New York Rangers


This nonsense has been hanging over our heads, faithful NHL fans with an eye for labor unrest would agree, for probably close to 2 years, and what should be closer to 8, since the last time the league pulled this powerplay, and proudly broke the will and the leadership of the NHLPA.  There would have to be a rumble in the next CBA, and so here we are.  NHL Lockout 2012, in much the same fashion as they brought us NHL Lockout 2004 and NHL Lockout 1994.  And by many of the same offensive offenders.  Jeremy Jacobs, Ed Snider, Lou Lamoriello, and of course, the worst commissioner in professional sports, by a mile, the front man and lead goon in a record 3rd lockout, Gary Bettman.

We don’t care for the argument that he is only doing what he is told.  That’s not true.  The owners are doing what Bettman tells them to do, and not vice versa.  Bettman has tightened up the NHL bylaws so that the power of the commissioner is nearly indomitable, as the obviously very astute Ken Dryden reminds us in the recent article excerpted below:

In NHL governors’ meetings, Bettman would point this out, at first forcefully, over time as if possessed.  He presented elaborate charts: Here’s what the league and individual teams take in, here’s what we spend. It makes no sense. Here’s what winning teams spend, here’s what losing teams spend. There’s no correlation between spending and performance (there was, in fact, some correlation). It makes no sense.

He would run a roll call of teams, and one by one take team owners, with all their private business splashed up on a big screen for everyone to see, to the principal’s office. Here’s what you’re doing – you idiot – here are the results you’re getting – you moron – and, always prefaced by the anti-trust defeating phrase, “Of course, you have the right, as everyone does, to make any decision you want” – what are you going to do in the future – you total fool.

To get out of the principal’s office, team owners learned to respond as if at an AA meeting.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/league-and-players-are-fighting-in-an-age-of-disagreement/article4543964/

And:

He had to get their support to change the NHL bylaws so that a higher percentage of team owners were required to override any proposed agreement with the NHLPA he brought to them. Then he’d need the support of only a few friendly owners, and the negotiations were his. He got the bylaws changed.

This is part of the reason he gets to so cockily tout his position in the negotiations, like saying “we simply feel we are paying the players too much money.”  Obviously, as is evidenced by the spate of huge contracts being offered by these owners, of their own free will mind you, they do not feel they are paying the players too much.  A small market team, for God sakes, offered the richest contract in history not once but twice in the same day, when Minnesota signed Suter and Parise.  BTW, we hate Parise, obviously, but could not argue at all when asked for comment on the labor situation, and he said “You know Bettman loves his lockouts.”

It’s another part of the reason, for the sport of it.  And what kind of guy gets off on depriving workers of their livelihoods?  Make no mistake about this, there are workers that are going to be deprived of their jobs.  All arena workers, and many ancillary workers, players aside.  This is not a good guy.  If you listen to his press conferences and interviews, do you not get the distinct impression you are hearing from a sheisty lawyer telling multiple lies a minute.  Forget that he invoked the price of jet fuel and hand massages when asked about inflation affecting the owners.  It’s not that.  It’s that he is a mean and vindictive labor leader and therefore, needs to be vigorously protected from by the union.  It’s also that he hasn’t come up as extremely intelligent when dealing with labor issues, franchise issues, potential owners, and just about all the really relevant issues affecting the league.

We haven’t thought much of him from the get go.  But apparently NHL owners are either none too hard to please or even less bright than Bettman himself.  And they don’t have too much more of a heart than Bettman either, sanctioning these lockouts, which almost feel like a rite of passage at this point.  Here is some very pointed criticism of Bettman from another good article on the looming lockout and specifically, on Bettman’s performance and on the league, from author and economist Andrew Zimbalist:

“It means it is poorly managed,” said our frank, 64-year-old professor of economics at Smith College in Massachusetts, and author of 20 books, including May The Best Team Win: Baseball Economics and Public Policy.

“Mr. Bettman, although he has some qualities that are admirable, has made a lot of bad decisions,” Zimbalist said this week, before Thursday’s confirmation that we are heading towards Bettman’s third lockout since becoming the commissioner of the National Hockey League in 1993. “He has not promoted effective management at the team level, and he is unwilling to admit his mistakes and walk away from them.”

http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl-lockout/2012/09/13/nhl_lockout_cba_betmann_bad_for_business/

Zimbalist calls the game’s popularity in the USA as on a “thin string.”  He criticizes Bettman for threatening the stability and popularity of the game in the US, and for insisting on a bad policy of expansion in the American southeast where he was in essence, forcing the game on little interested markets.  Yet he is the guy asking for a 15% reduction in salaries, a reduction that actually equates to a 17.3% reduction in salary when the league’s new definition of hockey related revenue is applied.

