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NHL

Who needs whom in the NHL?

Posted by She's Game Sports October 8, 2012 01:41 PM


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Ilya Bryzgalov of the Philadelphia Flyers is one of many Russian players who has chosen to move to North America to play for the National Hockey League. Bryzgalov implied recently in an interview that NHLers might be tempted to remain in the Kontinental Hockey League overseas regardless of NHL labor disputes. (Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE)

Bobby Ryan is right: it's not really possible to pencil in lengthy CBA negotiations when you are busy scoring goals or blocking shots in Kladno, Magnitogorsk, or Geneva.

However, it's also not easy to tell over 1,000 active players to not work or stay active when the jobs they have committed to will not ask them back. There is always room on a European team's depth chart for a skilled player since the best of the best usually end up in North America. When North America won't have them, choosing Europe seems as easy as picking the ripest apple out of the basket. The play won't be quite as hard, the competition won't be quite as tough, but they're still going to make some money and stay conditioned.

The players don't need the NHL to make their livings, but they certainly want to base their careers there. It's the culture, the sheer amount of money, the stardom and the atmosphere of North American hockey that players aspired to become a part of before they ended up hearing their names called on draft day. The management and ownership of the League strives to maintain that in tandem with the NHLPA. And there's no bigger reminder that there are other fish in the sea than seeing your best talent continue to live their lives without the most competitive and popular hockey league in the world.

If it weren't just business, I'd say it was a bargaining chip. As if everyone who has left for Europe just said, "We don't need you. We can, in fact, get on without you." Unfortunately, it is just business, and most of the players know they will be back once all of this blows over - whether that's this month or next July.

It has been said that the fans have no stake in this because regardless of how many of us decide to not give the NHL our money or how loudly we voice our annoyance at the lack of hockey, the NHL will still be a multi-billion dollar business when the new CBA is negotiated. But both the fan involvement and the fact that the players don't necessarily need the NHL are worth considering in terms of the league's long-term viability. If every CBA negotiation is going to be like this, it might not even be worth it to hold up the National Hockey League as something great to aspire to -- not to mention that the business side of it will eventually begin to suffer.

So, when Bobby Ryan says that players defecting to Europe are "running from the problem", he kind of has a point. One can infer that Ryan and others who share his opinion still uphold the NHL and being an NHL player as things worth fighting for, and they see leaving for Europe as potentially endangering the League itself, not just, say, the first half of this season.

After all, while the players don't necessarily need this league, the league certainly needs them. The coexistence of a management and a players' union that so deeply, deeply lack trust between them is yet another red flag of an unhealthy business being sustained on poor practices.

In the meantime: the most solid, up-to-date news we actually have about the negotiations is the fact that deputy commissioner Bill Daly and NHLPA general counsel Steve Fehr actually spoke on the phone to discuss speaking again in order to schedule a time to speak this week. So they had a phone conversation to schedule a phone conversation to schedule a meeting, if we're to believe the press. These are the salient tidbits of gossip that we are hanging onto in early October.

And, even worse for North American hockey: Philadelphia Flyers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov is stirring up controversy of his own by saying that Russian players might just stay in the KHL after the lockout is over, citing, in addition to the heartwarming prospect of playing in front of their hometowns as superstars, the fact that there is a great deal of money in corporate sponsorship in Russia, perhaps more than players might make in the NHL.

The various labor disputes on our side of the pond could certainly make the KHL an attractive destination for talented players, since the neither the KHL nor its predecessor, the Russian Superleague, suffered any notable labor dispute. While the RSL did not have a union, the Kontinental Hockey League Players Trade Union was formed upon the creation of the KHL in 2008. The KHL, it should be noted, has stricter rules in place than the NHL in some aspects, including a history of "forced" RFA contracts wherein players under 28 have been legally bound to sign offer sheets whether they want to or not, and such decisions were upheld by Russian courts. Maybe having a labor dispute in Russia is more trouble than it's worth, regardless of whether players are happy with the KHLPTU's end of the deal.

All of this speculation notwithstanding: the season was supposed to begin this week, and there is still no end in sight.

