Is The NHL Ready For A Gay NHL Player?

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The NBA and NFL have something the NHL doesn’t. An openly gay player. Jason Collins was the first openly gay player in the four major sports, and Michael Sam was the first openly gay player to be drafted in to the four major sports. The NHL has not had an openly gay player yet. Statistically speaking, there will be at least one gay player in the NHL fraternity of 750 players.

We wanted to see how hockey players felt about this, so we set out to find how players felt about having a gay teammate. We gave them all anonymity and the opportunity to state their opinions about this topic. We were given almost universal positive opinions on this issue. “I would have zero problem with it whatsoever. I want a good team mate and a person that plays hard every night. Their sexual orientation has no bearing on that. I know in the hockey world it would be a new thing to have a openly gay player, but it would be handled with class and respect.” – unnamed player.

We did have negative opinions on this issue, not because they are homophobic or they didn’t agree with the lifestyle others chose. They were more worried about the media circus that would come along with the an announcement. They didn’t want to have the spotlight of the league on a non-hockey issue. However, many players told me something I believe is echoed widely in the league. They couldn’t care less. They judge teammates on how they play. They don’t care about their sexual orientation, but will they put the extra effort on the ice? Will they get the greasy goals? “It really wouldn’t bother me to have a gay teammate. If they can help us win hockey games and are a generally good person I’d welcome them with open arms. I can’t speak for any of my teammates but I can’t imagine they would feel much differently. Sexual orientation shouldn’t define someone. Their personality and willingness to contribute to the team should.” – Different Unnamed Player.

If there is a gay player in the NHL out there (and according to Patrick Burke, there is.), I leave you with this message, your peers do not really care about your sexual orientation. Just train hard, and play even harder. Be a good teammate, and be a good role model. There’s a lot of kids looking up to you.

Could the Montreal Canadiens end a nation-wide draught?

It was way back in 1993, the last time the Montreal Canadiens, or any Canadian-based team whatsoever won the Stanley Cup. It is now 2015, and 23 years later a nation that prides itself on its pasttime is without a championship. But those very canadiens promise to bring the cup back. Its still early in the season, but Montreal has a record of 11-2, leading the entire league.

The Canadiens onslaught is lead by their star goalie Carey Price. Even though he’s currently sidelined with a lower body injury, he promises to lead the Canadiens into the promise land. With a 2.43 career GAA, he’s been a mainstay for the Habs since 2008 and only seems to be getting better with experience.

Their offensive attack so far this season has been extremely balanced, with seven players (including star defense man PK Subban) already having 10 points through thirteen games. But there have been other great Canadian teams that have gone Cup-less lately. It seems that its up to the Canadiens to end the draught, but only time will tell. If not them, who will it be?

Seattle Could Lose NBA Team Because Of NHL Expansion

From the start, Seattle was said to be one of the favorites to get an NHL team. From the start it was the NBA first, then the NHL. This ambition could be satisfied by either an NBA expansion team or by the shift of an existing NBA team (the Milwaukee Bucks?) to Seattle.

To that end, potential NHL bidders were said to be waiting for the NBA bidder to make a move about building an arena. It was said that for that reason, there has been no construction started on a new Seattle arena. It could be that exact reason that Quebec and Las Vegas (and perhaps some other undeclared cities) got the upper hand on Seattle to get an NHL expansion team.

As reported in a previous article, Seattle, once considered an automatic choice for an NHL franchise has now joined Hamilton and Houston as an NHL expansion favorite who somehow

Well how could this have happened? It was necessary to make some assumptions about what might occur. First, assume that Las Vegas gets an NHL team and also assume that despite the city’s lack of roots in hockey, the team surprises the doubters and is a success.

Now assume that after seeing the success of NHL expansion, the NBA decides to expand to a symmetrical 32 teams and realign into a sensible NFL-like format. Unlike the NHL (which wanted up to four teams during this current expansion and saw that go up in smoke because of its excessive expansion fee), the NBA only wants to take two teams to round itself out.

Unlike the NHL, the NBA does not have a “balancing problem” between conferences, so they will take one eastern city and one western one. The NBA will look at their NHL cousin and see which of its cities has a successful hockey franchise in an excellent arena, but no basketball team.

