Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Baums over Glendale

Another interesting, but not surprising, twist in the "Battle of Glendale" took place Wednesday in an Arizona courtroom - Judge Redfield T. Baum did exactly what he said he might do back in September and rejected the only two bids on the table for the Phoenix Coyotes.

Baum rejected Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie's $242.5-million attempt to move the team to Hamilton because the relocation issue was likely a can of worms he didn't want to be associated with opening.

Meanwhile, he ruled that the NHL's bid of $140-million doesn't work because it's not the NHL's place to decide which of the Phoenix creditors would get paid (the NHL wasn't going to pay majority owner Jerry Moyes and former coach/part owner Wayne Gretzky).

Judge Baum denied Balsillie's bid "with prejudice" in his 28-page ruling, meaning he is done and can't come back with a different bid. The NHL, on the other hand, will be allowed to come back with an improved offer. As Baum said:

"In hockey parlance, the court is passing the puck to the NHL, who can decide to take another shot at the sale net or it can pass off the puck."

Cute.

So here's the part where I give you my opinion on the matter:

I'm not surprised by this decision to shut Jim Balsillie out, but I don't think anyone is. The precedent that would have been set would hurt professional sports on the continent and I bet judge Baum was sick of this case and couldn't stand the thought of another year of appeals on the matter had he given J-Bal the team (even though he eventually offered to keep the Coyotes in Glendale for one more season, which is all the league had guaranteed).

Also, while it was a long, drawn out process, I think it was a good form of therapy for Balsillie and the NHL. Balsillie came pretty darn close to finding a back door into ownership and in all likelihood, this isn't the last we'll hear from of the Blackberry billionaire.

Having said that, the next time he tries to "Make it Seven," I think he'll try to do it the right way, because if he learned anything from this experience it should be that he'll probably be successful if he follows the rules, bows down, and accepts the NHL board of governors as his personal lord and saviour.

I guess for now, even though they don't "legally" own the Coyotes, it'll be the NHL footing the bill for their shortcomings until a "suitable" owner is found.

What a mess!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: NFL Week Three Picks

When it comes to the game of football, I'm not an expert. Heck, I'm not really an expert about anything, but that doesn't stop me from dishing my opinions on whatever comes my way.

With that in mind, I'll be trying something new here on my blog. Every Friday, I'll try to give out my picks for the week's NFL action - granted, I'm a couple of weeks late in starting this up. So without further ado, here are my week three NFL picks:
Cleveland (0-2) @ Baltimore (2-0)

My pick: Baltimore

-The Browns have struggled big time out of the gate this season, not putting many points up on the board and turnovers have been key for them. Ray Lewis has been a monster so far this season and the Ravens won eight of ten at home. They'll win this one easily.

Washington (1-1) @ Detroit (0-2)

My pick: Washington

-If the Detroit Lions were going to shake that 19-game losing streak, the Redskins would be the team to do it against. Washington has only one offensive TD on the season so far, but the Lions have been equally as woeful. I think this one goes to Washington.

Jacksonville (0-2) @ Houston (1-1)

My pick: Jacksonville

-If the Jacksonville Jaguars can work the ground game, they'll find a way to beat the Texans, who are known for being inconsistent. Houston gave up a whopping 240 yards rushing in a win over Tennessee last week and the Jags are 15-4 since 2006 when rushing for over 150 yards in a game.

Atlanta (2-0) @ New England (1-1)

My pick: Atlanta

-The Pats couldn't contain the NY Jets defense last week and didn't look particularly good, and they could be without two key pieces on Sunday - wide receivers Wes Welker and Randy Moss. Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner give Atlanta a serious threat in the air and on the ground, and I hate to say it - but I think they'll beat the 'struggling' Patriots.

Green Bay (1-1) @ St. Louis (0-2)

My pick: Green Bay

-The Rams lost to the Redskins (9-7) last week in a game that reminded me of a heavyweight boxing match where the two combatants just slugged away at each other for 12 rounds and St. Louis lost when it went to the scorecards. The Packers lost a close one to Cincinnati last week and I think if they can protect their QB better this week (Aaron Rodgers was sacked like five times), they'll come out on top.

