Posted on: September 28, 2011 12:13 pm

We've been duped here in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- We were asked to vote on a new arena here in Kansas City a few years ago. The plan -- no, the promise -- was to lure a pro franchise to play in it.

That's how 72 suites were sold in a matter of months. That's what the president of arena giant, AEG, said. You can look it up. Tim Leiweke said we'd have our own franchise (NBA, NHL) when the doors opened in October 2007.

I thought about that watching a thoroughly entertaining preseason NHL game Tuesday night at that arena -- the Sprint Center here in Kansas City. The game was sold out. The hockey was fantastic, Pittsburgh over L.A. 3-2 in an eight-round shootout.

Then this morning I read the latest back track from Leiweke

"Kansas City," he told the Kansas City Star, "can take its time."

Whoa, wait a minute. Who is Tim Leiweke telling us what to do when his politicking and false promises got us to this point?

Why not just admit, Tim, that you duped us? Admit that the Sprint Center was built four years ago to become the world's largest concert hall in the first place?

Take our time? How dare you? AEG has taken out full-page ads to proclaim that it is one of the most successful music and entertainment venues in the world. Those 100 nights of Taylor Swift and Lil Wayne and Guns N Roses, may be fun but that's not why we voted $250 million for the Sprint Center.

It was for the promise of attracting a pro franchise and to keep the Big 12 basketball tournament. That second item looks kind of shaky because the Big 12 has almost broken up twice in the last 16 months. I'm sure AEG didn't count on that, but it probably didn't have a four-day, college basketball tournament at the top of its list for building for building Sprint either.

The arena was built to house acts it could funnel through Kansas City. Nothing wrong with that, but I’m trying to come up with a list of cities this size with an arena this new that don't have a pro franchise. Please, someone help me here.

I just wish they'd told us that up front. I would have had a harder time voting for a car rental and entertainment tax to watch Enrique Iglesias and the pro rodeo tour.

“Right now there is not an urgency [to get an anchor tenant],” Leiweke told the Star. “This building is doing phenomenal."

And to that I proclaim B. -- freakin' -- S. Ask the merchants across the street at the Power and Light (entertainment) District who are doing OK, but could be doing so much better with a guaranteed 41 home dates for an NBA or NHL franchise.

One of the biggest days in the P&L's short history was a crowd that gathered to watch a U.S. World Cup game there in 2010. That had nothing to do with the glittering jewel across the street, Sprint just happened to be there.

I get that there has been an economic downturn since the building opened. I get that teams aren't moving and leagues aren't expanding. That's why I feel doubly duped. Leiweke should have never made those claims when he needed our tax dollars to fund his concert hall. I feel doubly duped because Mario Lemieux and the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership group toured the construction site. It turned out to be leverage for the Penguins to get their new building.

We are a college town. Check that, we are a Chiefs and Jayhawks town. You wonder how an NHL or NBA franchise would do on nights when Kansas, Kansas State or Missouri are playing basketball. I still wonder that. I also wonder why I voted for Sprint when the plan all along was to fill it with exhibition games and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Full disclosure: I loved the Paul McCartney show in 2010. At age 68, he rocked the house. Best show I ever saw. But, again, I wouldn't have helped vote $250 million for Paul McCartney either. Meanwhile, the Sonics are now the Thunder in Oklahoma City. Atlanta's Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets. Wait, we got scooped by OKC and Winnipeg?

"We're fine without one [anchor tenant]," Leiweke repeated, "and we probably make more money without one."

If that isn't an indication of AEG's true intentions, I don't know what is. Make money, sure? Just don't lie to us how you're going to make it. We're no closer to being a better major-league town than we were when the first shovel was stuck in the ground for Sprint. Well, unless you can't wait to see Jeff Dunham, Monster Jam and something called Nuclear Cowboyz.

It was a great night for the Kansas City hockey community on Tuesday. They got out there and sold a lot of tickets. The announced attendance of 17,779 was the most ever to watch hockey in our town.

