Wednesday, October 03, 2007
I’m very happy to say I’m watching the NHL Network right now at home, on my television. No tricks, place-shifting, online streams or anything like that. It’s coming right through my cable box. I have Time Warner cable in Manhattan.
The Hollywood Reporter has a story (dated tomorrow) that the channel is coming, but I’m already watching it.
Rumor was the NHL used the Center Ice package to leverage cable companies to carry the channel. It might explain why I wasn’t able to order it until the end of last week. I’ve been able to order it as early as March in previous years (not that I’ll do that again after being double-charged).
The NHL Network is on a sports tier for me that includes NBATV, a few Fox Sports College stations, the Tennis Channel, Fuel and College Sports TV. It’s a package I already subsribe to, so it’s just a big bonus for me. The sports tier is right below the Center Ice channels on my service, so despite the high channel number (458) the location fits well. My Time Warner service has about four blocks of sports channels (not including Fox Sports NY, which is “alone”), you’d think they’d move things around to make it a little easier.
There’s currently no schedule for the guide on my cable box, it’s simply long blocks of “NHL Network”. Hopefully that updates soon.
I wasn’t able to find many details about the Network launching in the States using Google News, but I did come across this very good Q & A with NHL EVP of corporate sales and marketing, John Collins. It’s a good read, with some honest answers.
BW: What marketing lessons were learned from the lockout that are now driving NHL growth?
JC: We are a $2.3 billion business, and a lot of that revenue is through the gates. We have 22 million people at our arenas every year. We have 53 million avid fans in North America. But the big insight we came to after the lockout is that our fans say they love hockey, but they don’t behave like they love hockey. They behave like a million fans of the New York Rangers, a million fans of the Chicago Blackhawks. The passion they have is at a local level, but that doesn’t translate to passion at a league level. If you are a fan of the NFL’s New York Giants, you’ll still watch Monday Night Football even if the Giants aren’t playing. You’ll watch the playoffs and Super Bowl even if the Giants don’t make it. But according to the traditional metrics that tell you about the health and vitality of broadcast ratings, we’re not able to scale at the national level of the NFL, MLB or Nascar. So we don’t feel like a $2.3 billion business; we feel like a $300 million business, like a niche sport like Major League Soccer or AVP [professional volleyball].
In the introduction to the piece is this tidbit:
On Oct. 9, the league will hold a fanfest in New York to celebrate the Oct. 12 opening of its flagship retail store, NHL Powered by Reebok, and its new corporate offices. Features include a hockey-themed Starbucks selling hockey-themed drinks, a studio for live broadcasts, high-def screens to show NHL clips and games in real time, and stations with access to NHL videogames and NHL.com.
I’ve had a good seat for watching the store come to life for a while now (I can see it from my office window). The past week or so things have really picked up. It still looks like there’s a lot to do, but I’m not a store-building expert.
There’s already a Starbucks inside the building the store is in that has little to no signage. It’s called the Secret Starbucks in my office because it’s one of the few places that rarely has a line mid-afternoon. Hopefully the store won’t take that from us… I mean hey, it’s NY, there’s a Starbucks on every corner, why not two?
I’ll try and stop by on opening day and snap a few pictures.
Update 1130pm: Just saw Costa caught the same Q & A. His reaction was similar to mine.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
TSN is reporting Jeremy Roenick has signed with the San Jose Sharks for $500,000.
Due to the Inquirer first reporting Roenick was announcing his retirement via text message, we’re assuming Sharks GM Doug Wilson and Roenick worked out the deal over SMS like this:
W: wnt 500?
R: wnt both
W: play in sj?
Hat tip to KK
Monday, August 27, 2007
OK! Magazine is reporting via sources close to Sean Avery and Elisha Cuthbert that the couple have split up.
Say it ain’t so!
A friend of the couple apparently said that it was Cuthbert who ended the relationship. However even more shocking than that is the fact that Avery was apparently hitting on Paris Hilton at a party on Sunday:
But don’t feel bad for Sean, who didn’t appear to be brokenhearted about the breakup when he was spotted hitting on Elisha’s good friend Paris Hilton at the LG House in Malibu on Aug. 26. A partygoer tells OK!, “When you asked Sean where Elisha was he shrugged his shoulders and said they had broken up.” But for all his attempts at wooing the recent jailbird, Sean was not able to convince Paris to leave with him, saying she wouldn’t do that to Elisha and walked away.
Avery and Paris?!? I couldn’t even fathom the thought. I don’t even want to think about it. Ugh.