NY Giants (2-0) @ Tampa Bay (0-2)

My pick: NY Giants

-The Tampa Bay defense has been suspect so far this season and while the Giants haven't been able to execute from the red zone, Eli Manning has made the big plays happen when they had to. Steve Smith and Mario Manningham have been huge for New York through two games, so look for them to eat up the second-worst defensive team in the NFL.

Tennessee (0-2) @ NY Jets (2-0)

My pick: Jets

-Despite exploding for almost 250 net rushing yards, the Titans lost a nail-biter last week to the Houston Texans, while the Jets backed up their trash talk, beating the Patriots. With that loss, the Titans fell to 0-2, so look for them to try and make a statement this week against the league's top defense. Jets rookie QB Mark Sanchez is having a great start to the season, lets see how long he can keep it up. Brett who?

KC (0-2) @ Philadelphia (1-1)

My pick: KC

-Matt Cassel has something to prove after a couple of costly interceptions in last week's 13-10 loss to the Raiders, so I'm picking them to come out on top in this game. Michael Vick likely won't start for the injury plagued Eagles, but I think there's a good chance he'll see some action. Kevin Kolb, starting in place of Donovan McNabb had a good first career start last week, but threw three INTs in a big time loss to New Orleans.

San Francisco (2-0) @ Minnesota (2-0)

My pick: Minnesota

-One of these teams will have to drop the undefeated tag from their names after this one - and if Adrian Peterson can continue to do what he's done in the first two weeks of the season it'll be the 49ers. Peterson is averaging 6.8 yards per carry and leads the league in overall rushing yards so it'll be up to him to dictate the outcome of this one. With Minnesota's defense not allowing a rushing TD yet through two weeks, it may be up to San Francisco QB Shaun Hill to win this game in the air if his club has any chance.

New Orleans (2-0) @ Buffalo (1-1)

My pick: New Orleans

-The Buffalo Bills will need Terrell Owens to stop dropping passes if they've got any chance against the high octane offence of the New Orleans Saints, who are averaging 46.5 points per game through the first two games of the season. The Bills will have to shore up their pass defense, which is second last in the league, if they have any hope of not getting dominated by Saints QB Drew Brees, who already has nine touchdown passes this season.

Chicago (1-1) @ Seattle (1-1)

My pick: Chicago

-The Bears are riding high after a win over the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers and I think that’s going to continue into this week. The Seahawks could be without starting QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has a broken rib. Chicago running back Matt Forte is waiting to break out this season, and could do so against a Seattle team that gave up 256 net rushing yards against San Fran last week.

Pittsburgh (1-1) @ Cincinnati (1-1)

My pick: Cincinnati

-The Bengals have been in two tight games this season so far and so they’re on their toes heading into week three. The Steelers, who have already given up six sacks this season, should be wary of the Bengals pass rush, with Antwar Odom tallying five sacks last week against the Packers.

Denver (2-0) @ Oakland (1-1)

My pick: Denver

-Look for the Denver Broncos to continue their undefeated streak to start the season against Oakland, their first divisional test. Both these teams have had a tough time finding the end zone so far this season, but I’ll give the edge to Kyle Orton and the Broncos.

Miami (0-2) @ San Diego (1-1)

My pick: San Diego

-I was impressed with the Dolphins in their loss to the Colts last week, but Philip Rivers and the Chargers will take this one. They don’t have LT, but the Chargers will want to let the league know they can do it without him if they have to.

Indianapolis (2-0) @ Arizona (1-1)

My pick: Indianapolis

-Despite having barely any time on the ball last week, Peyton Manning was incredibly efficient in the Colts win over the Dolphins. The Colts put up 27 points in less than 15 minutes and Manning will likely have to continue that efficient play this week if they’re going to beat Kurt Warner and the Cardinals. This one will come down to how rested the Colts defense is.

Carolina (0-2) @ Dallas (1-1)

My pick: Dallas

-The Cowboys are averaging about 116 more net yards per game than the Carolina Panthers, who have struggled so far this season. Jake Delhomme risks losing his starting job for the Panthers if the downward spiral continues, so he’ll be playing desperate football. However, I think Dallas is too strong and they’ve got a sour taste in their mouth after a last-second loss to the Giants.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: King Zack

One of the more remarkable stories of this year’s MLB season has been the complete dominance of one member of the Kansas City Royals pitching staff.

