We'll find out next Tuesday whether teams in the Ontario and Western Leagues will have to make their financials public.
Canadian Hockey League president David Branch has often publicly stated that people don’t get into the junior hockey business to make money. He has also said that about one-third of the teams make money, one-third break even and one-third lose money and those teams are interchangeable based on where they are in their franchise-building cycle.
We have a pretty good idea that the owners of teams such as the London Knights and Quebec Remparts (which are owned by Quebecor, the company that owns The Hockey News) make gobs of money, but nobody really knows how much. We’re also pretty sure that small markets such as Swift Current, Owen Sound and Baie Comeau face some pretty stiff and unique financial challenges, but we have no idea to what extent. We also know that, judging by the ticket prices and beer lines, the World Junior Championship is a major cash cow for the CHL, even when it’s bungled as badly as it recently was in Toronto and Montreal, since the junior leagues get one-third of the profits. We also know that franchises in the CHL are bought and sold for millions of dollars. We know that the Sudbury Wolves were purchased by Ken Burgess in 1986 for $250,000 and the team and its marketing arm were sold for about $11 million last summer, meaning it appreciated in value by about 4,400 percent in 30 years.
We know the players are paid a relative pittance for their work in addition to having their room and board covered by the teams. The CHL often crows about its scholarship program, claiming that it pays out millions of dollars per year to assist former players with their post-secondary education.
That’s pretty much all we know. And if the CHL has its way, that’s all we’ll ever know. Because when it comes to actually opening its books and proving to people that junior hockey is by and large a Mom and Pop operation, well, that’s where the flow of information is reduced to a trickle.
The question is why? If junior hockey leagues are so quick to claim that having to pay its players minimum wage would cause financial calamity, why do they not want their financial information to be part of the public discourse?
But the hundreds of players who hope to launch a class action lawsuit against the CHL want to change that. Next Tuesday, the two sides will argue before R.J. Hall, a Justice of the Alberta Court of the Queen’s Bench in Calgary, the CHL’s motion to have a sealing order placed over all financial records, scholarship data and revenue sharing agreements for the 42 teams in the OHL and Western League. The CHL was ordered to turn over that information last October as part of the class action lawsuit brought against the WHL for minimum wage.
The documents were filed as part of a certification hearing that’s scheduled to be held in Calgary in February. Once those documents are filed in court, they become a matter of public record unless they are sealed by court order and the CHL wants them to be sealed. “That way no one will have access to them except the judge and parties to the litigation,” said Toronto lawyer Ted Charney, who represents the plaintiffs. “I don’t want to comment on the merits of the motion because it’s coming up in court next week. All I can tell you is we intend to oppose it.”
The CHL originally argued back in October that only the WHL teams for which the plaintiffs played should have to submit their financials. But Justice Hall ordered all 22 WHL teams to provide the information, as well as the 20 teams in the OHL, since the defendants chose to file affidavits from the OHL, arguing that paying minimum wage would have the same adverse effects to OHL teams and, by extension, the entire CHL.
This is all very important to the future of the case because this is evidence that will be used in the certification hearing, at which time Justice Hall will decide whether or not the lawsuit merits being considered a class-action lawsuit. If he decides it does, hundreds of former players who have registered to join the lawsuit would be included. If not, the lawsuit will be restricted to the handful of former players who have come forward.
And if Justice Hall decides next week that two-thirds of the junior hockey operators in Canada must live with their books being open for the public to see, then perhaps we’ll have a better idea whether the former players have a case or Canada’s junior leagues would actually be crippled by having to pay their players minimum wage.
Jack Capuano couldn’t turn things around fast enough in New York, and the Islanders announced Tuesday afternoon that he has been let go and replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight.
The New York Islanders have rattled off five wins in their past 10 games and picked up 12 of a possible 20 points, but it hasn’t been enough to get the club out of the Eastern Conference basement. And with the season officially more than halfway through, the club has seen enough to determine that a change is necessary, announcing Tuesday that coach Jack Capuano has been let go.
Capuano’s firing comes the day following the Islanders’ 4-0 win over the Boston Bruins and during a season in which everyone from GM Garth Snow to captain John Tavares has gone to bat for the coach. With Capuano out from behind the bench, interim coaching duties will now fall to assistant GM and coach Doug Weight.
"The New York Islanders would like to thank Jack for his tireless work throughout his seven seasons with the organization as Head Coach," Snow said in a release. "His leadership guided the team to the playoffs in three of the past four years, which included two straight 100-point seasons. He is a great coach and an even better person. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward."