However, it was a horrible night for the Sprint Center. When the puck dropped there were still thousands of people outside waiting to get in. Sprint/AEG apparently hasn't figured out that it needs to open more doors when there are a lot of people outside. There was literally more room marked off for smokers outside than there were for people with tickets waiting to get in.

Also, at a sold out event it might be a good idea to open all the concession stands. I missed half the game waiting in line with my son for food. At least the game presentation was good. The first period intermission featured a commercial for the 2012 Camry. One was driven on the ice, in case you didn't get that Toyota was a sponsor.

A wing-eating contest was being shown on the big screen during a face-off. The public address announcer didn't know the names of players as he was announcing goals.

I still would say the Kansas City deserves the NHL or NBA. But after the frustration of these four years, the question has changed. Does Kansas City deserve AEG?


Posted on: April 29, 2011 4:26 pm
Edited on: April 29, 2011 4:29 pm

My second-round Stanley Cup predictions

I cheated. OK, not in the SEC sense but, still, issuing my second-round predictions one game into the second round is either lazy or underhanded.

I choose lazy, but, hey, I was working. You try covering the BCS meetings and have enough energy left for the playoffs. Anyway, here they are Lord Stanley. Only eight teams left to chase your cup. These are the four that will advance to the next round of the best tournament in sports. FYI, I was 6-2 in the first round.

Western Conference

No. 1 seed Vancouver vs. No. 5 Nashville: Yes, I know the Canucks already lead the series 1-0 after a 1-0 win over the Predators. Further evidence that Vancouver is renewed after a narrow escape against Chicago in the first round. Watch for Bobby Luo to dominate and the Sedin Bros. to wake up. Vancouver in six

No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 3 Detroit: I had to look twice when I realized that San Jose finished above Detroit and thus has home-ice advantage. The Sharks are habitual underachievers in the playoffs. The Wings dispatched Phoenix with such impunity; it's hard not to pick them in this round especially with revenge at stake. San Jose won in five last season. This time, Detroit in five.

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Washington vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay: Bruce Boudreau has taken the most entertaining team in hockey and turned it into a dump-and-chase squad. And it is wonderful. Washington can dictate tempo against any team it plays right now. You want to play close-checking? Done. You want to go up-and-down? We've already seen how that works. Lots of talent on the ice. More grit in the Caps' room. Washington in six.

No. 2 Philadelphia vs. No. 3 Boston: At some point Philly's goalie-go-round is going to catch up to the Flyers. It didn't last year in going to the finals and it didn't in the first round against Buffalo but someday soon, my friends, it will. Especially with Tim Thomas at the other end. Boston in seven.
Posted on: April 11, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: April 11, 2011 5:40 pm

My first-round Stanley Cup playoff predictions

First, hearty congratulations are in order to the Chicago Blackhawks who, on Sunday, choked less than the Dallas Stars.

You know by now that, faced with a win-and-they're-in scenario, the Stars coughed up a hair ball, losing to Minny 5-3 on Sunday. That was after Chicago had all but handed them a playoff berth by losing at home to Detroit. Dallas not only lost but flamed out spectacularly. The Stars were up 2-1 after one period, tied 3-3 after two. The playoffs were 20 minutes away -- and the tame Wild won an utterly meaningless game, for them. 

Minnesota was so giddy it immediately fired its coach. Good luck in the offseason, Stars. You need a) at least one top four defenseman; b) an owner and; c) some heart.

Only one of those is available through free agency. Now, on to the greatest tournament in sports. Over the next three months, brave-hearted warriors will play for the ultimate prize. (Hopefully, one of them is Sidney Crosby.) They will do it without getting paid a cent. That's right. Since assumptions can't be made about the playoffs before the playoffs, the checks come during the regular season. 

While we're in the congratulatory mode, Canada gets a pat on the back -- or maybe an elbow to the cheekbone. America's Hat has fewer teams in the playoffs (two) than the state of California (three). Meanwhile, the last subject anyone is talking about in these playoffs is those Hawks defending their Stanley Cup title. There is Ringless Roberto, the Strangers, the Caps who spent the season putting a cap on their offense, all set against the backdrop of the league waiting for the next debilitating concussion. Speaking of EMTs, that reminds me of another subject no one is talking about: Montreal-Boston in the first round!

