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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Wait Is Over






Football season arrives today. What has been another interesting off-season in Riderville comes to an end this afternoon as head coach Ken Miller puts around 40 or so players through the paces for the next couple of days at rookie camp with main camp starting Sunday morning with the first of those oh-so-fun two a day workouts.


The Rider Nation welcomed the release of quarterback Michael Bishop just hours after his dismal performance in the Western semi-final loss to BC. They were in shock over the legal matters involving GM Eric Tillman. They were angered over the losses of Maurice Lloyd and Anton McKenzie via free agency and Kitwana Jones via trade. They bid farewell to Richie Hall and Matt Dominguez, but they welcomed home Jason Clermont. Other Saskatchewan born players like Jordan Rempel and Joe McGrath also came home. Through all this, optimism remains high. Perhaps higher than it was at this time last year. Buckle up those seatbelts Rider fans, I think we are in for what should be an interesting ride---one that hopefully doesn't end until Grey Cup Sunday at MacMahon Stadium.


I won't be at day one of rookie camp, but I will be helping out by writing some articles for Riderville.com including one on what rookies to watch that may or may not be up on the site already, so make sure you stop by there to get the latest information---and to see the transformation from yours truly to writer from broadcaster. Its not easy!! Then again, I am doing something for people that actually have some respect for what I do which is something I haven't had for the past few years.
Memo to Whip and Sheri: There will be no Timmies or Slurpees being brought your way until main camp starts!!!! I will bring one on Sunday. Sheri, I do forget how you like your Tim's. Hey, its been a long off-season!!!!
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The Red Wings are still in control of the Stanley Cup final, but the Penguins are trying to make a series of it. The way Detroit played in the first two periods, I thought they would take it to Pittsburgh in the 3rd last night with the game tied at two, but it was the Penguins who took it to Detroit winning the game 4-2. With the season on the line, Pittsburgh came out in the final 20 minutes and dominated the Wings. They simply wanted it more and it showed. Detroit didn't get the breaks they got in the first two games as they hit a crossbar and a goalpost. In fact, if Mikael Samuelsson scores on his breakaway and doesn't rattle it off the iron, Detroit likely wins. Add the fact that Fleury played better, Malkin was on his game and some of Pittsburgh's 2nd tier of forwards got their act together and it spells Pittsburgh win. I still think the Wings take Game 4 and end this thing Saturday night on home ice.