The 2016-17 campaign was an almost complete disaster from the very start of the season. The Islanders started off flat, dropping six of their first 10 games and completing the first quarter of the schedule with just six wins to their name. Frustrations mounted throughout the first two months of the season as the offense struggled, the power play was flat, the penalty kill was porous and the Islanders struggled to find any positive in the way they were playing.
The timing, however, is a bit strange. Besides the fact it comes immediately following one of the Islanders’ more impressive wins of the season, it also comes during a time when the team is in one of its best stretches of the season. According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, though, Snow said the reason for relieving Capuano of his duties now had little to do with the performance of the team at the moment and more to do with the fact the Islanders didn’t see Capuano as their coach for next season.
Despite the difficult season, Capuano will leave the organization as one of the best coaches the franchise has ever seen. Though no one will likely ever reach the heights that legendary Islanders bench boss Al Arbour did, Capuano finishes his tenure with New York having coached the second-most games in franchise history (483), collected the second-most wins (227) and became the only coach since Arbour in 1992-93 to coach the franchise to a post-season series victory.
That playoff series victory, one that was 22 seasons in the making, was cause for hope entering this current season, which is a major reason the Islanders’ performance this season was so disappointing. However, Capuano can take solace in the fact that he led the franchise to the post-season in three of his six full seasons behind the bench and helped the club to two of its best seasons in the modern era in 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was the fourth-longest tenured coach in the league at the time of his firing.
"It's an honor to have served this historic franchise and its passionate fans," Capuano said in a release. "I'd like to thank Garth and our ownership group for the opportunity to be the head coach of the Islanders. I'd also like to recognize our coaching staff, training staff and players for all of their hard work.”
According to LeBrun, Snow said there’s no timeline for the Islanders to name their next bench boss, and there’s certainly a chance the Islanders enter the off-season with Weight remaining the bench boss. Weight, who played the final three seasons of his career with the Islanders, has been an assistant coach with New York since 2011-12.
The lowly Avalanche seem poised to make some big moves, but potential deals for forward Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene keep stalling.
For several weeks, Colorado Avalanche forwards Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene featured prominently in NHL trade speculation. With the Avs at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and considered out of playoff contention, GM Joe Sakic is reportedly listening to offers for his core players, with Landeskog and Duchene the most notable trade candidates.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports Sakic's set a high asking price. On Jan. 3, Friedman said the Avs GM sought “legit young defensemen or defensive prospects.” Recent rumors linking the 24-year-old Landeskog to the Boston Bruins claimed Sakic sought promising defenseman Brandon Carlo in return, an offer the Bruins apparently rejected.
TSN's Darren Dreger reports Sakic's asking price for Landeskog is higher than originally thought. He said the Avs seek a “top-level defenseman, a first-round draft pick plus.” He adds that's generated a negative reaction from his peers.
Every GM sets an initially high price when shopping a core player, but Sakic's dreaming if he thinks he'll net that type of return for Landeskog. While he has four 50-plus points seasons on his resume, including a career-high 65-points in 2013-14, his production doesn't merit such a lofty return. His sub-par production this season (13 points in 30 games) won't bolster his trade value.
There's been no word on Sakic's asking price for Duchene, but one can assume it's similar to Landeskog's. The 25-year-old center has better stats this season (24 points in 36 games) than the Avs captain and exceeded 50 points five times in his career.
First-line center Nathan MacKinnon is the only Avalanche player who might fetch that big return. Given his age (21) and skills, he could reach his full potential on a deeper roster. Still, a rival GM must give considerable thought toward deciding if MacKinnon is worth a top defenseman, a first round pick and more.
Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun thinks Sakic could make a move involving Landeskog or Duchene in the off-season. Interested parties should have more salary-cap space to work, plus there's usually more willingness at the NHL draft weekend in June to swing deals involving established stars.
DROUIN COULD MAKE FOR GOOD TRADE CHIP FOR LIGHTNING
A year ago, Tampa Bay Lightning left winger Jonathan Drouin generated headlines with his demotion to the club's farm team, followed by a holdout and refusing to play and requesting a trade. Eventually, Drouin withdrew his request, returned to action and became a productive part of the Lightning roster.
But with the Bolts sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture and in danger of sliding further out of contention, perhaps Drouin could be used as a trade chip. In his trade-season preview of the Eastern Conference, ESPN.com's Craig Custance suggests the 21-year-old could be the type of player that fetches some much-needed help for the Bolts' blueline.