Let the gamesmanship begin. These are my first-round predictions only. I've ranked the entertainment value of each series with an (EV).


No. 1 seed Washington vs. No. 8 New York Rangers (No. 2 in EV)

So far, it has worked -- Caps' coach Bruce Boudreau's philosophical overhaul. Washington could always score goals. As the last couple of seasons have shown, it didn't have the defensive grit in the playoffs. Boudreau's job and Alex Ovechkin's legacy could be on the line. Rangers in six.

No. 2 Philadelphia vs. No. 7 Buffalo (5 EV)

The best thing about the Sabres are the goals calls of play-by-play guy Rick Jeanneret ("Top shelf, where mama hides the cookies!"). When Buffalo scores it sounds like a cross between an Irish wolfhound being neutered and poachers killing an infant elephant in front of its mother. Flyers in five.

No. 3 Boston vs. No. 6 Montreal (1 EV)

Expect lots of scrums, neck braces and inquiries by local authorities. And that's just getting Zdeno Chara from the team bus to the lockerroom. Seriously, this series could be better than the final. With apologies to Bon Jovi, Canadiens-Bruins give blood a bad name. Bruins in six.

No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. No. 5 Tampa Bay (3 EV)

In this year of the Bays -- the Green version won the Super Bowl. Tranformers director Michael is working on another sequel -- Tampa needs to show it is about more than Martin St. Louis and Steve Stamkos. The gutty, little Penguins should rule this series minus Crosby (maybe), Evgeny Malkin (definitely) and Matt Cookie (temporarily, suspended for the first round). Biggest difference in most series: Special teams. Pittsburgh in No. 1 in penalty kill. Flightless birds in five.


No. 1 Vancouver vs. No. 8 Chicago (4 EV)

These are not the Hawks who are defending champions. They are not the Hawks who have bothered the Canucks in the postseason the past few years. These also aren't the Canucks who are expected to win the Stanley Cup, until they do it. Vancouver has all the elements for a Cup run. It just has to prove it. Vancouver in six.

No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 7 Los Angeles (7 EV)

Wait, what? Stanley Cup? For the Los Tiburones? Dude, whatever you’re smoking, it's good. In NorCal they know spring as the time when the Sharks annually beach themselves in the playoffs. There is no reason to think this team is any different. L.A. is missing leading scorer Anze Kopitar. The Penguins have proven they can thrive without Crosby. The Kings aren't as deep. San Jose in six.

No. 3 Detroit vs. No. 6 Phoenix (6 EV)

The sooner the Coyotes lose, the better for Winnipeg which is jonesing for its old team so bad there is a methadone clinic set up in city hall. The Red Wings have slogged through the final few games. They hope to get Henrik Zetterberg back from a knee injury. Not that they need him to beat the 'Yotes. Hold on, Winnipeg. Your boys are coming, soon. Red Wings in five.

No. 4 Anaheim vs. No. 5 Nashville (8 EV)

The league's No. 1 goal scorer (Corey Perry) vs. what might be the league's best goalie (Nashville's Pekka Rinne). This series is the equivalent of your average suburban housing track. They all look the same. In this case, it's hard to find a difference in these two teams. Go with the Ducks in six because Nashville has never won a playoff series. That and Barry Trotz scares the hell out of me
Posted on: May 15, 2010 11:42 pm

Conference finals predictions

Chicago vs. San Jose: Poor Pat Foley. The voice of the Blackhawks has been silenced for the season. That’s what happens when the Stanley Cup playoffs have been sold off to an obscure cable network (Versus) and a fading network (NBC). I rip the two television outlets for the NHL in the U.S. only because Foley no longer will be heard because he is the Hawks local broadcaster. He is the best play-by-play guy in the NHL since the late Dan Kelly. In memory of Foley, then, I must pick the Blackhawks. They are faster, younger and due. Let’s see, the last Cup was in 1961. Despite their recent chokes, the Sharks haven’t suffered enough. They do not have enough grit in the Western Conference final, at least for the Hawks. Chicago in six.

