Seats and Such

Yesterday, Ilitch Holdings announced that the red seats at Little Caesars Arena will be replaced by black ones in a project starting in December.

The bright red seats – and the lack of people in them – have been a point of discussion since the arena opened a year ago.

Neither the Red Wings nor the Pistons are particularly good right now and the arena was designed with “gathering places” that keep ticketholders out of the arena bowl.  This leaves large groups of empty bright red seats clearly visible to the TV audience.

Ilitch Holdings – who owns the arena – did not cite this perception as a reason for making the change, however.

“We evaluated every aspect of arena operations during the inaugural year and after numerous discussions with the Pistons and other stakeholders, we have made the decision to install black seats at Little Caesars Arena,” said Chris Granger, group president of Sports & Entertainment for Ilitch Holdings.

If there hadn’t been so much talk about how bad the empty red seats looked, it would be easy to take this statement at face value.  With the arena originally designed just for the Red Wings, after the first year this issue for the Pistons was found and so they’re fixing it.  We do have that context, though, so we can’t ignore it.

As a fan, it’s easy to say that one would rather see the organizations working to put people in those seats rather than masking the fact that they’re empty.  As I Tweeted this morning, Mike Ilitch famously gave away cars to get fans in the doors of Joe Louis Arena while he worked to rebuild the franchise.  That his son chooses to cover up the problem rather than actually fill the seats feels wrong.

That said, there are levels where it makes sense.

The cost of replacing the seats is reportedly $3.5 million.  If you applied that money to discounting tickets, over roughly 18500 seats and 80 home games between the Red Wings and Pistons, you’d get about a $2 discount per ticket per game.  It’s not enough to get those seats sold and it doesn’t account for future seasons.

Additionally, even if you find a way to make sure every ticket to every game is sold, the arena was designed with those aforementioned “gathering places.”  There’s nothing stopping people who bought tickets from hanging out somewhere other than their seat.  It’s too late to argue about whether or not the arena should have been built that way or why anyone would buy tickets to a game just to sit somewhere else to watch it but what can be changed is how it looks when that happens.

If Ilitch Holdings is trying to fix the optics of a bunch of empty seats, this isn’t a bad way to do it.  But as a fan, it still leaves me with a bad feeling.  It’s a reminder of just how much these teams are a passion for their fanbases but a business to their owners.

Red Wings Unveil “Mr. I” Patch

Just hours after I posted my proposal for a Mike Ilitch memorial patch, the Red Wings unveiled what the team will actually wear.

Surprising no one, it’s another “text-in-a-box” patch.

Since the 1998 season and the “Believe” patch, the Red Wings have unveiled six special event patches.  The 75th anniversary design was worn only for a few games.  The “Farewell to the Joe” patch was abandoned.  All of the rest (the BM/RS/SL patch, jersey retirement patches for Steve Yzerman and Nicklas Lidstrom, and memorial patches for Gordie Howe and Mike Ilitch) have been some form of text inside a box.

I think it’s lazy and not a fitting tribute.

Thoughts on a Mike Ilitch Jersey Patch

The Red Wings are expected to reveal an on-jersey tribute to owner Mike Ilitch, who died last Friday at age 87, tonight as they host the St. Louis Blues.

I’ve commented before on the Red Wings having a tendency to make their memorial patches “text in a box” and I expect we’ll see something along those lines tonight.  With that in mind, I’ve put together something I’d like to see the Wings do.

First off, if I were the team, I’d scrap the Gordie Howe patch (which I never liked anyway) and make a combined patch for Howe and Ilitch.  I’d put this new patch on the shoulder and restore the “Farewell to the Joe” patch to the opposite shoulder for symmetry.  Since the arena patch is probably gone for good, keeping the memorial patch on the chest is also feasible.

My idea for a Gordie Howe / Mike Ilitch memorial patch.

The patch would feature the signatures of the two men, one over the other, separated by a black band with the Winged Wheel over it.

I thought about using the blue from the “Believe” patch the Red Wings wore in honor of Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnatsakonov and the “BM – RS – SL” patch memorializing Brad McCrimmon, Ruslan Salei, and Stefan Liv, but ultimately went with black because I thought the signatures should be black and didn’t want to introduce an additional color.

