Teemu Selanne says joining the exclusive club of 600-goal scorers means more to him than breaking childhood idol Jari Kurri's career total.
|Teemu Selanne and Jari Kurri share a laugh as one Finnish great nears his hero's scoring mark. (AP)|
Whatever his final total, Selanne will go down as the greatest offensive player his country has ever produced. And he will join Kurri in the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.
That's one view. Here are some others.
News: Donald Fehr touted as potential new NHLPA head.
Views: It's not hard to see why. The NHLPA is in need of much fixing before the new collective bargaining negotiations begin within the next two years, and recently retired former baseball union boss is one of the few individuals with the experience and the respect to make it happen.
The PA has gone through three directors since the lockout began, all of them undermined politically in one way or another by a membership that has strong internal and not necessarily accountable factions with often disparate views on how things should be done. So for the moment, Fehr has been brought in to act as a consultant to the hockey players with a mandate to help them draft a new and workable constitution for the union and to help find the right person to lead it.
That's still the plan in theory, but following the initial stages of his work with the NHLPA and after an address to a meeting of player agents last week, a groundswell of support among players and agents has been developing for Fehr to take over the job himself. And the 61-year-old Fehr, who left baseball after more than a quarter century to take life a little easier, hasn't ruled out the possibility either, telling reporters after the agents' meeting that hockey players were "quite remarkable individuals.
"They're bright, they care, they want to try and do the right thing."
More important, they need someone who can make sure they understand what that is. Fehr had a well-deserved reputation as a tough and skilled negotiator on behalf of baseball players, the talents the NHLPA will need most when it sits down next with the league, if only to protect itself.
Hockey doesn't have nearly the revenue streams that baseball or other sports do, so there will be only so much blood someone like Fehr can get from the stone. Thing is NHL players have done pretty well for themselves in their area of greatest concern -- money -- since the lockout ended, and Fehr's track record has shown that he places his greatest priority on maintaining just rewards for his followers.
The irony is that most people thought the players were taken to the cleaners because of the lockout. Yet the salary cap floor is now higher than the ceiling was when play resumed and a lot of players are still getting overpaid by clueless general managers.
The players don't want that to stop of course, but they see the wide swaths of empty seats in many buildings around the league and understand they will be under pressure from a league with a lot of financially challenged owners to give more back. Already there has been talk about the league seeking to do things like eliminate guaranteed contracts and raising the age of unrestricted free agency, the major 'gains' the players made to offset them agreeing to a salary cap back in 2006.
Enter Fehr, who never met a salary cap option that he liked. But Fehr also understands the business of sports as well as anyone and hockey's precarious position in it. More important, he's been around long enough to know what kind of leverage a union does have, and how to use it most effectively.
As Devils player rep Andy Greene told the Los Angeles Times: "If he can bring that knowledge and that experience over to us, that's something that's invaluable to have on your same side."
News: NHL denies Winnipeg is a fallback for the Coyotes.
Views: Everyone involved has dutifully dismissed a Phoenix Business Journal report that the NHL has made contingencies to move the Coyotes back to Canada if the league-owned team can't negotiate a better arena lease with the city of Glendale. In fact NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly insisted that no "deal" was in place with a Winnipeg group to move the team there is the talks in the desert dried up. They've talked, Daly says, but only in general terms. Yet the timing of the story does seem quite fortuitous for the NHL's effort to achieve its preferred goal of keeping the franchise where it is.
The league has set a June 30 deadline to reach an agreement with the city and to avoid asking a bankruptcy judge to void the current lease. But there is some urgency for the league to get politicians to move quickly because there is no guarantee that whatever momentum the team bought out of bankruptcy by the league has created with its Cinderella season will last. The Coyotes have been a remarkable story so far, earning their first playoff spot in eight seasons and still challenging for its division title with what seems like a rag-tag collection of castoffs and underachievers. And they have created some excitement in the desert as a result, selling out for the first time last weekend and getting large advance sales for their remaining games.
That may not be enough for local politicians to make the concessions in a state that is reeling financially and has cut many services, but it might provide the kind of cover that won't exist if the Coyotes do not go deep in the playoffs.
News: Penguins looking to host Caps in next Winter Classic.
Views: You gotta keep 'em interested, and nothing in the NHL is more compelling these days than a matchup between Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and Washington's Alex Ovechkin. So having them face off in the increasingly popular Winter Classic game next New Year's Day isn't a bad idea. The only problem is the location.
Officially no decisions have been made about anything regarding the game, but reports suggest that the Steelers Heinz Field is being mentioned because it can accommodate about 65,000 fans, but you would think the NHL learned a lesson from the first Winter Classic played at the Buffalo Bills home field. The big problem was the NFL team was in the playoffs until a couple of weeks before New Year's Day, which created a challenge in getting the outdoor rink ready. The layout of a football stadium wasn't particularly conducive to fans watching a game either, certainly nothing to compare to the intimacy and atmosphere generated by the subsequent spectacles at Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. The NHL might be better served offering up their poster boys in Washington at the Nationals stadium. Sight lines are better and you don't have to worry about the baseball playing an extended season either.
News: Predators close in on required attendance targets.
Views: That entitles Nashville to a $10 revenue sharing payment from the NHL. Coincidently, the Predators announced they would hit those numbers just after team owners waived their right to early termination of their lease. According to a report in the Tennessean, that avoided a potential default on the lease, a situation that arose when former lead owner David Freeman was hit with an IRS tax lien that undercut his personal guarantee to the city. The early termination clause was something Blackberry mogul Jim Balsillie was hoping to exercise when he tried to buy and move the team, and it has remained a bargaining chip for the current owners when they sought concessions from the city. But it means the team won't be going anywhere at least for a couple of years. That's good news for the modest, but loyal fan base. Except for the fact ticket prices in Nashville will rise an average of 6.5 percent next season.