Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Recipe for Lemonade

[Cross-posted from Greg's Full Mental Jackets blog.  What a worthy organization! - Tom]

Two days ago, I cross-posted an article by Tom Fellrath (The Dark Blue Jacket) that really resonated with me. In that article, Tom proposed that CBJ season ticket holders take the lemons they have been handed by the NHL owners and players and turn them into lemonade by donating part of their season ticket refunds to a local charity. I'd like to take things one step further and suggest to you a local charity very worthy of your consideration. That local charity is CASA of Franklin County.

Disclaimer: What follows next is blatant pandering. Therefore, I feel it is only fair to warn of you that up front. I am guilty. Nolo contendere. However, I urge you to read further before passing sentence on me.

If you are like most people in this community, you haven't heard of CASA of Franklin County. I want to try to change that. That is my personal mission as a member of the board of the directors for CASA.

Court Appointed Special Advocates ("CASA") of Franklin County advocates for abused and neglected children by providing them with a voice in the juvenile court system. CASA recruits, screens  trains and supports community volunteers to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children. CASA stands up for children who, without us, would be powerless to stand up for themselves. This short video explains further:

How does CASA give these desperate children a voice? Through the appointment by the court of a CASA-trained guardian ad litem ("GAL"). A GAL trained by CASA becomes a voice for a vulnerable child navigating the overburdened legal and social services systems.  After an extensive screening and training process, volunteers are officially sworn in as officers of the court.  GALs get to know the children well enough to make objective recommendations to the court about where the children should live, if and when they should see their parents and siblings, and many other crucial decisions about their well-being.  Most people don't realize that our court systems simply do not have the resources to fully investigate these types of things. Our CASAs do this work for the court system, gathering information on each case by making regular visits with the child, speaking with professionals and other adults involved with the family, attending meetings regarding the child's welfare, and appearing in court on behalf of the child.

The work that CASA does is not only critical for the well being of these children, but also to the future of this great community. Statistics show that without our assistance, these abused and neglected children are more likely to drop out of school, more likely to get involved with drugs, more likely to end up in jail, and more likely to continue the cycle of abuse when they have kids. The odds are stacked against these children. Through the work of our passionate volunteers, CASA helps give these kids a real chance to rise above their  dreadful circumstances and lead productive lives, and in doing so they help this community become a better place one abused and neglected child at a time.

Tomorrow, on November 1, Blue Jackets season ticket holders will be entitled to request a refund from the team for actual games not played. If you like Toms' idea and want to make some lemonade by donating a part of that refund to a local charity, I ask you to consider CASA of Franklin County. You can make a donation online at:

But making a monetary donation is only one of the ways you can help this wonderful organization. You can become a CASA (info provided on website), you can help us with fund-raising in these difficult financial times and, perhaps most importantly, you can help spread the word about CASA. Give them a Like on Facebook and/or follow them on Twitter.

On behalf of the volunteers, the staff and the board members at CASA, I thank you sincerely for your consideration and generosity.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy doesn't stop the "Hatched and Hungry"

Let’s just say by the end of these next few days, there might be a farm no longer. Hurricane Sandy is demonstrating her thrash, wreaking havoc along the East coast. Now us here in Springfield haven’t been affected yet, with the storm looming over New York City. However, just like my dad has always told me: “The only sports that are not cancelled in bad weather are hockey and skiing.” Well the Falcons didn't do too much skiing this weekend, but they did play some Hockey!
This past weekend was one of much success for the Springfield Falcons. With two victories, the Falcons slid into the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Hurricane Sandy is coming for our farm!
Photo courtesy of
On Friday night, the Falcons traveled to Providence to take on the Bruins and defeated the Boston Bruin farm team 3-0. Just one week prior, it was Providence on the winning side of the ice, taking the game 3-1.This time around it was all Springfield. goalie Curtis McElhinney recorded his second shutout in five games while Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson and Ryan Russell scored the goals.
Moving on to Saturday night, things were a little different. The Falcons hosted the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and eventually lost in a shootout 3-2. The UMass Amherst graduate and back-up goalie Paul Dainton played well, recording 36 saves in the loss.
For those of you that don’t know much about Paul Dainton, let me give you some insight, for I have been watching this guy between the pipes for a while now. Back at UMass, Dainton was a stud. Pretty much every time the guy made a save, the hundreds of “Mullins Maniacs” (UMass fanbase) wave their hands up and down praising their goalkeeper. In four years between 2007 and 2011, Dainton finished his career with a .908 save percentage, 2.79 goals against average and a career record of 45-16-12. My guess is that he will be a solid backup for McElhinney and will be an asset down the road.
In their last game of the weekend, the “Hatched and Hungry” Falcons took on the Portland Pirates in a Sunday matinee. Springfield scored three times in the first frame while outshooting the Pirates 19-4. Then, with McElhinney back in the cage, held off Portland down the stretch to close out the weekend with a 3-2 victory.
That’s it from here on the Farm, now back to you!