Montreal vs. Philadelphia:  Who let the dogs in? Philly qualified for the playoffs on the last day of the regular season, in a shootout. Montreal the Mediocre certainly didn’t expect to be here. For the first time in the current format a 7 seed is playing an 8 seed. Now we’ve got a battle of unlikely. The Flyers’ 21-year-old budding star James van Riemsdyk is a power forward who could make a difference against the Habs smallish forwards. Speaking of  unknown guys who make an impact, we give you Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak. Before this playoff season he’d never won a postseason game (97 career minutes, one loss). Now he is the hottest goalie left in the tournament. For the sake of Canada and its 17-year wait for a Cup, take the Canadians in 7.

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 14, 2010 10:16 am

My first-round Stanley Cup predictions


1 Washington vs. 8 Montreal

Jose Theodore will be the Caps No. 1 goalie. That might be the most significant news of the week in Washington. Not Mike Green, not Ovie, not Semin. Theodore lasted exactly one start in last year's playoffs. Theodore is 20-0-3 in his last 23 starts but remember this: He has started in Montreal once since leaving the Habs in 2006. In that game he surrendered eight goals. Does it matter?  "It's not like we're facing Brodeur or Ryan Miller," Montreal's Tomas Plekanec said. They don't have a dominant goaltender." The Caps have so much firepower that it will be a huge surprise if they don't sweep. Washington in 4.

2 New Jersey vs. 7 Philadelphia

Typical Jersey vs. Just Happy To Be Here. The Flyers expended all their energy just getting into the playoffs. Now they're relying on Brian Boucher to beat the Devils. Really? Since leading the Flyers to the conference finals a decade ago, Boucher has played in exactly four playoff games. Never bet against Marty Brodeur. Now with some scoring punch in Ilya Kovalchuk, the Devils should coast. New Jersey in 5.

3 Buffalo vs. 6 Boston

Ryan Miller is a national hero at the top of his game. The Bruins have to hope to win four 2-1 games. There is nothing in this series to suggest Boston can pull the upset. It struggles to score goals. Buffalos is a dark horse to come out of the East. Watch Tyler Myers, the best young defenseman in the game. He should have a magnificent series against the struggling Bruins forwards. Buffalo in 5.

4 Pittsburgh vs. 5 Ottawa

There's something about the Penguins that bothers me. Marc Andre-Fleury is not the same as he was the past two seasons. The Penguins defense is vulnerable. I just like the way the Senators are playing right now going 7-3 in their final 10. Plus, you have to have a first-round upset. This is mine. Ottawa in 6.


1 San Jose vs. 8 Colorado

This is a complete mismatch. Colorado is too young and too inexperienced to make this a series. Having said that, it is a rite of spring for a powerful San Jose team to tank in the playoffs. It won't be in this round. San Jose is 6.

2 Chicago vs. 7 Nashville

If it wasn't for the goaltending the Hawks would be my favorite to come out of the West. Eventually Cristobal Huet and/or Antti Niemi will have to lead this team to a Stanley Cup. Niemi has been hot lately, but the suggestions that Chicago's goaltending issues are "solved" are folly. The Hawks are going to have to outscore some teams and hope their goaltenders steal a series to get to the Stanley Cup. That's too much to ask of a franchise just getting back to powerhouse level. Chicago in 5.

3 Vancouver vs. 6 Los Angeles

The Kings seem to be the trendy pick for a first-round upset? Sure, why not? The pressure is still on Vancouver's Roberto Luongo to win a Stanley Cup. Let's not forget he looked shaky for long stretches of the gold medal game against the U.S. If the Kings can lock down on the Sedin twins, they've got a chance if Jonathan Quick can play like he did early in the season. Los Angeles in 7.

4 Phoenix vs. 5 Detroit

You might have heard that Mike Babcock is trying to become the first coach to win an Olympic gold medal and a Stanley Cup in the same season. The Red Wings won't get there unless Jimmy Howard comes up big in goal. Detroit finished 13-1-2 and seems like more than a dark horse to win it all. Strange, though, Phoenix has home ice advantage. It would help the Wings if they gained a split, or better, to start the series. If not, this could be a long one. Detroit in 6.