For its eastern selection, the NBA would probably choose Pittsburgh or Tampa Bay. For the western selection, most Seattle citizens assume that their city because of its basketball history, because of the moral outrage that occurred when the Supersonics left is the automatic choice. The NBA “owes” Seattle a team.

In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made a tour of the three cities who lost their NHL teams in the 1990s, Winnipeg, Quebec, and Hartford and stated the terms of readmission to the NHL. It at least amounted to a semi-official commitment for re-entry. Certainly, he made it clear that the NHL was not hostile to these cities rejoining the league at a later date if they fulfilled the conditions that he had stated.

The news was well received in all three cities. Winnipeg already has its team back and it seems likely that Quebec will get the Nordiques back during this coming expansion.

But the NBA has not done that with Seattle. Now suppose the NBA sees the NHL operating a successful franchise in Las Vegas in their new arena. Suddenly a Seattle franchise is no longer an “automatic” choice for the NBA. They want a piece of the Las Vegas action.

All this is of course pure speculation. But because of Seattle’s dithering and lack of commitment to settling its arena problem, it is now a possibility. Seattle, which once seemed an overwhelming favorite to get both an NBA and NHL team has opened the door to lose both.

Bettman Made Another League Feasible

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman set the price tag for admission into his exclusive club: $500 million big ones. Aside from another blatant example of taking professional sports away from the “common fan” (a topic that merits a separate article), his expensive price has had the opposite effect of what the league intends.

The NHL (and you can include the other professional big shots, the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, they are just as bad if not worse) by setting this price and all its other conditions of admission is saying that only the purest, the richest, the most well-bred of investors is worthy to join us. And only the two cities that were the most fanatical about joining, Las Vegas and Quebec City were willing to bite the expensive bullet.

Quebec City’s reaction is understandable. Ever since their old NHL team, the Quebec Nordiques left in 1995, Quebec has wanted its team back. There was never any problem with fan base, just the arena and ownership. Quebec was one of the mainstays of the old WHA.

Las Vegas is more debatable. They have never had any of the four professional sports leagues place a team in their city and at least for now, the prospect of doing it seems a fascinating novelty.

But most (wise) investors looked closely before they leapt. $500 million is quite a jump in price from the $80 million it took to enter the league during the last expansion in the late 1990s, especially to join a league that is probably ranked fourth among the “big four” professional sports leagues in the United States and only has one franchise (ironically the Canadian based Toronto Maple Leafs) listed in the top twenty richest, professional sports franchises.

Some potential investors like the Hunt family in Kansas City publicly backed off. An ex-NHL owner, Peter Pocklington denounced the expensive price.

When looked at closely, it is a highly questionable policy. If these applicants are going to be your new partners, why do you want to burden them with an excessive entry fee? And especially with the NHL, throughout Bettman’s reign as Commissioner, many of his existing franchises have been chronically losing money. An excessive entry fee increases the possibility for an unsuccessful franchise to function.

You won’t have any problem with Quebec City. Quebec City with a proper NHL arena and owner is a sure-fire winner. But Las Vegas is the type of franchise so often favored by Bettman in an attempt to get a rich American televison contract: An attempt to spread the game of hockey by introducing it into markets where it has no roots. One would think that the NHL has had enough Atlantas, Phoenixes, and Floridas. An excessive entry fee might be the lighted match that would eventually ruin a Las Vegas franchise.

But if new investors really want to operate a professional hockey team, it might be better to join together, scrap an expensive entry fee, and start their own league. Put the $500 million to something useful like player and management salaries and new arenas.

That’s what happened in the early 1970s when the WHA was formed. Owners who found they could not buy their way into the NHL set up their own league and while nobody wants a return to the “war years”, Gary Bettman’s excessive price makes the possibility of starting a new league feasible.

Furthermore, conditions are better for starting a new hockey league now than they were in 1972. Back then, most WHA teams played in small, old, run-down arenas, but that would not be the case if a new league made its franchise choices wisely. Back then only Cleveland (a disaster of a franchise) and Edmonton (which built its existing arena for its WHA team) played in modern arenas.