Being a casual baseball fan, I had never heard of Zack Greinke until I picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated back in May while waiting to fly home from a trip to Vancouver (and by picked up, I mean I stood in the kiosk, read the article and put the magazine back).

Inside, Joe Posnanski described a 20-year-old pitching prodigy who, straight out of high school, was KC’s pitcher of the year in 2004 and by 2006 was straight out of baseball.

After a 5-17 season in 2005 that saw his ERA balloon to 5.80, things turned sour for the Florida native who would rather hit a home run than throw a fastball.

When a frustrated Greinke took a couple of months away from baseball in 2006, he was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and began taking medication. That signaled a change in his life, and since then he’s been a force to be reckoned with.

As Posnanski pointed out in his SI piece back in May, Zack Greinke “has been a phenom, and he has been a bust. He has walked away from baseball, and he has comeback. He has been a starter and a reliever, a genius and a flake, and even now he’s still only 25 years old.

When Greinke came back to baseball he did so with a vengeance, becoming one of the elite pitchers in the game. On April 29th of this year, for example, Greinke gave up his first earned run in 43 innings, a stretch dating back to the previous season.

Since that hot start, Greinke has won 15 games (fourth-best in the league), striking out the third-most batters (229). His most impressive stat, and the one that could earn him a Cy Young Award this season, is his microscopic 2.08 ERA.

Lets not forget that his club, the KC Royals, boasts the sixth-worst record, the third-worst fielding percentage and has committed the fourth-most errors in the entire league.

His is a story of triumph, failure and second chances – and one that I’ve enjoyed following this season.

And since we’re talking baseball statistics, I’ve got to give a hat tip to Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Mark Reynolds, who hit a milestone this week.

On Tuesday, Reynolds struck out for the 205th time this season, setting and breaking his own MLB record for strikeouts in a season.

Now, we’ve all struck out a few times in our day to days, but damn!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Tough Loss?

We’ve all been there – you’re on the road, decked out in your team colors following your favorite club.

Things started off okay, but now they’re down and out, it looks like a lost cause. And then, no, it couldn’t be – a glimmer of hope that turns into a full-fledged comeback!

As your team inches closer and closer to victory you forget all about that glum despair you were feeling in the pit of your stomach, and you now you can’t sit still. But then just like that, the game is over, the comeback fell short and you’re left wondering what happened.

Now for most of us, the above emotions happen within and for the most part, remain private. There are times though, thanks to cameramen at sporting events, when those emotions become all too public.

Fanhouse brings us the story of two Clemson Tigers fans that had their sports-related despair turned into a good laugh for three ESPN analysts.

The Tigers were down 24-0 to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Georgia back on September 10th before scoring 27 unanswered points, capped by a 53-yard field goal, to tie the game up and pull ahead.

This is the part where the dejected fans start going crazy.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the lead wouldn’t last and the Yellow Jackets pulled back in front in the final minute for the 30-27 win.

Now like I said – for most of us, the emotions we feel at this point are fairly private. For these two Clemson fans, they become the punch line for Craig James, Jesse Palmer and Chris Fowler, who have a great time at their expense.






Poor guys, but you’ve got to admit – that’s funny stuff! So remember, wait until you get home (or out of sight) to let your true emotions show!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Toy Story

If you’re upset about the fact that there are no really good pennant or wildcard races to follow in the MLB these days (with the exception of Detroit/Minnesota in the AL-Central and Colorado/San Francisco for the NL wildcard I guess), the Chicago Cubs had you covered for baseball storylines this weekend.

First, Cubs outfielder Milton Bradley was a late scratch from the Chicago lineup on Saturday, then he spoke to the Daily Herald of Illinois and now he’s suspended by the team for the rest of the season (and they’re looking to trade him).

Was Milton Bradley serious when he said he hadn’t really enjoyed his first season in Chicago, before remarking, “You understand why they haven’t won in 100 years,” or was he just toying around?

I’m going to say no, he wasn’t, and the Cubs took it pretty seriously!

According to the Daily Herald, Chicago GM Jim Hendry suspended Bradley for the remainder of the season for conduct “detrimental to the team.”

