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Trevor Linden organizes last ditch effort to save hockey season
The last couple of months have made it quite clear that the NHL and its players are miles apart when it comes to agreeing upon a new CBA. Both Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow seem to have built up a lot of animosity amongst the respective camps. That's one reason why it is nice to see Trevor Linden organize a last minute meeting between himself, Harley Hotchkiss (part-owner of the Calgary Flames and chairman of the NHL board of governors), Bill Daly, Ted Saskin and outside counsels Bob Batterman and John McCambridge. Missing are the obvious big guns Goodenow and Bettman. There's a lot of talk in the hockey community that this back channel meeting may be what miraculously gets us a deal but I personally, am not that confident. Had they gotten together a month ago, there would be a much better chance of saving this season. Either way, let's hope something good comes out of this.
Canadian juniors bring home gold
Canada's junior hockey team defeated Russia 6-1 in the finals to win the gold medal. The Canadians absolutely DOMINATED the tournament, including the final game against the Russians. Led by Red Deer coach Brent Sutter, the team played a perfect game to top off a perfect tournament. The Russians had two real threats - Ovechkin and Malkin - and team Canada was able to take them both out of the picture. They were hit at every opportunity and in the end, it was quite clear that the Russians could not handle the Canadian physical presence and nor could they handle their hockey sense, skill and speed. The Canadians featured an awesome lineup - featuring some real standout players like Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dion Phaneuf. The Canadians were also playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders - they had to teach the Russians a bit of a lesson after the trash-talking, taunting and stick work done by the Russians. Finally, if there was any doubt that Canadian hockey fans are dying for good hockey one just needs to look at TSN's ratings. It is estimated that 3.23 million Canadians watched the 2005 finals.
Gary Bettman became the NHL commissioner in 1992 coming to from the National Basketball Association. His big goal was to break hockey out of the "regional" shackles and make it a North America wide sport. Starting in 1990, the league went from 21 to 30 teams with franchises added or moving in to markets like Anaheim, Ottawa, San Jose, Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Denver, Tampa Bay, Columbus and Minnesota. The NHL wanted the expansion money and a better TV deal by trying to appear as a "national" sport. This is odd because the last two TV deals with ABC and NBC have resulted in lower revenues than what the NHL once had with Fox. So it is safe to say that the expansion strategy that would result in higher TV revenues did not work. With respect to the NHL being a "national" sport, recent surveys in the United States put the popularity of the game below that of Arena Football. Needless to say, this is not what the powers that be had in mind.