Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, January 25, 2021

With the National Hockey League in the midst of the 2009 All-Star Game festivities in Montreal, now’s as good a time as any for me to take a varied, mid-season assessment on various of-the-moment topics. In no particular order:

- The All-Star Game itself has generated a good amount of nattering over the fan voting irregularities, which resulted in both Eastern and Western starters coming from only four NHL teams: Pittsburgh, host Montreal, Chicago, and Anaheim. The griping points out that this homerism shuts out merit-based votes for players who racked up stats more worthy of All-Star recognition.

My thoughts: Get over it. Fan voting isn’t intended to result in fairly-measured selections — it’s meant to allow diehard fans to act as boosters for their favorite teams and/or players. It’s like walking into McDonald’s for a meal, and expecting to tuck into filet mignon.

If the idea of a coveted starting spot at the ASG being “wasted” bothers people so much, then here’s a simple solution: Stop calling them “starters”, and call them “All-Star Fan Selections”. Keep them in that 30-second first puck-drop formation, but label them something more in line with what they truly represent, and assuage the hardcore purists at the same time.

- I guess I’m the only hockey fan in creation who didn’t get that YoungStars is a pun on “youngsters”, right? Yep, I thought so.

- Speaking of the YoungStars, I liked the Rookies vs. Sophomores format.

Beyond the All-Star concerns…

- Fighting in hockey is again getting some mull-over time at the NHL level. I’ve already made my feelings known on the neverending debate, and will only add this: The proposed penalty for helmet removal during a fight will be one more rules-based indirect deterrent against fighting, same as the instigator rule. So I see the latest controversy as another soft move toward the eventual removal of fisticuffs from the game.

- The Islanders have managed to generate some artificial buzz by agreeing to play a preseason game in Kansas City, thus sparking speculation about their arena situation on Long Island.

I characterize the situation as “artificial” because, well, it is. Neutral-site preseason games are not even remotely a unique event — half of the NHL participates in them every year. They’ve never been viewed as preludes to team relocation. And Kansas City’s situation with its major league-bereft Sprint Center is also not unique — arenas from Hamilton, Ontario to Houston have hosted NHL games, without the visiting teams setting off speculation.

So I view this story as purely a creation out of the Islanders’ PR department, intended to stir up media frenzy and put pressure on officials in Hempstead to push through new arena development to keep the club in New York.

As for KC: I’ve already noted that the new arena there is a shoehorned affair, not suitable for long-term major-league occupancy. Add to that the relatively small size of the Kansas City media market, and it’s looking like a bad option for the NHL or NBA to set up shop there. Any team that moves into that barn is going to be short-timing it, looking for a new facility and/or location within 10 years. Therefore, as a hockey fan, I actually hope that the NBA beats the NHL to the Sprint Center, and let the resultant headaches go to David Stern.

All that said, and accounting for the inherent revenue-generating limitations of the Kansas City market: If the Sprint Center does land either a hoops or pucks team, I see a strong possibility that it will become the first Big Four team to adopt a wholly corporate-based identity, i.e. the Kansas City Sprinters. With Sprint-matching uniform colors of yellow-and-black.

- Finally, regarding the actual on-ice action and the standings: I’m as surprised as anyone that the Phoenix Coyotes have moved into fifth place in the West. The long-time doormats have quietly sneaked into playoff contention; I see them going out in the first round, but it’s still an achievement.

Their Eastern counterpart is probably the Buffalo Sabres. Both teams are largely doing it with mirrors, along with some underachievement by other clubs (Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Ottawa come to mind). Nice surprises, for as long as they last.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/25/2009 08:11 PM
Category: Basketball, Hockey
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    The New York Islanders have found a relocation option more feasible than their trumped-up Kansas City/Sprint Center canard, and it’s right across the county border: New York City’s Queens borough is dangling Willet’s Point, near the …

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 03/30/2009 @ 1:56 PM

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