Geez, whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Since when are you not allowed to talk smack about the people that are paying you $10-million per season to a large-scale publication, in an article that’ll no doubt be picked up a ton of other media outlets? What has this world come to?

When Bradley was approached by the Daily Herald, he didn’t want to talk injuries, he said he doesn’t care where he bats (“In the lineup” is apparently his preference) and he said “Who knows?” when asked if he thought he’d be back with the Cubbies for next season. How do you feel about the city of Chicago? Now THERE’S a question!

"It's just not a positive environment. I need a stable, healthy, enjoyable environment. There's too many people everywhere in your face with a microphone asking the same questions repeatedly. Everything is just bashing you. You go out there and you play harder than anybody on the field and never get credit for it. It's just negativity.

Is it the fans, the media, the organization…? “It’s everything. It’s everybody.” Ouch!

Earlier this season he said he was uncomfortable at Wrigley Field because of the “adversity and hatred” he faces – adding "I just pray the game is nine innings so I can be out there the least amount of time as possible and go home."

ESPN says Bradley hasn’t yet been told if he’ll be paid during the suspension or what the specific reason for the suspension is. Of course, there’s always the chance he could fight the ban (though, that would mean playing in Chicago again!).

One thing is for sure; if Milton Bradley thought the fans at Wrigley Field were bad when he played for the Cubs, just wait until he’s in right field as a visitor with some other team!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: I'm Back!

I'm back! Well, I never really left, but I'm not the only one saying "I'm back" these days.

Last time I blogged (which, I know, was like 10 days ago...sorry?) I was talking about Theo Fleury and his chances of playing professional hockey in the world's best league this season.

The day after I posted that blog, the Calgary Flames invited Fleury to training camp (which I sorta guessed would happen) and since then he's made his preseason debut, scored a shootout winner and found mesh in regulation for his first NHL goal in god knows how long.

Fleury's first game in over six years saw him log about 10:30 of ice time before taking it upon himself to snipe the game-winning goal in the extra, extra frame (or the shootout as some people call it), faking a shot before deking the pants off of Kevin Poulin. And the crowd went WILD.


After the game, a confident-sounding Fleury told the Associated Press "I don't miss those chances ever. Not in the big moments. Never have, never will." Good for him.

On Sunday night, Fleury notched both his first preseason point and then his first preseason goal in a 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers. A nice feed from Curtis Glencross sent Fleury in on a mini-breakaway - he made no mistake, sliding a backhander home past a struggling Tomas Vokoun (who gave up four goals on 16 shots on Friday against the Oilers).



Fleury notched another assist, his third point, in Monday night's 5-4 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, but didn't get to try and go two-for-two in the shootout, which is a shame!

I know it's just preseason, but Fleury looks waaaaaay better than I was expecting him to look at this point. Could he prove us all wrong by coming back and actually contributing in a meaningful way this season?

When Dwayne Roloson was playing here, I remember hearing him point out that his body wasn't as beat up as other goalies his age, because he shared time as a starter for most of his career. Well, by that same token, Fleury's body probably isn't as worn down as another 41-year-old pro hockey player's might be - he hasn't put his body through the grind of an NHL season in about six years.

Maybe he DOES have something left in the tank.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Anarchy in the NBA?

Can the Hanson brothers hoop? Now would be a good time for the fictional Charlestown Chiefs enforcers to think about making the jump from the Federal League to the Association.

As if they don't have it hard enough, NBA referees are expecting to be locked out on October 1st when exhibition play gets underway after contract negotiations with the league broke down. Does that mean total anarchy in the NBA?

That would be fun, but no...it doesn't.

Lamell McMorris, the lead negotiator and spokesman for the referees, told ESPN that the league is already in contact with replacement referees to work the preseason, which is less than three weeks away, and maybe even the start of the regular season.

The dispute apparently has to do with the league wanting a reduction of 10 per cent to the referee budget, which costs $32-million. The refs union says they proposed a $2.5-million reduction, with a wage freeze for this season and reduced travel cuts - but it was still $700,000 from the NBA's "target."

League commissioner David Stern was accused by the referee's lead negotiator of being "rude" and not negotiating in good faith after he abruptly ended a negotiating session on Tuesday. Afterwards, ESPN quoted Stern as saying:

"It would be accurate to say that we had the meeting, that we didn't make any progress and that there are no future meetings scheduled," adding they "tried" to treat the refs like a valuable part of the game.

