Slava Fetisov is a Hockey Hero….but even Heroes Make Poor Decisions

Viacheslav Fetisov is a great player. There’s no questioning that fact. Inarguably one of the finest defensemen of his generation (who knows how productive he could have been had he played his prime years in the NHL) and a Cup champion.

But his recent comments regarding the KHL and its out-flux of talent is definitely strange. Shortsighted. Out of character. And one that has largely defined the extents to which the Kontinental Hockey League has been hit by the economic situation in Russia, and just how far there is left for the league to fall.

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, as reported by the Associated Press:

Fetisov, who is now a senator in Russia, tells Russia’s R-Sport news agency that federal law should be used to stop Russian players from moving to North America before they turn 28.

The aim is to keep “our most talented guys, the ones who the people come to see.”

Now, it must be noted that this regulation, if it passes, would be applied to ALL KHLers under the age limit, not just Russian players.

Continue reading Slava Fetisov is a Hockey Hero….but even Heroes Make Poor Decisions

David Robinson

As this is a new blog, I don’t expect there to be many repeat visitors. But just in case there are people who have been waiting, I would like to say thanks for being patient with me and after a brief (if a month is brief) hiatus I will be back to posting on a regular basis starting this week.

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Nominally, this is a hockey blog. It says right there in the name. I myself am devoted to hockey alone, and my experience with other sports is very basic at best (do I understand what constitutes a good play or a good player when watching? Yes. But do I know my terminologies or the intricacies of other sports? Absolutely not.).

But today, I’d like to take a little time to appreciate one of the most unheralded superstars and all-around good guys in all of basketball history, and what his legacy means for other athletes (and, of course, hockey athletes in particular).

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Some Rebuild Myths, and How the Calgary Flames are Defying Them, Part I

Fresh off a first round, maybe not upset, but definitely an eye-raiser, over the crosstown rival Vancouver Canucks, the Cardiac Kids just keep on rolling. The Calgary Flames are everyone’s darling on the ice, lately, and for good reason. They’re fast, they’re exciting, and most of all they’re symbolic of the kind of never-say-die underdogs that people love to cheer for. When a team like that is succeeding, you can’t help but respect them.

Make no mistake about it; this is a team that has a whole lot of that little “it” factor. Call it character, call it moxie, call it intangibles, but whatever it is, the whole organization oozes it in spades. This is significant for me because I’m a huge stats nerd and you can’t measure intangibles; that’s kind of why they’re labelled as such.

And this is still a team in its formative stages. Can I guarantee that the team’s young talent continues to improve? No. But I can give you a good guess and say that they’ll give it as good a shot as anyone else in the league. Why? Because this is a team that has defied the odds all the way, and that winning mentality is one that has been carefully nurtured by the higher ups for the last 2 years.

This is a rebuilding team. But it’s not your standard rebuilding team.

Continue reading Some Rebuild Myths, and How the Calgary Flames are Defying Them, Part I

The Hopes and Dreams of Asian Hockey (and How It’s Not Always a Great Thing)

One of the things I like to keep up on are the rare hockey players that share my ethnicity. In a way, it’s comforting to know that I am not the only Asian out there with a passion for the sport. Take Cliff Pu, pictured above, who’s a former high OHL draft pick and is draft-eligible for 2016. It’ll take a herculean effort from him in order to pass the 3-headed monster of Auston Matthews, Jesse Puljujarvi and Jakob Chychrun at the top of what looks to be another strong draft class, but he’s a name who will be worth watching heading into the 2015-16 season.

Make no mistake about it. Chinese people can love sports just as much as anyone. Smart teams take advantage of this fact; witness Manchester United’s efforts to brand itself in Oriental markets. The English Premier League is the most popular sport league in the world, and that extends itself into Southeast Asia as well.

Ice hockey has a cult following in Eastern Asia. The Asia League has been around for a number of years. NHL games are broadcast on some channels (taped, of course) as many as a few nights a week (I know this because I’ve been on vacation and channel-flipped before; yes, I’m that desperate for my kicks). But given the sheer number of people living in that area of the world, it’s clear that the NHL as a whole has a pretty big blank spot in the category entitled, “Chinese, Korean and Japanese Hockey Fans”.