The owners are destined to fight, obviously at Bettman’s behest, because they feel that the players, who agreed to rollbacks and other severe concessions last time, could be broken again, should they apply a little financial pressure in the form of lost earnings.  The players need to fight because they got beat so badly last time.  They need to resurrect the reputation of the union, which once had a fine reputation as smart and tough, is now considered a laughingstock.

Things like that are gonna have a funny way of changing the perception with a guy like Donald Fehr running things for the players.  The players needed a good guy, and perhaps, they got the best guy there ever was in sports labor relations.  Is Fehr an evil lawyer himself?  A bit.  But he’s brilliant.  He’s a guy you know has thought through every angle.  So brilliant, and hammer him for this if you like, but he was able to keep accountable steroid testing out of baseball for years and years after the steroid problem had become a scandal and a black mark on the game.

For Fehr, that’s an opportunity to keep big stats in the game, which keep leading to record contracts.  As it is his job, first and foremost to fight for the union, and the big contracts are phenomenal for the union.  We can’t see how Bettman feels all that comfortable in this confrontation.  Zimbalist also feels that by offering the players a 15% reduction, that Bettman was negotiating from an “unreasonable position”, which smells like, at the very least, bad faith to us.

We think Fehr knows a lot of tricks that Bettman hasn’t seen yet.  We know he’s gone to school, to Harvard, essentially, on the NHL and it’s embarrassing practices.  And Fehr and the players both understand the necessity of re-making the union’s reputation.  That’s not the kind of thing that a guy like Fehr undertakes lightly.  He refused to open negotiations early, knowing full well of the league’s intend to lockout.  Fehr is not exactly shying away from this course of action.  He’s ready to fight, and he’s a guy who really has never lost a fight like this, in a league of his own.

We think the players are doing a good job in the press, as the owners unreasonable position seems ironclad.  The players winning press is going to help the players ultimately get a nice deal.  Once the fans and media become totally entrenched in their position as pro player, Bettman is going to drop the nonsense and talk turkey.  We see Fehr bamboozling Bettman at that time, in ways that Bettman won’t be able to figure out for a few good years of head scratching, just like every CBA, pretty much, that Bettman has gotten for his greedy, malicious owners.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

Douchebag at ESPY’s (above).

With a flood of Lin stuff coming to the fore today in the wake of the New York Knicks decision not to match the Houston offer sheet to Jeremy Lin, we felt it wise to reserve our print judgment on the kid for a bit.  But we knew what that judgment was going to be, more or less, since hearing that Lin had went back to Houston, after being informed the Knicks would match on the initial offer, and contorted the offer into one of less years and more guaranteed money.  That second offer contained the dreaded poison pill, a 3rd year salary of some $15M, which would have put the Knicks in cap hell in 2014, and would have seen the Knicks responsible for nearly $58M between Lin’s salary and the luxury tax # that the salary and the 7 other Knicks under contract in 2014 would have triggered.

We loved Tommy Dee’s take on the situation on http://www.theknicksblog.com and must credit him, as has Evan Roberts of WFAN, for being on top of all NBA trade and free agent matters this offseason, beating most of the Knicks beat to Knicks related stories, and also, the Nets beat on matters relating to the um, “Brooklyn” Nets.  And we understand Dee’s vitriol toward Jim Dolan, who he feels made a petty decision, another petty decision, in deciding not to match on Jeremy Lin.

As a long tenured Knicks fan, we appreciate his passion, knowledge, and the depth of his analysis.  But we woke up one morning about 27-28 years ago to discover that the Knicks had similarly passed on an opportunity to retain Bernard King, one of the greatest scorers to ever play the game, and the greatest scorer to ever don a Knicks jersey.  As much as we love Bernard King, we root for the team, not the player.  Strictly front of the jersey, is how that works.  If Dolan and the Knicks brass perceived that Lin had been disloyal, and, that signing Lin was cost prohibitive to running their team, then they were well within their rights to let him go.  Even if doing so constituted losing an asset that they had acquired for nothing.