There's also talk that Stern's hard line approach with the refs is his way of "sending a message" to the players, who will be in labour talks with the league soon. Their current deal expires during the 2010-11 season, and Stern obviously denies that that's the case.

Makes you wonder though! Ever wonder what the NBA might be like without refs? Probably something like this:

Kerrzy's Notebook: Fleury's back (kind of)

Theoren Fleury is one step closer to suiting up in the NHL this season.

Because he was suspended indefinitely in 2003 for violating the NHL's substance abuse policy, Fleury had to be reinstated by the league before he could really act on his comeback attempt. He got his wish on Thursday night, when both the league and the players association gave Fleury the green light.

Now comes the hard part - the 41-year-old has been working out in Calgary, possibly a hint that they'll give him a sentimental invitation, like the Detroit Red Wings did for Darren McCarty in 2008.

Those two players actually have quite a bit in common when you look at it: both players were fan favourites with the teams they spent their best days with, but both also battled off-ice demons like substance abuse and had to deal with financial troubles on top of everything else.

The difference for McCarty is that he wasn't five years removed from his last NHL game. On the other side of it, Fleury (who is four years sober) had a pretty prolific career and could maybe still contribute in some way.

The 5-foot-6 forward had impressive numbers during his playing days - 455 goals and 1,088 points in 1084 career games with the Flames, Avs, Rangers and Blackhawks, even winning a gold medal with Canada at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Can Fleury come back and resume his playing career for a few more years? I'm going to say no.

Can he work his way back into the league for another season, or at least part of another season? Sure. Claude Lemieux proved this past season that it can be done, but don't expect it to last.

Lemieux has since retired again , satisfied with reaching his goal and McCarty is trying to find work in Russia after being let go by the Wings and not getting any bites from other NHL clubs.

These days it seems like only Brett Favre can make a comeback last a decade!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Lights Out!

Memo to teachers at Boise State: If Broncos defensive end Byron Hout is a little slow this week, be patient.

Hout might still be feeling the effects of some sweet chin music delivered by Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount, who didn’t take too kindly to some post-game taunting by the Boise sophomore.

After a 19-8 win for his school on Thursday, Hout got Blount’s attention and appeared to make a snarky comment or two to the hotheaded senior. Next thing he knew, he was being picked up off the turf after a perfectly executed right cross. Blount even hit his own teammate!

Then, there’s the issue of him trying to get at a bunch of “not so tough after all” college kids heckling him from the bleachers on his way to the dressing room.






I hope Blount enjoyed his little moment there though, because it cost him his final season of college ball!

Fanhouse reports Oregon is suspending him for the remainder of the 2009 season, though he remains on scholarship and still gets to practice.

Sure it was a dirty play - but who doesn’t enjoy watching a mouthy little hot shot get shut up?

According to ESPN, Blount called up Boise State coach Chris Petersen to say sorry and was also able to apologize directly to Hout. Unless he transfer's to division two or three though, his college career is over.

With all his newfound free time, maybe Blount can take up boxing!

Kerrzy's Notebook: WWCD?

Early on Monday morning, the NHLPA’s executive board, made up of 30 player representatives, fired executive director Paul Kelly.

Put on your sports journalist hat for a second and tell me, what’s the story here?

Whoa, the Players Association has ousted its second boss in about as many years! What an outrage, why did the players do that? What will the PA do now? Who is going to be their new boss?

If you guessed any of those, you’re not Craig Custance of The Sporting News.

When the story broke on Monday, Custance talked about what Kelly's downfall might have been (his perceived close relationship with the league), but that isn’t what caught my eye.

On Friday, he roasted the NHLPA for…not consulting Sidney Crosby before making the move?

Are you kidding me?

“The biggest name in the sport should have been a serious part of the biggest decision by its players’ union in years,” Custance writes. “Even if he isn’t Pittsburgh’s union representative.

Okay, two things:

The biggest name in the sport? Yes and no. Where’s the outrage that Alex Ovechkin (back to back Hart/Pearson/Richard trophies) wasn’t consulted? Is this Evgeni Malkin getting overshadowed again?

