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Monday, December 15, 2014

IF I WERE IN CHARGE OF ROGERS HOCKEY..

Rogers turned the hockey world upside down when it negotiated a 12 year deal worth $5B out of the NHL and left old rights holders TSN left out in the regional cold.   Two months into the deal, much has been written about the on-air product, the ratings and whether or not it was the financially prudent move for both the cable giant and the NHL. $5B is a boatload to recoup in terms of  new subscribers and advertising revenue.   I have no doubt that the stress levels of the Rogers sales staff might rival that of air traffic controllers. 

Rogers promised unprecedented access to over the air games with three definitive hockey nights (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday).  They promised to promote the stars (those with the mumps and those without) and they promised unique access to different camera angles through their Rogers Game Centre (whoops, lawsuit pending on that one).  

Have they delivered this?  Sure they have, but not without a number of pitfalls along the way.  People are complaining about regional blackouts, where to find the games and of course everyone has an opinion on the on-air personalities both in the studio.   Read the comment sections in most newspapers, or sports media columns and the reviews are not kind.  I've found that even if you give people extra stuff or content for free, they are still going to complain.  As for the on-air personalities, there are those who long for the simplicity of Ward Cornell, and those who grew tired of the punny Ron MacLean now want him back.  

Now, if you are looking for opinions or trashing of on-air personality, this is not the forum for you. What some people like, is not other peoples cuppa tea! So if you want the burying or praising of Healy, Strombo, Grapes, Romanuk, Hughson, Damien Cox etc, go to the comment sections, you will find ample material there. 

CHANGES:
STREAMLINE ON-AIR
One thing TSN and CBC did very well was to create new on-air sports broadcasting stars.  For TSN James Duthie, Bob McKenzie, Darren Dreger were early examples of stars created through credibility and repeated exposure.  Even new guys TSN brings in like Jeff O' Neill, Ray Ferraro and Aaron Ward became credible analysts through the exposure TSN gave, and continues to give them.  For CBC, Elliot Friedman, Kelly Hrudey and Glen Healy are the guys that come to mind that became household names, respected for their on-air personality and delivery, though Healy is one of those guys who gets hammered int he comment sections for some reason.  If I am Rogers, I am looking to streamline the on-air exposure and am looking to create breakout stars.  It is tough to break out and be a star if you are among the 38 analysts/hosts that Rogers has for their hockey coverage.   Clearly they want Strombo to be the new face, so he is an easy one to give the exposure.   I will be the first to admit that I am not used to Strombo and his method of hosting.  He does not sit behind a desk, he is mobile switching back from the chairs to the glass table to standing up effortlessly.   In the long run, he will be fine and people will grow to accept him.   I think Mike Johnson could be the next star.  He is young, camera friendly and as a former Maple Leaf has some name recognition.  Plus he analyzes and breaks down the game well.   As for the rest of the on-air roster, identify who your stars could be, put them in places where they can succeed (it could be in the studio or game coverage) and them maximize their exposure.  Again, I cannot say for sure who the stars are or potentially could be but you could focus on them more than other people. I do think that some of the people are miscast and are better suited for on location game analysis while others are more studio types.   Creating stars is a process, and not done over the first couple of months of a 12 year deal.   

I am not sold yet on Sunday's Hometown Hockey quite yet , but again, its new and its a process.   The dynamic seems to be to combine the enthsiasm of college football with the audience participation of the Today Show. I like a lot of the things they are doing, and am ambivalent to others.  Not sure if they do it, but I would provide more cut ins during the game from Ron MacLean and crew to remind viewers of the hometown aspect.    Again, it will work over time, but will take time to put a dent into an audience geared towards NFL football on Sunday.  The good thing is already it appears communities want to have Hometown Hockey come to their community.  Creating a demand is never a bad thing.  

STREAMLINE DISTRIBUTION:
If I am Rogers, I listen to the people who cannot find games and vastly streamline my channel distribution to CBC, CITY TV and Sportsnet and provide as many double headers as I can through those channels more familiar to the average viewer.   Right now Rogers does offer up a viewing guide every weekend, but either people cannot understand or more likely, they are not bothering to check out the grid.   Streamlining the channels will help viewers find their game.   Viewers are creatures of habit and would like to know exactly where their game is. I would keep putting the guide online and try to distribute it through as many platforms as possible.  Hopefully people catch on.  Keep bumping regional games to national platforms when possible.  Rogers has been doing a very good job of this.  Make it seem like you are giving a viewer a "perk" or a "freebie" and it should assuage some of the complaining.   