Were we stunned to hear that the Knicks had acquired Raymond Felton?  Indeed.  And we’d also have to credit a guy that we have discredited often who we feel is slow to news in covering the Knicks, Frank Isola of the NY Daily News, who had the Felton story down cold by not too late in the evening on Saturday.  We feel that Felton is an upgrade over Lin, we know that Felton wished to be here, and that he waited out the Lin situation on the off chance that the Knicks would turn to him.  We loved Felton’s work here last year, in averaging 17 PPG and 9 APG in his Knick career, leading to his trade to Denver for Carmelo.  An out of shape Felton, who came with a bad attitude more often than not to the arena last year for the Trailblazers still averaged close to 11 PPG and 7 APG, numbers that few Knicks guards have put up in the last 20 years.  A motivated Felton, back with Stoudemire, who had his greatest success as a Knick on the receiving end of Felton’s largesse, is going to be a boon to the team and to both Stoudemire and Felton.  Getting Stoudemire back to where he was in 2010 will be essential to getting the Knicks over the next hump, which is to win a round in the playoffs, hopefully more.

Now back to Lin and Dolan.  Say whatever you want about Dolan, and we’ve said much, but at the end of the day, we like him, because his check book makes it all happen.  That’s in two sports.  The New York Rangers, our dearly beloved, is now a model NHL franchise, the apple of thirty or so city’s eyes, and it is Dolan who footed that bill.  It is Dolan who ultimately gives Glen Sather the opportunity to cut Brad Richards a $65M contract, and who gives Sather the freedom to run the organization as he wishes, creating the phenomenal situation the Rangers are in, from coaching staff, to roster, to the draft room and farm system, which is unmatched throughout the sport right now.  And if Zach Parise wasn’t such a dick then Dolan would’ve signed off an a monumental deal for him as well, and Parise could’ve played out his career in the mecca, as opposed to Minnesota, a place where big time athletes do not want to go.

Houston happens to be another place like that.  And when Jeremy Lin had that assurance from Dolan that the Knicks were going to match his 28M offer, he went back to Houston for better terms, terms Lin knew would hamper the Knicks ability to retain him.  Is Lin disloyal?  Absolutely.  Should he have pursued the best offer at all costs, as he did?  No.  If you want to be a Knick and the Knicks tell you they are keeping you, then you let it end right there, with a fat AAS of $7M per.  JR Smith could’ve pretended he was a good, loyal Knick and then went out and taken a big offer.  He didn’t.  Why?  Because he wanted to be here.  Because he isn’t that guy.  For all the things he is, for any dumb shit he’s done, he’s not a dishonest, money hungry amateurish NBA Chinese American Harvard hayseed.  Steve Novak also showed he wanted to be here when he could’ve pushed the envelope for a fatter payday.

What do we mean by that string of Lin insults?  Well, let’s be honest.  Jeremy Lin handled this situation terribly, right down to his crocodile tears today about wanting to be here, and his stupid fucking Twitter thank you to New York.  Jeremy Lin thought the Knicks had no option but him at point guard, and therefore, he thought, let’s try to extort NY.  Jim Dolan has every right to be upset and hurt by that.  Jeremy Lin, his team, his agent, whomever, underestimated the Knicks ability to find another guard within 72 hours.  Today, he said as much.  He had no idea that they had Felton on the back burner, and he says, had he known that, he wouldn’t have pressed for the poison pill contract with Houston.

Lin also said a lot of other things that expose him for the amateurish backstabber he is.  Like how he wanted to play in game 5 against Miami but that Knicks players in the league “5 years or more” talked him out of it, causing him to change his tune from “85% healthy” to “15% from the minimum threshold” of NBA game readiness.  We also have to hand it to Isola for pointing out these ridiculous statements in slapping Lin around all day.

Does Lin have some kind of special computer that only he owns that measures minimum threshold for NBA game readiness?  If so, was it engineered at Harvard?  Or by the Chinese?  If so, were they the same friends of Yao Ming who apparently orchestrated this whole Houston nonsense as a favor to Yao?  Because these Chinese roll so thick and all?  And what about the Knick vets with 5 years or more?