Time for a Glass of Lemonade

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." - originally attributed to Elbert Hubbard

Let's be upfront about this: We want to watch National Hockey League-brand hockey in Columbus.  Sadly - and for reasons beyond our control - it's not happening.  As we write, it won't happen until December 1, 2012 at the earliest.  If there was hockey being played, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

But the NHL has given the fans lemons, so we're going to suggest that the fans make some lemonade.

As Columbus Blue Jackets ticket holders, we are entitled to request refunds from the team for games not played.  The official team policy is this:


Option 1: Keep Money on Account and Receive a Credit of 4% Toward Future Ticket Purchases
  • Season ticket payments can be left on your account with the Blue Jackets and applied towards future ticket purchases such as remaining payments towards additional tickets for the 2012-13 season (i.e. single game tickets, group tickets, suite rentals, additional season tickets or playoff tickets) and/ or the renewal of your season tickets for the 2013-14 season.
  • Season Ticket Holders electing this option will be provided a credit of 4% calculated using simple interest. Interest will be calculated from the point at which a particular game is cancelled to the last day of the month for which the credit is owed.
Option 2: Request a Refund For Payments Related to Games Officially Cancelled
  • Season Ticket Holders requesting this option will be provided a full refund for any games officially cancelled.
  • Refunds will be processed within ten (10) business days of the last day of each month beginning in November and will be based upon the number of games officially cancelled in the applicable month.
  • Refunds will be processed using the same method of original payment (i.e. if you purchased your Blue Jackets ticket package using a credit card we will issue a credit to that same credit card). If you paid for your tickets with cash or check, we will issue a check made payable to the Season Ticket Holder of Record and mailed to the address we have on file. Please log on to to verify that we have your current address on file.

If you want to keep your money with the club and get your four percent annualized interest, more power to you.  If, however, you wish to receive a refund, we'd like to offer a suggestion that will make our community that much better by your actions:

Donate the value of at least one of your refunded tickets to a local charity.

Our thinking is this: We as ticket package holders have already given our money away (granted, in the hopes of receiving entertainment).  Thus, the refund - which will be distributed by November 10th at the latest - is somewhat unexpected money.  So why not carve off a slice of that to help a local non-profit do good works?

In the next day or two, we'll offer a suggestion for a local charity to support.  And, as long as this lockout lasts, we'll offer a new charitable suggestion at the end of every month.

The lemons are here.  Let's get moving on making some lemonade.

Tom & Greg
Dark Blue Jacket and Full Mental Jackets

Friday, October 26, 2012

Big weekend down on the farm..

Nick Drazenovic scored the lone goal vs. the Providence
Bruins last Saturday. Photo courtesy of

The Blue Jacket affiliate Springfield Falcons have an action packed weekend in store for them. They have three games in a row lined up for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Friday night, the Falcons will travel to Providence, RI to take on the Bruins in a rematch of last Saturday’s 3-1 loss. Center Nick Drazenovic scored the lone goal for Springfield.
Following Friday night’s game, the Falcons will hop on the bus and travel back to Springfield to host the Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday and the Portland Pirates on Sunday.
Now with the NHL Lockout STILL looming over our heads, we continue to look at our prospects keeping their blades sharp down on the farm. What might be interesting to you is that in the Providence Bruins game, the Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault was nonexistent. Instead, the second line of Matt Calvert, Thomas Kubalik and Drazenovic played well all night, often producing scoring chances and converting one in the first period.
Curtis McElhinney has been playing well for the Falcons. Playing all four games, McElhinney has posted a 1.76 goals against average, picking up a shutout along the way. UMass Amherst graduate and backup goalie PaulDainton is expected to play one game this weekend according to coach Brad Larsen.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

And So Shines a Good Deed

Charlie, he so dearly loves his CBJ no matter how bad
things get in Columbus.
I realize I’m not affectionately received as a positive guy when it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets and social media.  But as twitter darlings @johntkemp and @osujoe will attest, all you need to do is sit down for a beer (or six) with me to understand where I’m coming from.  I’ve had a chance to sit down with the co-contributors on the blog, and aside from me absolutely loving the different viewpoints we all have, they understand I’m far from a troll or hater – just a disappointed fan with passionate hockey knowledge. 

I would imagine this is largely how I am perceived by the
CBJ twittersphere.   "But I want a CBJ win NOW daddy!"
The Blue Jackets have been very disappointing to me for some time.  It started with their slide into the 08-09 playoffs and the subsequent embarrassment by a team that had been playing hockey for 20 out of the last 24 months.  The team has done little since to make me think they were doing anything other than minimizing financial losses.  Howson’s rent a coach system was embarrassing.  But the the last straw for me was when the #CBJ traded for Jeff Carter.  Everybody that knows someone in an NHL front office knows what kind of guy Jeff Carter was/is.  I couldn’t believe that for one second Scott Howson actually thought Jeff Carter would be a good fit in Columbus.  You’ll notice I seldom, if ever, “rip” and NHL player.  But Jeff Carter is not one of those “Work hard, Stay positive, Good Lord willing one day things will turn out” kind of people, but good God can he shoot a puck.

