CHL lawsuit symbolizes larger struggle in elite amateur sport

Adam Proteau
Canadian Hockey League logo (courtesy CHL)

On a macro level across North America, there’s an ongoing battle for the hearts, minds – and most importantly, the monies – of elite teenaged athletes who are major revenue generators for their development leagues. In the United States, the NCAA collegiate system is involved in a momentous high-stakes showdown with former athletes – with potential repercussions that could shake their business model to its foundations. And in Canada, a similar war is being fought at the major junior hockey level, with the latest volley taking place Friday: a $180-million lawsuit filed against the Canadian Hockey League by former players (including former Niagara IceDogs player Sam Berg, son of retired NHLer Bill Berg) seeking outstanding wages, holiday, overtime and vacation pay and employer payroll contributions and alleging basic minimum wage laws were broken.

Leave aside the particulars in both cases, and you’re left with the same essential questions: if we’ve turned amateur sports into big business, how much of the cut do amateur athletes deserve? And why do owners get to dictate that players’ dreams of playing in the best league they can has a monetary value equal or greater to the actual money their current organizational structures bring in? It’s been a Canadian tradition to romanticize players chasing their dreams for free, but when everyone can see the amount of money that’s being made, why is it so unfair for athletes to be included in the financial windfall?

Certainly, it’s worthwhile to ask who is involved with any particular lawsuit – and in their initial response to Friday’s suit, the three commissioners involved at the junior hockey level (OHL commissioner David Branch; QMJHL commissioner Gilles Courteau and WHL commissioner Ron Robison) did exactly that. While promising they would “vigorously defend” against this latest legal action, the trio accused brothers Randy and Glenn Grumbley, union activists who attempted to start the Canadian Hockey League Players’ Association, of being behind it. Read more

10 more innovative NHL camera angles we’d love to see

Jason Kay
New Crowdsource Bus

Wednesday signaled the beginning of a “new era” in hockey. Perhaps you’d heard?

If you’re a puck fan in Canada, it was tough not to be aware of Sportsnet’s plans to turn every day into Hockey Day. And who can blame them? After committing $5.2 billion over 12 years to the NHL, they’re all in.

The first manifestation of their game night production was, overall, solid. We could quibble and nitpick, but we won’t. We enjoyed the experience. If nothing else, they deserve praise for effort, for being willing to experiment and take risks.

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Wait, what? Chris Pronger to join NHL Player Safety team?

Adam Proteau
Chris Pronger (Getty Images)

According to Yahoo.com’s Nick Cotsonika, Chris Pronger has interviewed for a position with the NHL’s Department of Player safety.

No, this is not a test of the Emergency Irony Management System. We are not testing you to see how much irony your brain could handle in theory. This is apparently actually happening, so your brain needs to be ready for it.

Some would say Pronger joining the committee responsible for player discipline is like Lex Luthor being put in charge of catering at the Hall of Justice, and I am one of those some who would say that. Of course, I joke; I have a healthy respect for Pronger, who played to the limits given to him and proved himself one of the best blueliners of all time in his 18-year NHL career. I think he’s got the brains and spine for the job. If you want an honest opinion, you’re never going to be disappointed by what Pronger tells you. And that’s what new player safety boss Stephane Quintal should want as he gets comfortable after replacing Brendan Shanahan. You don’t get a solid consensus if you have a bunch of politicians angling for the best opinion.

So I don’t think it’s at all out of the question for Pronger to be an asset to that department, the much bigger problem is that, while he’s effectively retired thanks to concussion issues, Pronger remains under contract to the Philadelphia Flyers for the next three seasons. Read more

Could potential Coyotes sale be a precursor to a move to Las Vegas?

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images Sport)

So let’s say you’re in the market to buy a new car. You walk into a dealership and talk to the sales guy, take one for a spin and agree on the price. You seal the deal with a handshake. When you come in a few days later to complete the paper work, the salesman tells you that not only has the price of the car has gone up dramatically, it’s being sold to someone else. You sue the sales guy for breach of contract.

Would you then be inclined to walk into the same dealership less than two months later to begin the process of buying a car from another salesman there? Read more

NHL and GoPro sign deal to give fans POV footage

fleurygopro

As a fan, you’ve never been able to feel the speed and quickness with which a Patrick Kane or Alex Ovechkin moves up the ice with the puck, or what it’s like for them to beat the last blueliner and fire the disc past the goaltender.

