Ryan Woolley
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July 8 - The No Hope League

I'm going to admit something. I don't write as much as I'd like to or should, because for whatever
reason I feel only like writing about things that really get me fired up. If there is one thing that has
driven me nuts lately, it's the way the NHL has been going lately.

Free Agency

I must admit, when I saw the ridiculous signings at the start of the NHL Free Agency, I don't think that I
have ever felt such a huge sense of disappointment about being a fan of hockey and the NHL. Really,
the league is right back where it was before the lockout. The lockout that kept the NHL out of play for
310 days, the lockout that basically sent the league so far down the consciousness of the casual
sports fan that it may never recover.

The basic premise of the NHL lockout was to curb ridiculous team spending. One would think with a
salary cap in place that you could avoid absurd overpaying contracts for the most part. Here's a
breakdown of some of the contracts handed out on the first day.

Chris Drury, a five-year contract from the New York Rangers for $35.25 million, with $7.1 million in
each of the next two seasons. This for a guy who last year for Buffalo scored a CAREER HIGH 69
points. Sheesh.

Scott Gomez, a seven-year contract from the New York Rangers for $51.5 million, and he will be paid
$10 million dollars next season. $10 million dollars next season for a guy who is a fine center, but to
say that he is worth $10 million dollars a season is completely and utterly stupid. No player is worth
that much.

This however, is not the only contract handed out with a $10 million per season tag on it. The
Philadelphia Flyers handed former Buffalo Sabre Daniel Briere an eight year, $52 million dollar
contract, with $10 million coming in the first year of the contract, $8 million in the following two
seasons, and $7 million during the 2010-13 seasons.

All three of these guys are fine players in their own rights and are far from being stiffs, but for me to be
paying a guy an average of $7 million a season or so, he better damn well be bringing me a Stanley
Cup, and be capable of carrying a team on his own. He should have a proven track record. Of those
three, Drury (one in 2001) and Gomez (Two, one in 2000 and another in 2003) have Stanley Cup
rings, but you could not tell me that either one of those two guys was a huge key to his teams
victories, and thus meriting of such huge salaries. Briere has no rings, and has not even played in a
cup final. Again, all three of these guys are skilled players, and I hate to repeat this, but these are
ridiculous amounts. We as may well dump the cap.

The St. Louis Blues then handed now former Nashville Predator Paul Kariya 3 years and $18 million,
so 6 million per. Maybe I'm just being naïve in my beliefs, but I believe that kind of money should only
paid to the elite of the game. While rings are certainly not a requirement, I want the type of guy who
lays his body out on the line every single night. Someone who can do it all on the rink. A guy who can
put his team on his back and carry them to greatness. A forward or a goalie, it doesn't matter. What
will happen when guys like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin come up for their next contracts?
One would certainly think they would merit more money then guys like Gomez, Drury, and Briere. This
will only lead to the market becoming saturated with enormous deals due to the moron owners and
front offices around the NHL. Suddenly I don't feel so bad about Roberto Luongo in Vancouver for $7
million per year. At least he showed last year he merited that kind of money. I think it will show quite
clearly next year when a lot of these contracts prove to do nothing and these teams falter as they did
last year.

The Nashville....uh...Hamilton...er Kansas City Predators?

If there is a bigger joke in the NHL right now then the free agency sham, then it is the current situation
of the Nashville Predators.

On May 23 of this year, Predators Owner Chris Leipold appeared to have reached an agreement to
sell the team to Canadian businessman Jim Balsillie, who had previously made an effort to buy the
Pittsburgh Penguins in late 2006. The problem with Balsillie is that he mas made no bones about the
fact that he wants to have another NHL team in southern Ontario. The NHL's league policy clearly
states the owner must make a good faith effort to at least try to keep the team in the city. Balsillie has
clearly ignored this and went so far as to start taking ticket deposits for a team in Hamilton that did
NOT EVEN EXIST! On the first day alone Balsillie got 7000 deposits, and by the 19th of June was said
to have 12000 deposits. He has basically ruined his chance at ever owning a team and further
embarassed this sham of a league.

History in pro sports shows that teams have to have several years of an absolutely terrible and
horrible run before a move will even be considered. To announce that you plan to move a team before
you buy it is moronic. The current fanbase gets alienated further then they may have already been.
Why on earth would they go support the team at all if they know it's going to be gone in a year or so?
Nashville has clearly proven itself to not be a hockey market, but realistically, how many true hockey
markets are out there? That argument falls flat pretty quickly when people start saying Nashville is not
a "viable market" for the NHL. You can probably count the viable markets for the NHL on two hands.

How is Kansas City, where the team is now rumored to be moving to (as Leipold is now rumored to
be selling the team to William DelBiaggio, who has the rights to the new Sprint Center in Kansas
City) any more of a hockey market than Nashville? They have NFL and MLB teams there already, and
while hockey might prove to be a popular fad for a couple of seasons after the move, I would think that
inevitably attendance would drop and interest would wane if the team wasn't a big winner quickly.
Even then that doesn't guarantee success, as the bandwagon fan nature of sports these days can
cause a team to have huge attendance drops if they aren't winning big. Also, people have to really
want to see hockey, and there just aren't many places where you could actually place a team and
have it be certain that the team would be a success. All this does is expose more and more of the
problems that the NHL faces.

I mean, I could go on even more, about things like the farce of a TV deal and so on, but why pile on
even further to the already dead horse being driven further into the ground by the moronic Gary
Bettman (that's a whole other column right there). As a fan of the game for a good chunk of my life, I
am not sure than ANYTHING can be done to save the NHL at this point. It probably will never fold, it'll
be around, but it will never reach the level it once was at. It will continue to be a non existent in the
place of all but the most diehard of hockey fans. It pains me to say this, but I think the NHL no longer
has a hope. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

Until next time, this has been the Canadian Corner.