the NHL Eastern Conference standings and where Florida and the NY Rangers stand.Tomas Vokoun

8th Boston 68 30 26 12 72
9 NY Rangers 69 31 29 9 71
10 Tampa Bay 68 28 28 12 68
11 Atlanta 68 28 29 11 67
12 Florida 67 28 29 10 66

8th is the last playoff spot. New York and Lundqvist are 1 point out of that spot but have played one more game than Boston. In fact they’ve played more games than all 5 times fighting for the 8 spot. Florida has a chance to narrow the gap between itself and Boston if they beat Washington tonight.

Now lets look at Lundqvist’s and Vokoun’s stats

2 Tomas Vokoun, FLA 56 23 22 2.36 .930
10 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR 60 28 23 2.45 .919

Now lets look at the Goals scored for the Panthers and Rangers

New York 181
Florida 174

Who are the three leading points scorers for each team


Marian Gaborik, RW 63 36 37 73
Vaclav Prospal, C 62 17 35 52
Ryan Callahan, RW 69 18 18 36


Stephen Weiss, C 65 23 27 50
Nathan Horton, C 51 17 29 46
Steve Reinprecht, C 67 14 22 36

Gee whiz New York’s top 2 goal scorers have more points this season than Florida’s #1. How is that so Scott Burnside?

I’ll also point out that Vokoun went 8-4-2 From for the month of January(he started all of Florida’s games) a Save Pct of over .940. That .940 is outstanding but Vokoun had to be like that. Florida scored 32 goals for the month or 2.27 per game

In that same stretch the Rangers supplied Lundqvist or his backup 36 goals in 16 games or 2.25. The Rangers went 6-9-1 that month. Because NY Goalies gave up 41 goals.

Florida in its last 18 games has only twice managed to score 2 or more goals in regulation. The total amount of goals for Florida in those 18 games-33

For New York in its last 18 games has scored 2 or more goals in regulation 9 times. Tho total amount of goals for the Rangers in those games- 46

Obviously Scott Burnside doesn’t- Look at the stats before making statements in his columns or doesn’t pay attention to all of the NHL. Tomas Vokoun is having a incredible year but this ESPN doesn’t seem to have noticed.


Tiger Woods to return at The Masters

When he plays at Augusta it will be his first tournament action in almost five months. From ESPN-

Tiger Woods will make his highly anticipated return to competitive golf at the Masters.

The world’s No. 1-ranked player, who has never missed the year’s first major as a professional, announced in a statement Tuesday that Augusta National Golf Club will be the site of his comeback.

“The Masters is where I won my first major and I view this tournament with great respect. After a long and necessary time away from the game, I feel like I’m ready to start my season at Augusta,” Woods said in a statement.

“The major championships have always been a special focus in my career and, as a professional, I think Augusta is where I need to be, even though it’s been a while since I last played.”

The Masters is scheduled for April 8-11, with the first and second rounds airing on ESPN beginning at 4 p.m. ET.

Woods last played on Nov. 15, when he won the Australian Masters in Melbourne for his 82nd career victory. His world then unraveled less than two weeks later; he was involved in a one-car crash outside his Florida home that required a hospital visit and let to a series of revelations about his personal life that included a later admission of multiple affairs.

I always felt The Masters was the most likely place for Woods return but didn’tmake a fool out of myself like much of the golf media and bloggers waste bandwith by speculating on it. You’re going to hear countless descriptions of the Masters being a media circus, but its really going to be and here’s why. One- Woods is conservative with the media and will remain so and Two- The Masters has always been taken a low key approach even when controversy swirled around it(The no women members scandal of a few years back). The 2010 Masters will be the same, Woods will not answer personal questions but the media will give you THEIR version of the answers nevertheless.


Directv and Versus settle their dispute

Now I won’t get a discount on Directv this fall. From AP-

DirecTV and Versus have reached a deal after more than six months to return the sports network to the satellite television service.