Did actuarial science really rob the Knicks of an 85% healthy but really 15% of minimum NBA readiness game 5 Jeremy Lin?  Did Lin really feel it was necessary to leak through his team that he was going to play, only to rescind, through his team, that he would, when playing or not playing against the Miami Heat was academic to the eventual result anyway?  And why was his team to be believed then, but last week, was not to be believed when Lin made his famous proclamation that ‘if it isn’t a direct quote’ from him then don’t believe it?  These are not the actions of a forthright, trustworthy individual.

Did the Knicks fuck Lin over initially by openly coveting Steve Nash?  No.  Does Lin suggest that the pursuit of Nash inclined Lin to backstab the NYK?

He does, but he is a dumb dick.  Coveting the best player at a given position is something that every team in the league should do.  If he thinks Houston didn’t covet Nash, then he’s a fool.  Only thing is, Nash isn’t stupid enough to do business with the Rockets or go live in that God awful place.

This is how great the Knicks were to Lin, in fact:  After giving him his big break, they were not even convinced of his ability to be a starter in the league considering that he only played a handful of games, and yet they were still willing to pay him 7M per, as a fucking backup.

Because the Knicks want to win, and so, they were willing to pay out over 20M to that one position, point guard, between Nash (10-12 M), Lin (7M AAS), Prignioni ($900,000), and Kidd (3M).  That’s what is so great about being a Knick fan, despite any folly perpetrated by their owners and management.  They’ll pay anything.

But they won’t be extorted.  Not even by some Asian Johnny Come Lately, not even when it devalues the company stock or when the guy they are letting go sells the most jerseys in the world.  So bravo to Dolan, Grunwald, Woodson, the Knickerbockers, the Rangers and the Garden.  And fuck you to Jeremy Lin.  Have fun in Houston, kid.  If you do, you’ll be the first.

Crack (https://crackbillionair.wordpress.com)

According to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News, the slumping Rangers will place Sean Avery on re-entry waivers at noon today. Avery is expected to clear waivers and rejoin the club for Thursday’s match at the Garden with Anaheim. Larry Brooks of The Post is also reporting the Avery recall. Looks like the team expects Andre Devaux to fill the energy role tonight against the surging Sharks.

Recently deceased Rangers’ forward Derek Boogard (above).

The local papers brought more to light regarding this tragic incident today.  Larry Brooks of the New York Post was the first from our local media to report that Boogard had been involved in the league and player’s association recovery program.  Brooks did not break that story nationally, as it was first reported in the Minneapolis Tribune, but he did mention that Boogard had returned to the team in April and then sought permission from Rangers’ President Glen Sather to leave the team in order to further pursue recovery.  Rangers Daily News beat reporter Jesse Spector also reported this, as well as the family’s decision to donate Boogard’s remains to the important scientific research on CTE being done by Boston University.  More from Spector:

It also was a day of very sad and uncomfortable questions, both about the reactions of the people close to Boogaard and the situation that now will unfold in the aftermath of his death. Perhaps the most awkward query of the day was the last one, as I just learned that, as you might expect, the remaining three years on Boogaard’s contract do not count against the salary cap. It turns out that under the CBA, death is the same as retirement from a salary cap standpoint – according to the NHLPA, had Boogaard been over 35 years old when he signed his contract, the rest of the contract would have remained in effect against the cap.

The major developments of the day were that a source said Boogaard was involved in the NHLPA/NHL Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program, which could have been for any number of off-ice issues, and that, as the Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported, Boogaard’s family has agreed to donate his brain to scientific research with the Boston University program that has made so many recent breakthroughs with posthumous examinations of NHL enforcer Bob Probert and dozens of NFL players.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/rangers/2011/05/sadness-grows-over-derek-boogaards-death-and-questions-emerge

Whatever substance issues Boogard struggled with, we are confident that proper scientific testing will reveal were linked to the fatal disease CTE, and that Boogard will be the youngest hockey player diagnosed.  Yesterday, we called for the league to do more to protect the players.  Today, we will ask the New York Rangers to also do something, considering this tragedy and the missed diagnosis of a concussion on Rangers star Marian Gaborik by team doctors this winter.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

Rangers forward Derek Boogard (above), found dead in his Minnesota apartment yesterday.