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Did you watch the second intermission of last nite's game. In particular, the interview between Ron McLean and Gary Bettman. I don't think its any secret that McLean is not a big fan of the commissioner, but he handles himself with such professionalism and class when talking to Bettman yet he is always looking for the opportunity to skewer him and nail him with a clean check when his head is down. As for Bettman, he once again comes off a smug, arrogant, condescending you know what. I keep thinking McLean is just muttering under his breath and that perhaps Don Cherry has to be restrained from running in and delivering a diatribe of his own. If you missed it, here it is. You decide for yourself if you have the same opinion of Bettman as I do in this tete-a-tete with Ron....
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What more does Roy Halladay have to do before he is considered the best pitcher in major league baseball??? I'm guessing not many in Canada saw the masterpiece he created at Rogers Centre last night. "Doc" struck out a career high 14 batters in a 6-4 win over the Angels. The win is his major league leading 9th. I don't care how they do it, Toronto must keep this guy in the organization for the next few years. He just shows no sign of slowing down and this Toronto team shows no sign at this moment of just laying down and letting the Yankees and Red Sox run away with the AL East. Halladay needs help though. A number 2 and maybe a number 3 pitcher to complement him would be great for Toronto baseball fans clamouring for another playoff appearance.
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If you've ever wondered what happened to former CFL commissioner Tom Wright, wonder no more. Wright is involved with Jim Balsillie's attempt to bring the Coyotes to Hamilton. Wright authored the relocation document. Balsillie bringing Wright onto his team because he can provide Balsillie with insight into how professional sports leagues operate.
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You know come playoff time, everyone wonders if the Cup will stay in Canada. Some jump on the bandwagon of the last Canadian team standing hoping they will get presented with the trophy. The major networks go a little overboard at times in dissecting the Canadian teams and the NHL playoffs in general. However, no one and I mean no one is talking about the fact the Manitoba Moose could win the Calder Cup---the championship trophy given out in the American Hockey League. TSN and Sportsnet have stories on their website, but there is no wall-to-wall coverage of a Canadian team that is perhaps getting ready to win a pro hockey championship. I'm guessing when I watch Sportscenter tonite that I won't see a preview of Game 3 of the series between the Moose and the Hershey Bears. The same with Sportsnet Connected. C'mon guys, isn't this what you want..... a Canadian hockey team winning a championship----show some love. By the way, the series is even at one after the Moose took Game 2.
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Marc Habscheid will get back into the WHL coaching wars on Wednesday when he becomes the head coach of the Chilliwack Bruins. My good friend Randy Merkley must be happy with that news seeing he is the play-by-play guy for the B's.
Still with the WHL, former L-P Sports Editor Gregg Drinnan has a great piece on community owned teams on his blog. That blog address by the way is http://www.gdrinnan.blogspot.com/
Take a read....
There are four so-called community-owned franchises remaining in the WHL.
At the dawn of this century, there were five, but the Kamloops Blazers were sold to private interests prior to the 2007-08 season.The Lethbridge Hurricanes, Moose Jaw Warriors, Prince Albert Raiders and Swift Current Broncos are community-owned operations. In truth, the franchises are owned by a group of people within the community and run by boards of directors.You can bet that no one in a position of authority with the WHL will say anything publicly, but the league and its 18 privately owned teams would be quite happy if there weren’t any community-owned franchises.Why?
Well, there are a number of reasons.You can start with the fact that the four community-owned teams are run by boards numbering anywhere from nine to 14 or 15 members. The 2008-09 WHL Guide shows Moose Jaw’s board numbering nine, Swift Current with 11 and Prince Albert with 12. (The Raiders are to be commended for having two women on their board.) There is no listing of Lethbridge board members in the Guide, nor does Lethbridge’s website seem to include a list. (However, that same website lists Roy Stasiuk as general manager and Michael Dyck as head coach, almost a month after both were terminated.)Rightfully or not, the perception is that when the stuff hits the fan with a community-owned team, things almost always end up being a whole lot messier than when it happens with a privately owned team.
For instance, the Everett Silvertips fire their head coach and it’s over and done with in a day or two. There is no drawn-out media-driven circus fuelled by a board with more leaks than a bad goaltender. Even in Regina, where the WHL franchsie has been known to become involved in a circus or two, the Pats changed head coaches in the matter of a few days.