Custance observes Drouin is a restricted free agent this summer, along with fellow forwards Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. All will be in line for significant raises, leading Custance to suggest that “at some point the cap space is going to disappear.”
The Lightning's biggest need is another top-four defenseman. If there's one to be had via trade of the same pedigree as Drouin, Custances feels it would make sense to make that move.
Adding a quality rearguard won't be easy. GM Steve Yzerman repeatedly said he's making calls but there's not much happening in the trade market right now. So far, there's no indication out of Tampa Bay suggesting Drouin is available.
Yzerman could be forced to wait until the market improves, but that could be weeks away. By that point, it could prove too late to save the Lightning's season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
Martin St-Louis had a penchant for big playoff goals during his time with the Lightning, and those highlight his five best moments in Tampa Bay as the team gets set to retire his jersey.
The Tampa Bay Lightning will pay tribute to Martin St-Louis Friday night with a jersey retirement ceremony, making him the first player to receive the honor in franchise history.
It’s a fitting honor, too, because St-Louis will almost certainly go down as one of the greatest players to play at the tail-end of the clutch-and-grab era and one of the more impressive talents the league had as the game opened up and speed and skill were the dominant forces.
While a member of the Lightning, St-Louis captured two Art Ross Trophies as the league’s leading scorer, three Lady Byng’s as the most gentlemanly player in the game and was crowned the league MVP by both the press and the players for his fantastic 2003-04 campaign. St-Louis’ remains the greatest scorer in franchise history, and his impact on the Lightning will likely never be forgotten.
Here are the five greatest moments from St-Louis’ time in Tampa Bay:
5. Passes Lecavalier for good on all-time scoring list
St-Louis was part of Tampa Bay Lightning lore well before he became the franchise’s most decorated scorer, but the moment that he took the scoring lead for good and never let it go came during the 2012-13 campaign.
When the season began, St-Louis was 10 points back of Vincent Lecavalier on the Lightning’s all-time scoring lead, but the diminutive winger picked away at Lecavalier’s point lead before finally squeaking past him for good on March 7, 2013 against the Winnipeg Jets.
4. Four-goal night highlighted by natural hat trick
For the tremendous goal scoring ability that St-Louis possessed, one might think he had a number of big goal scoring nights to his name. While he did score eight hat tricks throughout his career, the last time he completed the feat was the most impressive of his career.
Almost everything was going in for St-Louis during the Jan. 18, 2014 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. He scored the Lightning’s first goal of the game, then their second, third and fourth goals over a period of less than seven minutes across the end of the first period and into the second.
Unfortunately, Joe Pavelski fired back with a natural hat trick of his own to give the Sharks the win.
3. Sparking Lightning Stanley Cup run with series winner in OT
Almost every Stanley Cup run has the one moment that you can pinpoint that started the miraculous chase for a championship, and while the Lightning were absolutely favored to down the eighth-ranked New York Islanders, the excitement necessary for a big run came when St-Louis put Tampa Bay through to the second round with his first of two huge overtime goals in the post-season.
It’s probably a shot Islanders netminder Rick DiPietro could have stopped, but the booming slap shot sent New York packing and Tampa Bay marching towards the Stanley Cup.
2. Overtime winner gives Lightning first playoff series victory
Maybe the Lightning should have known they’d have their franchise’s overtime hero on their hands when he was the architect of the team’s first ever series win with a spinning overtime goal in Game 6 of the Lightning’s 2003 first-round matchup with the Washington Capitals.
There are few moments bigger for a franchise than winning their first playoff series, because it’s an indication that things are really starting to move in the right direction. For the Lightning, that was exactly the case. The 2003 playoff run was stopped short in five games by the New Jersey Devils in the second round, but Tampa Bay would use their post-season experience to their advantage the next season.
1. Double OT-winner forces Game 7 in Stanley Cup final
This goal has to go down as the biggest of St-Louis’ career. While he had netted two playoff overtime winners in his career before Game 6 of the 2004 Stanley Cup final, it was his marker 30 seconds into the second overtime of a potentially series-deciding game against the Calgary Flames that opened the door for the Lightning to capture the Cup.
Two nights later, the Lightning downed the Flames in front of a hometown crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum on two goals by Ruslan Fedotenko. It remains the only Stanley Cup in franchise history for the Lightning.