Hat tip to KK for the link.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
James Ulmer received two years probation from a Mount Holly State Superior Court judge on Friday morning, becoming the last defendant in the Operation Slapshot case to be sentenced:
James Ulmer, the final defendant in the gambling ring run by former Philadelphia Flyer Rick Tocchet and a former New Jersey State Police trooper, was sentenced in Superior Court this morning to two years’ probation. That was the same sentence given last week to Tocchet, who pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy and gambling charges.
While Tocchet and Harney were said to be the leaders of the ring, Ulmer only admitted to helping bring in bets. Ulmer reportedly allowed those placing bets the opportunity to deposit the money directly into his bank account.
Major Stories • Operation Slapshot • NHL
Thursday, August 23, 2007
While Rick Tocchet’s legal outcome has been determined (as long as Tocchet continues to stay on the right side of the law), his hockey future is still up in the air.
Jerry Brown of the East Valley Tribune thinks Tocchet will be suspended from the NHL one more season before being allowed to coach again.
Hartley Henderson of MajorWager.com breaks out the legalese before suggesting Gary Bettman will ban Tocchet from the NHL for good. Henderson rightfully points out that the NHL has been quite forgiving in the past, and could continue that trend, especially with Wayne Gretzky wanting Tocchet to return.
Scott Burnside of ESPN.com doesn’t make a prediction, but summarizes some of the public opinions being made before getting into what the league might do with Mark Bell during this time of intense public scrutiny of athletes.
Major Stories • Operation Slapshot • NHL
Friday, August 17, 2007
It seems that the Operation Slapshot saga is coming to an end…
Rick Tocchet was sentenced to two years probation earlier this morning in a New Jersey courtroom:
Former National Hockey League player and Phoenix Coyotes associate coach Rick Tocchet received his sentence on Friday morning, as he was convicted on third-degree conspiracy to promote gambling and third-degree promoting gambling.
Tocchet, who appeared in Superior Court on Friday morning in New Jersey as a first-time offender, received two years probation concurrently on each count and will not likely serve jail time.
Tocchet technically could have received up to five years in prison. However first-time offenders who plead guilty to third-degree crimes usually do not receive any jail time at all. New Jersey deputy attorney general Mark Eliades reaffirmed the notion during an interview outside of the courthouse after the sentencing.
Tocchet expressed his sorrow moments before his sentence was handed out:
“I’m sorry to the court, my family and friends I was involved in this.”
Former New Jersey state trooper James Harney, one of the other two men indicted as part of Operation Slapshot, was sentenced earlier this month to five years in prison. The third, James Ulmer, will find out his fate on August 24th.
The NHL has not yet decided whether or not Tocchet will be permitted to return to his position as assistant coach of the Phoenix Coyotes.
Major Stories • Operation Slapshot • NHL
1 Comment • Permalink
Friday, August 03, 2007
Updating the saga that was “Operation Slaption”, James Harney, the New Jersey State trooper involved in the gambling ring, will be sentenced today, almost a full year after pleading guilty.
He pleaded guilty on Aug. 3, 2006, and faces up to seven years in prison for conspiracy, promoting gambling and official misconduct. His lawyer, Craig Mitnick, was planning to argue for a less severe sentence.
Update 140pm: Harney has been sentenced to five years in prison.
Major Stories • Operation Slapshot • NHL
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Nope, not Youtube or any other new media experiment, but the good ole boob tube. Outside of arbitration hearings (ok, just Sean Avery’s), the biggest news in the NHL this week is about the league possibly making up with sports broadcasting giant ESPN.
Sports Business Journal reported the two sides are talking:
The NHL and ESPN are in discussions about bringing the league’s games back to ESPN2 as soon as the 2008-09 season.
Multiple sources described the conversations as preliminary. The two started talking the week of July 16 when the NHL approached ESPN about NBC’s nine-game regular-season schedule, plus the playoffs. NBC holds the rights to air the coming season as part of a revenue-sharing agreement, and the network holds a one-year option for the 2008-09 season.
The league has been widely criticized ever since they parted ways with ESPN after the 2003-04 season. From general lack of exposure to the obscurity of their new cable partner Versus, the NHL has been the butt of jokes in the media for a few years now.
Rumors that ESPN was interested in the NHL again surfaced back in January when Versus extended their current deal with the league one more year.
Two Canadian media outlets jumped on the idea of ESPN replacing NBC.
From The Province:
Turn out the lights. The NBC-NHL party is just about over. The U.S. TV network has one year plus an option left on its deal with the hockey league and with numbers sinking faster than the Lusitania the rats are already jumping ship.
