With the NHL season about to begin, I would like to welcome you all to my new series chronicling the weekly goings on in our beloved sport. It has been awhile since my pen has graced the pages of BleacherReport, but i see my absence as a recharging of inspiration, though over a year does seem like a long time, but like our hero Blondie in the aforementioned title of this series, " You see in this world there's two kinds of people my friend - those with loaded guns, and those who dig. You dig." I am hoping you will dig. On with the festivities.
Another season is about to begin, with fans throughout Canada and the US hoping that this year will be the year there team will finally get over the hump and finally sip champagne from Lord Stanley's cup. The playoff failures of the Sharks are forgotten, Carey Price's second half collapse is yesterdays news, and maybe the Leafs will finally end the curse... Who are we kidding, the Maple Leafs are about as close to the Cup as Jamarcus Russell is to having a completion percentage better then a batting average.
On the fantasy map, thousands of men have wasted countless hours studying obscure stats, compared the road performances of Crosby to Ovechkin, all the while drafting what they believe will win them bragging rights in the office pool, wasting..cough...investing priceless time every morning and night making sure that one spot left open on your roster is filled with a sleeper off the waiver wires to win that crucial match against there bitter rival. So the wives, kids, and work might take a back seat for a few hours, they just dont understand...
Within the last week, the NHL has lost two potential hall of famers to retirement. One a legend in the city he spent most of his career in but who never brought an end to the drought there, and the other the feel good story of the pre-season as he returned from a six year absence. Both Mats Sundin and Theoreon Fleury will be missed as warriors who excelled at one point but failed when the spotlight was shun most brightly on them. Sundin was blessed with a great supporting cast in the late 90s, but might be best remembered for refusing to waive a no-trade clause in his final season in Toronto, while Fleury battled demons in the latter half of his career when he left Calgary, which led him to be banished from the league until his return on a tryout basis this summer, where he put up points but showed that time past him by.
On the other end of the spector of age, Habs prospect Sergei Kostitsyn has refused a demotion to the Hamilton Bulldogs and demanded a trade. Widely considered a better offensive talent then his older brother Andrei when he was drafted in 2005 by the Canadiens, he has not been to live up to the considerable hype brought on by the media, while getting caught up in the Montreal nightlife scene. His horrible attitude brings to mind another castoff by the name of Grabovski, now lighting up the red light in Toronto.
With all the hope going around, it is understandable that some of the off-seasons biggest stories have been put on the back burner, like an unwanted tuna casserole. The big whale of the summer is obviously the Phoenix Coyotes situation. Like a hollywood dirt-rag, we were all witness to the truth behind a team that no one wanted other then the one guy the NHL didnt want to hand it over to. With Wednesdays decision by Judge Baum's to dismiss the Balsillie bid with prejudice, we will be forced to witness a lameduck franchise play out the year under the leagues tutelage, and as a native of Montreal having witnessed the failure of the Expos while under MLBs grasps, there cannot be any good to come out of this.
Amongst the wreckage left behind with the Balsillie vs NHL war, is hockeys greatest ambassador, Wayne Gretzky, who is now left so bitter about the sport he so dearly loves, that his father has been quoted as saying that his son is done with the league.
However lets not believe that the Coyotes are the only NHL team in dire straits, as the Islanders, Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Florida all experienced substantial financial losses last year. As these tough economic times have been showing us, the worst is yet to come.
Bettman has to ask himself, why keep teams in his league when they cant even sell 9$ tickets?