As I dig out from daddy patrol on paternity leave, something positive, very positive has happened to the Columbus Blue Jackets.  John Davidson will be hired as president of hockey operations, and if reports are to be believed, he will report directly to ownership.  I see John Davidson more than the president of hockey operations, I see him as a turnaround consultant.  But like all successful turnarounds, the ownership group must give Davidson 100% autonomy to do what must be done with the workforce from the top to bottom – nothing is taboo.  This cannot be a political battle, like a Viet Nam where we asked our generals to follow a political protocol.  Davidson must be given full control to win the battle that this team has asked so many to join.  At a glance, it would appear he has been given that power.

John Davidson has also been given the power to Rock!

For me, this is the first positive thing this team has done in a long time – and a bright spot to lift my CBJ spirits.  This is something that should have been done years ago, but I won’t start down that path.  I’m very happy that a knowledgeable person with ‘turnaround’ experience is here to get this team headed in the right direction.  But the thing about turnarounds is that the majority shareholder or owner is ultimately looking to sell the business once its cash-flow is positive again.  But don’t worry, I won’t get into that now.  Right now I’m happy that this franchise has finally made a move at the top which makes sense and gets this team closer to winning and being competitive.

And no, it’s not lost on me that the author of “Hockey for Dummies” is now Scott Howson’s boss – and I’m very happy that he is.

First Alex Selivanov, then Craig Patrick, and now John Davidson.
Are the CBJ really playing 6 degress of Phil Esposito?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Petition drive to revoke Nationwide Arena deal

Courtesy of local sports writer and enthusiast Justin Boggs comes this link to the Columbus Coalition for Responsive Government's "Dare 2 B Fair" site.  Specifically, the organization appears to be organizing a petition drive to reverse the deal that put Nationwide Arena on the public rolls.  This would be accomplished either through a Columbus City Council or through a public referendum.

This link takes you to a PDF of the petition.

I share this development because it is germane to the public dialogue over the Columbus Blue Jackets.  I know nothing about the organization that is promoting this campaign.  I cannot speculate on their viability toward their goal of reversing the arena deal.  That said, it's worth remembering that which the Coalition notes:
We note that publicly funded arena proposals have been defeated at the polls on five previous occasions.
Five times.  FIVE.  That tells me that as long as there is an avenue for recourse, the issue of financial responsibility for Nationwide Arena will remain open.

New faces down on the farm

With the looming NHL lockout, you Blue Jacket faithful have seen some familiar faces hop in a plane and travel out to Western Massachusetts to play for the AHL affiliate Springfield Falcons. Players such as right wing Cam Atkinson, center Ryan Johansen and defenseman John Moore and David Savard were all solid contributions on the ice for the Blue Jackets.
Cam Atkinson played in 27 games last season for the
Columbus Blue Jackets. Photo courtesy of
Last season, Johansen and Moore played the most games for Columbus out of the bunch. They both played in 67 games for the Blue Jackets. Johansen, a center, scored nine goals and had 12 helpers combining for a total of 21 points on the year. Moore, a physical defenseman, had just two goals and five assists totaling seven points in his season for Columbus. 
This season, Johansen has been playing well for Springfield. Through four games played, the center has two goals and an assist. As for Moore, he has contributed a goal and an assist to the Falcons offensive outpour this season (averaging over three goals a game this season).
Next comes Savard. The 6’1” 217 pounder from St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, played 31 games wearing the Columbus red white and blue, scoring two goals and adding eight helpers to total 10 points. This season for the Falcons, Savard has started the season strong handing out two assists in four games.
Lastly, the player in this group with the least experience in the NHL last year with the Blue Jackets is having the biggest impact with the Falcons this season. Boston College graduate Cam Atkinson has put together four points in as many games this year in Springfield. 
With one goal and three assists, this is a good chance for Atkinson to showcase his talents to the Blue Jacket front office. Last season with Columbus, the 5’7” right winger played in 27 games with the Jackets and tallied 14 points (7 goals, 7 assists).  
Atkinson was one of the more talked about players this off season. My roommate had a chance to check out the training camp evaluations as part of the Springfield College Exercise Science major. He will be interning with Falcons Head Strength Coach Dan Gregory next semester. According to him, “Cam showed off his speed and strength in training camp, with the fastest short sprint time, and even though being of smaller stature, was lifting with the big guys.”
The Falcons are off to a great start this season. Through four games the team is 3-1, losing only to the Providence Bruins this past Saturday. The Falcons will look to avenge this loss when they travel to Providence this Friday to take on the Bruins on the road.

