Friday, August 28, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Swede Comebacks?

Forget talking about whether or not Mats Sundin will play this season, Foppa is back on the ice too.

It seems like "comebacks" are the style right now and Peter Forsberg's on again, off again relationship with professional hockey seems to be on...again! Forsberg suited up for Modo, his hometown team, in a 2-1 preseason win over Swiss side Geneva on Thursday night.

Not only that, the 36-year-old appears to be in Sweden's Olympic plans - making the cut for the preliminary squad.

USA Today reports Forsberg thinks his chances of playing in the Vancouver Olympics are "very small," but that could just be him being modest. It really all comes down to the issues he's had with his wonky right foot over the past few years, although he's also had a few other nagging injuries that have kept him on the sidelines.

Forsberg has a long road ahead to get back to playing at an elite level, but judging by the comments from Sweden's Olympic coach Bengt-Ake Gustafsson, it's basically up to him.

Maybe I'm just reading too much into it, but Gustafsson said "we'll see if it will work for him," which to me sounds like a spot on the team is his to lose.

There's something to be said for experience, and while the Swedes do have a lot of it without the addition of Forsberg, it wouldn't hurt to have a two-time Stanley Cup, World Championship and Olympic gold medal winner on the squad.

Back to Forsberg's fellow Swede Mats Sundin, hockey's answer to Brett Favre (minus the MVP awards, the accolades and the championship, but plus the retirement indecision). Will he play this season?

I can tell you that he won't be playing for Sweden in the Olympics even if he does lace 'em up again this winter in the NHL. Coach Gustafsson says he talked to Sundin, who said he has "played his last game for Sweden," so he wasn't included on the 69-man preliminary roster.

As for whether or not Sundin will play this season, one thing is for sure. The always fun to read Puck Daddy blog tells us that Mats will not do what he did last season and wait six months to make a decision.

The Hockey News is guessing that Sundin will end up retiring, but Greg Wyshynski points out that there are people who believe he's got a little bit left in the tank. And, love him or hate him, as hockey fans we all have a soft spot for the old veteran trying to win that elusive Stanley Cup.

Heck, maybe we'll see both Sundin and Forsberg in the league this season. I doubt it, but never say never, right?

Kerrzy's Notebook: The _____ Coyotes

It's a few days after the deadline for potential buyers to submit bids for the embattled Phoenix Coyotes franchise and ironically, the focus in the "The Battle of Glendale" has been all about relocation.

The reason I find it ironic is because all the talk on that front is coming from the NHL, the very league that said, time and again, that they are committed to keeping hockey in Arizona.

Basically, ever since Blackberry boss Jim Balsillie started talking about buying the team and moving it to Hamilton, that was the NHL's company line - they would make it work in (the failing hockey market) of Phoenix.

Oh, how quickly things can change!

When the league placed its bid for the franchise on Tuesday, The Canadian Press reported they "would avoid a sticky issue still facing the case by accepting the existing lease to play in Glendale" - but only for the upcoming season.

On Thursday, more strong hints from the NHL that the Coyotes could soon be hitting the road:

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said if they win the auction and they're not able to come to an agreement on a lease with the city of Glendale, they would be forced to turn to a buyer to move the team elsewhere. In fact, The Globe and Mail reports that the league's bid to purchase the team specifically mentions that it's open to relocation.

Daly said he thinks they've got to get the lease situation resolved, or not, by the end of 2009.

Here's what I think: basically the NHL is open to the Phoenix Coyotes being relocated, as long as it's not Gary Bettman's archrival Jim Balsillie doing the relocating.

Isn't it interesting that the NHL doesn't bother to mention their commitment to keeping hockey in Phoenix when it comes down to bidding for the team, when that was their main concern for every other bidder up until Tuesday afternoon?

This story just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Battle of Glendale

The bankruptcy court battle over the Phoenix Coyotes took a couple of very interesting turns on Tuesday...none of which made the ownership struggle much clearer.

It was deadline day for submitting formal bids to buy the team ahead of the September 10th auction - and the NHL started things off by joining the bidding war. To make things even more interesting, Jerry Reinsdorf's group, the league-backed choice to take over the Coyotes, backed out as a potential buyer hours later.

Reinsdorf's group simply said they couldn't meet the deadline to submit an offer, and complained about "an organized publicity effort designed to provide negative and misleading information to interested parties."