NHL

Making the most of an unfortunate situation: what Kathryn Tappen is doing during the lockout

Posted by She's Game Sports September 20, 2012 11:26 AM

The mission of the Boys and Girls Club of America is to enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens.

The clubs, in cities and towns around the country, provide a safe place to learn and grow, ongoing relationships with caring, adult professionals, life-enhancing programs and character development experiences, hope and opportunity.

With the announcement of the NHL Lockout this past weekend, I found myself with free time on my hands for the immediate future. I decided it was time to go back to doing what I love – volunteer. And so, I ventured out to become one of the adult professionals that the Boys and Girls Club of America depend on to make their system work for our youth.

On Wednesday evening, I participated in the volunteer orientation at the Boys and Girls Club that is within walking distance of my home in Boston.

My first reaction was of surprise at the number of people like myself who showed up for the orientation. I was thrilled to see that so many people want to give back. Immediately I had a smile on my face.

The children in the club all welcomed us with big “hellos” and smiles. And there were kids EVERYWHERE! It’s no wonder they need so many volunteers. The employees and children create such a warm facility, a safe haven for millions of children around the country.

Then my group took the tour. If there were ever a look of awe on 20 individuals all at once, I saw it last night. A learning center, an art room, a computer room that looked more like an Apple store than an afterschool program, a recently remodeled music room equipped with guitars, pianos, a recording studio, a full basketball court, workout room, swimming pool, rock climbing wall, and so much more. I was blown away – and proud. I can’t believe that children all over the country have access to this type of facility for after school programs at the Boys and Girls Club. It was exactly what the mission stated: hope and opportunity.

For $25 a year for kids, and $5 a year for teens, students can come to the Boys and Girls Club from the time they leave school each day until as late as 7:30pm. $25 a year? Are you kidding me? We were all shocked. And the best part – that includes a dinner meal every night.

Attending orientation at the Boys and Girls Club opened my eyes to another world. While I always knew what the club was, I had never explored to the extent I did on Wednesday night. And now, I cannot wait to get started by helping young individuals with their homework and their activities.

I better brush up on my algebra skills – or else these kids will be teaching me instead of the other way around! But something tells me I’m going to be learning a lot from this amazing place.

To learn more about or get involved with the Boys and Girls Club of America, go here.

NHL

NHL Lockout: 229 words the NHL might wish it never wrote

Posted by She's Game Sports September 17, 2012 08:00 AM

Sunday, at 9 a.m. EST, the NHL released a statement that immediately drew the ire of both fans and professional hockey players on Twitter and across other social media platforms. The short statement fails to clarify any of the questions that fans had going into midnight Saturday night, when the then-current collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA expired.

At midnight, the entire industry and culture surrounding hockey, from star players down to the guy who sells Miller Lite tallboys in the upper concourse, was thrown into jeopardy. Considering the state of hockey over the past season, the effects could be devastating to the progress the NHL has made since the 2005-06 lockout. People are beginning to notice the hypocrisy and general ineptitude that has become inherent in the corporate culture of the National Hockey League. The 229-word, unapologetic statement did nothing to alleviate concerns.

It’s going to be hard to forgive both sides when this is all over, because, as many have said, it’s millionaires and billionaires fighting over their slice of the pie. Meanwhile, NHL teams signed many big deals in the time leading up to CBA expiration, which would seem antithetical to the owners’ insistence that the current deal is unfair in both its revenue percentage allowed to players, contract sizes, and contract lengths.

A six-year, $23.8 million dollar deal was struck between John Carlson and the Washington Capitals--a deal that, if the owners had gotten their way, might have become illegal when the clock struck midnight at the end of September 15th. None of the other under-the-wire deals were as long or as valuable (see: Tyler Ennis, Carlo Colaiacavo, Justin Abdelkader, Shane Doan), but the fact that they were made at all seemed to show everyone watching that anything said at the bargaining table was symbolic at best. Each side took what they could get from the old CBA before entering into a deep and impenetrable rhetorical mire, with October 11th, the scheduled start date of NHL regular season games, weighted with sandbags at the bottom of the swamp.

It’s funny, because the statement says that successful changes to the CBA “are attainable through sensible, focused negotiation--not through rhetoric.” Rhetoric can be the only thing disguising such a huge battle that is focused largely on money. If players can get what they need to feel secure in their jobs and the league maintains a percentage of revenue that allows it to operate profitably, that comes down to pure mathematics.