In Lethbridge, meanwhile, the head coach was dumped and the only question was whether it was three rings or four. The announcement was made by the general manager who, as it turned out, the board had decided to fire after he had dumped the coach. The Hurricanes’ board now is searching for a GM who, it’s supposed, will hire a head coach.
In Moose Jaw, most people seem to be in agreement that Chad Lang, whose services as GM were terminated Friday, did a pretty good job, especially in the finance department. The board, however, decided to run him out the door and split his job in two; it will hire someone to run the hockey end of things and someone to run the business side.Enter Jeff Truitt as director of hockey operations.The board has yet to hire someone to run the business operation.And what of head coach Dave Hunchak? Well, his future will be decided somewhere down the road. Only with a community-owned team would loose ends like the immediate future of the head coach be left untied in this situation, or so the theory goes.Nothing, it seems, is ever simple with community-owned teams.
In Prince Albert, where the Raiders have seen their share of turmoil, GM/head coach Bruno Campese is in the middle of a restructuring.And even in Swift Current, where the Broncos have improved their regular-season point total in each of Dean Chynoweth’s seasons as GM/head coach, there are questions. Why did the board choose only to exercise the 2009-10 option on Chynoweth’s contract and not give him an extension? How many conversations have board members had with Marc Habscheid?As one Internet poster put it Monday: “There has (sic) been Habby to Swift Current rumors circulated in Swift every week for the past couple of years.”The main reason there are a lot of people within the WHL who would like to see an end to community-owned operations comes down to decision-making and dollars.
The perception, real or imagined, is that the buck really doesn’t stop on anyone’s desk in a community-owned organization. At the same time, there is one person with each privately owned team whose money is on the line.And when it comes time to make a decision, there always is one person with a privately owned team who calls the shots. Again, the perception with community-owned teams is that that isn’t the case.
Just for the heck of it, I compiled a list of people who have served as general manager/director of hockey operations, head coach and/or assistant coach with community-owned teams since 2000. This is hardly an all-inclusive list, just one I was able to compile from information easily available to me.---KAMLOOPS (went private during summer of 2007):General manager/director of hockey operations: Mike Moore, Dean Clark (interim), Dean Clark.Head coach: Dean Evason, Troy Mick, Dean Clark, Mark Ferner, Dean Clark.Director of player personnel/head scout: Randy Hansch, Gord Loiselle.Assistant coaches: Matt Recchi, Darcy Wakaluk (goaltenders), Craig Bonner, Mark Ferner, Bernie Pimm, Kirk McLean (goaltenders), Brian Henderson (goaltenders), Ryan Thorpe, Shane Zulyniak, Andrew Milne, Larry Robinson (goaltenders), Steve Gainey.
MOOSE JAW:General manager/director of hockey operations: Ralph Schmidt, Curtis Hunt, Lorne Molleken, Rick Dorman, Parry Shockey, Chad Lang, Jeff Truitt.Head coach: Len Nielsen, Curtis Hunt, Parry Shockey, Steve Young, Rene Lemire (interim), Dave Hunchak.Director of player personnel/head scout: Marv Merkel, Wade Klippenstein/Doug Molleken (co-head scouts), Wade Klippenstein, Rob MacLachlan.Assistant coaches: Lane Lambert, Tim Cheveldae (goaltenders), Steve Young, Rene Lemire, Darren Evien, Kevin Higo.
LETHBRIDGE:General manager/director of hockey operations: Bryan Maxwell, Darren Stocker, Brd McEwan (interim), Roy Stasiuk, Herman Elfring (interim).Head coach: Bryan Maxwell, Mikko Makela (interim), Mikko Makela, Luc Theoret (interim), Lindsay Hofford, Luc Theoret (interim), Michael Dyck.Director of player personnel/head scout: Randy Maxwell, Brad McEwan, Brad Robson.Assistant coaches: Michael Dyck, Mikko Makela, Luc Theoret, Jeff Battah (goaltenders), Jason Ruff, Matt Kabayama.
PRINCE ALBERT:General manager/director of hockey operations: Rick Valette, Donn Clark, Bruno Campese.Head coaches: Kevin McClelland, Donn Clark, Wade Klippenstein, Neil Brady (interim), Peter Anholt, Bruno Campese.Director of player personnel/head scout: Keith Wilson, Dave O'Brien.Assistant coaches: Wade Klippenstein, Bryan Glynn, Drew Schoneck, Neil Brady, Dave Manson, Mark Odnokon, Artie Feher (goaltenders), Justin Cruse, Kris Knoblauch, Craig Bedard, Evan Lindsay (goaltenders), Steve Young.
SWIFT CURRENT:General manager/director of hockey operations: Todd McLellan, Brad McEwan, Dean Chynoweth.Head coach: Todd McLellan, Brad McEwan, Randy Smith, Dean Chynoweth.Director of player personnel/head scout: Jim Henderson, Jamie Porter.Assistant coaches: Brad McEwan, Andrew Milne, Randy Smith, Bryan Glynn, Dave Hunchak, Dave McLennan (goaltenders), Kevin Swanson (goaltenders), Tim Kehler.
Granted, there are privately owned teams that go through quite a few people, too, but the most successful operations – the Brandon Wheat Kings, Calgary Hitmen, Kelowna Rockets, Kootenay Ice, Spokane Chiefs, Tri-City Americans, Vancouver Giants – feast off stability.It is that kind of stability that community-owned teams seem to find so evasive.Lethbridge and Moose Jaw have made recent trips to the WHL championship final, the Hurricanes in 2008 and the Warriors in 2006.The men who got them there have all gone away.
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Speaking of going away, its time for me to do that. Talk to ya later!!