They also cited the fact that they couldn't work out a good enough lease deal for Jobing.com Arena with the city of Glendale.

One of two things happened here - either the league was tipped off about Reinsdorf pulling out and figured they had no choice but to bid, or the two sides are using some Balsillie-esque tactics to get around the bankruptcy court auction.

Scenario one: the NHL was tipped off.

The NHL must have known about the possibility that Reinsdorf's group wouldn't be going through with their bid, and so they were forced to step in to make sure Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie didn't have an easy road to buying the team. Imagine if after Reinsdorf's bid went by the wayside, Ice Edge Holdings and Balsillie emerged as the only two formal bids heading into the auction. That would be an easy win for J-Bal over both Ice Edge and the NHL, and the league would be left scrambling.

Scenario two: its all part of a plan.

What the NHL intends to do is buy the team and then sell it to someone else, outside of the bankruptcy court process. Wouldn't it be sneaky if they won the auction and then sold the team to the Jerry Reinsdorf group, who pulled out of the bidding war because they knew they had a better shot at winning this way?

And what better a way to beat Jim Balsillie than by using some sneaky moves like this - the same type of thing most of us wouldn't be surprised to see Balsillie trying to pull.

The NHL says it took action "to maximize the likelihood that the club ultimately will be sold to an acceptable purchaser who is committed to operating the franchise in Glendale."

When the NHL uses language like this, it's pretty easy to see they are getting involved to make damn sure that Balsillie doesn't end up with the team.

Who could they possibly be talking about when using phrases like an "acceptable purchaser?"

As for Ice Edge Holdings, they're the group made up of both Canadian and American investors that have proposed playing up to five Coyotes regular season "home" games and one playoff game every other series (assuming they get that far) in places like Saskatoon or Halifax.

Their bid, much like the Reinsdorf bid, was believed to be in the area of $160-million. No word yet on what the NHL plans to bid.

Who do you think should get the team? Is the NHL turning a blind eye to the fact that Arizona is a failed hockey market, simply because they don't want Jim Balsillie to own a team?

Let me know how you feel!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: No "Big O" for the Habs

Back in June, we first heard about a potential indoor/outdoor game involving the Montreal Canadiens at Olympic Stadium, a sort of consolation prize for Canada not getting a Winter Classic this season.

To be honest, I didn't see this potential game as anything but a big cash grab for the Habs and I thought it was a bit silly for Montreal's 100th birthday celebration to continue into another season. With that said, I'm not at all upset about this bit of news I'm about to share with you - I'm just a bit confused.

Turns out the game between the Canadiens and the Washington Capitals isn't happening after all - but it's the reason behind it that's got me in a blogging type of mood.

According to Slam! Sports, the game at the "Big O" was called off, because of "the possibility that the Montreal Alouettes would be hosting the Canadian Football League Eastern Final on Nov. 22," which leaves them just a week to prep the facility for hockey.

Here's what confuses me about this: they didn't think about that until now?

In 1996, the CFL decided to go back to its all-Canadian team format and the Grey Cup champion Baltimore Stallions became the Montreal Alouettes.

In the thirteen years since the switch, Alouettes fans have watched their club make the playoffs every year, winning seven East Division regular season championships and one Grey Cup in six appearances in the big game. This year, the East-leading Als are 7-1 through eight weeks and looking strong.

Montreal has made the East Final in eleven of the past thirteen years and it took the organizers of the potential indoor/outdoor game this long to figure out there could be a scheduling conflict?

Forgetting that oversight, I strongly doubt that it would take more than a week to transform a stadium from football mode to hockey mode.

If the crew over at Rexall Place can go from the Canadian Finals Rodeo to an Oilers game in four days, I'm pretty sure six days is doable over in Montreal. Sure, it's a bit different, but a Montreal spokesman says they would need seven days to make it happen.

Oh well! Had they thought of this problem before the schedule for this season came out, I'm sure this would have been an easy fix. That'll teach 'em though!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Heatley Speaks!

Edmonton Oilers fans waited a long time for some answers from Dany Heatley - and on Friday, they got them.

That's when Heatley spoke publicly for the first time about a summer that's seen him demand a trade from the Ottawa Senators and reject a possible trade to the Oilers - the only offer so far that had Sens GM Bryan Murray asking the two time 50-goal scorer to waive a no-movement clause.

