Friday, July 30, 2010

Other NHL player grievances

Wait, I signed where?
The big news in hockey this week was the NHLPA's filing of a grievance against the league on behalf of Ilya Kovalchuk. The move will pit the association against the NHL in an arbitration hearing to determine the legality of Kovalchuk's controversial 17-year, $102 million contract with the New Jersey Devils.

But as it turns out, that wasn't all that the players wanted to get off their chests. In fact, the Kovalchuk situation was just one of several complaints the players would like to see addressed. And in an attempt to be as efficient as possible, the league has encouraged the NHLPA to consolidate all of their grievances into one single master list.

Well, that list was leaked to me this week. And the interest of keeping fans informed I'm publishing it here.
  • Although we’ve made our feelings crystal clear on the matter over the years, there are still between 20 to 25 players at any given time who are being forced to play in Edmonton.

  • Due to difficult economic times, Philadelphia Flyer fans are now pelting our wives and children with pennies and nickels, instead of the much lighter dimes they used to throw.

  • Can't quite put our finger on it, but something just doesn't feel right about the way Gary Bettman drives around town in his brand new sports car with the personalized plates that read "ESCROW".

  • It's not really fair that so many of us have to work all through May and June, while the players in Toronto get those months off every year.

  • The league should abandon its plan to replace the current steroid testing program (in which a league official asks players "Hey, none of you use steroids, right?") with a much more comprehensive system (in which the official will also be allowed to raise an eyebrow and ask "Are you sure?").

  • Hey, you know what would be completely awesome? If we all stopped hitting each other in the groin with slapshots! (Grievance suggested by Sami Salo.)

  • Veteran players on minimum-salary deals have consistently pointed out that the current CBA is structured to provide massive contracts to a handful of elite players at the expense of the overall group. So can we pass some sort of rule making it illegal for those guys to talk anymore?

  • No matter how loud we yell or how much we wave our arms around, those stupid mascots always aim their hotdog cannons into the upper deck instead.

  • This Sidney Crosby kid out in Pittsburgh tries really hard and is a super nice guy, and we all just wish the hockey media would find a way to mention him every now and then.

  • The current maximum roster size rules significantly reduce our overall earnings potential by artificially limiting the number of players who can receive idiotic free agent offers from Glen Sather.

  • No matter how many times it happens, it still really bothers Mike Richards first thing every morning when he plods down the stairs in his bathrobe, takes a sip of coffee, and then throws open his kitchen curtains to find Pierre McGuire smiling creepily into his window.

  • Every now and then we hear some fan trying to get the wave started. But when we climb into the stands and beat him to death with our sticks, suddenly we're the bad guys.

  • We pretty much all agree that Glashow's objection to string theory on the basis of not being sufficiently predictive is unconvincing given that the theory clearly satisfies the Popperian criterion of falsifiability, so shut up about it already, Boogard.

  • We don't want to identify the team, but let's just say that players from one particular franchise are deeply concerned that their GM's recent roster moves might indicate that he took too many shots to the head while growing up with his five hockey playing brothers.

  • We must continue to institute tougher rules to prevent players from elbowing each other into unconsciousness, and get back to just punching each other into unconsciousness the way God intended.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tips for your day with the Stanley Cup

So far, Stanley hasn't called him back.
As the offseason winds on, most of the hockey world is focused on the negative. But while the ongoing Kovalchuk debacle and ominous signs of renewed labour strife dominate the headlines, one of the sport’s most positive annual traditions is well underway and could be coming to a town near you.

Over the course of the summer, each member of the champion Chicago Blackhawks is enjoying their “day with the Cup”, leading the trophy through a tour of small towns, big cities, and community barbeques. Each stop along the way is a feel-good story, as fans young and old are given a rare chance to spend time with the greatest trophy in all of sports.

But while each player is given free reign to determine how to spend their day with the Cup, the league does provide some guidance. Every year, each player receives a printed memo from the NHL head office with a few tips to help things run smoothly.

Most fans never get to see that top secret memo. That's about to change, since I just happen to have come into possession of a copy which I’ve reproduced below.
* * *

Dear miscellaneous NHL player,

Congratulations on winning the Stanley Cup! As per hockey tradition, you are now entitled to spend one full day with the trophy in a location of your choice.