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris Chelios was ahead of his time with his assessment of Bettman. I watched that interview, and like Chelios stated you can not argue with the man. He's a Lawyer, he has an answer for every contingency. Basically you just go through court proceedings.

Having stated that I am against the relocation of Phoenix. That team just needs proper ownership, and a strong management team. They did this all to themselves with their mismanagement. Chicago, Boston, Anahiem, the list goes on of teams that were not drawing, and now fill their buildings by putting something on the ice people want to watch.

Bettman was bang on with his assessment of not allowing teams to just run out on cities when attendance dips. It was 10 years ago that Edmonton was a prime candidate to move to Houston. Vancouver wasn't drawing and neither was Calgary in the mid 90's. The other myth out there is Gretzky is not going to lose a nickel. Since he came on he has not been what would be considered a true Entrepreneur. When the money isn't coming in those people don't pay themselves. Gretzky takes his $3M right off the top for his salary, and then he has other incentives built in. He had done zero to promote that team or engage that fanbase. So what they require is new ownership, and hire someone out of the Detroit front office to rebuild it.

Obama

Anonymous said...

I can't believe Sportsnet didn't show the best pitcher in MLB coast to coast. Yankees vs. Texas? Come on!! I'm really starting to dislike Sportsnet

And bring on rookie and training camp. Looking forward to any insight and info!

Little Johnny

Anonymous said...

Little Johnny,

This will be the bain of Halladay's existence in Toronto. When a guy goes 9 innings in this era it means he has zero confidence in his pen. Roy Halladay must move to a big market team, that will provide him with run support and a reliable pen. I see this guy as the modern day Bert Byleven. Like Byeleven he is an innings horse, and he has nasty stuff. He'll role up wins, but fall short of the magic number due to lack of run support and no pen. What will happen will be similar to Byleven in that he knows he's great, we know he's great, but the greater collective group will not due to nobody seeing him work. Nobody watches Toronto....nobody.

Obama

Mitchell Blair said...

To Obama and Little Johnny:

The Jays game was once again on Sportsnet Pacific and Ontario last nite. Why SN is doing this with selective games this year simply baffles me.

As for Halladay and his complete games, I would say it wouldn't matter where he played, he would have CG's on his resume because he is that damn good. Playing in Toronto is like playing in a Cleveland or a Seattle or a Pittsburgh when it comes to the attention he gets on a national basis, but playing in a division with the Red Sox and Yankees help. Roy is one of those special pitchers that can give the pen the night off and there aren't many of those guys out there.
I watch Toronto---but that's because I have all 4 SN channels. :)

Anonymous said...

I still say if SN wants to show different ball games, have SN 1,2,3,4 instead of regions. That way people like myself who only have cable can get Sportsnet 1 and get to watch the Jays, like everyone else, and then I'm not stuck watching the Friggen Yankee's.

The thing with Halladay is he usually doesn't get that many strikeouts (last night being an exception). He gets hitters to hit slow grounders and pop outs, usually keeping his pitch count relatively low.

Obama: I think everyone who follows baseball knows how good Halladay is. And I think Cito keeps him in and gives hima benefit of a doubt because he is the best pitcher in baseball right now.

Little Johnny

Anonymous said...

Mitch,

Correct, but for National exposure he will not get it there. Aside from money that is why players like A-Rod, Randy Johnson, and Griffey had to leave Seattle. Before the controversy surrounding A-Rod, Reggie Jackson told him his responsibility to the game. A player like A-Rod, must be in NYY/NYM, BOS, LA. You don't play a career in Texas where again nobody sees you, and by June you're out of pennant hunts.

Gary Carter is a prime example of this. He's in the top 3 for all time great Catchers, but a HOF on the 6th year of the ballot. Nobody saw him in Montreal, he was great for that period in NY, then he creeped out the string stumbling around in San Franscisco.

Byleven was in Minnesota when they were nothing, Texas, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and California. He came back at the end to Minnesota and was part of their '87 Series win. He was also on the '79 Pirates series winner. Again who saw this? In an era of no satellite or satellite coming towards the end of his career in the early 90's who saw this guy? 292 Wins and over 3000 strike outs is not HOF? We only hear he didn't win 20 games or a Cy Young award.....how was he supposed to do this?