The whole negotiation is rhetorical; the dollar sums and percentages are theoretical. The fact that this has happened multiple times since 1992 not only shows gross mismanagement, but a fundamentally damaged business culture that will not be reformed until this nonsense is stopped.

Neither side can negotiate until it does, because the NHL is, literally, a business. This doesn’t exist for fans or players, as much as we love believing that when our team raises the Stanley Cup or when we hang posters on our bedroom walls. The togetherness and excitement we feel as sports fans is a side effect of a business venture, a multi-billion dollar one. Businesses fail and hemorrhage money when they don’t actually go out there and earn their revenue.

The negotiations have never made any progress on a business end. Take away the philosophical differences that players and owners are undoubtedly dealing with. It’s very clear that no one has ever said, “Let’s go out and do what we love and earn our livelihoods on October 11th.” And it’s this lack of businesslike cooperation that has led to the lockout, that may lose an entire season.

The NHL's statement concludes, “This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room.The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.”

This statement is egregious in its naiveté. First of all, let’s be clear: the fans in this situation are owed nothing. The NHL exists as a business in order to take our money. Were it that the League existed for us, it would be a whole heck of a lot cheaper. Second, because it is a business, yes, your focus should be on the meeting room, because that’s where deals are made and that is how businesses gain momentum, structure, and management.

And lastly, if the League, the Clubs, and the Players wanted the puck to be dropped as soon as possible, this wouldn’t have progressed at such a gelatinous pace. In fact, it may not have happened at all.

Lest we forget, also, that despite record revenues and unprecedented levels of parity, the League has faced increased problems in the culture of its game, starting at obvious things like increased head injuries and a shocking lack of player compliance to combat them, and ending with plain old disrespectful behavior and poor, unprofessional attitudes. The disrespect, we are discovering, is systemic. Everyone is screaming “me first!” Obviously, this is antithetical to negotiation, and antithetical to the positive culture we try to foster as a sporting community. Either no one gets any bit of what they want, or someone caves.

The NHL didn’t even want to meet with the players Saturday night--they said they saw no purpose in holding a formal meeting. Much like the potential online streaming quality of KHL games this winter, things are going slowly, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

When sports and politics intersect

Posted by She's Game Sports September 10, 2012 09:33 AM

It’s an election year in the United States -- as you already know thanks to the divisive coverage at every level of media and probably your own very personal stake in the matter of who will become the next president. Sports have often have a strange relationship with politics, since an interest in sports can bring people together across lines of ideology in a very unique and peculiar way. Whether because of an interest in the game itself or an allegiance to a particular team, stadiums, arenas, and bleachers are always filled with fans whose backgrounds, voter registrations, religions, morals, and social policies are vastly different, even when they cheer for the same athletes.

So obviously, the business of athletes being individual human beings with political thoughts of their own is bound to get lost somewhere in translation. Athletic abilities and being a good teammate aren’t things even remotely related to political affiliation. But the current drama of American politics isn’t excluding professional athletes from the line of fire — in fact, many have put themselves directly in it, and the blow-back has been harsher than it would be in any other entertainment industry because of the fact that interest in sport, in and of itself, is relatively apolitical.

Sports are unlike films, visual art and music, which often wear their sociopolitical context on their sleeves — and we, as viewers, accept that. Sports are another story. Sports culture is where things can get very tricky.

Many sports fans vehemently resist politics entering into their conversations on sports, which to a degree seems fair — having something in our culture that provides an element of unity and leisure is worth having. Yet there seems to be some kind of misconception that because athletes are such public figures, often styled as heroes and role models, that their opinions are less welcome or even insulting to their fan base, and this is simply not the case.

Their level of responsibility to the greater public begins and ends with doing their jobs and being a good citizen — and in a democratic society, there is no way that expressing an opinion can be categorized as bad citizenry, even when that opinion is unpopular — as long as it isn’t downright violent or hateful.

