Why Bettman Is Commissioner

I responded to a post on G+ earlier today and figured I’d bring that rant over here for the general public.

The question was “Why on earth was Gary Bettman ever given a new contract?”  Numerous examples of the damage done to the game of hockey during Bettman’s tenure as NHL commissioner were given, including the fact that two long lockouts occurred with a third looking likely.

Over at Puck Daddy, Ryan Lambert touched on the same topic earlier today.  I know Wings fans are supposed to hate him but he’s right this time.

Here’s my version of the response…

He hasn’t been canned because what most fans fail to take into consideration is that Gary Bettman is not employed to make hockey better.  Gary Bettman is employed by the owners to act on their behalf.  For the most part, the owners want to make more money.  If they can do that by locking out the players, they will.

We may know that Bettman sucks but he gets the owners what they want (which should tell us that fans shouldn’t be siding with owners).  He doesn’t tell them what to do, they tell him what to do.  If there’s another lockout, it’s because enough of the owners think that will be good for business, and the ones who don’t aren’t willing to fight them on it.

Mike Ilitch has said he hates the salary cap but he has no problem pocketing the money he saves by it having been implemented.  Those savings weren’t passed on to fans by cutting ticket prices, after all.  And he’s one of the owners generally regarded as caring about the sport.

Bettman is a weasel but he’s a weasel who does a very good job.  The fact that so many people complain about him while praising their favorite team’s owner is a sign of that.

On Replacing Joe Louis Arena

Sports Business Journal reported today that the Detroit Red Wings are moving forward with their plans to build a replacement for Joe Louis Arena, having hired architects HKS and Chan Krieger NBBJ for the project.

It should be noted that the successor to the Joe is clearly not even a concept at this point.  No location has been determined (it was originally thought that owner Mike Ilitch planned to build an arena behind Fox Theater, but of late it seems there may be a preference for land near Temple St. and Woodward Ave.) and the only reported specs for the arena are that it would seat approximately 18,000, down from the 20,066 that the Joe seats.

I’ll say that I like the combination of HKS and NBBJ.  Both SBJ and the Detroit News point out that HKS was behind the design of Dallas’ American Airlines Center, home of the Stars and the NBA’s Mavericks.  The AAC has always reminded me of a modern Olympia, with it’s brick facade and arched windows.NBBJ is noted for their work on the Detroit riverfront project but I’m more interested in the fact that they did Columbus’ Nationwide Arena, which I’ve said before is what I hope the next arena in Detroit will be like.

There’s still a lot that needs to happen for a new Wings’ arena to come together but I’m very intrigued by this hire.

The (True) Summer of Ken

I had planned on writing a bit on where the Red Wings should go from here, following their first-round loss to the Nashville Predators, but over at TPL Petrella already has a nearly-perfect post up so I’m not going to waste time just repeating him.

There’s an entry in the A2Y Glossary for “The Summer of Ken.” A little bit of an ode to Detroit general manager Ken Holland. Put briefly, the summer is Holland’s time to shine. It’s when he can spend Mike Ilitch‘s pizza money to plug holes in the Wings’ roster. It’s when he can wheel and deal, turning spare parts into something useful.

This summer we’re going to find out just how good Holland is at his job.

Last year the Red Wings were a little underwhelming in the offseason. They replaced Brian Rafalski with Ian White at a good price and added Mike Commodore for some grit. They retained Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller and Jonathan Ericsson. We were told that they wanted to add more scoring but none was available for the price.

That was okay. The Wings had plenty of cap space, still, and would be able to make a move at the trade deadline. It was good to wait to see who would be available as a rental.

Detroit’s lone deadline acquisition: defenseman Kyle Quincey. Even knowing the outcome, knowing he didn’t play as well as anyone had hoped down the stretch, I’m not against this move. Quincey is not a rental (he’ll either be back or be moved, as an RFA he can’t bolt for free). The first-rounder traded for him will be after all the blue-chip prospects are off the board.

Quincey didn’t fix the Wings’ scoring issues, though.

By the time the trade deadline had passed, Detroit’s forward corps remained unchanged. Holland addressed the media and seemed unhappy that he hadn’t been able to make a move, so we know he tried, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot.

Now we enter an offseason where the Red Wings need to make changes. As Petrella notes, teams have the “Red Wings Way” figured out. Now Detroit needs to evolve. And I worry that Holland can do it.

Name a free agent signing that Holland has made since the salary cap was implemented that really made a splash. Ignore Marian Hossa, since everyone knew going in that it was a one-year deal and he’d be gone the next summer.

The aforementioned White? Hardly a splash no matter how well it worked out. Dominik Hasek? No one else was after him. Todd Bertuzzi?

True, Holland hasn’t been working with the same kind of cap space as he’ll have this summer, but his record does leave a bit to be desired.

Now lets look at trades. Per Petrella, the Wings have a lot of roster spots taken for next season already. One way to make room for new blood while adding the scorer the team needs could be to deal depth for talent.