The second thing is – “the biggest decision by its players’ union in years,” you say? Even bigger than the last time they fired their boss, way back in…2007?

The best parts of this article are the quotes from Crosby himself, who doesn’t seem to be even a fraction as outraged as Custance about this situation.

“No, no. Honestly, if they found something they felt was reason for change, there must have been,” said Crosby. “Those guys are the ones in charges of making those decisions.”

The article goes on to say that Crosby wasn’t angry at the executive board at all, and in fact, “respected the job it has to do and the decisions it has to make.”

Sounds kind of like he would be against the idea of someone writing an article criticizing the PA’s elected representatives for not dropping everything and asking the question: What Would Crosby Do?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a personal attack on Craig Custance – he’s a great writer for a great publication. I just disagree, but respect, his opinion that a young superstar’s opinion should matter more than the rest of the guys in the union.

I'm pretty sure that's not how unions work.

Also, comparing Crosby to Wayne Gretzky is one thing, but saying Crosby has earned the union as much as Gretzky did “with his promotion of the game” is a little much.

Would there be 23 (23.5 if you count the Phoenix Coyotes) NHL teams in the US without the contributions Wayne Gretzky made to the game of hockey?

I’m all for pumping a guy’s tires, and Sidney Crosby is an amazing hockey player and ambassador for the game, but take it easy!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Back in the Saddle(dome)?

Alberta politicians delivered a bit of bad, or at least unfavorable, news for the Katz group and the Edmonton Oilers on Friday - well, the news was for the Calgary Flames but the ramifications also hit home on this end of the QE-2.

Like the Oilers, the Flames are in the planning stages for a new, state of the art arena - and like the Oilers, they're not exactly sure where all the money for the project will come from.

The one place it won't be coming from is the provincial government.

The Calgary Herald quotes Premier Ed Stelmach as saying "It's very clear: we're not putting money into arenas." The province says it will help out with transportation infrastructure, but that's it.

Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier furthered Stelmach's point, telling the Herald they would supply the land but "the city is certainly not in a financial position to be building an arena."

The government's announcement won't sting as much in Edmonton though - Oilers owner Daryl Katz is promising $100-million towards a new building and has already taken the next step towards a new arena (and entertainment complex) by securing some land downtown.

Oilers President Patrick LaForge wouldn't speculate on the need for tax dollars to help out, but local businessman Lyle Best, who chaired the New Arena Feasibility Committee last year, recently said he didn't think it could happen without public money.

For their part, the city recommended last year that a mix of public and private money be used to fund the development.

Maybe it’s just me – but doesn’t this sound like a situation that anyone with a brother or sister has seen play out a thousand times?

Both kids want a new toy but mommy and daddy can only afford one – so no one gets anything (and they’ll turn this car right around!!!!!).

The older brother (the Oilers) has a job (Daryl Katz), so he can probably just save up and buy the toy, while the younger brother (the Flames) is just waiting for his big bro to move out.

If Calgary gets a new arena, I think they should build it on top of the Saddledome in the shape of a cowboy. But that’s just me.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: How to Make the Cut

With training camps around the NHL set to open in the coming weeks, it's about to get stressful for players "on the bubble" of their respective clubs.

If you happen to be one of those guys, here's something you might want to try!

Meet Chicago Bears wideout Devin Aromashodu - a football player on the brink, duking it out with about six other players for a spot on the team's opening day roster, at a position that was a huge question mark for the team going into camp.

Aromashodu, who's name is as tough to type as it is to say, took a very different approach from his training camp counterparts when it comes to endearing himself to the Chicago coaching staff. NBC Chicago sums it up pretty well when they say "nothing says 'don't cut me' like a bouquet of roses."

That's right - the 25-year-old sent flowers to each one of his coaches, "to keep me in mind," as he was quoted as saying. Brilliant!

Imagine that, in a sport as macho as football, a guy tries to get the upper hand on his teammates by sending them flowers. Will it help his chances? Tough to say.

NBC Chicago doesn't seem too optimistic about the upcoming season, saying "when all is said and done, it really doesn't matter which Bears wideouts make the cut. They're all horrible."

Ouch!

You know, while we're on the topic of athletes and flowers - one thing I find quite funny about the Olympics is this: no one looks more awkward with a bouquet than a big rough hockey player!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Transfer Please!