Follow Jon Santer on Twitter: @JSanter5

Check out Jon's personal Hockey East Blog:
Twitter: @HockeyEastBlog

Monday, October 22, 2012

Feathering the nest

Falcons coach Brad Larsen doesn't appear to be amused by DBJ's weak play on words.
One area where this blog has been lax has been in coverage of the Columbus Blue Jackets farm system.  In part that's circumstantial - all of the writers are from Central Ohio, and I don't think any of us are glued to our computers to watch pixellated streams of minor league hockey games.  It's also a matter of personal preference, as I and my writers (each under no obligation to write about anything in particular) generally choose to write about that which we see on a day to day basis.

Enter Jon Santer.

Hush Little Baby...

Well, it’s been that kind of week.  If you follow the DBJ contributors on twitter, you know  a couple of us have been busy spitting out babies the last couple of weeks.  My wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on 10/11/12.  We’re at home now spending the next few weeks bonding with our new baby.  Part of the bonding process will inevitably involve the Columbus Blue Jackets.  There are a lot of things you can teach a child about being a Columbus Blue Jackets fan that will carry over into everyday life.  In this letter to my daughter, I will do my best explaining to my baby girl what it means to be a Columbus Blue Jackets fan.

You will grow up always knowing hockey, whether you put on pads and skates or not.  There are many things you can learn from playing sports.  But there are also very good things you can learn from being a fan of a sports team.  Specifically, being a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1.      Perserverance – We have waited a long time for an NHL franchise in Columbus.  The first rumblings were when Peter Karmanos made it known that Columbus, OH was a possible beaching spot for the Hartford Whalers.  Sadly the thought of playing in an airplane hangar is what kept the Whalers from moving to Columbus.  Then the rumblings that Columbus would be considered for an expansion franchise kept hopes alive.  We waited.  Patient hockey fans soon thereafter got an NHL team, but it has been a very frustrating 12 years as a Blue Jackets fan. The team has been so bad for so long that just about everybody teases the team, the city, and its fans.  You have to learn to read NHL power rankings from the bottom up if you want to find the CBJ write up quickly.  But don’t let it scare you from loving this team.  Fans could have given up on this team years ago but they haven’t.  It’s easy to pick on the CBJ, but remember only one team can win the Cup each year.  This team is not far from getting over the hump - stay the course.  If they work hard, stay positive (and sign a scorer), and continue to draw at the arena, good times for the team, its fans, and the city are not far away.

2.      Honesty – The Blue Jackets are awful.  Saying this doesn’t mean you hate the team, but it may not make you popular on twitter.   To truly enjoy being a fan you have to be completely honest with yourself about the team.  Right now, from top to bottom the team isn’t very good.  But that’s ok, it doesn’t mean they are any less special.  Having an open and honest mindset will keep you from being a blind loyalist in any aspect in life, especially politics and sports teams.  Know that this team is headed in the right direction, but they still need a few pieces, and some exclusions, before this team can compete for a championship.   

3.      Compassion – With hockey, your father can be a blunt instrument sometimes.  As you get to know your grandfather and uncles better, you’ll understand why.  But the Blue Jacket fan base is a unique and sensitive one.  The casual fans are largely relegated to home openers and games against big name opponents.  The core fan, the die-hard CBJ fan, is frustrated and tired of everybody with the rest of the hockey world picking on them.  But there is a solid base of fans who love the team good or bad, fat or skinny, high or sober.  It is that compassion that is always humbling to your father.  It is what made Cannonfest special, and what makes a random Friday night at the Rbar something special.  While I can be cynical, the compassionate fan is one I envy.  I got passion, not compassion. 

4.      Dominion – Baby girl, you have something that daddy largely went without most of his life: an NHL team to call your own.  Like your brother, you will always know what it is like to have an NHL team right in your own back yard.  You won’t have those 3 and 4 hour drives (one way) to see NHL hockey.   You won’t have to wait for Thursday’s paper to see the once a week NHL standings.  You will always know what it's like to have a hometown NHL team with front page coverage in the sports section of the paper.  During the season, there will always be hockey on the 11 o’clock news.  I had to wait until my mid-twenties for that to happen.  I’m glad you don’t have to wait that long.  This team is yours to love.



PS    Please forgive your mother for being a Red Wings fan.  She was born and raised in Michigan after all.

There is one thing I forgot to mention, we always made
your aunt play goalie.  No promises this won't happen to you.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CBA Negotiations Right on Schedule

The Finnish Worm
I selected the photo at the right as it was entirely irrelevant to the proceedings I am going to talk about.  But I think it would be appropriate punishment for Bettman, Daly, and the Fehrs if they don't get a deal done.

That aside, I thought I would take this moment to check in on the progress of the negotiations.  To do this most effectively, I want to share part of an email exchange with my buddy Bill.  I had asked him what he thought of the NHL's most recent offer.  This was Tuesday morning, prior to the players arriving to present their counter-offer.  I think you will find Bill's observations interesting.  Here is an excerpt from his email responding to my asking his opinion on the NHL's offer:

I thought it was a pretty decent offer.  I think it was extremely well calculated and timed to be delivered for maximum effect.  Just when the players lost a check, here comes the NHL with a plan to save the whole enchilada.  I think the players will reject it and offer some joke of a proposal today, the league will flip out and there will be yelling and screaming for the next week or so, things will look pretty bleak and then we’ll end up with a deal.  