But this year will be different. A new wrinkle will be added to NHL game coverage this year as the league signed a content-sharing agreement with GoPro cameras to use footage in promo campaigns, which will then be used to supplement game coverage. At a recent NHL/PA player media tour in Newark’s Prudential Center, nearly a dozen NHL stars had these cameras fitted to their helmets. This footage will be used for promos and, when one of them scores in a game, the taped footage will be used to give fans an idea of what the player would see, because they aren’t wearing these on their helmets. Yet. Read more

Best bets for the Hart, Art Ross, Rocket Richard, Norris, Vezina and Calder Trophies

Alex Ovechkin (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Hockey is in the air. Pre-season games are on the TV, jerseys for the Winter Classic are being released, Maple Leafs star Phil Kessel has been at the center of a non-story…the world is right again.

And before you know it, the games will start counting.

We’ve been previewing each NHL team and releasing top 10 lists related to the upcoming season. We can’t wait to see how it all starts to unfold.

Today, gambling site Bodog released odds on who will take home the major individual NHL awards this season. Below, we take a look at the lines set by Bodog and provide what we think are some decent picks – plus a few off the board options for you to consider and guys to stay away from.

Who will win the 2014 Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player?
Sidney Crosby: 7/4
Ryan Getzlaf: 6/1
Steven Stamkos: 6/1
John Tavares: 8/1
Alex Ovechkin: 12/1
Claude Giroux: 15/1
Tyler Seguin: 15/1
Evgeni Malkin: 15/1
Jonathan Toews: 16/1
Anze Kopitar: 18/1
Corey Perry: 20/1
Patrick Kane: 20/1
Jamie Benn: 35/1
Tuukka Rask: 35/1
Henrik Lundqvist: 40/1
Jonathan Quick: 50/1
Carey Price: 50/1
Erik Karlsson: 50/1
Nathan MacKinnon: 50/1

Best bets: OK, so if Crosby stays healthy, he’s more of a lock to be a Hart Trophy contender than anyone else. That’s obvious. If you want to make a safe pick, but think Crosby’s health is too big of a risk for the 7/4 odds he holds, Stamkos at 6/1 is your guy on a bulked up Tampa Bay Lightning squad. But how about Evgeni Malkin at 15/1? If Crosby does go down, Malkin is a great candidate to take over that team and explode up the scoring chart. Of course, he comes with injury risk too. Read more

Gary Bettman on expansion to Ontario: If “the Leafs won the Cup, that second team wouldn’t exist”

Maple Leafs fans outside the Air Canada Centre. (David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

On Monday, Gary Bettman was at the Canadian Club in Toronto where he was interviewed by new Hockey Night in Canada front man George Stroumboulopoulos and then took questions from the crowd. Some of the discussion focused on the new deal with Rogers and how the game would be presented, the health of the league and collective bargaining. Of course, expansion/relocation was also a point of discussion and Bettman, again, shot down the notion that the league is currently looking at new markets.

“The fact is this is the most stable our franchises have ever been, the healthiest we’ve been as a league, but we’re not looking to expand right now,” Bettman said. “No teams are relocating. I happen to take my two days on vacation this summer and see this article that came out of the West Coast saying we’re in expansion mode and we’re going to sell four teams. OK, so that disrupted one of the two days having to issue denials. Read more

Steven Stamkos on the subway and other bizarre phone interviews

Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Steven Stamkos is on the cover of the latest issue of The Hockey News. I was tasked with getting ‘Stammer’ on the phone for the article, which also included interviews with teammates, family and others who know the captain.

And as it happens, Stamkos has impeccable timing that stretches far beyond his goal-scoring prowess. The day Stamkos was supposed to call me, he was given my office number and my cell phone number, since I would be commuting home at one point. In Toronto, the subway line is almost entirely underground, with only a handful of stops offering daylight – and therefore, cell phone signal. Just as my train pulled into one such stop, my phone rang. I pulled one earbud out and with my iPod still blaring into the other side of my head, answered the phone as I jumped onto the station platform. It was Stamkos.

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