Former (and future) Detroit Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler can't play for his new team just yet.

The 25-year-old made headlines when he signed a two-year, $10-million contract to play for Dynamo Moscow of the KHL this summer despite filing for arbitration with the Wings. It's a month later and he's in the headlines again - turns out he still hasn't been given an "international transfer card."

In fact, if he were to play for Dynamo without the card he could face sanctions from the IIHF says the Detroit Free Press.

Back in early August, Yahoo!'s Puck Daddy blog posted a Russian interview with Hudler where the question of his lack of a transfer card came up. He said "I am not worried about the transfer card. It is going to come." That was almost a month ago now!

What's the holdup? The National Post says the ITC requires a signature from the player, the incoming federation and the outgoing federation involved in the transaction. Hudler? Check. Russian federation? Check. USA Hockey? Umm...Yes, for some reason, USA Hockey has to sign off on the Czech forward's move to Russia. Seems a little strange, but okay!

An IIHF spokesperson says the federation has to check with the NHL to make sure everything is okay before it signs the card.

The New York Times hockey blog "Slap Shot" reports IIHF President René Fasel addressed the situation during a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday:

"We conducted an investigation and found that [Jiri] Hudler did not sign the NHL arbitration decision, his agent did, and we cannot decide whether he had that right. We will defend Hudler and the law. We will decide all the questions regarding Hudler at the Victoria Cup in Zurich, where a meeting between the IIHF, the KHL and the NHL is to take place. I hope that the two leagues finally agree on the transfer agreement."

Also, when asked what would happen if the KHL season began and Hudler was playing without a transfer card, Fasel said he thinks the situation will be resolved by that time.

As for the Detroit Red Wings, are they hoping some bizarre twist sends Jiri Hudler back to Motown for the upcoming season? The Windsor Star says no. Bob Duff spoke to Wings GM Kenny Holland, who he says is of the opinion that this whole thing about USA Hockey not signing the transfer card is "immaterial." Duff adds this fairly succinct Holland quote: "He won’t be back."

Looks like the powers that be are just trying to make Hudler sweat a little for jumping ship. Or, maybe it just looks that way.

Kerrzy's Notebook: European Parity?

If you're a soccer fan who is sick and tired of the free-spending, debt accumulating ways of Europe's top clubs, you'll be glad to know that you're not alone.

A UEFA panel says they'll ban clubs from the Champions League and the Europa League starting in the 2012-13 season if they don't change their ways and balance their books.

It's a nice thought: they want European football to get to a point where clubs are only spending "soccer-related" revenue, like ticket and merchandise sales and TV deals. The thing is though, they actually sound serious about this!

The organization's executive committee will meet on September 14th and 15th in Switzerland to finalize what they are calling the "financial fair play" policy. They will then have until next summer to hammer out the details. Reports say UEFA will be issuing warnings and fines and even expelling teams from competitions (though you'd have to assume they would only be doing that in extreme cases, for example, repeat offenders).

According to an Associated Press article from last week, UEFA President Michel Platini says "85-90 percent" of club owners want these new controls if they can help end the current era of excessive spending.

How bad could it be, you ask?

Manchester United is easily one of the most well-known and successful clubs in the world, but despite winning the EPL title and the Champions League last season, England's The Daily Telegraph reports the team is over $1.2-billion (all figures in Canadian dollars) in debt! Mind you, they still pull in the most money out of any EPL team on a yearly basis.

The Guardian reported in June that the 20 English Premiership clubs owe a combined $5.5-billion in bank overdrafts, loans and other borrowings - almost two-thirds of that total is related to Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool.

When the big clubs aren't accumulating debt at a rapid pace, they're borrowing huge sums of money to buy basically any player they fancy - case and point: Real Madrid, summer of '09.

Since Florentino Perez returned to his post as club president in June, the Spanish giants have shelled out over $400-million on eight players. To put that into context, NHL clubs have up to $62.58-million (again, in Canadian dollars) to spend this coming season on at least 24 players and three goalies (up to a maximum of 50 contracts).

When I heard about the money Real Madrid spent this summer on players, I was blown away, but not surprised. It's a much larger scale version of what was going on pre-salary cap in the NHL with teams basically trying to "buy" championships.