I have no idea what the team will actually do and I doubt it will be this.  I suppose we’ll see in the coming hours.

Red Wings Owner Mike Ilitch Dies at 87

Sad news from Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business as Detroit Red Wings and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch is dead at the age of 87.

Ilitch’s dedication to his teams and his relentless pursuit of championships for the Red Wings and Tigers is legendary.

Our condolences to the Ilitch family.

On Funding the Wings’ New Arena

A few days ago there was an excellent fan post over at Winging it in Motown about the Red Wings’ new arena. It touches on a lot of the economics of the project and the sources of the arena’s funding but I wanted to further break down one of its points.

It is also important to note that the DDA is a chartered institution not affiliated with the city’s other institutions. The DDA is specifically in charge of procuring investments privately for the city as well as playing a major role in neighborhood revitalization, restoration, and construction. In short, this is an additional sum of money paid out by businesses (call it a tax if you want) but it is in a different category, meaning it will not be stealing money from the school system, trash collection, pension funds, police, or firefighters as many are arguing. Could the DDA have been disbanded to save money for other priorities? Sure. However, it can be argued that certain parts of Detroit would resemble slums more than they do at the present moment.

The Downtown Development Authority is the source of the “local” public funding for the redevelopment project. As noted, the DDA is not the City of Detroit itself, which is why Detroit’s bankruptcy doesn’t matter for this project to move forward.

The DDA is the equivalent of a homeowners’ association. Downtown property owners pay their dues to the DDA and the DDA funds projects that make downtown better.

You can think of this whole thing as a homeowners’ association building a new playground when a nearby school needs money. The school district wasn’t going to get the money that went towards the playground anyway, so it’s not a matter of taking from one to give to the other.

That’s a bit of a simplification because no one homeowner would be expected to profit more than others in the case of building a neighborhood playground, while Mike Ilitch‘s empire clearly will profit more than, say, General Motors in the case of building the new arena. It covers the funding side of it, though, which is all I’m touching for now.

Monday Recap: Mrazek, Tatar, Smith and a New Arena

I don’t like to do “quick hits” style posts but I wasn’t able to comment on some of today’s news so I’m going to bundle it all up into one post here.

Roster Moves
As mentioned yesterday, the Red Wings called up goalie Petr Mrazek and forward Tomas Tatar while sending down goalie Tom McCollum. In their first practice with the big club today, Tatar skated on the second line with Pavel Datsuk and Valtteri Filppula while Mrazek split time with Joey MacDonald.

Tatar may not actually play in that spot but it gets Todd Bertuzzi back down to the third line so I like the move. Keep in mind, though, that Gustav Nyquist started on the second line in his lone appearance of the season and was back down to the third before the game was out.

Mrazek won’t start tomorrow against the Flames and I don’t see him getting the nod against the Blues on Thursday. With back-to-back games this weekend, I see him making his debut on Saturday against Edmonton or Sunday against Los Angeles.

Injury Update
Because it had been too long since the Wings had an injury to announce, it was revealed today that the original 10-14 day estimate for Brendan Smith‘s shoulder injury may have been optimistic. He’s now expected to miss three to four weeks with a shoulder sprain. The Wings have not made a move to replace Smith in the lineup as Ian White is expected to return from his own injury in time for Tuesday’s game.

Additionally, Darren Helm‘s back pain hasn’t gone away, so he’ll be undergoing a bone scan to look for spinal damage.

Arena News
Late Sunday, Bill Shea of Crain’s Detroit Business broke the story that construction on the replacement to Joe Louis Arena could begin this fall. Today he adds that we should expect a corporate name to the new arena.

While it’s disappointing, that move is inevitable. There’s too much money on the table not to sell the naming rights. For that same reason, you won’t see the new arena called the Little Caesar’s Coliseum or anything like that, as it does no good for Mike Ilitch to buy the naming rights from himself.

Ilitch Holdings Moving Forward With Arena Plan?

Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch announced his support via press release for a “multi-purpose events center” as part of a larger development in downtown Detroit today.

“It’s always been my dream to once again see a vibrant downtown Detroit. From the time we bought the Fox Theatre, I could envision a downtown where the streets were bustling and people were energized.It’s been a slow process at times, but we’re getting there now and a lot of great people are coming together to make it happen. It’s going to happen and I want to keep us moving toward that vision.”