The dominant theme of this is that it is very early in a 12 year partnership to be tearing down the existing on-air product by jettisoning on-air talents and radically changing the distribution or location of the game.  Ultimately, people will find something to complain about but they will still flock to hockey.  Sure there is room to grow but a more evolutionary approach is the key rather than a revolutionary method. 

Steve Clark 
Sports Media Enthusiast 
Play by Play TV for the Niagara IceDogs and the Hamilton Bulldogs

ICE DOGS WEEKEND

Some quick thoughts on the IceDogs weekend, and recent play:   Winston Churchill once referred to Stalin as " a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside  an enigma" It's a quote that could certainly apply to the IceDogs recent run.  No, it does not mean that Marty Williamson is Stalin, or Churchill for that matter, but the coach/GM must be pulling his hair out trying to figure out his team.  

Coming off of a three game losing the streak, the team battled the elements and themselves on route to a 7-4 win over the reeling Peterborough Petes.  The storm on Thursday's made the bus ride to the lift lock city slow and arduous and the IceDogs arrived well after their normal arrival and the game subsequently was delayed for 30 minutes to allow the team a proper warm up.   The Dogs jumped up 2-0, fell behind 4-2 and then scored 5 straight to win despite taking a slew of baffling, undisciplined and downright foolish penalties in the third and handing the Petes 11 power plays.  Still, you take the road W and run. 

Friday night saw the IceDogs sweep, yes I said sweep, Oshawa Generals with a hard fought 5-3 win. Although the Generals were missing top producers Michael DalColle (Team Canada) and Andrew Cassels, they still represent a formidable foe and the IceDogs earned every bit of that tough victory. That meant the IceDogs had four victories against Erie/Oshawa, arguably the best teams in the OHL and holders of the CHL #1 ranking during the season.   

So it was all set up for a 6 point sweep of the weekend as the rebuilding Saginaw Spirit came to town, off of a 6-4 defeat at the hands of Erie.  A series of moves by the Spirit seemed to indicate they had an eye towards the future, and it promised to be the easiest of the three games of the weekend.   Right?  Right?  Wrong!  The IceDogs came out with all the sizzle of a deflated balloon and got pounded 7-1.  Missed passes, lines not on the same page and a general all around lethargy left the 4000 plus in attendance a tad confused, as they wondered whether or not it was the same team that had taken the ice 24 hours before.  It was by far the flattest performance of the year on home ice and again raised the question of whether or not this team could be a surprise contender, or a mere pretender in the eastern conference.   

As we approach the mid way point of the season, there are no clear answers, and really no more excuses.  The injury list has been reduced and impact performers Brendan Perlini, Cody Payne and Ryan Mantha are back.  On paper the IceDogs have three solid forward lines and a fourth line that should provide energy and forechecking.   This is neither the time nor the forum to name names, but there are players not performing to expectations, both on the score sheet and in doing the little things, the intangibles that make a team better.  

Every time I see this team show the potential that they possess they put up a performance like Saturday's game and undo a lot of the good they had previously accomplished.  Do I believe in this team still?  Yes, but like the old hockey cliche goes, I'm taking this team one game at a time until I figure out exactly who they are.   

Steve Clark 
Niagara IceDogs TV Play by Play

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pot Shots, Scatter Shots, Off the Cuff Thoughts

Took a couple of weeks away, and now I'm feeling the urge to share thoughts and feelings (Working title for my new easy listening album, by the way) .  I come to praise not bury (Title of my soon to be written autobiography:  Just trying to avoid having to wear a toga on the front cover, as the quote is from Julius Caesar) !

-- Nice bounce back by the IceDogs.  So far this year they twice have had six game losing streaks, and then they just finished a three game losing streak.  A blowout of Belleville was followed by a solid 4-1 win over the CHL's #1 team, the Oshawa Generals.  Old habits die hard though and a couple of late third period goals doomed the Dogs as they lost 4-2 to North Bay.  Still 4/6 points is an nice haul, considering the opposition.   Guelph is on Thursday and then it is back to the road again for three.   

--The much ballyhooed selection camp for Canada's World Juniors camp was announced on Monday.  Normally with these sorts of things there is much more discussion about the omissions than the guys who made it, and this was no exception.  I am not going to dive headlong into that debate because,more often than not guys who made the list get tossed under the bus because player X made it.  Lets face it, all the players listed deserve to be there.  I think that we as Canadians are taking this tournament far too seriously, but it drives ticket sales, merchandise and TV numbers, and has become a big deal. 

