Sunday, March 29, 2009

City takes on stake in Utah Grizzlies to keep them going

Two ECHL teams have folded this season, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of teams in trouble. The Utah Grizzlies turned money owed for rent into a new owner -- West Valley City. They'll be one of the lucky ones when it's all said and done.

From The Salt Lake Tribune:

The minor league hockey team now has a partner and the city now owns part of a professional sports franchise. It's not an ideal situation for either party, but the fact is they need each other.

The Grizzlies need a partner to shore up mounting financial losses. The city needs its biggest E Center tenant to keep filling dates and bringing in the crowds.

West Valley City laid out $600,000 to buy a stake in the team, a figure that essentially wiped out what the Grizzlies owed the E Center in rent.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Football draft to become earlier like hockey

I found this interesting -- football wants to move their draft to be before veteran free agency (as hockey has long had it). This would increase the ability of teams to plan around their rookies. One difference between the two sports is that you expect many fewer hockey players to step right into the lineup. Only about 10 do so every year lately, a number that has grown since the new CBA and salary cap increased the importance of rookies. The same age pressure seems to be happening in football in These Economic Times -- having more rookies on the roster is cheaper, therefore more desirable.

Multiple inside sources throughout the league have told PFW that the economic climate, coupled with the uncertainty of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players in addition to the potential for an uncapped year in 2010 and a potential lockout in ’11, have made cost-cutting measures a top priority...

One other key factor in holding the draft earlier is that it is likely to limit the amount of input from the head coach and his assistants. It will force teams to rely more on their scouting staffs and personnel departments. The earlier draft will reward well-organized and talented scouting departments and expose less-talented, less-informed scouts...

The earlier draft would allow teams to select for need with younger players first, then see what they’ve got in minicamps before deciding whom to pursue in free agency. The system currently encourages teams to fill roster needs with veteran free agents before the draft.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Bowling Green may eliminate hockey

I'm a little late on this one, but wanted to mention it. The economy has taken out two ECHL teams so far, and now may claim a college team.

From the Sentinel-Tribune:

All university departments have been asked to develop a variety of scenarios regarding budgets and programs.
The school believes it is looking at a funding shortfall of between $6 million and $10 million when the new state budget begins July 1. University president Carol Cartwright has said that if that figure worsens, cuts in programs will be need to be made.
Rumors suggest the decision to cut hockey could be made final during a special meeting of the BGSU Board of Trustees sometime during the next week to 10 days.
Many former NHLers have come out of Bowling Green.

The only silver lining I see here is that maybe the CCHA could take in one or more CHA teams so they aren't left hanging.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Red is the new blond in hockey playoff hair

Beards, mohawks, shaved heads, blonde dye-jobs, mustaches. It's all been done by hockey teams as a way of bonding for the playoffs.

The Ohio State hockey team has gone red this year, which is appropriate given their school colors. College teams usually set the trend each year, as their playoffs come earlier in the season.

From The Lantern:

With playoff beards just beginning to blossom and mullets requiring months of planning and infrequent barber shop visits, the scarlet dye found little serious competition in the spur-of-the-moment locker room debate.

"It's just to bring the team together, something that we're doing together," senior co-captain Zach Pelletier said. "We're pretty tight right now but this should take us to the next level so we can go into this weekend prepared."

Sunday, March 1, 2009

More casualties of teams in minor league hockey

ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna was unusually candid in this AP story, saying the league could lose more teams during this economic downturn.

"The teams that struggle in a good time, they're going to struggle even more when the economy's bad," McKenna said. "I wouldn't be surprised if we have a couple more casualties. Hopefully we're better positioned for growth in the future. Our league having lost some struggling teams may in fact make us stronger overall."
It's almost a given that Wheeling will be one of those lost this offseason. It's implied by one of the comments by the owner in the same article.

"We want to do our best to keep some type of hockey team here in Wheeling because we love the community," said Jim Brooks, who bought the team with his brother in 2003. "But we need the community's help to do that."

Wheeling's facilities are very outdated, and do not attract players, to say the least. That franchise may fold or be sold. Mississippi is another team that due to travel costs, is on the edge. Johnstown has been hanging on by a thread for several years. They are averaging just 2100 in attendance. If they don't get the lease renegotiated favorably enough, they could move.

Abbottsford, British Columbia is a possible new location for a team if they do not get an AHL club.

The article points out that while other minor leagues have had a decline in attendance, the ECHL is actually up 2.2 percent this season.

Attendance at minor league hockey games is down nationwide. The only exception is in the ECHL, which has seen a 2.2 percent increase in per-game attendance after losing four of its seven lowest-performing franchises since the end of last season.