When Heatley was asked about the potential trade to Edmonton, he mentioned over and over again that it's nothing to do with the city of Edmonton - he just felt he needed more than one option before he could make a decision.

Not only does Heatley want other options - he says "I know that there are other teams out there." TSN spoke with Bryan Murray though, who painted a different picture of how things have progressed, saying:

"I think (the Heatley camp) believed that I would present them with four teams who were willing to give Ottawa a package (for Heatley), and he could pick and choose from them. That has not been the case by any means. There are still a couple of teams that I'm talking to, but they are nowhere close to (offering) what I need to get back to protect this franchise."

Unfortunately for Heatley, he's only one season into the six-year, $45-million contract extension that he signed in October of 2007, and I don't think there are a ton of teams out there that can afford his $7.5-million cap hit.

One team that was willing to pay the big bucks though, both literally and figuratively, was the Edmonton Oilers. That changed at the end of July though, when Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said they were no longer interested.

Sounds like Heatley wasn't really interested either though.

"(The Oilers) were not on our initial list of teams that I gave the Senators to talk to," Heatley said, adding that " it came as a big surprise" when Edmonton emerged as the highest bidder. He admitted he had some good talks with the Oilers brass, who flew out to visit him for some face-to-face time...but (and nothing against Edmonton), he just wasn't ready to make that decision.

It's pretty clear that Heatley just really didn't want to come play here, but didn't want to hurt our feelings by saying it like that. Instead, he went with the 'it's not you, it's me' type of answers.

As for what else was said on the day, Heatley let it be known that he was upset his trade request (which still stands) was made public, and said the reason for that request was because of a diminished role with the club. He also said, should he still be a Senator when training camp opens, "I'll be ready to go."

What do you think? Should Edmonton Oilers fans be mad? Let me know how you feel!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Cabbies Beware!

Is this going to be the new trend in pro sports this year?

Not long after Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane and his cousin were accused of punching out a Buffalo, NY, cabbie, another professional athlete is accused of the exact same thing.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, who’s twice been involved in altercations with teammates since joining the Bucs in 2008, was arrested and charged with simple battery and resisting arrest without violence on Wednesday night after police say he he punched a cab driver.

Seriously, what is wrong with people these days?!

The police report says the 23-year-old punched the driver in the neck and ear after he picked up Talib and two other men outside a St. Petersburg nightclub.

If you thought the story, true or not, of the Kane cousins getting aggressive over 20 cents owed in change was insane, you’ll love this one.

Tampa Bay Online talked to the taxi driver on Thursday – this one wasn’t about money at all, as the group paid $50 up front for the ride. According to the cab driver, it was about…well, he’s not sure!

David Duggan says he didn’t even exchange words with Talib before the fists started flying a few minutes into the drive!

Duggan told TBO:

“I thought I was getting robbed. I thought I was going to die. I didn’t know these guys were Tampa Bay football players. I thought I was done.”

Duggan, who says he’s never been in a fight in his life, said it was like a “hungry lion going after a chicken."

To make matters worse, it was Duggan’s third day driving a cab – he’d been a tow truck driver for the past two years but recently lost his job.

The matter is now in the hands of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who loves to flex that personal conduct policy the league strictly enforces.

So far though, the league will only say “we will look into it.”

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Protecting your (fantasy) Investments

Well, it's that time of year again: football fans across the world are scouring the internet for information, analyzing mock drafts and thinking long and hard about who they should choose to fill their fantasy football roster for the upcoming season.

It's a tricky game to play and no matter how much time and money you put into making your team the best, there are always risks you just can't avoid - like injuries.

For example, if you happen to be one of the many people who picked New England Patriots star quarterback (and reigning league MVP at the time) Tom Brady last season, you know those risks first hand - but help is on the way, my friends!

Enter: Fantasy Sports Insurance.

FSI is the brainchild of two Long Island brokers, Anthony Giaccone and Henry Olszewski, born when Olszewski (who picked Brady last year) jokingly lamented the fact that no one offers insurance for fantasy owners.

That's right, starting this year you can actually take out disability insurance on your "fantasy investment!"