What an amazing prediction.  If you look at this, we are in the latter days of the 'yelling and screaming' phase.  But I think there is a good chance a deal gets done.  Here's why.

As Aaron Portzline points out so well in this article in Sunday's Dispatch, the sides really aren't that far apart. Both sides are at a 50-50 split of HRR (Hockey Related Revenue), and the notion that the players should be 'made whole' for the 2012-13 salaries is on the table as well.  As we pointed out in this post, the owners haven't paid any player salaries since 2004 (we'll delve deeper into that in another post).  Player salaries come out of the players share of HRR, so the players end up with a percentage rollback which was dictated by the NFL and NBA labor negotiations to 50-50.  Both sides have already offered this.

The players are screaming about salary rollback.  Get your arms around it boys, salary rollback really starts the moment we get past the October 25 deadline for the NHL's proposal for a full season.  If you don't have a full season, you don't get to 3.3 Billion in HRR.  And if you don't get to that number, you won't be 'made whole' for this seasons salary, because your share of HRR won't support it.  Maybe its not fair, and maybe you don't like it, I can understand those feelings very well.  But right now we are bickering about when free agency occurs, and other trivial parts of the contract.  Is it worth losing a season over that?


Friday, October 19, 2012

Opening Night - Simulated - At the R-Bar

The Arch City Army Brings Their MoJo to Opening Night at the R-Bar
Ok.  This was not pre-planned as part of the DBJ thing.  SOMEONE did a bunch of planning.  It wasn't us.  This was me, and a couple of fellow season ticket holders, including my buddies Bill and Bruce, jonesing bad for hockey, and choosing to show up a the R-Bar to talk it out over a few adult beverages.  The Arch City Army made a big showing, and all of a sudden we were in the midst of something much bigger.

We got handed a program, which pretty much made a coherent link between Stinger-bombs and the rationality of the event, and realized we would be looking at a simulated EA Sports NHL 13 simulation of the former opening game between our beloved CBJ and the Vancouver Canucks.  So we start tossing back ABs (Adult Beverages) and trying to get our minds focused on the CBA talks between the NHLPA and the NHL. Then Leo shows up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Uhh, Fellas? It's Always Been Players Paying Players

At least since the last lockout it's been players paying players anyhow.  Over on Puck Daddy they are reporting some negative reactions to the NHL's recent proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).  The NHL has proposed to make the current 2012-13 salaries good by deferring some of the payment until a future date.  This is how you manage a transition from 57% player share of Hockey Related Revenue (HRR) to a 50% share.  That difference would be paid out in the future when HRR has presumably grown enough to cover the amount.  The players are objecting to this salary money coming out of their 50% of HRR, and refer to it as players playing players, instead of the owners paying players.

Unfortunately for the players, its been players paying players since 2004.  Why?  Because they get a fixed percentage of HRR.  So when a free agent player backs a truck up to franchise to get all the money being showered on them (see e.g. Parise, Suter, Weber) their large share means that there is less of a fixed percentage available for the other players.

For example, Parise, Suter and Weber all had front loaded contracts that paid them lots of money up front.  Parise got a $10 million signing bonus (all numbers from, Suter got a $10 million signing bonus, and Weber got a $13 million signing bonus.  Assume HRR stays at $3.3 Billion for 2012-13 as it was for 2011-12.  That's $1.65 billion for all player salaries at 50% HRR.  However, because of the $33 million in bonuses already paid for these 3 players, you are really talking about $1.617 Billion available for all player salaries (including these players newly raised base salaries) in 2012-13.  Did the owners contribute an extra dime to pay these large bonuses?  Nope.  According to the CBA at the time, this money comes out of the players share of HRR, and it has since 2004.

When Crosby signed his previous 'below market value' contract (since replaced), he was actually leaving money around for other players.  It didn't make a bit of difference to the owners.  The players still got the same share of HRR.  When HRR goes up beyond expectations, the extra money is distributed to the players to meet the current percentage (50% in the future, 57% in the past).  If HRR does not go up as much as expected, the money is taken out of the escrow that the players pay a portion of their salary into (which they HATE with a passion) and distributed to the owners so that the percentages are according to the CBA.

Under a cap system, it is clearly in the players interest for HRR to go up.  It has covered the salary escalation since the 2004 lockout.  That reality will continue under the new CBA, assuming one is reached.  The NHL's proposal banks on HRR going up enough to cover salaries deferred from 2012-13 to cover the reduction from 57% to 50% of HRR.  But the money has ALWAYS come from the same place, the players share of HRR.

Stick tap to my buddy Bill for being willing to consume adult beverages with me while talking about this stuff.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Two Shots of Hope

It has been an interesting few days, to say the least.  According to Puck Rakers John Davidson has been wooed heavily by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and is home now in St. Louis pondering his future.  I respect that.  Diving back in to the deep part of the pool will demand a lot from him, and he should want the job.