Before you plan your big day, however, the National Hockey League would like to offer several suggestions which could help make your time more enjoyable.
  • Consider having several small cards printed up that explain that the Stanley Cup is a trophy awarded to the NHL champion at the end of every season. This will save you from having to constantly stop and explain everything to lifelong Vancouver Canuck fans who have never seen it before.

  • You’re likely to meet fans who will want to take photos of their children or grandchildren sitting in the bowl of the Cup. For reference, the Cup can safely hold the weight of one large toddler, two small babies, or three Montreal Canadiens forwards.

  • The Stanley Cup is notable for its tradition of recording past champions by etching their names onto the sides of the trophy. Given how easily the Cup can be scratched or dented, please respect the league’s history by only dropping it so that it lands on forgotten teams the 2004 Tampa Bay Lightning or 2006 Carolina Hurricanes.

  • When describing your Cup win as “easily the greatest moment of my entire life”, be sure to awkwardly add “um, obviously other than my wedding day” if you think your wife may be listening.

  • The Stanley Cup is 117 years old. If you decide to spend your day at Denny’s, save money by ordering its meal off the senior’s menu.

  • If you happen to meet an Ottawa Senators fan, he will inevitably want to tell you about all the Stanley Cups his team won a hundred years ago. As a representative of the National Hockey League, please do your best to listen to him politely for at least three full minutes before pulling the nearest fire alarm.

  • Remember that the Cup is made entirely of metal, and is therefore prone to rust if exposed to excessive moisture. Please keep it away from Jeremy Roenick, in case he gets a glimpse of it and starts bawling like coliccy baby again.

  • Please keep in mind that the Cup has been handled by literally thousands of players and fans over the years. Consider giving it a quick wipe with a paper towel before letting your newborn drink formula out of it.

  • Impress your friends by pointing out that the engravings on the Stanley Cup include several typos and other errors. For example, in 1975 Bob Gainey’s name is misspelled as “Gainy”. In 1981, the New York Islanders are misspelled as “Ilanders”. And in 1999, the Buffalo Sabres are misspelled as “the Dallas Stars”.

  • Occasionally, a young child may ask you why the trophy doesn’t list a champion for the 2004-05 season. This is a complicated subject, so the best way to answer this question is to ask the child to hand you their allowance, use it to light an expensive cigar, and then blow smoke rings in their face while pointing at them and laughing.

  • Finally, for members of the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks: Be sure to block off some time in your schedule for Stan Bowman to call and tell you which team you’ve been traded to.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Leaked: Ilya Kovalchuk's contract

Well, it's finally over. After 19 days, Ilya Kovalchuk has finally signed a contract. And after all the rumors and misinformation and flights to California, it turns out he's not going anywhere after all -- he's decided to stay in New Jersey.

But what took him so long? Well, these sorts of contracts aren't exactly simple. Given all the details that need to be sorted out, I think it's understandable that it took Devil's GM Lou Lamoriello and Kovalchuk's agent Jay Grossman a little bit of extra time to work it all out.

Don't believe me? Read it for yourself. Thanks to DGB spies, I've managed to obtain a top secret copy of Kovalchuk's contract, as negotiated by Lamoriello and Grossman.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Free agency: The NBA vs. the NHL

Hey Chris, that coffee machine over there
isn't going to just work itself.
The first few weeks of July mark the start of free agency in both hockey and basketball. And while both leagues can usually be counted on for some entertaining signings, there's little doubt that 2010 was all about the NBA.

Between the NHL's lacklustre crop of free agents and the NBA's much-hyped "big three" and beyond, every sports fan in North America has been transfixed by the daily intrigue of NBA free agency. And that no doubt includes many hockey fans who have otherwise never followed basketball, and may be confused by some of the what they're seeing.

Have no fear, hockey fans. NBA free agency is really very similar to the NHL version, with only a few key differences. To help you make sense of it all, I've prepared this handy guide to help you compare and contrast the two leagues.

NBA free agency: America's largest sports networks allows a star player to spend an hour announcing his decision in a farcical display of tone deaf self-promotion.
NHL free agency: Canadian networks would never participate in such a vulgar display due to higher journalistic standards, a distaste for self-aggrandizing hype, and the lack of available airtime due to their previously scheduled round-the-clock "NHL Free Agent Super-Mega-Frenzy 2010" coverage.