Take for example the controversial action by Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas, who refused to visit the White House with his team and the Stanley Cup following a dramatic championship performance of a lifetime. Thomas is a Republican. At the time, he stated on his Facebook page that he was exercising his right as an individual to decline the invitation due to fundamental disagreements with the federal government. While the act was perceived as disrespectful to President Obama and caused some apparent tension between Thomas and the Bruins organization, he was well within his rights as a private citizen to refuse to go.

Thinking of Thomas as a Boston Bruin player first and foremost, it isn’t going to be a popular move. But very few people are singularly beholden to their jobs–and indeed, Thomas announced a hiatus from hockey shortly after the incident, with the intention of focusing on his family and personal life. We like to romanticize the teammate relationship as fans, but being a pro athlete is both a job and a business, and it obviously doesn’t satisfy every human need.

This sentiment was echoed by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who has been a vocal supporter of gay marriage and gay rights. His team’s owner, Steve Bisciotti, was contacted late last month by Maryland politician Emmett C. Burns requesting that Bisciotti force his employee to “cease and desist”, referring to Ayanbadejo’s public support for gay marriage as “injurious actions.”

Ayanbadejo tweeted on September 4th: “Football is just my job it’s not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!!!”

Team owners have power over players’ salaries and behavior while performing their jobs — the same as if he or she worked at Starbucks or in an office — but not when they’re off the clock. But Burns seemed to think that possible fan disagreement and the entertaining nature of the NFL precluded Ayanbadejo from making such a statement. Burns’ letter drew a rather colorful and strongly worded counter-letter by Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, which specifically cites Burns’ request to Bisciotti as being in violation of the First Amendment among other more metaphorical accusations (read: the language is quite NSFW).

Maintaining the professional sports industry as something that can be enjoyed by everyone is important if we want our favorite teams to continue to bring people together on a plane separate from politics. It’s one of many ways that we can engage each other in America and come to understand each other as people rather than election results and Gallup polls.

However, this also involves recognizing the athletes we root for as private citizens themselves with rights to their opinions, no matter what those might be. Acting like it’s some violation of their contracts to have public opinions is tantamount to objectification. Let them do it. If you have a problem with it, it might be you who is politicizing the sport.

NHL

The NHL youth movement: sporting the 'C'

Posted by She's Game Sports September 6, 2012 09:28 AM

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19-year-old Gabriel Landeskog made history when he was named captain of the Colorado Avalanche. (Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE)

On Tuesday morning, history was made in the NHL.

At 19 years old, Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest player in NHL history to be named a permanent captain, as the Colorado Avalanche honored the young star with the “C” for his sweater.

Landeskog is 11 days younger than Sidney Crosby was when he was awarded the “C” by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007. The only other teenager to be named a permanent NHL captain was Vincent Lecavalier, but Landeskog is 29 days younger than the Lightning star was.

On July 18, 2008, following his successful rookie campaign, Jonathan Toews was named captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, at 20 years and 79 days. At the time, he was the third-youngest team captain in NHL history, but after Tuesday’s announcement in Colorado, he now is fourth.

The NHL’s trend to award young stars the enormous role to sport the “C” has been quite successful.

Crosby received the captain’s nod in 2007. Two years later in 2009, he led the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Stanley Cup, and at 21 years old became the youngest Captain to hoist the coveted Cup.

Similarly, two years after being named captain in Chicago, Jonathan Toews hoisted the Cup in 2010.

Lecavalier is a bit of a different story. After being named captain in 2000 at age 19, management decided the youngster wasn’t quite ready for such a role. He was stripped of the “C” before the 2001-2002 season, but later played a key role in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup victory in 2004 and was given back his title at the start of the 2008 campaign.

It’s not all fun and games, however, being so young and carrying the weight of the team on your shoulders. In fact, media pundits jump all over such announcements, criticizing both the player and the team for being too inexperienced and immature to handle such a title.

Such is not the case with any of these young stars, and they have the Stanley Cup to prove it. What better way to silence the critics?

I had the pleasure of meeting Gabriel Landeskog at the NHL Awards in June, where he was awarded the Calder Trophy as the League’s top rookie after collecting 52 points and a team-leading 22 goals while playing in all 82 games. He is poised, well spoken, confident, and respectful. He’s a leader on the ice and off. Why shouldn’t this star player, who made the Colorado Avalanche as an 18-year old last October after being taken as the second pick in the 2011 Draft, be heralded as the future of the franchise?

