Sharks head coach Todd McLellan has a theory shared by several wise hockey men I’ve met over the years. He believes that when a team is about to go into a slump it tends to win games it probably doesn’t deserve to. Conversely, when that same team is about to end a slump it tends to lose a game it probably deserves to win.
The Sharks current state of affairs has them in a slide where they’ve lost four of their last six. A telltale sign that a downturn was coming may have been their 1-0 win over Chicago on Nov. 23. Antti Niemi
stole that game with 34 saves but there were plenty of signs that the Sharks weren’t playing their best.
Fast forward to Sunday night in Chicago. The Sharks lost 3-2 in overtime to Marian Hossa and the Blackhawks. But in defeat the Sharks played some of their best hockey since their five-game road winning streak in October. The power play didn’t score but it again looked like a dangerous weapon. The penalty killing was excellent. Most importantly there was energy, physicality and commitment to the system throughout the lineup. Perhaps it’s a sign that much better things are ahead for the team.
Respect for Bettman
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has his detractors, but I for one think the man has done a very good job in a number of critical areas. Bettman’s recent proposal to realign into four new conferences has been very well received.
Business revenues at the league level have never been higher. The NHL has aggressively embraced technology and is considered one of the leaders in providing its fans with rich, informative and entertaining content online. The Winter Classic has become appointment viewing for the hardcore and casual fan alike. The HBO 24/7 series, leading up to the Winter Classic is bound to again be a critical and ratings hit when its second incarnation debuts later this week.
While the Phoenix Coyotes future is still undetermined, Bettman facilitated the Atlanta to Winnipeg franchise shift with very little fallout. When the NHL cast its cable TV lot with VERSUS over ESPN several years ago, many hammered the Commish. Granted, he got lucky when VERSUS’ parent company Comcast purchased NBC Universal, but all of the sudden the League’s television future looks very bright and Bettman deserves some credit for that. Not to mention that for the first time in the history of the League, every Stanley Cup playoff game will be available to a US national audience on either cable or over the air television. These are all important transformations for the National Hockey League. They’ve all occurred on Mr. Bettman’s watch.
The Scottsdale Coyotes?
Speaking of the Phoenix Coyotes situation, here’s a thought/question: I understand the reluctance of the NHL to leave the Valley of the Sun. Phoenix is a terrific market. Population wise it ranks 6th in the nation. That makes it a great TV market too. It’s also a strong professional sports area with the MLB, NBA and NFL enjoying success.
For as long as I’ve been going to Coyotes games in Glendale, the consensus seems to be that the reason the hockey team can’t attract enough fans is that the arena is in the wrong location. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say, “If they would have built the rink in Scottsdale, the Coyotes would pack the place every night.”
Legal entanglements probably have the Coyotes franchise stuck with the arena in Glendale as long as the team stays in the Phoenix area. But how about moving the Coyotes to another market, finding investors to construct a new arena in Scottsdale, and either award them an expansion franchise in the future or move some other troubled team there. I keep hearing how great Scottsdale would be for the NHL but I don’t hear anybody talking about how to get an arena built there.
Three programs that are always on my Comcast DVR “must record” list:
- How to Make It in America, HBO – If you liked Entourage, this is for you.
- NHL on the Fly Final, NHL Network – Kathryn Tappen, wife of former Sharks defenseman Jay Leach is doing a great job as the new primary host.
- 60 Minutes, CBS – You have to love old school investigative journalism, even post Mike Wallace.
Randy’s Favorite Teams
There are two new teams that I’ve become a fan of this year. One of them is the Dallas Ice Jets 16AAA Academy hockey team in Grapevine, Texas. That’s where my 16-year-old son Michael is chasing his dream. Michael is a forward playing for Head Coach Butch Kaebel, a former pro who has established a terrific program for up and coming players who strive to make it to the US college level and beyond.
The Ice Jets are part of the High Performance Hockey League based in the Chicago/Detroit area. Other teams include some of the elites in the country like Little Caesars, Honeybaked and Compuware of Detroit along with Chicago Mission, Team Illinois and Shattuck St. Mary’s.
And you’ll find a St. John’s Red Storm license plate frame on my Durango. That’s because my 19-year-old son Randall is a freshman at St. Johns University in Queens, New York. Randall doesn’t play basketball but at St. John’s they’re all huge Red Storm fans. I’ve been converted too!
Voices of Winter
Finally, I want to give a shout out to our own broadcasting crew. The announcers, producers, directors, technicians, camera operators and all the “people in the TV truck” chipped in to sponsor a family of eight at the Sharks recent Holiday Assist Party.
Several of us had the opportunity to have dinner with our assigned family and present them with gifts. Our particular family was an amazing group. Mom, Dad, three boys and three girls are originally from El Salvador. They’ve lived in the Bay Area for the last three years.
Their joy and gratitude upon receiving their presents (including bicycles and scooters) was truly touching. Thanks to all of my colleagues for helping make the holidays special for one family. Also thanks to Bicycles of Pleasanton and CyclePro’s of Pleasanton for their generous donations!