The best franchise choices for a new league would be Quebec, Hartford, Toronto, Hamilton, Saskatoon, Portland, Kansas City, Houston, Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee. Most of these cities have roots in hockey and all of them have arenas that seat at least 15,000. With proper ownership and investment, franchises with at least a half-decent arena and a fan base with roots in hockey have at least a 50% chance of survival. And except for a second Toronto team, none of them would be based in an existing NHL market.

One of the first things the WHA did was that its owners pooled their resources to pay the NHL’s second biggest star, Bobby Hull, to join the Winnipeg Jets. This gave the league instant credibility. They also prized Canadian franchises because they realized that Canadian fans were the ones most responsible for the league’s survival. At one time, there was even a Canadian division. The NHL should remember that.

There are other advantages. The new Toronto and Hamilton franchises would not have to pay any compensation to the Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres for infringing on their territory. Any new innovations and any reduction in ticket prices would be welcomed by “common” fans who can scarcely afford tickets or even sports merchandise and who are fed up with the arrogance of the “big four” leagues.

Most of all, the new league could wait for a merger, just like the WHA and AFL did. It may have taken longer to get into the NHL and NFL, but in the end, it was probably cheaper.

Interview with Borna Rendulić!

Retrieved from: Photo used with permission.

We recently caught up with Colorado Avalanche forward Borna Rendulić! For the readers that aren’t familiar with him, he’s the first Croatian born NHL player ever (Joel Prpic played in the NHL and the Croatian national team, but was born in Canada.). He’s played all over Europe before crossing the pond to join the Avalanche organization. Rendulić was able to play 26 games in the AHL and 11 games in the NHL before suffering an injury. Even though that’s a tough way to end your season, he’s been working hard in the gym to be better than ever. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @bornarendulic. Make sure to follow us on Twitter @hkyblogger and “like” us on Facebook here: So without further to do, here’s our chat with Borna Rendulić!

As per usual, we are in bold.

Croatia isn’t the biggest hockey market in the world, generally known more for soccer. How did you end up playing hockey with most of the country crazy about soccer?
Although I was and still crazy about soccer, I started with hockey almost by coincidence. When I was a 6-year old, I went with my preschool group to skating a course and one of the Medvescak coaches saw me skating. He liked my style and called me to join a hockey team. I said yes and the rest is history haha, I mean, that’s how I started with hockey, although I trained in soccer, basketball and handball as well in my childhood.

How often do you get noticed in the streets of Zagreb?
I don’t get noticed in the streets of Zagreb very often. But it happens from time to time. I only get noticed very often in Zagreb when I come for a hockey game.

What is it like to be the first player born and raised in Croatia to play in the NHL? Do you feel that there is a certain amount of pressure knowing that you represent Croatia whenever you step on the ice?
Well it’s a really big thing, definitely a dream come true and absolutely a huge accomplishment for me. Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. You know the proverb from Spiderman, “With great power comes the great responsibility” haha. So yeah, the pressure is always here, but I’m trying to give my best to represent Croatia the best as I can.

What was your first game in the NHL like? Take us through it, the butterflies and the excitement.
My first NHL game was pure excitement and enjoyment. However, it’s impossible to describe all the feelings and emotions with words. There is a big mess in your head, you are fascinated by the crowd and everything, but you are still 100% concentrated on the game and every shift you take. You want to give your best while you are in awe, so yeah, it’s really hard to explain everything that’s happening out there. I hope I managed to give you at least a bit of the atmosphere.

Where is the puck from your first ever goal? Is it something you show off to your friends, or is it something you put away as a keepsake?
The puck from my first goal is in my home. It has a special place in my room with all the other medals and awards I won during my career. That is one of the things that I put away as a keepsake more than I show it off. I don’t like to brag so these types of things are something I keep for myself.

What’s the best part of your game?
I believe the best part of my game is my shot, especially my slapshot. Also I’m a winger with a big frame, and I am always being told that I posses a promising combination of size and scoring ability. I think I’m an intelligent player, good in corners, who likes to play offensive, but smart. I am tactically very good and I have a finisher’s instinct both in strength and skill to power my way to the net. I have a good technique and tendency for finesse and attractive game.

What’s something you need to work on?
On the other hand, I often look passive off the puck and I could up my intensity and sharpness. Furthermore, I need to fine-tune all aspects of my play. I have to place special focus on skating and adding grit, in addition to improving my defense and realization skills. That are some things I definitely need to work on.