In no other sport do we see such a youth movement. Derek Jeter is the perennial captain who comes to mind when you think about sports and their leaders. A five-time World Series Champion, even Jeter had to wait for his “C”. In 2003 at the age of 29, after 8 seasons in the majors, legendary team owner George Steinbrenner honored Derek Jeter as Captain of the New York Yankees, following eight seasons without one after Don Mattingly retired in 1995.

Say what you will about young captains. At the end of the day, a leader is a leader. Teams recognize that. So do players. Milan Hejduk, a veteran in the Avs locker room at age 36 and the reigning captain, gave the captaincy to Landeskog himself. He said he felt his diminished role to the third and fourth lines last season didn’t warrant the title, and that the captain should be someone with a significant role.

It was a true gesture of teamwork by Hejduk, and the right decision by the Avs.

Now let’s sit back and see if Gabriel Landeskog can join the likes of Crosby and Toews.

Youth doesn’t always mean innocence, naivety, or lack of leadership. The NHL has proven that, and in turn has given us young stars to cheer for many years to come.

NHL

Kathryn Tappen mailbag: FAQs

Posted by She's Game Sports August 30, 2012 10:18 AM

When I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a sportscaster. I was an athlete and loved to speak in front of large crowds, so I figured it would be my best option for a career.

I lucked out and am thrilled to be living my dream job.

It didn't happen overnight, and I needed a lot of advice, encouragement, coffee, and support along the way. I also needed a little help from those in the business willing to shed some light on this crazy career path I wanted to pursue.

Having entered the industry as an on-air broadcaster the year I graduated Rutgers University in 2003, I'd say I've learned a whole lot, and also have answered a ton of questions from aspiring sportscasters and fans along the way. And so, I thought it would be fun to share some of the frequently asked questions I get on a regular basis about my job - and maybe the future KT is reading and taking notes.

Q: How did you first get into the business?

A: After sending my hodge-podge college resume reel out to every market #110 and above job opening I saw on tvjobs.com, I finally took advantage of an on-air walk on tryout at CSTV (College Sports Television) in NYC the summer after college graduation. I won the two-day competition in front of celebrity sportscaster judges (I was terrible, but they must have liked something?). I know there's an audition tape somewhere that will be used to blackmail me one day. I'm fully prepared to defend myself. And so my career began at CSTV. I worked alongside Michelle Beadle when the network would allow me, and somehow was asked to come back after the first show.

Q: Do you ever get nervous?

A: Did you ever have that dream when you're a kid, and you get to your first day of school and realize you forgot your backpack, school supplies, lunch, and gym clothes at home? I have the dream every so often where I run on the set on live TV and realize I forget my earpiece, my hair isn't done, and I have no makeup on. That's the only time I get nervous.

Q: How do you know so much about the sports you talk about, in particular hockey?

A: What you see is the product of intense studying, research, and information digging. I'm constantly reading, inundating myself with information and facts, and having conversations with people involved. Oh yeah, I also work alongside the greatest analysts in the game who make me look good every single night.

Q: Do you read from a teleprompter?

A: "I'm Ron Burgundy?" I haven't read a teleprompter in over five years. When I was reading from one, I was writing my own material.

Q: Do you get a clothing allowance?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you pick out your own clothes?

A: Sort of. I have a great stylist I work with in NYC. Thankfully, someone else does the thinking when it comes to my clothes. If it were up to me, I'd be in Lululemon every night on TV.

Q: How do you know what to ask the players who join you live on NHL Tonight?

A: I don't! The players come to the Cisco Arena Cam immediately after the final horn sounds on the ice, and they are looking up at a small camera they can barely see in the Jumbotron of their arena. They put the headsets on and we say "Hello!" live on the show. They're lucky if they know it's me, and at the same time, I'm lucky if I can see what player we just grabbed on the screen in front of me! It's a fun interview, and happens very quickly. You have to be prepared for anything. My rule of thumb is to just talk to the player as if they're a friend who just played a game. I ask a few questions about the game itself, their personal play, and we banter for about two minutes. The end result can be anything from a solid interview to a technical nightmare. But hey, our fans love it and we're happy to bring you live player interviews from every single game first on the NHL Network.