-- I'm not a guy who follows the WHL or Q (oops better make that QMJHL, lest we get mixed up with that Ghomeshi guy), so I 'm not equipped to analyze the roster.  I am surprised that one of Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Josh Ho-Sang did not make the cut.  Ho-Sang in particular has become the intriguing omission.  No one seems to know how to take Ho-Sang, which is a shame because I think if you dig deeper you get a guy who is passionate, sensitive and opinionated (fist bump PK Subban). Rogers, through their 5 Billion dollar package aims to promote the players and the superstars of the game.  This runs counter to the hockey culture of media being comfortable and accepting of guys who spew well worn cliches.  Players who have an opinion, or are articulate are a curiosity.  Ho-Sang, to me , fits the latter.  He could be a game breaking superstar if he puts it all together and could be a high profile star in this league, if hockey will let him. 

-- Hockey media blogger Steve Lepore got in a ton of hot water, and lost his job after it was publicized that he had been essentially preying on a number of women via social media.   Again, beware the perils of social media and the fact that nothing is really going to be personal, particularly if you offend the wrong person.    OHL players have learned that and now Lepore has.   His behaviour was predatory and inexcusable.  He has since apologized on social media which is the start on a very, very long road to redemption.

--Damn tough weekend to be a Hamilton football fan as both the Marauders and Tiger Cats lost heartbreaking nail biters.  Pretty proud of my hometown, though I wonder why Hamilton cannot have nice things like other cities.  

--Much as I like to promote my own career and own TV games (did I mention spectacular HD?), if you want to attend one AHL game this year, make it Friday December 5th at 7:30 at First Ontario Centre.   It is military appreciation night and there will be a special ceremony for Nathan Cirillo, the soldier tragically killed in Ottawa several weeks back.  It is sure to be very emotional.

--Finally, true confessions time. I am a big WWE fan, at least I used to me.  While I never want to classify myself as the mature person on the face of the earth, I am not a teenager or younger, and that is who the current product is geared to.  The jokes are juvinile, and cringe worthy and its just not in anyway appealing.  Maybe I should have given this up a long time ago, but it kept pulling me in .  Now its alienating and painful to watch.   I'm out.....until at least the Royal Rumble, because that is the Road to Wrestlemania!!!

-- Busy weekend for me personally.  IceDogs v Guelph on Thursday.  Hamilton v Toronto on Friday, both on TV locally and both in stunning HD. I will try and get some video up of the games if I can.  You can check http://steveclarksportsbroadcaster.blogspot.ca for updated schedules as to where I will be and what I will be doing.  

Later
Steve Clark 
TV Voice Hamilton Bulldogs/ Niagara IceDogs

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

IN PRAISE AND DEFENCE OF CONNOR MCDAVID

Man, there are a lot of nerds covering hockey. 

Man, there was a lot of moral self-righteousness and outrage.   

For those late to the party, Connor McDavid got into a fight last night and hurt his hand when he missed his intended mark and hit the boards instead.  I will pause and give those who see fights as the evil in hockey an opportunity to dab away their tears. 

When the Connor McDavid injury news filtered down, there were scarcely enough soap boxes to cover everyones disapproval, agenda promoting, and  self-promoting.   They seemed to fall into these categories: 


1 "See, I told you they should take fighting out of hockey" 


2. "Connor McDavid should know better because he's a generational talent" 

3. "How are they going to sell tickets in Toronto and Montreal for the World Junior Championships"

4. "This just furthers my argument that CHL hockey is evil. players are the modern day coal miners and David Branch presides over the Hunger Games"  Tongue in cheek, but no doubt the CHLPA and the lawsuit guys were thinking about it.  

Note, that I haven't listed a category for "voice of reason" . For that go to Victor Fernandes column.  He covers the Erie Otters day in and day out and knows a thing or two about the Otters.  Even Victor had to be a tad bemused as he was on every Toronto sports radio show talking about this.

Here is Fernandes' take here: 

For the anti-fighting softies, I offer the following.  The fact that fighting has been muted in the game of hockey is cause for much back patting amongst so called hockey media.   I offer the counter that the fact that McDavid had to fight for himself was the problem.  I had a couple of people watch THE WHOLE PLAY and not just the McDavid soundbite and they seemed to offer up the fact that there was a liberty or two taken with McDavid before the fight.  