So the next part is more of a rapid fire section, it’s a get to know you. You ready?
You’ve played hockey all over Europe and now in North America, how many languages can you speak fluently?

I speak Croatian natively, Finnish and English fluently. I think my English is the best of all three languages I speak, and my friends often tease me that I speak Finnish and English better than Croatian haha. I also understand Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin because these languages are very similar to Croatian.

Who did you idolize growing up?
When I was growing up I idolized Wayne Gretzky, but I also liked Mario Lemieux and Joe Sakic. They are the best of all time but at the same time, they were one of the few players I had heard of since we couldn’t have watched any hockey in Croatia. However, I later started to like Ovechkin when he came up and got to the NHL. I idolized him during the most of my career so I can say he was and is my idol.

There’s a lot of pranksters in hockey, who’s the biggest prankster in the locker room and what’s the best story you have?

Well all the guys in the locker room are cool and funny. We have a lot of pranksters, and when I first came to Colorado I instantly liked Berra, Briere and Hejda. But I don’t want to single out anybody, I love them all, they are all kings! I have a lot of stories haha, don’t know if I could say some to you and what story would be best for you haha.

Who’s the roomie on the road?
My roomie on the road is Dennis Everberg and we get along quite well.

What’s fun to do in Zagreb?
There’s a lot of fun things to do in Zagreb, although not as much as the US. But Zagreb has a lot of sights, wonderful parks and promenades. The clubbing is ok and everyone can find something for themselves. It’s not such big city, but it’s beautiful and is definitely one of the best places to visit when in Croatia, together with Dubrovnik. Zagreb has lots of restaurants, bars, wine bars and tourist attraction that can leave anyone breathless.

Final questions:
Advice for aspiring hockey players?

I think the best advice for aspiring hockey players is just to believe in themselves and to work and train their asses off. That’s the best combination for success.

Who should we interview next?
If you want some interesting hockey stories from Croatia, you should interview Ivan Sijan.

This is a terrible pun, but I just have to ask this, how often do people ask if you’re “Borna” ready and on a scale of 1 to 10 how annoying is it?
People ask me many things and thus they ask how ready I am. But it’s not a problem to me to answer any questions, so I don’t find that question annoying at all. So the answer is 0.

Thank you for your time.

New Teams Means New Alignment For The NHL

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s expansion terms ($500 million including a $10 million application fee of which $8 million is refundable) have scared away many would-be applicants.

During the last NHL expansion in 1997 which cost $80 million, there were 11 applicants including three separate Houston entries, from which four cities, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, and Columbus were selected.

The only cities that are willing to cough up the excessive entry fee for the latest expansion are Quebec City and Lss Vegas and if that is only who applies, it will be a slap in the face for Bettman and the NHL who were flushed with long-time rumors and stories that there were an abundance of investors dying to get into the NHL.

It would serve them right if their greedy terms only engender a “get-what-we-can” response instead of an abundant harvest of applicants. Quebec and three western cities paying a total of $2 billion were the NHL’s ideal. Now it may be two and no more.

Regardless of how many cities apply (if any at all now), even only two new teams added will mean NHL realignment.

32 teams are a symmetrical number for professional sports leagues, which only the NFL so far has reached. It means a 2-conference, 8-division-of-4-teams alignment, which also means an easy-to-understand playoff structure.

It is also an alignment that makes it easy for a league to expand in the future with each division able to accommodate five, even six teams for a total of a 48 team league. Currently there are approximately 60 major markets in the United States and Canada so such an expanded league could be easily created.

Since Bettman’s excessive expansion terms may have caused serious second thoughts about joining the NHL, for the purpose of this article, it will only be assumed that Quebec and Las Vegas will submit credible bids which will still leave the NHL in an unbalanced state.  With that in mind, here’s how a future NHL might look:

                                               Eastern Conference

1                                     2                                3                                   4

Quebec       New York Rangers             Toronto                  Washington
Montreal      New York Islanders            Buffalo                   Carolina
Ottawa        New Jersey                         Detroit                    Florida
Boston        Philadelphia                        Pittsburgh              Tampa Bay

Western Conference

1                                    2                              3                                   4

Columbus              Vancouver                San Jose                 St. Louis
Chicago                  Edmonton                Las Vegas               Phoenix
Nashville                Calgary                     Los Angeles           Dallas
Minnesota              Winnipeg                  Anaheim                 Colorado

Thanks to the NHL’s greed, Columbus (which does not have the clout of Detroit) will have to be shifted back to the Western Conference until some future expansion to western cities will allow it to return east.