Q: What is it like covering a championship victory in the winning team's locker room?

A: Having been the lucky charm (wink wink) to all the Boston sports teams over the past six years, the most important lesson I learned was to always carry a baseball cap in the event of a champagne shower in the locker room. By the third championship, I also learned to wear waterproof mascara and to bring a raincoat. Champagne burns your eyes!

Q: What would be your best advice for students interested in pursuing a career in broadcast journalism?

A: I chose this career path a long time ago, busted my butt, and eventually got to where I wanted to be. My best advice that I tell everyone is: Stick to your dreams. Life is a lot more fun if you're doing something you love for your career. Work hard, don't take shortcuts, and read, read, read! There's no greater power than knowledge. Nothing will happen overnight, but if you're patient, you'll get there.

Oh, and drop me a line from time to time. It's always fun to hear how others accomplish their dreams, even if it means having someone else dress you.

Gary Bettman's remarks about NHL fans - nice try, but wrong

Posted by She's Game Sports August 27, 2012 08:38 AM

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Sidney Crosby, the first NHL draft pick after the 2004-2005 lockout, was a young player of especially prodigious talent who helped draw new fans to the NHL in the post-lockout era. (Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE)

Collective bargaining agreement negotiations between NHL players and owners have officially gone from bad to worse. Since last I wrote about this story, no progress has really been made beyond general philosophical talks and fundamental disagreements. If no agreement is reached by September 15th, there will definitely be a lockout of some kind.

Commissioner Gary Bettman’s words during these negotiations on Thursday referred back to the fans in what has universally been regarded as a kind of terrible platitude: “We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.” To which everyone has said: really? Because they might not fit your definition of “great” if this is allowed to go to yet another lockout.

The pre-lockout NHL in 2004 was struggling, and in some franchises, completely hemorrhaging money. It also has the legacy of being a slap in the face to fans from the actual faces of the league–its players. They refused a salary cap that historically has made leagues more competitive, as it did for the NBA in the 1980’s. It took a long time to convince the NHLPA that the concept of revenue sharing would not negatively impact their job security. In fact, it seems to be getting easier and easier for players to get their big paydays–such has become the level of parity.

When we refer to “new fans” of the game, we are invariably by this point referring to fans who came into the post-lockout NHL which has enjoyed unprecedented levels of success, record high television ratings in the United States and rising interest in even the most nontraditional hockey markets.

But the current CBA negotiations are moving away from the compromise the players and owners made in 2005. If this goes to a lockout, all of those new fans will give it a legacy of being the fault of the owners as they attempt to gain more control over the success they have had over the last six seasons. This includes having more control over the way that players receive their salary, changing not only contract length, but the rules of free agency, possibly tying players to the team that drafted them, barring a trade, for the majority of their careers. Obviously, the players don’t want this, for very personal reasons.

Here’s the other thing though: according to NHLPA Executive Director Donald Fehr, the reason that talks are continually breaking down is purely economic. The two sides cannot agree on how to divide league revenue–i.e. what percentage of the money should be spent on what (and whom). So, while the most shocking demands to come out of CBA meetings have been related to player contracts, the “philosophical issues” still come back to dollar signs and how they are divvied up.

Most fans–even hardcore fans–can’t get a handle on that issue or how it works. But most of them will have a lot easier of a time siding with the players when all they seem to want is a somewhat similar agreement to the one that brought them into the 2005-06 season. And when the most comforting words from the league’s commissioner place the burden of the NHL surviving on its fans, even in a poetic sense, things clearly do not look promising.

As much as we fans like to think that we could make this happen, we’re only a part of the equation. The players have to agree to play, and the owners have to manage their businesses. On the surface, it’s a straightforward arrangement.

Fans who knew the NHL before the lockout know by now that it’s a business that won’t respond directly to logic. But the fans who have arrived on the scene since 2005 might not have such an easy time. For both well-established franchises and the most far-flung corners of the league, very little can be gained from postponing some kind of agreement. You can’t count on fans you patronize.