NBA free agency: To the horror of fans, one team can assemble an instant dynasty by just going out and buying three of the best young players in the game.
NHL free agency: A team can only assemble a team of young superstars the honorable way: by purposely tanking several seasons for high draft picks.

NBA free agency: Teams are often unable to free up roster spots by trading players thanks to the intricacies of the salary cap.
NHL free agency: Teams are often unable to free up roster spots by trading players thanks to contracts given out by John Ferguson Jr.

NBA free agency: Players and teams may begin negotiating on July 1 but can not finalize a contract until July 8, in an effort to avoid tampering.
NHL free agency: No such restrictions are needed; unfailingly honest players and teams respect the league's strict tampering rules, then agree to complicated multi-year contracts 15 minutes after free agency begins.

NBA free agency: If you're really tall, some team will pay you millions of dollars even though you never learned how to skate.
NHL free agency: Derek Boogard.

NBA free agency: Teams can exceed the salary cap by resigning their own players thanks to a rule known as the Bird exception.
NHL free agency: Teams can exceed the roster limits by building a lineup consisting entirely of defencemen thanks to a rule known as the Burke exception.

NBA free agency: "The July Moratorium" is the first week of July each year, during which teams may not sign free agents or make trades.
NHL free agency: "The July Moratorium" is Ilya Kovalchuk's new nickname.

NBA free agency: Teams can achieve temporary cap relief by sending players to a minor league organization known as the D-League.
NHL free agency: Teams can achieve temporary cap relief by sending players to a minor league organization known as the Atlanta Thrashers.

NBA free agency: A player can undo years of positive image management with one foolish appearance on ESPN.
NHL free agency: Players wisely avoid this risk by never being mentioned on ESPN, ever, for any reason.

NBA free agency: The entire proceedings are overseen by a commissioner who is dedicated to making the NBA the most popular winter sports league in the world.
NHL free agency: Same.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summer reruns: The most popular DGB posts of 2010

Sign a contract? Or take off
my shirt and stare creepily? Hmm...
It's been over a week between DGB posts. Here's why: I did a very stupid thing.

The stupid thing that I did was to think to myself "Self, you know what you should do for your next post? Something about the Ilya Kovalchuk signing, which is no doubt going to happen any minute now. Oh, it will be ever so grand!"

(Yes, in fact, my internal monologue is conducted in the voice of a 1920's schoolboy. Isn't yours?)

So while we all sit around waiting for Ilya to make up his mind about which team's salary cap he's going to completely destroy, let's cynically fill up space take a moment to reflect on the first half of the year. Here are the ten most popular DGB posts of 2010 so far.

#1 - Gary Bettman's hacked Gmail account
Hey, did you know that Gmail puts your most recent messages at the top of the page, not the bottom? It's true. I know this, because somebody told me. I'm trying to remember who it was. Oh, that's right, everybody.

#2 - Chris Pronger's other jerk moves
One jerk move Chris Pronger has yet to attempt: ruining my blog by taking a week to sign with the Kings.

#3 - An open letter to Vesa Toskala
This one wasn't very popular in Finland, where Vesa apparently still has a loyal fanbase. It was the subject of a long and angry thread on a Finnish hockey forum. Or at least that's what I was told. I visited the forum, and I can tell you that Finnish people must be the worst typers on the planet -- I could barely make out a single word anyone wrote.

#4 - The Real Sports Bar and Grill menu
Check out my mad Corel Photo-Paint skillz, yo.

#5 - Team Canada's friendly welcome to the rest of the world
Oh come on, like you know which team Mikko Koivu plays for.

#6 - The missing questions from ESPN's player survey
An additional missing question: What part of "star free agents sign contracts on July 1" do you not understand?

#7 - Brian Burke's letter to the other GMs about Tomas Kaberle
Breaking news: This wasn't really written by Brian Burke. (e5)

#8 - The other Maple Leafs training camp letters

#9 - It Felt a Little Like '93
True story: I met Bloge Salming in person for the first time a few weeks ago. Possibly true story: He speaks in auto-tune.

#10 - NHL GM's go online to prepare for the trade deadline
This one includes a hilarious joke about Jaroslav Halak being traded, even though he's the Habs best goalie. As if they would ever do that.

#11 - Signs you are taking way too long to sign your damn free agent contract
In progress.