An NHL team in Las Vegas: a long-term long shot

Adam Proteau
Las Vegas (George Rose/Getty Images)

Despite the typically demure comments NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is famous for making on the subject of expansion to Las Vegas, the rumblings continue to grow louder: on Thursday, a report had casino giant MGM Resorts International holding talks with a group looking to situate a team in the Nevada city.

MGM is currently building a $375-million, 20,000-seat arena in the heart of the city – and their partner in the building is the Anschutz Entertainment Group. Anschutz as in Philip Anschutz, owner of the L.A. Kings and NHL power broker. If you want to get a foot in the door of the NHL, this is one of the ways you do it. Networking matters in this league. But if the NHL does decide to set up shop in the pre-eminent entertainment destination on the continent, there’s going to need to be some questions answered. Such as:

1. How on earth are they going to market a non-traditional product such as hockey in a marketplace that has hundreds of other options for consumers to dispose of their disposable income?

With all the glitz and glamor of the Vegas Strip fighting for the eyeballs and pocketbooks of tourists, what exactly can the NHL do to stand out from the rest of the pack? If you’re telling me an expansion team (with its lowered expectations and talent levels) in and of itself will be good enough to bring people through the doors, I’m telling you you’re wrong. The attraction can’t be the players on the roster, who will be the flotsam and jetsam of the league in an expansion draft. There’s also every chance the franchise will be mismanaged for years, if not decades (see Thrashers, Atlanta and Panthers, Florida). There has to be something more.

2. Once the honeymoon period wears off, how does hockey stay relevant?

There will be a certain amount of hype and happiness in Vegas if the NHL became the first professional sports league to operate there, but once that giddiness fades after a few years, there is next to no grassroots/amateur hockey scene in the area through which to reach young kids and cultivate them as players and fans. Absent that pipeline of support, what is going to grab the casual sports fan by the scruff of the neck and make them care about hockey? Read more

From Kenya to U.K. to hockey expert – the (almost) unbelievable rise of Chris Kibui

The Hockey News
CHRIS KIBUI (hockeytutorial.com)

BY MATT CARLSON

Chris Kibui, the passionate content creator of Hockey Tutorial, gets some memorable messages, such as this one via Facebook: “I am LOLing, as a Canadian and 15-year hockey player, I would never guess I would be getting skate tips from a British-sounding black man. Awesome video, 100% detail, thank you for posting it, it was a lot of help…”

Kibui isn’t just British-sounding: Hockey Tutorial is based in Cambridge, England. Kibui usually plays 40 miles up the road in Peterborough, a small city that’s home to one of just 55 indoor rinks in the United Kingdom.

“Me being probably the most minute demographic in hockey – black and English from Kenya – it’s pretty interesting the comments that get left,” Kibui said. “But I do enjoy reading them.”

Hockey Tutorial’s equipment review videos provide top-to-bottom analyses with detail and clarity. And Kibui presents everything in crisp, proper English. Read more

Five bucks more for all the games this season? Who knew?

Ken Campbell
Sportsnet

Full disclosure: I’m a complete luddite. As such, I wish we could have just stopped at CDs and DVDs. I think space travel is a complete waste of valuable money and intellectual resources that could be far better used to, say, eradicate poverty here on Earth, where people actually live. My 15-year-old son does a lot of sighing and gritting of teeth as I fumble through a game of NHL 15 with him.

When the NHL negotiated its 12-year, $5.2 billion landmark deal for the Canadian broadcast rights with Rogers, it was easy to grasp how enormous the deal was, how good it was for the NHL from a financial standpoint and how it would change the viewing landscape in the four-screen universe and all that. I got that.

But that did not prevent me from pushing buttons in frustration and yelling at my television last night as I frantically searched for the Pittsburgh-Detroit game. Heard it was a pretty good game. Kudos to those plucky Red Wings (heh-heh, plucky Red Wings) for scoring twice with their net empty with under three minutes left before winning it in overtime. Boy, it sure looked exciting on the highlights.

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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