Officials from Ilitch’s Olympia Development were in Lansing to outline their plan for “a $650 milllion-dollar mixed use development in downtown, anchored by a ‘new, state of the art, multi-purpose events center.'”

While the tenant of that events center was not stated, it is widely believed to be a possible new home for the Red Wings. Ilitch has been working for years to build a replacement for the aging Joe Louis Arena.

On Power in the Board of Governors

Last weekend I wrote a bit on my disappointment with Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch‘s vote in favor of the current NHL lockout.  As he’s publicly said he doesn’t like the salary cap, I questioned what reason he could have for supporting the last two money grabs to the detriment of his own team.

The easy answer is that he does it to appease the other owners. He supports their initiatives and they’ll support his.

I questioned how much that has actually been the case, because the Red Wings organization doesn’t seem to have gotten anything they’ve asked for in recent years. That begs the question, what kind of power does Mike Ilitch wield among the Board of Governors?

Today, The Score’s Ellen Etchingham has a fantastic piece on the balance of power in the Board of Governors. She posits that Boston’s Jeremy Jacobs and Philadelphia’s Ed Snider are calling the shots in the BoG because they’ve been around the longest.

The stubbornness to simply stick around is one of the most underrated aspects of power formation, especially in small, closed good old boys’ networks such as NHL ownership. Power relations within such communities – within any tightly-knit, access-regulated club – depend heavily on networks of personal obligation. Favors. Loyalties. Quid pro quos. We often think of these things as a sort of corruption, but they’re no more than trades that have become unstuck in time. I do this for you now, you do that for me someday. Spend enough time with other humans and we all play this game sooner or later. It’s how business – all business, every business – gets done.

Okay, Jacobs has owned the Bruins since 1975 and Snider has controlled the Flyers since they joined the league in 1967, so they explains why they’re big-shots for the league as a whole. They’re the two longest-tenured owners, they may as well have been around forever, accruing IOUs from the rest of the league.

Here’s the thing, though. By my count the third-longest-tenured owner is none other than Mike Ilitch, having bought the Red Wings in 1982. Shouldn’t that mean that he has some power among the Board?

From Etchingham…

Mike Ilitch (DET) and James Dolan (NYR) have been around long enough to accrue geologic power, but I couldn’t say what they use it for.

That’s where my issue lies. I can understand Ilitch not wanting to oppose the two Board members with a longer term than him. I can understand him playing nice to earn favors with the rest of the league.

I can’t understand why he wouldn’t then flip the tables, call in those favors, and get the league to support one of his own pet projects.

On Mike Ilitch and Coming Lockout

“I hate the (salary) cap.” – Mike Ilitch; November 8, 2010.

September 13, 2012: NHL Board of Governors unanimously votes to lock out players.

“We have the best owner in sports. Nobody loves our owner more than this club.” – Danny Cleary; September 15, 2012.

On the eve of the NHL’s third lockout in seventeen seasons, I’m having a hard time reconciling that second point with the other two.

I get that there’s a huge amount of politics that the NHL owners play.  Sometimes you support something you don’t agree with to get others to back your own pet project.  That’s just how it works.

I just look back over the last several seasons and don’t see what could have been traded to the Wings in order to get Ilitch’s support for either the last lockout or this one.

Was there so much opposition to the plan to base draft position on playoff results that it took all of the Wings’ lockout-earned political capital to get it passed?  I find that hard to belive.

Is it that Ilitch isn’t really in control of the team and that someone else is pledging Detroit’s support for the lockout?  Possible, but then I don’t know how he could be the best owner in sports if he’s not ultimately calling the shots.

I don’t know what Ilitch’s actual thoughts on the matter are or what goes into the decisions the team’s management makes.  This could all make more sense in a given context, for all I know.

I’m just disappointed that the supposed best owner in sports, who hates the salary cap, appears to be in favor of yet another lockout.

What makes Hockeytown Hockeytown?: Evil scheming conniving greatness.

Once again the masterminds that are behind one of the greatest sports dynasties of all times is at it again; and no one saw it coming.

Fans, even Red Wing fans, were angry, disheartened and frustrated this summer as they watched their team lose their captain (who just happens to be the best defenseman to ever play the game) to retirement and then have a General Manager do nothing with the teams large cap space.