DirecTV dropped Versus after their contract concluded at the end of August and the two sides were not able to reach an agreement. They said Monday that Versus will be available as part of the same packages as before.

So the long, dumb dispute is over. I’ll be surprised if any details about the settlement are ever disclosed. All parties involved, including the NHL, have much to be embarrassed about. Fans got screwed and we’re not happy.


Former NFL MVP Merlin Olsen dead at 69

The 1974 League MVP was a great player and not a shabby actor either. RIP.

Merlin Olsen, a Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman who was part of the Los Angeles Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” line of the 1960s, has died after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 69.Merlin Olsen

Olsen, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year and had been undergoing chemotherapy, died Wednesday night, Utah State assistant athletic media relations director Zach Fisher said.

The burley giant from northern Utah joined Deacon Jones, Lamar Lundy and Rosey Grier on the Rams’ storied “Fearsome Foursome” defensive line known for either stopping or knocking backward whatever offenses it faced. The Rams set an NFL record for the fewest yards allowed during a 14-game season in 1968.

Olsen was rookie of the year for the Rams in 1962 and is still the Rams’ all-time leader in career tackles with 915. He was named to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls, a string that started his rookie year, and was voted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982.

Olsen was also an established television actor with a role on “Little House on the Prairie,” then starring in his own series, “Father Murphy,” from 1981 to 1983 and the short-lived “Aaron’s Way” in 1988.

Olsen was a consensus All-American at Utah State and won the 1961 Outland Trophy as the nation’s best interior lineman. The Rams drafted Olsen third overall in 1962 and he spent the next 15 years with the team before retiring in 1976.

Utah State honored Olsen in December by naming the football field at Romney Stadium “Merlin Olsen Field.” Because of his illness, Olsen’s alma mater didn’t want to wait until football season and made the announcement during halftime of a basketball game.


No end in sight- Comcast/Versus dispute still unresolved

A game between two top 15 schools is scheduled to be broadcast on Versus this Saturday. From KRQE-

Saturday’s game between the New Mexico Lobos and the BYU Cougars may be the biggest game of the season and an estimated 1/3 of Albuquerque TV viewers will not be able to see it.

The No. 10/12 ranked Lobos are heading for a huge showdown Saturday in Provo, Utah against No. 13/11 BYU.

The regular season conference championship will most likely be on the line.

But, because the game will air on the Versus network, DirectTV subscribers will not be able to see it.

A money dispute between Versus and DirectTV has kept Versus off DirectTV.

On their network, DirectTV claims the parent company of Versus, Comcast, is asking too much money to carry the network on DirectTV. As a result, DirectTV does not carry Versus.

The Mountain West Conference’s tournament championship is scheduled to be broadcast on Versus next month.

I sympathize with Mountain West sports fans. This dumb dispute has dragged on far too long and NHL fans are about to get screwed even more than they have already been up to now. The playoffs are less than two months away and some of those games are carried exclusively by Versus.

The NHL’s decision to sit on its hands is mind boggling to me. The league doesn’t have a big United States fan base. Marginal fans are going to find something else to watch and perhaps permanently. Is Commissioner Gary Bettman too dumb to realize that or does he simply not care?


Larry Ellison Wins America’s Cup

BMW Oracle owner Larry Ellison lifts up the trophy after winning the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, Sunday.  Heino Kalis / Reuters

BMW Oracle owner Larry Ellison lifts up the trophy after winning the 33rd America's Cup in Valencia, Sunday. Heino Kalis / Reuters

Oracle’s Larry Ellison won the America’s Cup yacht race Sunday, becoming the first American winner in fifteen years.

American software tycoon Larry Ellison won the America’s Cup yacht race in the Mediterranean Sunday, defeating the defending champion Alinghi of Switzerland.

It’s the first time a US team has taken home the cup since Dennis Conner lost it in 1995 to Team New Zealand.