Continue reading The Hopes and Dreams of Asian Hockey (and How It’s Not Always a Great Thing)

The Power of Social Media in Sport

Technology in sport has reached a bit of a golden age. Never before has the average fan been able to connect so readily to their team. With modern sport viewing possible anywhere and everywhere, from online streams and mobile applications, the very idea of sport broadcasting has been changed forever.

And with social media, fans can finally interact with and connect to their favorite players and idols with the mere click of a button. If you told someone 15 years ago that in the very near future someone would develop a website that allowed you to keep track of your favorite athletes, stars, and public figures’ daily thoughts and movements, they would have thought you insane.

They’d also think you were worthy of being labelled a deviant. What kind of person wants to know exactly what someone else is up to all the time?

Continue reading The Power of Social Media in Sport

Expansion! Part III

For those of you who haven’t read part 2, here it is: http://www.hockeyminority.com/?p=88

The last time I posted, I painstakingly put out a set of rules as to how the expansion draft could be organized, in order to help even out the playing field and give the expansion teams the ability to get off the ground. I talked a little about how important this coming wave of expansion is for the sport and the league as a whole.

I did say “teams” repeatedly, on the assumption that it would be a two-team draft. And I did leave failsafes in for existing teams, for those of you with short memories. Listen, if your team was crippled through losing 2 depth players or middling prospects, it probably wasn’t a great team to begin with. And think of it as an investment in the future of the NHL; a stronger start for these teams means more positive exposure, more fans, more money, more interest. It means that they (hopefully) aren’t floundering in mediocrity for the first 8 years of their existence, as they try to acquire enough decent young talent to begin to look like an NHL organization.

So now, let’s take a look at how an existing team might, hypothetically, choose to organize its protected list if a new set of franchises were awarded this season:

Continue reading Expansion! Part III

Expansion! Part II

I touched a little bit on the importance of starting off a franchise the right way near the end of my last post (which can be read here: http://www.hockeyminority.com/?p=63). Expansion teams get the short end of the stick in that regard. You pay your millions, woo the group of wealthy men whose exclusive club you’re trying to gain access to, and then you get to June and the always entertaining (if for all the wrong reasons) expansion draft.

I love drafts. It’s so interesting to use them as a benchmark for where a player was rated at one point in time, and how far they’ve come since in relation to their peers. This love extends itself to expansion drafts as well. It’s (hypothetically, since I’ve yet to experience one in detail) intriguing to see who teams value, what hard decisions will have to be made, and the general chaos that results from players learning that they were less valuable to their organizations than originally thought.

But the way the NHL has historically done these drafts generally results in teams that are no less than god awful. And that’s pretty brutal as an owner when you’ve just dished out hundreds of millions of dollars in order to watch Scott Pellerin and Tyler Wright play key (read: top line) roles for your baby.

Continue reading Expansion! Part II

Expansion! Part I

NHL expansion has been gaining steam over the last few years, to the point where at this junction you’re all but guaranteed to see at least two more teams in the Western Conference in the next 2-3 years. Count on it.

And that’s great for the game. First off, it solves that tricky little 16-14 conference alignment thing we have going on, which probably creates a ton of stress for the NHL schedule-makers (who, unlike their bosses or the players who follow the schedules they painstakingly create, are probably NOT paid in the 7 digits). Second off, and call me crazy, but the NHL is still growing. There is still a ton of growth potential in this league and I think the NHL brain trust is recognizing that there is definitive interest in having hockey in more markets. And not just markets like Southern Ontario and Quebec, where you know you have fans and potential customers.

I mean (and here’s where a lot of purists of the game are going to get mad) there are markets out there that don’t have NHL fans, that could potentially have NHL fans if you plunked a team there. Shocking, isn’t it?

Continue reading Expansion! Part I

Introductions

There are few mediums in the world that are as emotionally artistic as the notion of sport. What other pastime do we live, breathe, and die with our friends, our teammates, our fellow fans? It is an equalizer, where we could care less about who you are, where you’re from, or what you look like, so long as you are willing to jump in and submit yourself to the same joy of the game as us.

In other words, sports are ****ing awesome.

Continue reading Introductions