Category: NHL
Tags: Stanley Cup
Posted on: November 4, 2009 9:54 am

Ovechkin hurt; NHL weak

This has bothered me for a while.

When did the NHL give up? I mean, just give up trying to be a major sport. It is so down the pecking order that it doesn't even compel its teams to release injury information. That small move would legitimize the NHL, but for some reason the league allows its teams to list players with "upper body" and "lower body" injuries.

That bothers me because I want to know what's bothering Alex Ovechkin. As a fan, I don't think that's too much to ask. The fact that the game's best player is being used as a coaching pawn is ridiculous. This is the same tactic employed by coaches in the playoffs to throw the opponent. An upper body injury could end up being a sprained ankle.

Imagine if Drew Brees were out with a significant injury to his "upper body." There's a reason NFL teams are required to release injury information. It's to keep the game clean from gambling scandals. The more information out there, the better. The NHL doesn't care because the last gambling scandal involved Janet Gretzky.

I love the NHL. It's not too much to ask to give us more specific injury information. Hell, Las Vegas doesn't care. It's loyal fans sure do.
Category: NHL
Posted on: May 30, 2009 8:24 pm

Stanley Cup final prediction

Last year, the Penguins admitted they were overwhelmed by it all. It showed.

They're much better prepared in this year's Stanley Cup final. They have the two best players in Crosby and Malkin. Marc-Andre Fleury doesn't look like he's ready to throw up all over himself. Like Detroit, they're rolling four lines.

This being the final hockey of the season, I'm going to predcit the score for every game:

Game 1 -- Detroit 3, Pittsburgh 2

Game 2 -- Pittsburgh 4, Detroit 2

Game 3 -- Pittsburgh 3, Detroit 1

Game 4 -- Detroit 4, Pittsburgh 1

Game 5 -- Detroit 5, Pittsburgh 3

Game 6 -- Pittsburgh 3, Detroit 2 (OT)

Game 7 -- Pittsburgh 4, Detroit 3 (OT). Penguins win their third Stanley Cup.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner -- Crosby
Category: NHL
Posted on: May 15, 2009 1:00 pm

Predicting the conference finals

So my two Stanley Cup finalists are gone.

Washington and Calgary? You are laughing right now. Dancing With The Stars sucks too so we're even.

Now on to the conference finals.

Eastern Conference

Carolina vs. Pittsburgh: I was a believer long ago that the Canes are the hardest-working team in the NHL. They looked physically and emotionally spent letting that 3-1 series lead get away against Boston. Going back to Boston for Game 7, are you kidding?

Then they found stamina, somewhere. The longer the game went on, the longer the Canes looked like they were going to win it. I'm not going to tell you I thought Scott Walker was going to score his first career playoff goal but that's how Carolina wins. A Cam Ward stand-on-his-head job. An Eric Staal bull-in-a-china shop job. An out-of-nowhere goal by Walker. Ballgame.

What does it all mean in the third round? If Ward keeps it up, the Canes can steal this series. As brutal as the Washington series was, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had a lot of room most of the time. That won't happen against Carolina. 

Paul Maurice might look like a librarian but he's proved to be more than a guy who is one game above .500 in his career in the regular season (377-376-99). The move in Game 7 to put Walker on Staal's line to replace Erik Cole was brilliant.

On the Pittsburgh side, I just can't believe Marc-Andre Fleury is going to come up big again. Just like 2006, it's the Canes' year.

Carolina in 7.

Western Conference

Chicago vs. Detroit: Does anyone else think the Wings are just getting going? When you can win a Game 7 without Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom scoring you're doing something right.

Dan Cleary. Dan f------ Cleary?

Although it won't admit it, Chicago is in just-glad-to-be-here mode. The kids -- Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews -- can carry the Hawks only so far. Detroit can roll four lines. Chicago can roll, maybe, two.

And what is it about Chris Osgood that makes him turn into Wolverine during the playoffs? Ozzie looked absolutely soft down the stretch. Now all he has to do is dress. Lidstrom and the defense takes care of the rest.

Wings in 6.
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