Victory, as it often does in this race, went to the team with the technological edge.

Mr. Ellison’s tri-hulled behemoth vanquished bio-tech billionaire Ernesto Bertarell’s catamaran two days in a row, in the best of three races.

This is a rich man’s event, with this year witnessing the most expensive entries in the contest’s 159-year history. Each team spent more than 100 million ($138 million) in pursuit of the most advanced, state-of-the-art sailing technology.

Oracle’s captain, for example, wore dark glasses hooked to a computer that projected on the lenses information about the wind speed, direction, and sail loads.

Both boats tapped aeronautical and material science engineers to create carbon-fiber aquatic missiles able skim the surface of the ocean at three times the speed of the wind.

What’s interesting to me about this story isn’t the return of the Cup to the USA or even that Ellison won it. Rather, it’s that I was completely oblivious to the fact that the race was even underway until I saw it in my feed reader yesterday morning. (The baby’s waking postponed my blogging on it until I happened to see the open tab again this morning.)

It wasn’t always the case. Despite being “a rich man’s sport,” the quadrennial America’s Cup competition somehow riveted American news coverage. This, despite the New York Yacht Club winning it umpteen straight times. It really got interesting in 1983, when a foreign challenger (Australia’s Alan Bond) won the race for the first time, ever. But, while that temporarily made the next couple of races more interesting — we Americans wanted the Cup back! — the race also marked the beginning of the end.

While technology was always a key factor, as it is in any sort of mechanical racing competition, the races were theretofore among quite similar yachts, at least giving the illusion that superior seamanship and tenacity were the keys to winning. But Bond won with a winged keel. The 1987 race featured a novel fiberglass hull design. Subsequent races then became about crafting boats that were technically permitted under the rules but totally dissimilar to the ones against which they were racing. Viewers quickly lost interest. (It probably didn’t help that American teams were shut out of the finals for the 2000, 2003, and 2007 matches.)

There’s a lot of competition for the sports viewer’s attention. Quite a few sports that were truly big a quarter century ago have been relegated to niche status. Yacht racing, horse racing and boxing all come to mind.


Calgary Flames trade Olli Jokinen to the NY Rangers

From ESPN-

It took a while, but the proposed trade between the New York Rangers and Calgary Flames was finally completed late Monday night.

The Rangers shipped forwards Christopher Higgins and Ales Kotalik to the Flames in exchange for center Olli Jokinen and rugged winger Brandon Prust, a deal that was nearly consummated Sunday night but was delayed a day.

Kotalik’s limited no-trade clause and his ability to nix the deal was partly responsible for the holdup, but he ultimately agreed to the move, a source told

The trade call between both teams occurred following Calgary’s game Monday night.

Calgary is scheduled to play Florida on February 5th. Which would have enabled the Panthers all-time leading scorer(Jokinen) to make his first South Florida appearance since he was traded to Phoenix after the 2008-09 season. That has now been delayed till April when the Rangers come to town.

The Panthers beat writers have been hammering the Jokinen return to death IMHO. Does the Miami Herald’s George Richards or the Sun Sentinel’s Steve Gorten care to tell us that Jokinen will now be coming to Florida two times a year rather than once every two years? Jokinen is in the last year of his contract, but that isn’t pointed out but I don’t see mention of that or the chance of Jokinen coming to Florida two times a year if he should stay in New York.

As for the deal, both teams rid themselves of players who either couldn’t get along with their coach(Kotalik vs. the volatile John Tortorella) or a underachiever who isn’t supposedly giving a full effort(Jokinen). I think the Rangers come out better on this deal if they re-sign Jokinen but its a close thing. This was Jokinen’s third trade in less than two years and he is now working on his 6th NHL team.

George Richards in a blog post about this trade, made a huge sportswriting blunder.