Mr. Davidson, if you are listening, I think you have many choices about what direction you want to take your career.  As you ponder that, keep in mind that it is nice to be needed.  And there is no greater need for a man of your talents than here in Columbus.  And while Fox Sports does a great job of providing games and coverage, the other local TV market pretty much ignores the Blue Jackets.  You have the skills to pluck that low hanging fruit.  And while we are talking about hockey operations, did I mention we have 3 first round draft choices next year?  So our need is great, and you have the skills to fill that need.  Try us.  You'll like us.

As a season ticket holder, I am pleased that our management made a concerted effort to get John Davidson. If he chooses to take his career in another direction, at least a serious effort was made to land this talent.  It is my hope that he finds this situation to his liking, and comes to lead our franchise on to new heights.  So that is my first shot of hope.

My second shot of hope is the news reported in multiple venues that the NHL has made an offer to end the lockout, and preserve an 82 game season.  Since this is better reported elsewhere, I'll save us both from the effort of writing/reading about it.  If you don't already know, follow those links for good coverage of the story.  It is indeed a cause for hope that the NHL is making an effort to preserve the season.  The NHLPA is out reading the fine print, which they should, but hopefully this is a place from which a deal can be forged.

Two shots of hope this week is a lot more than I ever expected.  We will see what comes to fruition.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lockout Talk: Money Talks

When it all comes down to it, AC/DC was right.

I think everyone understands that the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association are going to have a new collective bargaining agreement when the money talks - when the financial interest of so strong as to dictate that a deal gets done.  It could be when the owners finally feel the pinch of no revenue coming in while financially distressed office staff and hockey operations folks slowly bleed enough franchises dry.  It could be when the October escrow checks to the players run out, and they realize that they still have to make mortgages or rent.

Or it could come when an outside financial interest - or enough outside financial interests (note the plural) - say, "ENOUGH."

Monday, October 8, 2012

Looking Back to Look Forward

You may have noticed that I have been using this bully pulpit to advocate (okay, agitate) for a serious pursuit of John Davidson to take over the Columbus Blue Jackets President position.  As putative historian for the CBJ by virtue of serious demand for blog content in the hockey doldrums of August last year, I thought I would remind Mr. McConnell how this whole President thing could play out in they eyes of history.

Doug MacLean, the original club president, GM, and lord of all he surveyed accomplished the major task of getting a hockey franchise established in a vacuum.  This is a significant accomplishment, and he was aided by a stalwart band of misfits in the inaugural year that came together as a team and played very entertaining hockey down the stretch.  In trying for the quick trip to the playoffs a la the Florida Panthers, Doug was a bit too successful, keeping us out of the top 2 or 3 draft slots with the exception of the Nash selection.  Nonetheless, by the end of his tenure, a hockey team was solidly on the ground, and you say from a big picture viewpoint, 'mission accomplished'!

There came a time when change was needed, and Doug needed to move on for the good of the organization.    A new GM was needed to pair with the hall of fame coach that had been hired.  The talent pool of upper level management at Worthington Industries was raided to produce Mike Priest, a president whose charge was to get the business end of the CBJ's operations in order.  He succeeded very well at this task, as is evidenced by the fact the the organization is no longer paying to keep up Nationwide, even though we have this god-forsaken lockout on. (%$#*&@$^%#**!!!!!)  One could well look at Mike Priest's tenure, ignoring the problems when he dabbled in hockey operations, and say 'mission accomplished'!

Now, THE most pressing need of the organization, is the need to ice a winner.  Hire John Davidson, and you have taken a significant step in the right direction Mr. McConnell.  Perhaps in a few years you will be able to look down from your seat at a playoff game and think 'mission accomplished'.

The hiring of John Davidson fits a natural progression in the maturation of our hockey franchise.  Regardless of how the lockout ends, this is the move to make.  Did I mention you need someone to explain to the fans why the All-Star game got canceled?  Davidson might be pricey, but sometimes you get what you pay for, and this is an unparalleled opportunity to hire an accomplished, fan-friendly, face of the organization, and senior hockey executive.  History will be kind if this move is made.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why Are All These People Angry?

Crowd at the CBJ Fan Protest
On January 28, 2012, a crowd of angry Columbus Blue Jackets fans gathered to express their feelings about their team.  There was pretty much nothing going on in the hockey world that day, and the fan protest garnered a lot of attention.

Yesterday, Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch posted a great follow up interview with John Davidson, and followed it up with the companion article in today's newspaper.  Read some of the quotes from the people in St.Louis at the bottom of the post on Puck Rakers.  John Davidson is the real deal.  If this organization misses on this opportunity to hire a bona fide hockey executive, they HAVE to at least go down swinging with an offer on the table.  In the spirit of community service, I thought I'd share a few photos I took that day to remind everyone why it is so important to hire John Davidson.

Kinda says it all.  Love that the kids made the trip.