From The Globe and Mail:
Still, if the NHL is talking to ESPN, it’s almost certain NBC has informed the league it is preparing to pull out.
Networks make programming decisions months in advance. It’s unlikely the NHL would have approached ESPN unless it knew NBC was not planning to pick up its option.
Whether or not the league is actually looking to replace NBC with ESPN is yet to be seen. It might have just been the best way to get conversation started. Generally, all major sports leagues try to have at least one national broadcast partner at all times. Only the NFL has replaced broadcast with cable, for Monday Night Football (ABC to sister ESPN), although Sunday Night Football moved from cable to broadcast at the same time (NBC replacing ESPN). Since 1995 the NHL has had both broadcast and cable contracts in the U.S.
The word replacement might not be part of any NHL plan. The ideal situation would have the NHL keep any number of games on NBC, get a game per week on ESPN (or most likely, ESPN2) and still have Versus broadcast a couple of more games per week.
Versus currently has the rights to broadcast NHL games on cable exclusively. However, Sports Business Journal includes this tidbit:
The move would mark a change at Versus, as well, which is open to giving up its cable exclusivity if it can tap into ESPN’s marketing prowess. Over the past two years, Versus executives have complained privately that ESPN ignored their network. They are hoping for a situation that mirrors the NBA, where ESPN and TNT push viewers to each network’s games.
Giving up exclusivity for publicity would be a smart move for the young network. ESPN, which has mocked the channel on occasion, would now be helping remind its audience it not only exists, but carries similar content (somewhere Alanis Morissette is smiling).
Despite the jokes directed at Versus, Comcast has done a good job getting it onto more cable systems since the NHL deal was signed, and continuously improving the hockey broadcasts as they’ve gone along. However, they were never able to sign a contract with another major sports league, and they’re far from the ESPN competitor they’d like to be. The NHL isn’t a big enough draw to help bring a steady audience in. The NHL on ESPN could not only help the league, but Versus as well.
Send him ramen noodles
I’m never happy to hear about someone losing their job, but I got a chuckle out of Ray Ferraro’s quote in The Province article from above:
In response, the network has now cancelled its studio show and has reduced three games on Saturday to just one on Sunday.
Gone are Brett Hull, Bill Clement and Ray Ferraro.
“Of course I was disappointed,” says Ferraro. “Three minutes into the call and you know you’ve got to start earning a living some place else.”
David Pratt of The Province thankfully points out Ferraro still has a year left on his Sportsnet contract and CBC seems to be interested. I’ll throw in the little nugget that he also made millions playing the game. No one should be jobless if they’re willing to work, but it just reminded me of Latrell Sprewell wanting to “feed his family” (a little, he’s still working, don’t get too uptight).
Links found through the KK empire
NHL & ESPN Talking - with a good number of comments
Signs Point To NBC Not Picking Up Broadcast Option
Can’t wait for the entire Detroit vs Colorado series…
Thursday, July 26, 2007
All celeb couples seem to need stupid combined-name nicknames nowadays, so if anyone can think of something for Mike Comrie and Hillary Duff, be my guest (if they are actually a couple).
Hilary and fresh boy toy Mike Comrie were spotted having a romantic dinner last night at Giorgio Baldi restaurant in Santa Monica. Try the veal cutlet! Comrie is the center for the New York Islanders hockey team, but his “net worth” doesn’t stop there; the Canadian pucker comes with quite a wad of cash—as heir to the Brick Warehouse fortune (which is Canada’s version of Sears). Score!
The Canadians then get mad about the Brick Warehouse-Sears comparison in the comment section.
So the Islanders have replaced Alexei Yashin and Carol Alt with Mike Comrie and Hillary Duff? It’s a PR dream, no doubt.
Duff is also featured in the latest issue of Maxim Magazine.
Thanks to Jamie for the tip.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
In the era of the CBA, NHL player salaries are more important than ever. Diehard fans follow every signing and not only how it’ll impact each team on the ice, but figure out how much salary room is available under the cap. Every team won’t hit the cap limit, but payroll ranges are generally known.
I’m still amazed to get so many press releases with lines like this:
In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
I copied that line right from the Capitals release about the signing of Jason Morgan. I use the Caps as an example because they’re so good about access and so easy to communicate with (mandatory Ted Leonsis blog link), but still don’t include salary terms in their releases. Perhaps there was a time where such things were considered too personal, or tasteless to have within a release, but that time has passed.