Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Wednesday, July 02, 2021

It’s finally official, and all over but the crying — tears of joy in Oklahoma and of grief in Washington State, as Seattle’s NBA franchise strikes a deal to relocate to Sooner country for next season.

They won’t be playing their games as the “Oklahoma City SuperSonics”, though:

[Team owner Clay] Bennett said he and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels signed a binding agreement Wednesday, which would be formalized later, that keeps the SuperSonics’ name, logo and colors available if Seattle gets a replacement franchise.

Leaving behind a franchise’s trappings in the wake of relocation has become de rigueur for carpetbagging owners, often characterized as a goodwill concession. Never mind that it’s mostly self-serving — there are distinct advantages to creating a new brand identity to match a team’s new home city, mostly in the merchandising area. And there’s only one modern-era instance of a successful “restoration” of a city-team franchise: The current incarnation of the Cleveland Browns, which the NFL pretty much insisted upon as a public relations fix. Furthermore, I know of only one other in-effect major-league franchise leave-behind: That of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers, whose spirit is property of the State of Connecticut.

Which brings me to my idea: Instead of embarking on a mad dash for another shot at big-league hoops, the Emerald City should take its parting gift, and promptly graft it onto the next National Hockey League team that wants to move into KeyArena.

Why not? Hockey is a missing link for the Pacific Northwest’s sports scene (the cross-border Vancouver Canucks notwithstanding). Reviving the Seattle SuperSonics as an NHL team would nicely fill the void. That green-and-gold color scheme would look great fitted with skates and hockey sticks. The Sonics logo would have to be reworked a little, but it can’t be too hard to airbrush that basketball into a puck.

Besides, it’s high time that Seattle resumed its aborted Stanley Cup-winning run.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/02/2021 11:27:04 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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Is the game of golf really a sport? According to Dan LeBatard and (especially) Michael Lewis, it is not, and ergo, Tiger Woods is not really an athlete.

What do I think? I think both LeBatard and Lewis are closet NHL fans, and thus are retaliating for Woods’ diss on hockey during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/02/2021 09:55:35 PM
Category: Hockey, Media, Other Sports
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supply and demand
Yesterday was the kickoff for the National Hockey League free agency signing period, and the clubs delivered with some US$400 million in announced contract signings.

Yes, there’s the annual outrage over “too much” money being paid out. It’s an idiotic gripe, especially in the salary cap era, and I’m not going to rehash fundamental arguments for why athletes get paid what they (rightly) get paid. As has been the case for decades, it’s a very simple formula: If the owners didn’t have it, they wouldn’t spend it.

The first day took plenty of marquee names off the market, but certainly not all, and that’s the biggest remaining story. Mats Sundin and Marian Hossa are still on the loose, as is Jaromir Jagr; they represent the three flashiest players who are now weighing some big-money options on the table. Once they’re signed, the excitement pretty much concludes. Pending their destinations, here are some highlights from the already-concluded moves:

- The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest splashes, even from before the official July 1st opening. They traded what turned to be a bushel of future draft picks to secure negotiating rights to Vinny Prospal, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, and Brian Rolston. They went 3-for-4, with all but Rolston agreeing to terms. Thus the Bolts illustrated the rewards and risks of paying for a brief window of exclusive negotiating rights to pending free agents: It worked beautifully for Malone and Roberts, who might not have come to Tampa Bay otherwise; it was an iffy investment for Prospal, who likely would have returned to his familiar stomping grounds anyway; and it was a burned draft pick (albeit probably a low-round one) on Rolston, who apparently didn’t give much consideration to the offer.

The above signings, combined with Radim Vrbata, Adam Hall, and the expected addition of Steve Stamkos, serves to re-vitalize the Lightning’s forward corps. The thing is: How radical a remake did Tampa Bay’s offense need? They did struggle with scoring last season, but that was mostly due to a lack of consistency from the second line. I considered the defense to be this team’s main bugaboo, really for the past two seasons, and it doesn’t appear that they’ve addressed that. I guess they’re planning on leaning on Mike Smith to blossom as a No. 1 goalie, with newly-signed Ollie Kolzig as mentor and insurance policy. The early read: Plenty of 6-5 games at the St. Pete Times Forum.

And, based on the way these moves are coming down — all from new owners Oren Koules and Len Barrie, with newly-hired exec Brian Lawton chiming in — we can expect to see General Manager Jay Feaster tender his resignation any day now, since it sure looks like he’s got nothing much to do anymore.

- Speaking of defensive moves, the Rangers and the Blackhawks scooped up the notable impact players in Wade Redden and Brian Campbell, respectively. Chicago needed the boost more, as their returning defensive unit is shorter on experience.

- The goaltending shuffle was a bit staid, mainly because none of the available netminders were considered high-profilers. Washington is placing a pretty big bet on Jose Theodore, who’s see-sawed over the past couple of seasons. Cristobal Huet’s arrival in Chicago means the Blackhawks are looking to either shed incumbent goalie Nik Khabibulin, or else put enough heat on him to get him back to top-flight performance (which he might have anyway, considering he’s entering his contract year). Other moves, like for Kolzig, Patrick Lalime, and Andrew Raycroft, are primary backup-filler.

- The New Jersey Devils brought back alumni Rolston and Bobby Holik, meaning they’re ready to contend for the Stanley Cup — in 1995.

UPDATE: And just as I post this, this unlikely bombshell hits: Marian Hossa signs a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 07/02/2021 01:03:53 PM
Category: Hockey
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