In case you can't read it, the sign at the left says "Excellence is not an option" and the sign at the right says "Real
Change Starts at the Top"
A lot of love for the team was expressed that day, as well as a lot of frustration.
And lest we forget another important event that day, the 'very definitely in jeopardy of being cancelled in the next 30 days or so...
The All-Star Game Announcement on the Big Board during the fan protest.  Coincidence?  I think not!
My final thought I want to pass along to the Majority and Minority Owners of the Columbus Blue Jackets, is you are going to need someone to deal with the fall-out of the likely inevitable cancellation of the all-star game.  I am going to suggest that the guy on the right in the above picture is not well equipped for that job, in spite of the good things he has done for the organization (and some bad things.  Arniel?  Really?).  John Davidson will come in and set a plan for a path going forward.  As a former TV broadcaster, he has the verbal skills to carry the fan base through the insulting and disappointing, but apparently inevitable, cancellation of the all star game.  Heck, forget the fans.  Think of your sponsors!

Hire John Davidson now, Mr. McConnell.  It is the type of move that the fans above are looking for.  And I just wanted to remind you of it, lest it had slipped your mind.


Monday, October 1, 2012

An open letter from a cynic

Cynic: a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing – Oscar Wilde

Every now and again my cynicism gets the best of me.  Typically this happens during an election year or when there is an NHL lockout.  This year, I get to deal with both at the same time.  For me, that’s like having dinner with my mother-in-law and Nancy Pelosi at the same time.  It’s not so much that elections are happening or the lockout is happening again.  It’s the opinions that swirl around and the passionate pleas from fans for the league and players to resolve their differences and get back to playing hockey. So here we are, about a couple weeks into the NHL’s 3rd lockout in just under 20 years and I can’t take it anymore.  What really grinds my gears are the “open letter to…” blog posts that are written to players, owners, and the league in hopes of resolving short-comings of a player or resolutions to lockouts.  So I leave you with my own ‘open letter post’ written to the rest of the blogosphere in hopes that you take some time to consider the larger picture concerning the hat trick of labor lockouts:

Dear Sir or Ma’am,

It’s time to take a step back pretend the NHL is a for profit business.  If we are able to pretend that, this letter will be much easier to read.  If you view the NHL as a non-profit bringer of rainbows and sunshine to joyous hockey fans everywhere, you will not like this letter. 

We enter another lockout with same tired sheet of music - that lovely tune of  “The league doesn’t make money” composed by NHL expansion and thrice conducted by Gary Bettman. Same as it ever was, teams in cities where hockey is not woven into the fabric of the community struggle to make money.  Being in complete denial since 1994, the NHL has made these items the heart of every work stoppage in the NHL:

1.      Rolling back player salaries
2.      Extending free agency beyond the average length of an average NHL career
3.      Providing owners with a greater share of generated revenues

Another lockout in the NHL serves no purpose, unless it is the lockout to end all lockouts. These three items tell us something.  After expansion and the promise of growth in the “Bettman Era-NHL” the NHL can’t seem to turn a steady profit. The financial predicament of the NHL cannot be solved simply by rolling back player salaries.  I would argue the players at the bottom make too much, but 13 year contracts that teams offer are ridiculous. But any ways, the NHL as a league is an unprofitable enterprise.  This lockout is not about fans, or arena deals, or billionaires fighting with millionaires.  This lockout, like the others before it, is about turning a profit on a poorly marketed niche product in a three-balled obsessed United States.  The NHL is considered one of the ‘Four Major Sports’ because it represents being the pinnacle level at which the sport is played.  It is by no means one of the four most popular sports in the United States – it may barely make the top ten.

What, the NHL marketing is great you say?  The Crosby/Ovechkin era has largely played out on the Outdoor Life Network.  OLN has changed names more the last 7 years than the Lightning have changed ownership groups – and THAT’S saying something.  Not to mention the viewership difference between the Versus Network and ESPN 2 at the time of the switch was equivalent in numbers to the population of Canada.  But hey, we get a couple of also-ran communication majors and the worst personalities (I love Roenick) in hockey giving us a post-game show following the Hurricanes/Flames games on NBC Sports Network.  Yippee.  The NHL niche product is somehow better served on a niche network…

It is sad that Fans suffer through another lockout. But let’s be honest, you’re not really suffering.  You’ll be back to watching “your” team in no time.  Professional athletics plays to the emotional maladies of the fan base, just like reality shows.  Sure you are angry now, but wait, you’ll be back – we’ll all come back.  Are you really angry that there’s a lockout?  Are the players and owners peeing on the fans?  Perhaps it’s the other way around.  What?  You’ve never thought of that?  What if this is the most revenue the NHL will ever generate from fans?  Let’s look at this example: The Columbus Blue Jackets have made the playoffs more than the Toronto Maple Leafs since 2008, so why the $100 million dollar difference in profitability in 2011 between the two teams?  I know Blue Jackets fans, times are tough. You think winning will change things?  It’s funny because you have to change things to win.  Let’s not forget - It took the CBJ 12 years to have a franchise worst season and it took the Tampa Bay Lightning 12 years to win a Stanley Cup. Put that in your crock pot and let that simmer.