In the good old days when Gretzky had Semenko and McSorely and Gordie Howe had his elbows, there was no messing with the star.  Now Crosby and McDavid have to fend off sticks, shoulders, elbows, knees, etc while the enforcer is starting to be from a bygone era.  

The second argument was promoted by a couple of people, including a former GM turned broadcaster.  Connor McDavid is generational talent who is 17 years old, and prone to 17 year old emotions no matter how poised and protected he is.  Everyone has a breaking point. Even Harry Potter, another "Chosen One" had a misstep or two and lost his temper the odd time on his way to the (Spoiler Alert) vanquishing of Voldemort. 

By the way, did you see how McDavid acquitted himself in that fight?   He showed a mean streak that would have done Dale Hunter and Mark Messier proud.  I like the fact that he can handle himself when the going gets rough, just too bad he got injured, and I hope that the injury is not serious.  

Other opinions worth reading for your approval and disapproval are here: 

Come on man! Lets gain some perspective here.  So for the moral outrage crew, the fighting is evil crews, the generational talent crew and the Jr World Hockey ticket angst crew?  Give your damn head a shake and look beyond your own soapbox. 

Steve Clark

Thursday, November 6, 2014

THE DARKER SIDE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Another week has gone by, and another week in which off the ice activities took precedent over what happened on the ice and the role of social media took centre stage for Greg Betzold of Peterborough and Jake Marchment of Belleville.   

I adopt two rules when it comes to social media;  Firstly, everything is post under my real name so that everyone knows who it is who is posting. Secondly, If I would not say to someone's face, then I am not going to say it online.  I try to use social media as a conduit to those who follow me on Twitter and to have meaningful conversation.  Seems a little idealistic, but I am trying to see puppy dogs, rainbows and the glass being half full more than grey clouds, the glass being half empty and wolves? Man that was a terrible analogy.   However, I am also a 42 year old man, not a teenager.  Goodness knows what sort of problems I would have entangled myself with if I had access to social media under the Twitter handle @Rockin'Mullet88.   Young people on social media often do not have the foresight to see the forest beyond the trees when it comes to social media.  Heck, not even adults use social media as grown ups should sometimes.   

To the story at hand.   Betzold and Marchment were on Tinder, which apparently is a social media app that allows people to mingle, socialize and see if they have mutual interests.   You can "like " someone and get matched up for a chat, or you can simply "swipe" someone and ignore someone if you do not like someone.  Man, I got "swiped" a lot in high school.   During their interaction with some women, things went off the rails.  Without getting into graphic detail, the players used language that was harassing, hateful, mean, entitled and just plain spiteful.  They denigrated the young ladies they were interacting with, and came across, quite frankly as jackasses.    

However, the problem began when one of the ladies in question sent the exchange to a guy known as "OHL Insiders on Twitter", and this person promptly publicized the whole exchange and that is when it hit the fan.  To me, it was a terrible decision to post the full conversation online for everyone to see.  There is far too much judgement in the public arena of social media.  What should have happened is that the exchange should have been forwarded in confidence to the teams in question and the league without all the unsavoury details.    Maybe that is naive, when there really is no good that can come from putting it out there for all to see. That said, when the Peterborough Petes got wind of what Betzold did, they said they were going to deal with matters internally and not publicize their decision. That , to me, sent a terrible message and gave the appearance that it was going to swept under the rug. I told the person this, and made my opinion known.  He disagreed with me, and really seemed invested in what sort of publicity he could generate for himself rather than some sort of moral compass. Again, that's my take and he knows that.   

The OHL ruled harshly, some may say in a Draconian manner.  15 games each for both Betzold and Marchment.  In other words almost a quarter of the season.  To me that seemed unduly harsh and the OHL seemed to adjudicating based on the reaction of everyone rather than the action itself.   They did use the right language when publicizing the situation and referred to the sense of entitlement that the OHL was trying to remove from the game. No question  I would have suspended them, and I would have settled in the 5 to 10 game range, not 15.   The OHL has painted themselves into a corner and will be rightly criticized for suspending players for 15 games for what is their first offense of this nature. Where do they go from here when it comes to misuse of social media?  Should Marchment and Betzold do it again, do they get 20 games 30 games?  I deal with teenagers everyday as a high school law teacher, and in many cases harshest is not best when it comes to discipline.   Incremental stages of discipline work better when put in place in the education system, so why not junior hockey?  
The other problem is that the wolves are circling the OHL and CHL.  Unions, lawyers and others are lurking at the fringes just waiting to throw the CHL under the bus.  A case in point was when a Jr A player made headlines when his $20 000 dentist bill was only covered by Hockey Canada to the tune of $2500. Bam! Jerry Dias of UNIFOR is quoted in the story, and Glenn Gumbley of the CHLPA is not far behind with his take.  Same goes with this suspension.  This gives them ample fodder to wrongly spout about the ills of the game.  A lot of people outside of the game made this one their lead headlines and used it to hop on their soapbox, which I guess I am guilty of as well.   