Of course, Olli isn’t headed east to New York just yet. According to reports, he’s on his way to California to meet up with the Rangers in Los Angeles. Sports is funny this way, yes? Olli’s NHL career started with the Kings. They then traded him to the Panthers where he enjoyed his most professional success. Olli didn’t want to leave the Panthers, know that.

Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Jokinen is heading back to a NY area team for the second time in his career. He played a year with the NY Islanders. And how did the Florida Panthers acquire him?George Richards

June 24th 2000- Jokinen and Roberto Luongo traded to Florida in exchange for Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish

Florida only got a great goaltender and its all-time leading scorer in the same trade. This was only the biggest transaction the team ever made that went the right way for the Cats. Forgetting this trade is like a New York City baseball reporter forgetting the New York Yankees got Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox.

Next thing George will be doing is tell us Jacques Martin didn’t coach in the NHL prior to Ottawa (like at least one other Panther beat writer did) and that Martin had great confidence in Craig Anderson!


Where are my earplugs?- Anaheim beats Florida 3-0

I attended the game in person tonight but I’ll use the AP article to lead off this blog post.

It took a swing through the Sunshine State for the Anaheim Ducks to salvage a 13-day road trip.Ana-FL

Jonas Hiller made 33 saves to earn his second shutout of the season, and the Ducks beat the Florida Panthers 3-0 on Monday night.

Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry each scored for the Ducks, who wrapped up the six-game trip and snapped Florida’s five-game winning streak at home.

Hiller’s other shutout this season came on Nov. 5 in a 4-0 win over the Nashville Predators. Hiller, who has six NHL shutouts, was coming off a 30-save effort in the Ducks’ 2-1 shootout victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Friday night.


Florida’s Tomas Vokoun stopped 22 shots. Vokoun was coming off his seventh shutout of the season, a 33-save performance in the Panthers’ 2-0 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday.


The Ducks went ahead 3-0 on Perry’s goal at 17:18 in the third. He scored with a slap shot from the right circle after taking a pass from Getzlaf from behind the net.

Selanne gave Anaheim a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal in the final second of the second period. James Wisniewski’s shot ricocheted off the left post and hit Vokoun in the back, and Selanne then tipped in the loose puck.

After a scoreless first period, Getzlaf netted an unassisted goal at 15:17 into the second. He picked up the puck on a turnover by Keith Ballard and scored with a wrist shot from in front, beating Vokoun on his stick side.

Corey Perry scored the final goal of the game with under three minutes to go in the game. I was already out of my seat and getting ready to leave but saw the goal go in the net. Just prior to this the Panthers had two consecutive power plays, which overlapped one another for about 30 seconds resulting in a 5-3 for the cats. The score of the game tells you how Florida fared with those advantages.

Florida got thoroughly outplayed tonight. This was one of their worst home efforts of the 2009-10 season.

Now some random comments and occasional barbs related to my night out at the Bank Atlantic Center.

*- Tonight was my first visit to the BAC. In fact, I haven’t seen a professional team sporting event in person in almost 20 years.

It took me a while to find my way around the parking lots on arrival but did ok. On the way out, I found my car with ease and got out of the parking lots but headed in the wrong direction on the Sawgrass Expressway. South instead of north to Palm Beach County.

*- Food prices at sporting events is ridiculous. $6.00 for a hot dog. I can buy a package of buns and a 8 pack of hot dogs at the grocery store for less. 20 oz. Coke was a ‘cheap’ $5.50. If sodas were priced were priced the same amount times over hot dogs were, they would have been $10.00 or more tonight.

How does a family manage a night out at a game? Even with half off Monday, the family of three in my row had to cough up about $170 for their tickets. That doesn’t include food and anything else bought at the stadium. You better be upper middle class to go see a game or expect to make a car payment to see 60 minutes of hockey.

*- My seats were 6 rows behind(Section 102) the Panthers bench and almost right on center ice.

