New York Rangers are on the right path with Zuccarello

Ryan Kennedy
Mason-Zuccarello

Avoiding arbitration, the New York Rangers and leading scorer Mats Zuccarello agreed on a one-year pact Tuesday that will pay the 5-foot-7 winger $3.5 million for the 2014-15 campaign.

According to New York Post scribe Larry Brooks, the two sides continue to work on a long-term deal for the Norwegian national and that’s great news for Rangers fans.

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Hard to choose sides when it comes to Detroit’s future

Ryan Kennedy
Red-Wings-celebrate

“Seen that side of town/everybody’s always down. Why? Because they can’t get up.”

- Fugazi

How much do the Red Wings mean to Detroit? A silly question perhaps, but one residents of the city are being confronted with as the Ilitch family, who own the Original Six franchise as well as the Little Caesars pizza chain and numerous other interests, have unveiled new details for a long-planned development in the Motor City.

And this is more than just a new arena. No, this is an urban makeover on a grandiose scale, with entire neighborhoods planned around it. The renderings of the project certainly look cool, but not everyone is on board with the master plan.

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The NHL’s in-game entertainment experience is broken. Here’s how to fix it

Adam Proteau
Goalie Race (STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR)

The off-season is when NHL teams examine their rosters and look to improve. But as we know, there’s more to every franchise’s business dealings than the players themselves. There’s also the matter of the in-arena experience for fans who spend big money on tickets. While some teams are better at it than others, there’s lots of room for improvement in the way paying customers are entertained 41 nights per season. Here are three easy ways to do that:

1. Enough of the same old song. At the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, the same songs often are played not just game after game, but in the exact same circumstances every night. (I’m not talking about a team’s “goal song”. That’s fine.) While there are hundreds, if not a few thousand people on any given night who may only attend one or two games a year, there are many more who are season-ticketholders in attendance every night. It’s indefensible to subject them to a near-identical, cookie-cutter in-game experience, but that’s the reality in many rinks.

Instead of leaning on songs everyone has heard numerous times before, teams could either branch out and use a wide variety of music – or hire a live band that could inject some personality into the mix and react to what happens during the game with different song choices. Same goes for intermission entertainment: NBA teams have brought in retro bands to engage crowds before:

and there’s no reason NHL teams can’t do the same. It sure beats the goalie race, which may be the lamest thing ever seen in pro hockey:

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Would the Maple Leafs be even more valuable if they were actually good?

Ken Campbell
Leaf fan

When Forbes magazine came out with its 50 most valuable sports franchises Wednesday, it had just one NHL team on it. You know the one. It plays in The Center of the Hockey Universe™.

Yes, once again the Toronto Maple Leafs are ranked as the most valuable franchise in the NHL at $1.15 billion. That put the Leafs No. 26 on the list with a worth less than half of the No. 1 team, Real Madrid, but ahead of such iconic sports franchises as the Pittsburgh Steelers, Boston Celtics and Chelsea.

It’s important to note that the franchise value was based on solely on the value of the hockey team and its share of non-hockey revenue generated at the Air Canada Centre. Two years ago, 80 percent of the entire Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment empire – which includes the Toronto Raptors, Toronto FC and Marlies – was sold for $1.32 billion, which would have pegged its overall value at about $1.65 billion at the time. Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs only NHL team to crack Forbes’ list of 50 most valuable sports franchises

Rory Boylen
Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs may have only qualified for the NHL’s post-season once over the past 10 years – pulling it off in a shortened 48-game season – but they’re still the league’s most valuable franchise, according to Forbes’ annual rankings.

The last time Forbes ranked the 30 NHL teams according to value was in November of 2013. Toronto finished atop the list with an estimated $1.15 billion worth and the Rangers came in second at $850 million.

Wednesday, Forbes released its top 50 list of the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The top of the list was dominated by soccer teams, with Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United taking the top three spots. Thirty of the 32 NFL franchises made the top 50 (Jacksonville and Oakland failed to make the cut) and six baseball teams made it. From the NHL, only Toronto cracked the all-world list. Read more

Tom Renney faces huge challenges at Hockey Canada

Tom Renney

When Bob Nicholson took over as president and CEO of Hockey Canada in 1998, few people outside the hockey industry knew who he was. Over the next 16 years, Nicholson went on to create a corporate monolith that generated millions of dollars in revenues and won countless gold medals on the international stage.

That will be an enormously difficult act to follow. That the board of Hockey Canada has reportedly handpicked Tom Renney to do it is, well, a little curious. Renney is a man of enormous integrity and has a coaching resume – particularly in the international game – that would rival that of anyone in the world. But this is the thing. Hockey Canada is not a hockey team. For the purposes of the president and CEO, Hockey Canada is far more a business than it is a hockey organization. Read more

Women can do more than just clean up and cheer at hockey games

Ryan Kennedy
ice-girl-Lundqvist

The New York Islanders are credited with bringing the concept of ice girls to the NHL in 2001, but many franchises have since followed suit. San Jose is the latest team and the Sharks are now dealing with a movement to ice those girls before they even get to shovel their first snow scrapings between whistles.

Sure, as Greg Wyshynski of the Puck Daddy! blog notes, they’re mixing in a guy or two on the squad, but he gets to wear a zip-up jacket. The women will sport the bare midriffs that are basically standard-issue in the ice girl game and that’s one of several reasons there is growing animosity towards the concept.

Here’s my main problem with the concept of ice girls (other than the fact teams are infantilizing these employees who most likely drive cars to the games by calling them “girls” instead of “women”): it’s not just the needless and workplace temperature-inappropriate sexualization, it’s the void of other female role models in a hockey context at NHL arenas.

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