By all accounts, the NHL has become a stronger league post-lockout (though that has a lot to do with changes made to the game as well) - maybe these measures that UEFA is trying to implement will have a similar impact on soccer.

One thing I know from watching years and years of European soccer is that smaller clubs just can't consistently compete with the big (money) clubs who continue to dominate the scene.

UEFA shouldn't stop at threatening to ban the big-spending clubs from the Champions League though - why not make the Champions League what the name implies?

Instead of giving some countries have as many as four positions in qualifying, why not go back to a format where the champions of each country and the current European champion play each other? Sure, that would take a lot of high-profile teams out of the tournament, probably affecting the bottom line, but then we wouldn't have to watch four English teams play each other in the semi-finals.

That's another debate for another day though. What do you think about UEFA's attempts at stopping the insane spending of European soccer clubs? Let me know!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Setting Precedents

Rap group Dead Prez is known for, among other things, a song that goes: "it's bigger than hip-hop" - well, the case in front of bankruptcy court Judge Redfield T. Baum is much, much bigger than the Phoenix Coyotes.

The precedent that will be set if Balsillie becomes the new owner of the Coyotes and is able to move the team to Hamilton without the NHL's approval will be huge. It'll mean professional sports leagues no longer have the control they once had over who owns the teams and where they play.

It has become a very tangled web, but what it comes down to is this:

If Judge Baum decides on Wednesday to allow Balsillie's bid in the September 10th auction for the team and he ends up winning, it will be just the beginning of a long court battle - unless the NHL is given a reason to be okay with it.

The judge is in a tough spot though - Balsillie's bid is about $72.5-million more than what the NHL is bidding and it seems, on the surface at least, to be a better deal for the creditors. The obvious reason that Balsillie went through bankruptcy court is because one of the main focuses of a bankruptcy judge is satisfying the creditors, as far as I know.

But, at the same time, can you let someone circumvent the normal process - especially when the league seems to really not want the guy as an owner?

I think the judge is going to have to get creative with this one if he wants a lasting solution. Lets review some of the facts:

-Last week, the NHL came out and said that if a lease deal couldn't be reached with the city of Glendale by the end of the year, they would look to an outside buyer to relocate the team. So, it's not like the league is against relocating the team.

-If Jim Balsillie wins the team at auction, he'll have less than a month to move the entire business to Hamilton and I don't think he's started the $150-million worth of upgrades to make Copps Coliseum NHL-ready. It would be a bad move to try and make that happen in such a short time and he won't make any friends with the league when they're forced to redo parts of the schedule.

-The National Post also notes that J-Bal has left the door open for the team to remain in Phoenix for the upcoming season, should he become the owner, before a move to Hamilton.

So here's what I think they should do:

Based on the premise that his bid is the best for the creditors, the judge should ask Jim Balsillie for a one-year commitment that would keep the team in Phoenix while he gets Copps Coliseum up to standard. Since the league is only guaranteeing one year in Glendale, I see this as an acceptable request.

It also ensures that there'll be ample time to prepare Hamilton for an NHL team without cutting corners.

The two parties would then have to agree on a relocation fee, and perhaps even a "membership" fee of sorts.

We all know that if he gets this team, Balsillie will have done so by cheating the system a bit, so he should be prepared to pay big bucks. He should see this as an act of good faith to the league and the other owners ("Sorry I've been such an idiot, I just really want an NHL team!").

What it all comes down to is, the league wants control of who owns any of its teams and what they do with them. I don't know how they would calculate the cost of a "membership" fee, but I think that is reasonable, given the circumstances.

Maybe once the price of the team, the condition that they'll stay in Phoenix for another year, the price of relocation and the price of membership are on the table, the league would see how badly this guy wants the team. They could even take it to another vote with the owners (if the league is getting paid the big bucks, I'm sure they'll be happy, and the owners would probably vote accordingly).

The thing is, it's obvious that Balsillie's going to hang around until he winds up with a team (since he's a billionaire), so I think they should just let him into the club now to save us all the future headaches - but don't let him in without making him pay a huge amount of money to get in.

If you made it this far into the blog, let me know if you think this is a dumb idea, or if you think I'm onto something!