Holland hasn’t made a significant trade since the 2008 deadline, when he acquired Brad Stuart from the Los Angeles Kings. That’s another piece of track record that could be concerning.

I’m not saying Holland should be fired. He’s done a fantastic job of keeping Detroit’s core together and supplementing it with parts off the scrap heap. Danny Cleary and Mikael Samuelsson and Todd Bertuzzi? Hasek and Chris Osgood? Classic Holland moves that paid off over time for the Wings.

Right now, though, the Red Wings aren’t looking to plug holes, they’re looking to reload. They need high-profile pieces to make an immediate impact.

It’s a situation that Holland hasn’t faced, at least not in the cap era. I think it will define his career. It will probably define the Red Wings as a team for years to come.

U of M Contacted About 2013 Winter Classic

Leading up to and immediately following the 2012 Winter Classic, there’s been a lot of buzz that the Red Wings are next in line to host the event.

Today, University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon confirmed that the league has been in contact with him about using Michigan Stadium as the 2013 Winter Classic venue.

There’s a lot of politics involved here, as Wings’ owner Mike Ilitch reportedly wants to host the event at Ilitch-controlled Comerica Park. The NHL, meanwhile, wants the attendance record that could be reached at Michigan Stadium. Add in the issue of liquor sales at the Big House and there are still a lot of things to sort out.

Personally, I’m torn. I was not a fan (though I know I’m in the minority) of the Big Chill at the Big House so I have concerns about another outdoor game there. A game at Comerica Park, though, would be harder to get tickets for and I for damned sure want to be at this one.

Nothing is set in stone anywhere and it’s important to remember that, but it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Ciccarelli, Devellano Elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

Former Red Wing Dino Ciccarelli and longtime Detroit executive Jimmy Devellano were among the 2010 Hockey Hall of Fame class of inductees announced Tuesday.

They join Cammi Granato and Angela James – pioneers in women’s hockey – as well as the late Daryl “Doc” Seaman, a founding owner of the Calgary Flames.

Eric Lindros, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour and Pavel Bure were overlooked in the vote.

Ciccarelli played 19 seasons in the NHL, including four with Detroit, and scored 608 career goals. He retired from the Florida Panthers in 1998-99 after playing 1232 career games.

Devellano was an architect of the New York Islanders dynasty in the early 1980s before being lured to Detroit when Mike Ilitch bought the team. The Red Wings have won four Stanley Cups and made six appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals under his leadership.

The induction ceremony will be held in November.

Updates on the Joe Louis Arena Rafters

Back in January I wrote a bit about the Red Wings’ banners at Joe Louis Arena.

For years, the Red Wings were displaying a banner for the 1933-34 League Championship, a championship that they did not actually win. As of November, that banner had been removed, correcting the error.

On Friday I noticed another change. A new banner joining the 12 League Championship banners.

The 1934 American Division Championship banner.

This is interesting to me because its addition goes against the Red Wings’ current banner-raising criteria.

Since Mike Ilitch bought the Red Wings, banners have been raised for every team accomplishment, from regular season division championships to Stanley Cup Championships.

During the reign of the Norris family, only regular season league championships and Stanley Cups were recognized.

We now have a division championship from the Norris era recognized in the rafters of the Joe.

Perhaps more interesting is that divisional champion banners were not added for 1935-36 and 1936-37, two years in which the Red Wings were also League Champions.

It appears that the Wings are now honoring the highest achievement in a given season from the Norris era while recognizing all accomplishments in a season from the Ilitch era.

It’s a small change for sure but one I was surprised to see.

Wings’ Move to the Palace Near?

Chris McCosky has a piece in the Detroit News today about the possibility of the Red Wings and Pistons sharing an arena soon.

There’s a lot of “sources say” and no direct quotes from anyone involved but there is one bit of information that applies to the immediate future of the Red Wings.

Mike and Marian Ilitch, owners of the Red Wings, have not renewed their lease at Joe Louis Arena beyond this season, and face more than $10 million in structural repair at the dilapidated arena this summer if the team is to play there next season.

Going back to the Joe, it seems, is a last resort. So the Ilitches have been looking for a temporary home while they sort out, if, when, where and how they might build a new arena in downtown Detroit.

The Wings and Palace Sports and Entertainment, overseers of The Palace, have been working on a lease agreement for over a year. The Ilitches toured The Palace in December 2008. The Palace submitted a five-year lease offer to the Ilitches, who made a counteroffer — presumably for fewer years.

The Palace is still sitting on that counteroffer.

In Michigan’s current economic climate, Mike Ilitch is not going to get the state funding he’s looking for to help him build the long-rumored Foxtown arena. As such, he doesn’t have a lot of immediate options. The Red Wings can stay at the Joe, with Ilitch springing for $10 million in renovations, or hey can move to another local stadium. The time is not right to build a new arena.

The Wings organization has publically admitted as much, with Jimmy Devellano going on the record in saying that the Wings need a new arena in five to ten years – not right now.

