Vegas in the game as expected, but where does that leave Quebec City?

Ken Campbell
Bill Foley (left) and Gary Bettman (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

So this is really happening. The NHL is rolling the dice on Las Vegas. It’s gambling on Sin City, placing its bet, doubling down, upping the ante, raising the stakes, going all in, looking to hit the jackpot, hoping not to crap out. There, we got that out of the way. That pretty much covers the betting analogies, so let’s never see them again for the next hundred years.

With its announcement that the league intends to expand to 31 teams by granting an expansion franchise to Las Vegas, the NHL finally exposed its worst kept secret. Pundits had been professing this was a slam dunk for the better part of the past 18 months, so there was no sense of surprise when Vegas franchise owner Bill Foley, who told reporters that he played “shiny hockey” on a pond when he was a kid when his father was stationed in Ottawa, was invited into the fold.

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European teams form alliance to get a seat at the table with the big boys

Sebastian Aho (left), Jesse Puljujariv (middle) and Patrik Laine (MARKKU ULANDER/AFP/Getty Images)

When Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are drafted into the NHL a week from now, their teams in the Finnish Elite League will receive a one-time payment of about $240,000. Assuming each player earns $50 million over the course of his NHL career – which is probably being conservative – the amount their teams receive represents about one-half of one percent of their career earnings.

The teams that choose Laine and Puljujarvi – almost certainly the Winnipeg Jets and Columbus Blue Jackets – stand to make millions in merchandising and ticket sales, particularly if each of them is a central figure in some long playoff runs. Meanwhile, the organizations that have basically developed these players from the time they were children, Tappara and Karpat, are receiving a pittance. That $240,000 is what Karpat will receive for losing Laine’s and Puljujarvi’s World Junior linemate Sebastian Aho to the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week.

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How ‘Babsocks’ went from a dressing room windup to a budding clothing empire

Ian Denomme
babsocks

Not many good ideas are born out of beer league hockey dressing rooms. Trust us. But Jake Mednick and Thomas McCole have turned what seemed like an off-the-cuff joke into a booming business.

That business is Babsocks – a unisex, one-size-fits-all sock in blue and white adorned with the animated, disapproving face of Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “For a reason I can hardly remember, I joked about Babsocks being something funny to create,” Mednick said. “While I was joking, Tom knew I was on to something and he hustled to get a prototype made. . .We have been coming up with creative and goofy ideas for years but this is the first time any thing materialized.”

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NHL taking a bullet for NBC Sports by cancelling Tampa viewing party

Amalie Arena  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

There’s one thing you have to keep in mind when it comes to this public relations debacle surrounding the cancellation of tonight’s viewing party in Tampa for Game 7 between the Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins. And that is that the NHL is not the bad guy here. The league is basically taking a bullet for its broadcast partner, NBC Sports.

Think about it. Why would the league want to deter thousands of people from assembling in one place to celebrate their team’s playoff run and create a sense of community among fans that no amount of money can buy, unless it was being forced to do so? The truth is, the NHL would love it, absolutely love it, if every team in the playoffs held public gatherings for each one of their playoff games. It creates a buzz around the team and the product that is immeasurable. The days of Bill Wirtz not putting the Chicago Blackhawks home games on television passed a long time ago.

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Can a whip-smart millennial really be GM of the Arizona Coyotes? (updated)

Ryan Kennedy
John Chayka, with Dave Tippett on his left  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Conventional wisdom sticks…until it doesn’t. The Blues could never beat the Blackhawks in the playoffs, nor could the Sharks beat the Kings…but this year they did. The Arizona Coyotes named 26-year-old John Chayka as the franchise’s new GM today. Chayka is an analytics man who quickly found favor with Coyotes ownership and now he’s getting the keys to the hockey department.

For real?

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Sorry haters, but hockey in Arizona is continuing to grow

Ryan Kennedy
Arizona's Anthony Duclair and Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Stories about Arizona’s arena saga are rarely fun to read. The latest development in Glendale has AEG Facilities taking over as managers of Gila River Arena. The company is an offshoot of the firm that owns the Los Angeles Kings and has vast experience in arena management. As always, hope is high in some corners and not so high in others. But guess what? This is a minor development in a state on the rise in the hockey world.

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Angry TV announcer versus NHL: who’s right in debate over crazy-late start times?

Pat Foley. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Hockey fans living in the central time zone and anywhere east of there may one day remember spring of 2016 as The Red-Eye Playoffs. The need to stagger games has produced some late start times, and we’re not just talking the usual Pacific Division fare that starts at 10:30 p.m. ET and only stops diehard East Coasters from going to bed.

This year’s post-season has produced the oddity of Central-time games being treated like West Coast telecasts. Game 5 of the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues’ Central Division semifinal Thursday started at 8:42 p.m. central and 9:42 p.m. eastern for the third time in the series. The wildly entertaining game was too good to turn off, so it sucked a lot of sleep from a lot of people. Among that group: Chicago Blackhawks play-by-play personality Pat Foley. He decided he was fed up with the scheduling and unleashed this rant, mid-broadcast, before a commercial break cut him off:

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Rogers executive says ‘NHL deal still delivering for us’ despite huge drop in playoff ratings

Ken Campbell
Ron MacLean (left) and Don Cherry  (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The man responsible for executing the 12-year, $5.2 billion Canadian television deal between broadcasting giant Rogers and the NHL says the deal is still a very good one for Rogers, despite the fact that an absence of Canadian teams has first-round ratings down more than 60 percent.

Scott Moore, the president of Sportsnet and NHL properties for Rogers, isn’t even all that surprised at the low numbers. And he tends to look at it from a perspective of the glass being half full. Historically, as Canadian teams drop out of the playoffs, so does the viewership. Well, that had already happened before the playoffs began, so logic would dictate that audiences will likely hold steady for the rest of the playoffs. And depending upon the matchups in the second round, they might even improve. The Canadian broadcaster has already been forced to swallow the poison pill and, in fact, had been chewing on it for the last quarter of the season when it was clear that no Canadian teams would be in the post-season.

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