And anyway, the NHL recovered after the previous lockout not because of its already-existing wonderful fans, but because of its improved product, aggressive marketing, and suspense associated with emerging young talent — all of which created new fans. These are the fans who are actually creating the revenue that the NHL is so dearly enjoying, and these are the fans who are going to be less likely to spend more money on hockey in 2013-14 if we lose yet another whole or partial season.

Bettman’s quote is an attempt to completely deflect blame from the ownership as well as the players for the potential loss of a season–and it’s just flat-out incorrect.

NHL

Kathryn Tappen: Observations from the bench

Posted by She's Game Sports August 17, 2012 02:25 PM

After spending five years at NESN and having quite a run with the Boston Bruins as they went from a team in hiding in the city of Boston to the Stanley Cup Champions, it was time for me to tackle a new challenge in my career.

And so it began - the back and forth commute from Boston to Toronto every week to broadcast for the NHL Network. I had to learn the entire NHL as well as I knew the Bruins for so many years. I wouldn’t change my experience over the past 12 months, and I look forward to the upcoming season and growing in my role with the NHL.

Now, with all this travel comes a diligent ritual of packing and unpacking. But most importantly, I get to interact, interview, and engage some of the greatest people in the game of hockey.

With live, on-location broadcasts at the Winter Classic, the All Star Game, the GM Meetings, the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL Awards, and NHL Draft, I gained a wealth of knowledge and an inside look at the league. Here are a few of my thoughts on the “best of the best”, which were very difficult to choose and are presented in no particular order.

Best Interview

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Goal-scorer extraodinaire Steven Stamkos is also a great interview. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE) (Associated Press)

Steven Stamkos joined us on the “NHL Tonight” Arena Cam on the final day of the regular season after recording his 60th goal in a 4–3 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. He became the 20th player in league history to achieve the feat. Stamkos was so excited. We had an engaging conversation, laughed a bit, and he acknowledged my prediction months prior that he would reach the 60 goal plateau. Hey, it’s always fun when a player gives you a shout out.

Best Moment:

Being inside Staples Center to watch the LA Kings fans go absolutely crazy with two minutes to play in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. The game result was decisive as the Kings led the NJ Devils 6-1 with minutes to play. Staples Center was so loud, and we were right in the thick of the action as the LA Kings captured the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.

Best Guy:

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Shane Doan is a great player and one of the nicest guys in the NHL. (Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PRESSWIRE)

This is a tough category, as I hate to single out players. Anyone who has worked covering sports will tell you that hockey guys are the best. They are all down to earth, well-spoken, and accommodating to reporters and their deadline needs.  If I had to choose one player, it would be Shane Doan. The Phoenix Coyotes captain joined us for the NHL Player Media Tour in NYC last September. He came into the room, greeted the camera crew and producers before sitting down for a candid interview with me. He was hilarious, jovial, and one of the nicest guys I had interviewed. When the sit-down conversation was complete, he got up and shook the hands of everyone in the room and thanked them for their time. A true class act, and one of the best in the game.

Best Rookie:

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Kathryn Tappen picked Adam Henrique as rookie of the year. (Ed Mulholland-US PRESSWIRE)

Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche took home the Calder Trophy at this year’s NHL Awards in Las Vegas. He had an outstanding season with the Avs. However, my choice for best rookie would have to be Landeskog’s fellow nominee, Adam Henrique of the New Jersey Devils. Henrique was instrumental in the Devils Stanley Cup run, becoming the first rookie to score two series-clinching overtime goals in the same playoffs to go with his 13 points in 24 playoff games. With Zach Parise parting ways with the NJ Devils this offseason, look for Henrique to assume an even bigger role with the organization and become one of the bright stars of the NHL.

Best Hair:

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Henrik Lundqvist is one of the best goalies in the league and has impeccable hair and style. (Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE)

It’s hard to see the players hair with their helmets on during games, but sometimes you can see the “lettuce” as it’s affectionately called underneath those lids. It’s even harder to see a goaltenders head of hair since their helmets cover their entire head. But I think even those casual fans of hockey would agree with me that Henrik Lundqvist has a perhaps the best head of hair.  It helps that he is also the best dressed. Maybe it’s the nice suits that make him look so dapper all the time, or else he's just naturally gifted.

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