Let’s skip to the core of the issue here, the owners don’t make money.  Unless you are some card-carrying communisto, why begrudge the owners a profit?  The owners are allowed to make a profit.  That being said, the owners are also responsible for having equitable SG&A that will improve the bottom line – that stands for Sales Growth & Administration.  Good Arena deals, avoiding 15 year contacts to ouchy goalies, and connecting with a broader fan base with grass roots marketing is what an ownership group is charged with. As an example, I’m not sure how the Blue Jackets were awarded an NHL franchise when they had to take 10 million dollars off the top every season before they even have their first practice. I love the Blue Jackets, but they have been the poster child for “How not to do it” since McConnell sued Hunt.   I don’t know the answer to this, but I would love to see how many other NHL teams have to cover ALL the losses on the arenas they play in.

You don’t think the lockout will last long? I wonder what the players think?  Consider this:  The players don’t get paid for attending training camp or preseason games – players don’t receive their first game check until October.  This year, the players get an 8% escrow payment from last year’s salary in October, so really players wouldn’t feel the financial pinch until mid-November.  So why are highly-paid, marquee guys going to the KHL and European leagues in September when there is really no financial reason for them to do so?  Because a lot of those jobs will be gone when the league decides the season is canceled in December.

So fans and bloggers realize this:  the league is in financial trouble.  The players and owners know it.  This lockout is not about hard-line ideologies.  It’s about finding a solution to bring long term and sustainable profitability to the league without hurting anyone.  But like Santa’s secret workshop, one doesn’t exist.  The league has to take a long look at itself to see if it has done or is doing all it can do to market the world’s greatest sport the best it can.  Using a little perspective, the Cleveland Browns generated 247 million dollars in revenue in 2011 and they stink.  The most popular and profitable team in the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs, generated 160 million dollars of revenue.
Is there blame on players and owners?  The players have had this day circled on the calendar since the end of the last lockout and largely did nothing until a couple of weeks ago.  The owners have had 7 years to make money under the current system and have failed as a collective.  I don’t think I need to mention an entire season was lost in 2004-2005 to get the NHL to where it is today.  In my opinion, the league has too many teams in too many cities.  Obviously, the player’s union will never agree to the loss of jobs by contraction, and if the league has the money to buy back 4 franchises, why don’t they have a more liberal, I mean progressive, revenue sharing plan?  The NHL is at its Zenith and the teams that will always make money are the only teams that will continue to make money.  Unless something radical like contraction or universal base-salaries with league paid incentive programs, fans can count on a lockout every 7-10 years. 

Oh, and dear god, growing a mullet to protest the NHL lockout will make you a weirdo, not endear the sport to casual fans.


Morgan Ward

Bitterness, Revisted

The Cisco Kid and Pancho
I know it comes as no shock to Columbus Blue Jacket fans that the 2011-12 season was a huge disappointment.  Part of the problem were the great expectations, and I well remember wondering if Rick Nash and Jeff Carter would become one of the dominant pairings in the NHL.  Well, the old saying  'you only get one chance to make a first impression' sent us clear messages that the trade for Carter was doomed, with the inexorable certainty that you see in ancient Greek tragedies.  In spite of a hastily constructed diplomatic mission which did a certain amount of damage control, Jeff Carter never wanted to be here, and his subsequent performance supported the conclusions that the more astute pundits (i.e. not optimistic fans) drew in the first 48 hours.

The thing about the Carter trade is that it was the best trade in NHL history for about 24 hours, and I remember being ecstatic about it. But then Mike Richards was dealt to the L.A. Kings, and all of a sudden there was that sinking 'uh oh' moment, in which you knew we had been suckered.  Initially, it looked like Philly had decided they could only live with one of the big contracts, and decided that Carter was the one that was expendable.  When they moved both of them, it raised huge doubts.  At the end of the day, Jeff Carter was 'Pancho' to Mike Richards 'Cisco Kid', and Pancho didn't do so well on his own without 'the Kid' to set the tone.

Once they were reunited in L.A., they managed to do Philly in the eye by coming home with the Stanley Cup. Which, in the cold reality of a hockey free October, is kinda cool when viewed in the long stream of history of the Stanley Cup and the NHL.  The reality is that the CBJ and its miserable season will be no more than a foot note in the tale of how Holmgren dealt two of his best players, and they ended up re-uniting and winning a Cup.  I think that's gonna go in the Ugly chapter of the updated version of the 'Good, Bad and Ugly History of the Philadelphia Flyers' that I read this summer.

Which is where all of my bitterness comes in, and how it has faded lately.  Part of the catalyst of that was the healthy exposure I got to internet trolls this summer.  I know where to put that kind of fecal matter, but that doesn't mean it takes a little bit of processing to do so.  But it is the reason that I can view the Kings fans exultations in a very different light now.  Because, boy if it ever happens....