NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was interviewed on Toronto radio station Fan590 (listen HERE) as the North American portion of the regular season got underway. He sounded like a different Bettman, more reserved in tone, less like a politician stumping for election.
He did, however, revert to form on at least one of his messages: that the league's current economic model is working just fine.
The facts, however, are simple Â– Nashville Predators owner Craig Leopold claims to have lost $27 million in two years of the "new NHL."
The prospective new local owners are seeking major concessions from the city or they're threatening to walk away from the deal. If the model were working as promised, the Predators would not be on life support in Nashville. End of story.
ON ICE, GOOD; OFF-ICE, NOT SO MUCH There's concern in Hockeytown Â– not about the Red Wings, but about the game's apparent flagging popularity in Detroit. Opening night attendance in Detroit was announced at 17,610, but there were large pockets of empty seats at Joe Louis Arena.
Some blame it on the limping local economy, but that's not supported when the Tigers, Pistons and Lions are still doing well at the gate.
Others point to the makeup of the Wings, claiming the losses of charismatic players such as Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan has been deflating.
My friend and colleague, Mike Brophy, maintains Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are very good players, but more suited to supporting roles and are not the types to carry a team to the Stanley Cup. I disagree.
In particular, I think Zetterberg has the skill and will to put the Wings over the top. This is a team that came within a whisker of taking a 3-1 stranglehold over Anaheim in last year's Western Conference final; had it not been for an iffy penalty call on Datsyuk in the waning moments of Game 4, the Wings likely would have advanced to the final. And up front, Zetterberg was their key guy.
It's typical for great champions to take their lumps before they reach exalted status (see Yzerman, Mario Lemieux, Ray Bourque, etc.). These Wings are the real deal.
ROBBERY IN REAL LIFE The world famous Whiskey Robber, Attila Ambrus, turns 40 this weekend, and author Julian Rubinstein paid him a visit in his Hungarian prison recently.
If you're not familiar with the story, Ambrus Â– a minor pro goalie of questionable talent Â– was born in Romania, escaped oppression in his native land by clinging to the underside of a train and started a new life in Hungary.
After a series of odd jobs failed to yield him a better lifestyle, Ambrus began knocking over banks and post offices in Budapest and became something of a folk hero.
He was eventually arrested for a second time (he escaped jail once) and is serving a 17-year term.
For a YouTube video posting of his reunion with Rubinstein, click HERE.