Boogard came to the team as a big ticket replacement for Jody Shelley, a tough as nails fighter, who had done the tough job of being an enforcer for the team, and was one that other players feared.  So when Boogard joined the team early last summer, all 6’8″ of him, with his imposing reputation preceding him, a young man who tough guys were reluctant to fight with because of his quick hands and menacing size, many Ranger fans were just fine with the transaction, as in hockey, unfortunately, teams need someone scary to keep their high end talent safe.

Frankly, there’s a lot wrong with the game, and so is this.  We have been debating internally our stance on fighting in the game since we read a whole bunch about Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, related mostly to ex-football players, but also to Bob Probert, a legendary NHL tough guy.  We know the league is also looking hard at fighting as well, with arguably its best player, Sidney Crosby, wrung up soundly with a concussion from which he has not recovered.  Will the golden boy whom the NHL has swung just about all of its marketing impetus behind ever be the same?

There is some question.  Derek Boogard was the type of player a team would acquire to keep players like Crosby unencumbered.  It’s thankless work.  And some, in hockey circles, can’t understand how a guy that gets 3 or 4 minutes of ice a game and who isn’t counted on for his playing skills, can occupy a seat on the bench, taking away opportunity from a more talented player, and can earn so much in the process.  The Rangers paid Derek Boogard in excess of one million dollars a year.

It’s a blood sport.  As much as we have always been fans of seeing our guy kick the hell out of the other guy, the concept of the enforcer has become barbaric to us, and always should have been.  We’re surprised more haven’t perished, and we are seriously concerned that there is no really effective way to protect top end talent, which is a dark notion for the league that gets worse ratings than NASCAR.

But Sidney Crosby isn’t on the sidelines because of a fight or what an enforcer could or couldn’t do.  There’s no way to keep players safe.  They are bigger and faster than ever, stronger than ever, and the collisions and impacts, in our humble opinion, are leaving imprints that are the same as the ones being suffered by guys like Dave Duerson, who recently shot himself in the chest with a shotgun, and left his brain to science.

Jeff Klein of the New York Times offers a much better obituary on Boogard than we ever could.  Here’s part of it:

 In poll after poll of N.H.L. players it was always a landslide: Derek Boogaard was the toughest, most feared fighter in the league.

Signed to a four-year contract averaging $1.6 million a year, Boogaard played just 22 games for the Rangers.

So fearsome was the hulking Boogaard that last summer the Rangers signed him to a four-year contract at an average of $1.6 million per year —far higher than most enforcers command.

His most significant hockey statistic was 6-foot-7, 265-pound. Playing a handful of shifts a game, he scored only three goals in 277 career games over six seasons, but amassed 589 penalty minutes including 70 fights. In one stretch of almost five years, he went 234 consecutive games without scoring, the longest drought in league history. In drills at the Rangers’ training camp last year, he trailed behind the other players, winded, as he had done at camps with his previous team, the Minnesota Wild.

Boogaard, 28, was found dead in his Minneapolis apartment by members of his family on Friday, and within hours his fellow players — including those he sometimes fought — were sending messages of condolence through the social media.

Sgt. Bill Palmer, a spokesman for the Minneapolis police, said Boogaard was dead when emergency medical technicians arrived. He said the police do not suspect foul play because Boogaard’s body showed no sign of physical trauma.

Palmer said the police would not comment about a possible cause of death until the medical examiner’s office completed toxicology tests after an autopsy performed Saturday. A final report is expected to be released in about two weeks, he said.

Boogaard was remembered fondly by former teammates in Minnesota and New York and by former fighting opponents.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/sports/hockey/rangers-enforcer-boogaard-is-found-dead-at-his-minneapolis-apartment.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1     

Boogard had a fight with Ottawa’s Matt Carkner in early December, suffered a concussion, and was yet to return.   You can see video of that fight below.

As for us, we don’t have a lot to say about the man because his stay was so short here.  We liked his acquisition, and his attitude, but he only played in a handful of games.  On not scoring in over 200 games consecutively, we remember how Boogard enthusiastically proclaimed in an interview before the season opener, that he planned on getting off the snide that night.  We were happy to see him get that first goal in so long a few games later.

We’d hate to conjecture about the dead, but we would not be surprised if Boogard suffered from CTE.  Whether or not that’s the case, we are calling for the league to do whatever’s necessary to make the game safer.

Crack (http://crackbillionair.wordpress.com, http://www.crackbillionair.com)

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