Screen Shots’ year-end look at the NHL’s year that was Â– OK, sort of, in a satirical, not-exactly-true-way Â– continues with Part 2 (To read Part 1, click HERE):
April-June: The Fandom Menace
April 4: In its latest round of bargaining talks, the NHLPA brings to the table a mysterious Â“conceptÂ” the NHL finds so intriguing, they agree to a more aggressive series of meetings.
Media types buzz with speculation, wondering just what kind of concept would interest a league that has stated time and again its intent to make players accept a fixed percentage of defined revenue.
April 9: Bob McKenzie breaks news of the NHL’s intention to add four teams to its playoff format. Elated Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz immediately begins lobbying to purchase one of the spots for his long-lost (and loss-ed) franchise.
April 21: At the end of a day of CBA talks, Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and Bob Goodenow reportedly engage in a staredown. Physical blows are averted when the two agree to meet later that night at Thunder Road, where Jacobs’ Â“Bruins BarracudaÂ” car takes on Goodenow’s Greased Lightning in a battle for pink slips.
May 14: Citing a Â“lack of progress in negotiationsÂ”, the NHLPA cancels its player meeting scheduled for May 24. But insiders believe the May Two-Four Â“Yes-As-In-A-Large-Case-Of-BeerÂ” Canadian Holiday Weekend Syndrome is ultimately to blame for the move.
Â“What they did is like scheduling a yearly budget meeting for 5:30 p.m. on St. Patrick’s Day,Â” said one NHLer who requested anonymity, as well as any loose change we’d be kind enough to spare. Â“You’d be more successful having Dominik Hasek replace Morgan Freeman for the voiceover role in March of the Penguins.Â”
May 28: ESPN announces it will not pick up a $60-million U.S. option to retain TV broadcasting rights for the NHL’s 2005-06 season. Wirtz hails the network’s decision to follow his lead in promoting the game.
May 29: New Jersey State Assemblyman Craig Stanley calls on Lou Lamoriello’s team to replace its ‘Devils’ nickname with a less-Satanic moniker, one decided by a write-in competition.
“This is an age where symbolism is very important,” said Stanley, whose legislative district includes parts of Newark, where the Devils are scheduled to move in September 2007. “With the team coming to a new city, Newark, I thought it was a good time to (change their name).”
The Devils politely decline, thereby robbing their fans of a chance to cheer on the Bored-Loopy Assemblymen of Newark night after night.
June 3: Despite overwhelming speculation the NHL and players’ union have come to agree on a new labor deal that includes a salary cap, each side continues to trot out the old Â“no progress to reportÂ” bafflegab after each meeting.
However, in his never-ending quest to maximize profits and one-up Goodenow, Bettman announces the league has secured a big-name sponsor for its post-talks press releases.
Â“The National Hockey League’s Â‘No Progress To Report’ Report, sponsored by Guns N’ Roses’ perennially-upcoming Chinese Democracy album, marks a new era for the league,Â” said Bettman, raising the pinky and index fingers on both hands about as awkwardly as you’d expect. Â“Indeed, by the time Axl Rose gets his s*&# together and releases that inevitable disaster, we’ll have just finished closing off the motherlode of loopholes player agents exploited to their hearts’ content after the last labor negotiations.
Â“Then, the NHL will be back in business, and mid-80s burnouts everywhere will once again be taken down to Paradise City,Â” Bettman said. Â“For those about to rock Â– and for those about to roll back player salaries beyond their wildest owner dreams Â– the NHL salutes you.Â”
June 7: Sensing a lull in inflammatory CBA-related comments made by a Bruins representative, team president Harry Sinden raises his game.
“I can remember when I ran teams in the minor leagues and the players were getting about $4,500 a year,” he fondly reminisced to the Toronto Sun. “We’d start the season and they’d be moping (about their salaries).
Â“I’d say: ‘Look, you’ve signed your contract, you had your choice. You could’ve stayed home and been a postman or a milkman and would’ve got about $4,500 (for those unglamorous jobs). But you didn’t. So forget it.’Â”
Sinden went on to weigh in about the league’s prospects once it returned.
“If we can come back and show a good product, then it’s a beginning,” he said. “Obviously the game’s been out of sight, out of mind for awhile. But the game is so well established, particularly (in Toronto) and in Boston, New York, Chicago, Buffalo and Colorado.Â”
In late December, Sinden lashed out when asked to comment about attendance lows of 14,525 (Boston), 8,552 (Buffalo), 10,545 (Chicago), 10,371 (N.Y. Islanders) and 10,134 (New Jersey).
Â“I remember the days when reporters were paid in gut-punches and blank paper Â– and we only gave them the paper so they had something to record the assault on,Â” he said. Â“If we can turn the clock back on the players 20 years in this CBA negotiation, maybe it’s not too late to quiet you nitpickers up, too.Â”
June 17: St. Louis Blues owners and Wal-Mart heirs Bill and Nancy Laurie put the team up for sale. They also reject Goodenow’s application to become a Wal-Mart greeter.
June 20: Former Sabres owner John Rigas is sentenced to 15 years in prison for defrauding Adelphia Cable investors out of millions. The good news for Rigas: prison officials allow him to bring in a recording of Â“The Saber DanceÂ” as a reminder of the NHL franchise’s better days.
The bad news? The song resonates in a different, much more disturbing way once the prison lights go out each night.
Click HERE to read Part 3 of Screen Shots: Year in Review.
Can’t get enough Adam? Subscribe to The Hockey News to get the column Proteau Type delivered to you every issue.