Here's how it works:

First, you go to the website and choose one of their three coverage options - you can either cover one key player in the case of him missing 10 of the first 15 regular season games, or eight of the first 12 regular season games, due to injury. Or, you can choose to cover three players in the case of them missing a combined total of 18 of the first 15 regular season games due to injury.

Before the first week of the season, you go to the website and pick the player or players you'd like to insure from their list of the top 50 fantasy players in the NFL.

Next, enter the league entry fee (up to $1,000), transaction fees and money spent on things like magazines and online subscriptions (both up to $200) - and FSI will then determine the cost of your policy!

So, there's now a way to cover your fantasy butt in the case of a marquee player going down with a serious injury - and lets not forget, too, that it's a long season and you can obviously still recover a potentially lost campaign with some good luck and some good moves.

As of right now FSI only covers football, but according to their website, they're looking into expanding this service to baseball, basketball and even hockey for the upcoming season!

Just when you thought you'd heard it all, eh?

Kerrzy's Notebook: Competitive Edge

In men's sports (particularly baseball), if you all of a sudden start to dominate your competition they check you for steroids. If you're a female track star and you do the same, they check you for...something else.

The South African track and field federation has been asked to check the gender of 18-year-old Caster Semenya, who became the 800m champion at this year's track and field World Championships in Berlin on Wednesday.

Track and field's world governing body asked for the test almost a month ago, after Semenya dramatically improved her times in the 800m and the 1500m races - even posting the world's best time this year in the 800m three weeks ago.

If you're anything like me, you'd likely assume it's pretty easy to check somebody's gender. Upon reading further into this case though, it's not as clear cut as you might think.

IAAF spokesman Nick Davies says legally, it's a "very complex" situation, and wouldn't say what they would do if tests determine that Semenya "does not meet the requirements to compete" as a woman.

Apparently, it's not as easy as just stripping her of all her results either, should she fail the tests. Davies says "if it's a natural thing and the athlete has always thought she's a woman or been a woman, it's not exactly cheating." But if she has undergone a sex change or something, it would be "much easier" to strip results.

I'm not sure what would be more embarrassing for Semenya: the fact that people don't believe she is a girl (if she is), or failing the tests and being outed as a cheater.

Either way, at least she's not on steroids, right?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: The Favre Files

Remember the fable about the pro football player who cried retirement?

Probably not, and for these three reasons:

1) It hasn't been written yet.
2) Fables don't usually deal with exciting topics like retirement.
3) There's no need to pen this story, because it's playing out in front of our very eyes.

Yes, I'm talking about "retired" quarterback Brett Favre, the three-time NFL MVP who owns or has a share of just about every career record for his position, but is now probably best known for talking about retiring every year, only to come back and play.

On July 29th, after months of soul searching, Favre decided a return to the NFL wasn't in the cards, saying he didn’t feel like he could put his body through the grind of another season.

So why are we still talking about it?

Well, it’s now about half a month later, the Minnesota Vikings quarterback job is apparently still up for grabs, and yesterday there was a new round of speculation that Favre is their guy.

That speculation started with Jay Glazer writing that “damn near everybody” on the Vikings was convinced that Favre is playing this season, and a day later - he's baaaaaaack!

Glazer listed four clues that pointed to Favre throwing on the purple, yellow and white when the season begins - the one that I found funny was this: Favre hates camp.

Ahhh, so when he said he didn’t feel he could perform at the professional level for another season, he meant he’d play if he could skip camp?

Seems fair.

All I know is, if Brett Favre expects a lot of fanfare when he finally does retire for good, he might have another thing coming – at least until we’re all completely sure he isn’t coming back.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Justice

As one suspension is about to end, another is handed out in the NFL, and it really makes you wonder!

In late July, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell granted Michael Vick a "conditional reinstatement" to the league, which could turn to a full reinstatement by as late as week six of the upcoming season.

On Thursday, the same day Vick signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, Goddell announced a one-year suspension without pay for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte' Stallworth.

Vick was sentenced in 2007 to 23 months in prison for bankrolling a dogfighting ring and helping kill pit bulls that didn't do well in fights. He served 20 months in prison and two months of home confinement before being released from federal custody.

The former Atlanta Falcons standout's conditional reinstatement came about one year and 11 months after his indefinite suspension, without pay, from the league. So - why am I telling you all this?

Obviously what Vick did was wrong, but at least he didn't kill another person, right? Wouldn't that be a lot worse?