*- Now I know why Florida has a ticket promotion called ‘Half Off Mondays’. The BAC was only half full tonight.(Or worse)

That meant I had half a row to myself with no one seated on my right for 3 seats and only people seated on my left but with an empty seat between us.

*- Anyone attending a Panther game should bring earplugs. The BAC does what they call ‘Rock the Rink’. Loud Rock music that I could have done without. It blared incesantly all through the pre-game warmups.

*- Dumb rude fan moment of the night. A person in their twenties wanted to get out of my aisle. At the time I was standing up, he could have said excuse me and I would have moved. Instead he climbed down a row, stepping on a seat in the process. Wouldn’t you love to be the fan who had to sit there later on? NOT!

*- Should Panther fans forced to view the back of Peter DeBoer’s head all night get a discount on their tickets?

*- The Panthers have a team mascot named Stanley Panther. There’s a kids version, little stan or something. I got nothing against Mascots except they are blocking my view when the puck is in the opponent’s end of the ice. Get your big heads down!

*- One of the reasons I chose tonight’s game to attend, was the fact there was zero television coverage of it. As part of the imbecile deal the NHL made with the devil Versus, no other games are allowed to be aired during that Network’s ‘Game of the Week’.

*- BAC has a computer area where someone can check email etc before the game or during intermissions. I did exactly that between the first and second periods of play.

*- Anaheim Duck Teemu Selanne played tonight. Wasn’t he supposed to be out for over a month with a broken jaw?

*- The Florida Panther who came closest to scoring a goal tonight? Goalie Tomas Vokoun and he almost put one in for Anaheim! The Panthers were on a Power Play and the Ducks shot the puck out of their zone. Vokoun went to handle it and passed it across the goal mouth. I swore the thing was going in for a moment.

*- Florida Panther David Booth played in his second game since suffering a concussion. He played well for two periods but looked fatigued in the 3rd.(He did similarly in a game yesterday but managed an assist.)

That’s about it. Did you have enough already? I needed something to do to help unwind in preparation for bed.


Are Corporations Insuring Endorsements Against Athletes’ Scandals due to Tiger Woods?

A NY Times article headlined ‘Insuring Endorsements Against Athletes’ Scandals Ken Belson and Richard Sandomir write-

In the wake of the Tiger Woods scandal, insurers are being inundated with inquiries from corporations seeking to protect their investments, their brands and even their sales when their celebrity endorsers suffer public embarrassment.


Dan Trueman, who runs the enterprise risk department at R J Kiln & Company, the managing agent for Lloyd’s, said his firm had seen an eightfold increase in inquiries into this type of insurance between September and December, the bulk from pharmaceutical and financial service companies. “It’s more than just the flavor of the week,” he said.

Is one source proof that companies are insuring their endorsements? Note the things in bold. The Tiger Woods scandal started on the last Friday in November.

But the article cites insurers as making more inquiries going as far back as last September. Or a full three months before the Woods scandal went into full gear.(The beginning of December) So if what Mr. Trueman is saying is true, then how much of it is really Tiger related?

Also note the word ‘enquiries’. Asking about possible insurance isn’t the same as actually taking out the insurance. The Times headline and article are therefore out of sync.

The article also says-

An increasingly common strategy for companies to better protect themselves is to change the language in their morals clauses to cover more contingencies. The more specific the language, the more expensive the insurance becomes, according to executives in the industry.

A change in the wording of contracts isn’t the same as actually taking out insurance.

One more thing.

Indeed, the stock prices of the seven publicly held companies that have or had sponsorship deals with Woods lost $12 billion in market value in the month after Woods’s statement in December that he was taking a leave from golf, according to a study by Chris Knittel, a professor of economics at the University of California at Davis.

The Study by Dr Knittel has been seriously called into question by both the Wall Street Journal and Ryan Ballangee at the golf blog waggleroom, and has seen its authors backtrack from their original figures. Let me quote from the WSJ article-

The Woods study appeared online, accompanied by a university press release, barely two weeks after Mr. Woods stepped away from the links. It isn’t unusual for universities to trumpet studies before they undergo peer review, but this one made some rushed shots into the rough, researchers said.

