NHL’s idea man, chief operating officer John Collins, steps down

Matt Larkin
John Collins. (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hearing news of John Collins’ departure as NHL chief operating officer may not raise the eyebrow of every casual fan prepping a backyard rink. But it should. Especially since Collins, the league’s third in command, is the brain behind the Winter Classic.

Collins, who turns 54 this week, has been with the NHL since 2006. He took over as COO in 2008. He was the driving force for only the Winter Classic, but also the wildly successful HBO 24/7 series, which he shepherded along with producer Ross Greenburg. Collins is largely responsible for the Stadium Series and the league’s national television deals in Canada and the U.S. The league has grown significantly in popularity under his’ guidance.

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Will NWHL expand to more teams – and bigger salaries – in the near future?

Matt Larkin
Dani Ryan, NWHL commissioner and New York Riveters GM.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The NWHL is the newest pro hockey circuit on the block. But it sure is making up for lost time in a hurry.

It’s already North America’s first paid professional women’s hockey league. And, this week, it did something even the NHL took decades to do: publish complete salary breakdowns for every player and roster. We revealed the league’s 10 highest-paid players Monday. On Tuesday the NWHL published the full list with help from CapPro. You can peruse the one-year salaries here. They’re sortable by name, team, nationality and cap hit.

The social media reaction upon learning the salary numbers has ranged from optimistic, viewing the shift from no pay to at least $10,000 per player as a huge victory, and pessimistic, noting the athletes will still earn less than minimum wage.

Dani Rylan, the NWHL’s commissioner and founder, sees the glass as half full and perhaps even overflowing. After all, she points out, it’s a sixth-month season. Every player earns five figures and has another six months of the year to supplement that income.

“This is a great first step, and we would love to see it eventually get to a point where it can be a one-and-only job,” Rylan said. “But it is pretty special that a lot of players in the league will be making up to or over a thousand dollars per game, which is pretty remarkable.”

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And the highest-paid player in women’s hockey is…

Matt Larkin
Kelli Stack of the Connecticut Whale.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

The battle for women’s hockey supremacy has begun. The brand-new National Women’s League has commenced pre-season play, while the Canadian Women’s League just announced new branding tying its Toronto and Montreal franchises to their NHL counterparts.

The off-season divided the talent pool between the upstart NWHL, North America’s first paid professional women’s puck circuit, and the established CWHL, which has operated as the world’s top women’s league since its 2008 inception.

The first hurdle for the NWHL in establishing itself as legit competition for the CWHL was, of course, landing some big names. The NWHL has done that. Hilary Knight and Brianna Decker signed with the Boston Pride, Meghan Duggan with Buffalo Beauts, and so on. The next big summit: revealing exactly what its players stand to make. Will the NWHL athletes earn enough to sustain themselves full-time in Season 1?

It’s been common knowledge for several months the league would have a $270,000 salary cap per team, as the NWHL made that number public in March. A $270,000 cap for 18-player rosters averages out to $15,000 per player. But a source close to the league has revealed to THN some additional details about the breakdown. The top 10 highest-paid NWHLers, all on one-year deals:

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Rest easily, NHL fans. Players won’t look like this anytime soon

Ken Campbell
German League action (Photo by Thomas Langer/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Score one for the traditionalists. When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the league’s seven-year partnership with adidas, he could not have been more adamant in squelching speculation that we could soon be seeing advertising on NHL sweaters. (And yes, they’re sweaters in hockey, not jerseys.)

Bettman could not have been more forceful, more unequivocal in his disdain for sullying NHL sweaters with advertising. All signs are pointing toward some form of advertising for the World Cup, which confirms the status of the tournament as nothing more than a cash grab for the players and league, one which will have no enduring effect on the world of international hockey and will serve as an entertainment spectacle for North American fans.

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The Penguins worth $750 million? Seriously?

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Are the Pittsburgh Penguins actually worth $750 million? Well, like most things of this nature, it depends on your perspective.

Suppose you’re a prospective NHL owner in, say, Seattle. The NHL has already set the expansion fee at $500 million and it’s going to cost you probably another $400 million, assuming you don’t get public funding, to build an arena. And what do you get for that? You receive the opportunity to put together a team of has-beens, could-have-beens and youngsters and the privilege of getting your clocked cleaned on a regular basis for a couple of years while you build your brand and your hockey organization into a contender and, hopefully, a money-maker. Read more

Get your first look at Jack Eichel in full Sabres gear as rookie signs with Bauer

Jared Clinton
Jack Eichel (via Bauer/Twitter)

Thanks to additions such as Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly and coach Dan Bylsma, the anticipation for the new-look Buffalo Sabres is high. But it’s the excitement around potential star Jack Eichel that really has Sabres fans anxiously awaiting puck drop.

Eichel has taken part in scrimmages, development camp and has been around the team for more than a month at this point, but finally fans can get their first look at what the young No. 15 will look like in Sabres blue and gold.

As part of a promotional announcement for Eichel joining the Bauer Hockey roster, the 2015 draft’s second overall selection took part in a photoshoot in which he donned full gear. Here it is, Sabres fans: Read more

NHL, MLB Advanced Media announce ‘revolutionary’ six-year partnership

Jared Clinton
Gary Bettman

A six-year deal between NHL and MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM) will be bringing big changes to the NHL’s digital operations.

Tuesday afternoon, commissioner Gary Bettman, along with commissioner of baseball Rob Manfred, announced the NHL has come to an agreement with MLBAM as it pertains to the operation of NHL Network, the NHL’s streaming broadcast service GameCenter Live and the league’s websites.

In addition, as part of the agreement, MLBAM will also be able to develop and operate team-specific apps, digital platforms and provide studio and production resources to the NHL.

“Two professional sports leagues in North America have never entered into an agreement of this nature, and there’s a reason for that,” said Bettman. “Digital rights partnerships are extremely complicated. The digital revolution, or evolution, is changing every day. And a digital rights deal certainly isn’t something Rob or I could have formalized over drinks at our Cornell reunion.” Read more

Gary Bettman testifies in concussion lawsuit against NHL

Jared Clinton
Gary Bettman (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave a sworn testimony in a New York City court Friday morning as part of a concussion lawsuit brought against the NHL by several former players.

According to ESPN.com’s Katie Strang, Bettman was scheduled to give a sworn testimony to U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson at 10 a.m. ET Friday. Strang reported Bettman was due in court to, “face questions about the ongoing litigation filed on behalf of several NHL players alleging the league was reckless and negligent about informing players on the risks of long-term damage as a result of head injuries suffered while playing the game.”

Bettman was ordered to testify in May, when Judge Nelson ruled that the commissioner possessed, “unique or special knowledge,” pertaining to the lawsuit. Read more