By nothing I mean nothing. Detroit’s General Manger failed to bring Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to Hockeytown. The two biggest free agency is what is probably the history of the NHL. They were only missing an hour long tv special on ESPN 2 to become the most over hyped signings in sports history. Kenny instead brought in a back up goaltender with a bad heart.

No I don’t mean he doesn’t have love or passion for the game – he literally has a bad heart (medical test have proven he is fine – so says The Monster).

So, Ken Holland brought in a Monster to back up Jimmy Howard – then he brought back Mikael Samuelsson and followed that up 60 seconds later with the signing of Jordin Tootoo.

The announcement of one Jordin Tootoo becoming a Red Wing set off a mass hysteria with Detroit fans on Twitter that can only be compared to the Vancouver riot for utter over reacting. Alright, Ken Holland did something; but according to Wings fans the dawning for the Dead Wing 2.0 Era was upon us all.

Forget the fact that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch had helped land not only the 2013 Winter Classic to be hosted by Detroit – well, Ann Arbor – in what is to be the largest hockey audience of all time. What Mr. Ilitch could not do was twist the arm of the NHL to get the game in Detroit at Comerica Park where his baseball team plays.

fail there Mr. Ilitch.

Guess you will have to settle for having that Alumni game there. Oh and the AHL game between the Wings’ and Leafs’ affiliate teams, and the Great Lakes Invitational, oh and those OHL teams that are going to play.

Still though, the Hockeytown Hockey Festival is NOT the Winter Classic.

In listing all the major fails of the Detroit Red Wings organization this summer is where we fail to see the devious, conniving, scheming plan that was well played on all of us mere mortals.

Let’s go back to GM Holland:

In the massive failure in bringing the two highest contracts in the NHL it has left the Red Wings being one of 14 teams sitting below what is being speculated at the new cap under the pending CBA agreement. Sixteen teams are going to have a massive trading frenzy to get under the $58 million cap if the latest proposal from the NHL is accepted by the NHLPA; and lets face it, it really is not a horrible team. Pavel Datsyuk is still Pavel Datsyuk, even if he wasn’t rated as a top fantasy hockey pick – but look at who they picked for one of the top wingers … James Neal.

Alright Kenny Holland. We may have freaked out about your lack of inactivity; but you have proven once again why you are the greatest GM in hockey.

Now Mr. Ilitch. You Sir are one amazing man.

You bought half the city of Detroit; two sports teams, and much more that those out of the Detroit area have no idea – and all because of pizza.

PIZZA! PIZZA!

You “gave up” the Winter Classic to Ann Arbor for a door price that you tried to re-brand as some special. Something that did not have to be re-branded as special because it is special.It is the special loop hole that has been greatly overlooked.  On the day that the NHL U.S. national television appearances were released; when fans and media alike are doubting if the season will take place; or if the Winter Classic will even happen – you had a plan to save Hockeytown from going without hockey.

Not only is the Hockeytown Hockey Festival going to be a savior for hockey fans during a probable/possible lockout it could in fact be the Phoenix (not the Coyotes they are a lost cause) of the winter.Rising from the ashes of what could be another lost NHL season the Hockeytown Hockey Festival in Downtown Detroit left the biggest loop hole in history that no one could see. Almost like the Chicago Blackhawks sending Cristobal Huet to the Swiss league to get out of the contract.

With an NHL lockout the players are not allowed to work for the NHL; however, they are allowed to sign contracts and play for other leagues. Including the American Hockey League. Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings have their AHL affiliate teams within a greatly reasonable distance (Toronto and Grand Rapids respectively).

What is stopping the NHL players from signing with their AHL affiliates? You know those same teams that are playing an outdoor game at Comerica Park already?

The NHL cannot stop these players from playing with those teams, and they cannot stop the AHL outdoor game becoming what could have/should have been the NHL Winter Classic.

Just the NHL Winter Classic would not take place; and NBC would have to scramble to get a contract with the AHL to start setting up for the AHL Winter Classic, but HBO’s 24/7 could be produced, the same players could still don the blue and white and the red and white and fight it out in Original Six glory – just with different names.And now it would ALL be at Comerica Park.

Mike Ilitch.

Ken Holland.

You two are frickin’ geniuses’.