I don’t like the idea of the Red Wings having to share their arena. One of the reasons the ice at Joe Louis Arena is so good is because a basketball court doesn’t get laid over it every other night.

That said, lack of JLA lease talk and lack of new arena talk have me relatively convinced that the next home of the Red Wings – if not the next two homes – will be shared with the Pistons.

On the NHLPA

I haven’t said anything until now about the NHL Players’ Association firing executive director Paul Kelly because I flat out don’t understand it.

The players seem to have a history of betrayal by and betrayal of their executive directors.

Alan Eagleson stole from them. Bob Goodenow was fired after leading them through a lockout during which the players turned on him. Ted Saskin spied on them. Now the players have sent Kelly packing.

They just can’t get it together and I don’t get that. I understand some of the comments being made about the ordeal even less.

George Malik commented this morning that he sees the NHLPA as a potential fans’ advocate.

I supported the PA in The Great Hockey Stoppage of 2004-05 but I can’t agree with that.

The players are not on the fans’ side. We just happen to have a shared opponent in that the owners are trying to screw both the players and the fans.

If you don’t believe that, take a look at the Red Wings’ payroll pre- and post-lockout and then take a look at Detroit ticket prices in the same time frame.

When the Wings’ payroll went down the cost to see the team didn’t. Mike Ilitch wins on both sides and it’s the players and the fans that are screwed.

The Board of Governors did something incredible during the lockout and its effects are still felt today. The group of men who overcharge for fans to watch games, by memorabilia, etc. told the fans that the players were at fault and for some reason many fans believed them. That leads to comments like the one I read at the bottom of one of today’s articles on TSN.

I really dont care who is at the head of the PA. As long as the person wont put us through another lockout in two years and isnt so arrogant to make ridiculous demands to the NHL directors that could never be accomplished.

Let me clarify something for people who don’t remember how things happened. The Great Hockey Stoppage of 2004-05 was not a strike (not that this particular person called it that) and it was not the players’ doing. It was a lockout put into action by the owners and the owners alone.

The players would have been fine with the status quo. They weren’t making any demands. It was the owners crying poor and demanding a salary cap that lost us a year of hockey. That they eventually got it doesn’t mean it was any less their doing.

The Players’ Association has got to get its act together or the league will always be able to play the fans against it. Of course, if they keep firing the leaders who are actually trying to do right by them just to hire guys who try to cheat them, it won’t matter what the fans think, the players will be screwed all on their own.

Notes on “Masterminds of Hockeytown”

The Detroit News has a great piece in today’s paper called Masterminds of Hockeytown. The News got to sit down with Mike Ilitch, Jimmy Devellano, Ken Holland, Jim Nill and Scotty Bowman and talk about the past 25 years of the Red Wings and a little bit of the future.

The full transcript of the session is also available. A lot of the history has been told before but there are a few notes about the future that find important.

News: Do you have any assurances from the league, if there’s expansion, which they’re talking about again, about getting back to the Eastern Conference?

Ilitch: Well, (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman has told Jimmy and I on two or three occasions that we’re next.

Devellano: I’d just like to add one more thing about expansion. There’s little doubt that Vegas is coming in (as an expansion franchise) — it’s about four years from now. And I truly believe Gary Bettman will move us East at that time.

Ilitch: Oh, I’m not selling anything, that’s for sure.

The first confirms what’s been rumored for years. The Wings belong in the Eastern Conference and they’ll get there someday.

The second terrifies me. I still contend that NHL talent is diluted. Expansion will not help this league.

The third puts to rest a rumor that apparently started during a Tigers broadcast this summer.

Red Wings’ Streak Reaches Three with Win over Blues

The Detroit Red Wings extended their winning streak to three games on Saturday night, defeating former Detroit goalie Manny Legace and the St. Louis Blues, 3-2.

The Red Wings got to Legace early, scoring on each of their first two shots of the game.

Tomas Holmstrom beat Legace at 4:22 of the first period, rifiling a shot from the slot into the top half of the net.

Just 1:59 later, Valtteri Filppula‘s first career NHL goal put Detroit up by two as he skated around two St. Louis defenders and into the left faceoff circle before cutting back in front of Legace to lift a shot over him.

Bill Guerin pulled the Blues to within one with 6:25 remaining in the second, deflecting a Christian Backman shot from the point past Detroit netminder Chris Osgood.

The teams traded goals in the third, with Holmstrom picking up a rebound goal at 6:34 and Radek Dvorak scoring on a shorthanded breakaway off a turnover at 16:34.

Detroit continued their recent trend of improvement on the penalty-kill, holding St. Louis scoreless on five chances. The Blues were also perfect while shorthanded, stopping all five Detroit attempts.

Osgood finished the night with 28 saves on 30 shots while Legace stopped 22 of 25 shots.


The win allowed team owner Mike Ilitch to avoid a St. Louis sweep of his teams after Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers failed to win a game in three tries in the Gateway City this week… Both starting goalies played for their opponent at one time in their respective careers. Legace was with Detroit from 1999-2006 while Osgood was with St. Louis from 2003-2004.

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