Halladay would be doing baseball and himself a big favour by leaving.

Obama

Anonymous said...

Why does Bettman have to act like such a jerk when he is being questioned on topics that Canadian hockey fans want the answers to. He was a complete knob in that interview, especially on McLeans last question when his response is "I'll tell the owners before I tell you." He could have handled that much more diplomatically. He really needs someone to teach him public relations. I can only hope our next commissioner is Canadian born.

I still think the Cup is going seven games, but I still think Detroit wins.

I totally agree with you on the Manitoba Moose thing. TSN and Sportsnet send their army of reporters to Pittsburgh and Detroit. Could they not send one each to follow this series? Then again if the Toronto Marlies were in the final they likely would.

I think in this day and age where you can watch just about every ballgame, those in the know realize how good Halladay is even though he is in Toronto. Its like Lincecum in San Fran and that kid in KC. Organizations need to keep guys like this for their own good.

The bigger question is why am I talking about baseball and hockey when football starts today. HA HA

Tim

Corey said...

Way to go Mitch! Like its been stated before, you've got a great blog, that many of us can't get enough of. Riderville.com has done well at realizing that you are a great reporter and part of a great group of journalists that cover the heartbeat of this great province of ours! Keep up the great work/blogs! GO RIDERS! I tell everyone I talk sports with to check your blog out! 980 has its head up its butt if they think they are better with out you!

Anonymous said...

Little Johnny,

Everybody who follows baseball knows how good Andre Dawson and Dale Murphy were too. Unfortunately HOF Voters don't. Up until a couple years ago the same thing was about Goose Gossage..he played in NY, then took off for San Diego among other remote outposts. I'm a Baseball fanatic, and we had the dish. I saw all the games, and I'd get so frustrated when these discussions for HOF players come up. Another prime example...Jim Rice was not in until his 15th and final year. That is because he was moody, and they were not voting for him based on the fact they don't like him. Albert Belle is basically in the same point. Eventually they came to their senses. Having stated that Dale Murphy in Atlanta was a 2 time MVP, and an absolute monster. He did it in front of an empty stadium in Atlanta. If he wasn't on the superstation Ted Turner owns nobody would have known Atlanta had a team. Andre Dawson was great, but might have well played in Russia in terms of the exposure he didn't get in Montreal. He goes to Chicago wins the MVP. Then when people wake up we see him playing out the string in Boston and Florida running those bases on creaky knees. The bottom line is if you don't get the magic numbers of 300, 3000 or 500 you have to have play where people will see you.

Obama

Anonymous said...

Hey Corey, I am so with you. They might as well get rid of the Green Zone on the 980 website. They should get rid of it anyhow seeing that was Mitch's creation. Between this blog, Rod's blog, Riderville and Vanstone's Rider page I have everything I need. Morrison, Remenda and this Mitch wannabe that replaced him can all fade into oblivion as far as I'm concerned.

Tim Underwood

Anonymous said...

Obama,

Though I do agree with the reasoning of the lack of exposure, I don't agree that players should just move to NY or LA for exposure sake, as it would make MLB seem even more irrelevant. I think the bigger underlying problem is the lack of a cap. When a team can splurge over $100 million more then other teams it really doesn't help a league as a whole, and hinders other players who aren't in these markets.
Also with the fact that reporters are the ones who vote in players, it's easy to show bias, and unfortunate when reporters let their bias affect someone's chances of getting into the HOF.

Little Johnny

Anonymous said...

Little Johnny,

Very astute, but unfortunately that's the reality we live in. It's all unfair bias as far as I'm concerned. My bone of contention happened with Kirby Puckett's entrance. He was elected not on his numbers, but because he was deemed to be a nice guy. It turned out he was a total sociopath. Someone with better numbers Steve Garvey got caught doing exactly what Wade Boggs, and others have done, and he is not getting anywhere near the HOF based on the perceived morality of these Voters. Albert Belle and Don Mattingly were straight out better players than Pucket and Mazurski, but they will never ever see the HOF.

The discussion is endless.

Obama