Apparently not!

Donte' Stallworth killed a pedestrian in Miami on March 14th while he was driving drunk - not only did he get a measly 30-day jail sentence (of which he only served 24 days…for killing a human being), he gets about half the suspension that Michael Vick faced and knows exactly when he'll be allowed to play football again.

Thank god he didn’t run over a dog!

All I'm saying is - if you put those two jail terms and suspensions next to one another and made someone guess which one resulted from a drunk-driving death, do you think they'd guess right?

The least commissioner Goodell could do is keep Stallworth in suspense about when he's being reinstated, but that's NFL justice!

The other thing is, Donte’ Stallworth (the guy who killed a working class citizen) won’t have to put up with the idiotic ramblings of organizations like PETA, who are again protesting Vick being allowed to resume his football career.

Vick went to jail for almost two years for his crimes, what more does a guy have to do?

They say he’s given “no public indication” that he’s learned his lesson, and so they’re not going to shut up until…who knows when. Are they just jealous that Vick has partnered up with the Humane Society on his road to redemption instead of them?

Or perhaps, as some have written, PETA’s anger is driven by race. The sad part is, that doesn’t even sound too far-fetched.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: My 20 Cents

In these tough economic times, most people need all the money they can get – and that seems to include Chicago Blackhawks young gun Patrick Kane.

Just a season away from signing a contract that’ll make him a multi-millionaire, the penny pinching Kane is in some trouble after a cab ride turned violent in Buffalo early Sunday morning.

Things got ugly when Kane, who pulled in $875,000 this season, and his cousin James gave their driver $15 for a $13.80 cab fare – and the driver was short 20 cents on their change.

According to reports, the Kane cousins then took all of the driver's money (as much as $115), punched him repeatedly, grabbed him by the throat and broke his glasses, leaving him all cut up and bruised in the process.

WIVB news in Buffalo talked to the cab driver, named J.R., who saw a less wholesome, more cocky side of the 2008 rookie of the year.

"The one Kane is choking me the other one is punching me. 'Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I am? You're messing with the wrong people,” he said.

You stay classy Patrick Kane! I love hearing about people that get into a confrontation and bust out the “don’t you know who I am” line.

Kane faces charges of second-degree robbery, fourth-degree criminal mischief and theft of service charges – all over two dimes, four nickels or 20 pennies, whichever way you want to look at it.

We’ve all got a buddy or two that’s known for being a little cheap, but I don’t know anyone who’s that cheap!

Kane and his cousin pleaded not guilty.

This will be an interesting one to watch – do you think the NHL will jump in with a suspension?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Insurance claims

There could be some tough decisions ahead for a few of NHLers this summer.

A lot of players are hoping to play in the 2010 games in Vancouver and a lot of players would like an opportunity to show their respective national team coaches what they can offer at camps being held during the offseason.

Therein lies the problem!

You see, the NHLPA reaaaaaally doesn't want its players participating in Olympic training camps this summer. They don't believe that the national hockey federations are providing enough insurance to cover the current contracts and future earning potential of the players.

For the guys that know they'll be on the team, it's probably not that big of a deal. For the guys on the bubble, this puts them in a tough spot. This next bit of information will only make things tougher.

Octagon Hockey player agent and lawyer Allan Walsh "tweeted" these new details on Tuesday:

"Shocking but true. The NHL has sent out a memo that it will not honour NHL contract for a player injured at a summer Olympic training camp."

So you've got the NHLPA saying "don't skate" and you've got the NHL saying "if you get hurt, your contract is void."

A lot of players have said they'll be skating either way, like Joe Thornton, who told reporters "I've skated for years and have never been hurt, so I'll be skating."

As I write this blog post, the New York Times reports that Hockey Canada and USA Hockey have made a few new policies so that players who are injured at the camps are insured for the equivalent of their salaries for games 30 through 82 of the upcoming regular season.

That's good, but not every federation can afford to put up that kind of money...

Goalie Martin Brodeur brought up a good point too, wondering why the NHLPA is so worried about these Olympics, when they weren't very concerned before the 2006 games. Seems a bit strange that they would all of a sudden be up in arms.

If teams don't get these camps in during the summer, they'll likely only have one day to get acquainted before the big tournament starts. To be honest, I don't think that would really affect Team Canada much anyway!