Prof. Stango acknowledges, in an interview and in the paper, that several challenges may have undermined his findings. Some of Mr. Woods’s sponsors are part of large conglomerates, and news of his infidelity trickled out slowly — both factors that made it tougher to interpret investors’ decisions to buy or sell. “It’s just a very difficult thing to disentangle,” Prof. Stango* says.

From today’s article I have to conclude NY Times editors and reporters don’t pay much attention to WSJ or Waggleroom. That’s just pitiful when it causes them to put out nonsense like the above.


New Jersey committee report on horse racing states ‘the status quo is not sustainable’

It is not often that some aspect of Harness racing gets written up in the New York Times.

Meadowlands Racetrack has had some of the highest-quality harness racing in the country and dozens of the sport’s most important races. But in recent years, the track has become a money-losing drain on the state of New Jersey, which now threatens its survival.Meadowlands

A report issued this month by a committee put together by Gov. Christopher J. Christie before his inauguration to come up with solutions to the financial problems of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority made several suggestions that, if put in place, could all but gut the state’s racing industry. The suggestions included possibly closing Meadowlands Racetrack and drastically reducing the number of racing days at Monmouth Park.

The Sports and Exposition Authority is a state-run agency that owns the Meadowlands, Monmouth Park and portions of the state’s off-track betting system. The committee projected that the Meadowlands and Monmouth would lose a combined $22 million in 2010, a loss some lawmakers find difficult to justify given the state’s fiscal crisis.

In the report, the committee insisted that “the status quo is not sustainable” when it came to New Jersey racing.

“We know that the frankness of that report will have raised fears with certain interested groups and constituencies,” said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Christie. “In a sense, we’re glad that happened because if it wasn’t clear to everyone that these are the realities, it should be clear.”

I’m well aware of the financial realities the horse racing industry is facing at present. In spite of infusions of public money, or more often than that the addition of some form of casino gambling to race tracks, the sport continues to struggle. There just aren’t as many people interested in the ‘Sport of Kings’ as there were when my father took me and my other siblings to the races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, Deleware, and Illinois when we were growing up.

Here are just a few of the posts I’ve written on horse racing’s financial woes.

Kentucky horse racing ‘in serious jeopardy’
Florida horsemen say 2009 racing meet will end 3 months early
New York Racing Association files for bankruptcy
Owner of Pimlico racecourse defaults on loan*
Rosecroft Raceway ceases operations
Freehold Raceway cuts purses, Meadowlands could be next**

*- Like the Meadowlands which hosts ‘The Hambletonian, Pimlico hosts another one of the sports grandest events- ‘The Preakness. When tracks like these can’t make money, it should be a clear sign just how troubled the sport is.
**- This post which was about New Jersey horse racing difficulties, was posted on 1-22-08.

I’ve got many more posts like the six listed above. Since I began contributing at OTB Sports in May 2006, there have been 74 horse racing posts written. Over 30% of which we re on the sports’ dire financial condition.

Should the state of New Jersey bail out the industry? Absolutely not. I love horse racing but the industry if it can’t survive on its own should cease operations. The government shouldn’t be in the business of trying to prop up any business. Public resources should be used for something more fruitful, not be wasted on something that will fail eventually even with the assistance.

On a side note. Why did the NY Times use a thoroughbred racing photo to accompany an article that specifically states harness racing in the very first paragraph? Harness racing is to horse racing, what the LPGA is to professional golf, a Rodney Dangerfield. Harness racing, even when its greatest events are taking place, barely get noticed by the media. No one need look further than both sports 3-year-old Triple Crowns. Has The Messenger Stakes, always raced in the New York City area, ever been on network television. I know it hasn’t from 1970 on.


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