For now, this has to be assumed how the future NHL will look. The crucial date is August 10. Then NHL will know who are “the men from the boys”, that is if there are any men who are rich enough and fanatical enough to want to join them.

NHL Must Reduce Or Refund Entry Fees To Quebec and Las Vegas

It is a loss of face. It is a deserved nemesis to uncontrolled naked greed, but if it is not done, it is an act of business blindness. The NHL has to reduce or refund the excessive $500 million entry fee they want to charge Quebec City and Las Vegas to join the league.

It is obviously not a policy the NHL wants to do. Bettman and the NHL owners had whipped themselves into a greedy frenzy about the possibility of getting as much as a quick $2 billion in expansion fee money which they would not have to share with the NHL Players Association, by accepting four new expansion teams.

As early as a year ago, there were published reports in almost all sports media and websites that Toronto and Seattle, along with Quebec City and Las Vegas were “done deals” for a possible NHL Centenary expansion in 2017, along with bids from many other hockey hungry cities like Hamilton, Portland, Milwaukee, Houston, Oklahoma City, etc.

Instead the excessive greed of the NHL threw cold water on the whole expansion process. In the end, after handing out applications for 16 bids, only the two most committed and fanatical cities, Quebec and Las Vegas agreed to go through the whole expansion process. Even the “done deals” of Toronto and Seattle backed off. The NHL was hoping to get Quebec and three western cities for expansion, realignment and balanced conferences. Now they have to settle for what they can get, realignment, and unbalanced conferences.

The truth is that the business world took one look at the expensive entry fee to join the NHL and said, “Much as we would like to join you, we’re not suckers. Go your own way. (Or ‘Go to hell’, the impolite phrase.)”

Bettman and the NHL can continue to go along their greedy path and collect the $1 billion from Las Vegas and Quebec, but if they do, it will be a long time before the NHL can expand again. The business world has flatly stated that unless they are obsessed or fanatical like Quebec and Las Vegas, they will not pay what they consider an excessive entry fee. This message should also be taken seriously by the NFL, the NBA, and MLB.

Bettman and the NHL owners can pretend to ignore this blunt statement but since only two bidders emerged, it proved that there are not many rich people out there who are obsessed enough and fanatical enough to want to join the NHL. In fact the excessive $500 million fee should make any would-be major professional hockey team owners to seriously consider banding together and start their own league, like the WHA in the 1970s. Money spent on excessive $500 million entry and “consideration” fees can be better spent on building or upgrading arenas and player salaries.

Bettman and the NHL have painted themselves into a corner. They can take the money now and pray that “obsessed, fanatical” expansion owners will appear in the not-to-distant future, so that they can get richer and “balance up” the NHL which is unlikely; or scale down their demands on Quebec and Las Vegas to meet the true market value of an NHL franchise.

Charging an excessive entry fee is not a smart policy in any case. If these new applicants are supposed to be your new partners for the long-term future, why do you want to burden them with an excessive entry fee? And particularly in Las Vegas’s case, an expansion city like so many chosen during Bettman’s time as Commissioner, a city with no hockey roots, chosen because it makes hockey seem like “America’s game” and therefore entitles the NHL to get American television contracts like the NFL, the NBA, and MLB, an excessive expansion fee could cause the franchise to take a nose-dive if the expected fan support does not materialize. One would think the NHL has had enough money-losing franchises like Phoenix, Atlanta, and Florida and will create expansion conditions suitable for making a profit.

So it would be smart business to reduce or refund some of the $500 million burden on Quebec and Las Vegas  to the true market value in a way that involves the least amount of loss of face and shame. Else it seems like it will be for a long time that the NHL will remain “unbalanced” because it cannot find expansion owners/suckers who want to join such an “exclusive” league.