I truly hope that these players will be better people for this, and I hope that they legitimately feel terribly for what they did because these were young women they were disparaging, and we do a lousy job of considering the feelings of the victims in any situation, let alone this one.  I also hope that there are very serious conversations going on in 60 CHL locker rooms today about the perils of social media.   Players need to be reminded that they are representing not only themselves, but also a team and a community.  They also need to be reminded that nothing truly is private.  Again, I thought it was a terrible decision to put out the transcripts of the exchanges, but what is done is done. For the OHL , I really hope they mete out punishment consistent with the crime, not the reaction to the crime. 

I commend the young ladies who bravely stood up against this. Often victims are reluctant to come forward, as their blameworthiness is assessed and they get unfairly thrust into the spotlight.  No one deserves to have the things said about them that the players said.   

Again, lets get back to hockey and lets circle the wagons to promote this great game, rather than give those who want to subvert the game the ammunition to do so.  

Steve Clark

Thursday, October 30, 2014

FOCUSING ON HOCKEY!

First of all.  Here's to Gordie Howe and best wishes for a speedy recovery from his stroke.  As I said on Twitter,  I am sure there are still a lot more elbows left in Mr. Hockey!

Alright!   I spent way too much time arguing the merits and drawbacks of the CHL lawsuit which likely will not see the light of day for a long time.  The good thing was I got to dialogue over the issue with people who work for teams, former NCAA athletes, former Junior hockey players, and others with a lot more time invested in Junior hockey than I have. Sure one guy called me despicable, but I've been called worse, and plus that makes me a hilarious cartoon character:



Lets move on!

It sure looked like the IceDogs were turning the corner a couple of weeks back after wins over Belleville and Sudbury and then a hard fought loss versus defending champions Guelph on the road. However, last week was a setback for the Dogs.   Three straight losses, all in regulation and two of those games were at home.  Even worse the team gave up 19 goals in those three losses, and the power play has gone so far south that it has started to develop a drawl and a hankering for grits! Long story short, the powerplay is 3 for 50-something, and has given up two short handed goals too! The good news is that the IceDogs did a lot of things right on the power play in Saturday's 6-2 loss to North Bay.

What do you do with a team that is physically beat up, missing three top players, and likely emotionally beat up?  No need to put lipstick on this pig.  2-10 is not pretty and moral victories mean nothing.  

Here is your IceDog light at the end of the tunnel. There are 56 games left in the season and the three this weekend are home dates versus Ottawa (Thursday), Sudbury (Saturday), and then a road game in Mississauga on Sunday afternoon.  These are all three winnable games ,and you might think that I've been hanging out in Snoop Dog's basement too much, but the lofty goal should be to claim minimum 4/6 points on the weekend and the IceDogs are 0-8 on the road, and that must change.  

I believe it was either Nietzche or Kanye West who said "that which does not kill us , makes us stronger".   Translation:  There's a lot of talent on this team, so rolling over is not an option.  

QUICK HITS:

  • Since opening night, the Meridian Centre has averaged between 3600 - 3900 people, a more than reasonable number considering the plight of the team.  Plus, IceDog attendance traditionally does not pick up unti the after the holidays.    There has been some grumbling about ticket prices, and the IceDogs introduced $20 Senior/and Student ticket prices. I will say that the $25 is a tad excessive, in my opinion, even for a new arena. It is not grossly out of whack with what I expected though.   Maybe the price point will get lowered as the season goes on. 

  • TSN put forth an interesting argument on allowing elite level OHL'ers who are not 20 to be able to play in the AHL.   The parameters suggested were first round draft picks, played three CHL seasons, and had a nine game AHL or NHL tryout period to prove that they have outgrown the CHL.  It would only affect a limited number of players, who are listed on the link below.  Bill Daly was not a fan of the idea, and I am guessing CHL teams would not like to have their best players taken away from their teams.  Still, if you have 19 year olds at the NHL level, why not the AHL.  My take is that if ain't broke don't fix it, and players should go down to their CHL team.  Still, its a good, out of the box idea put forth by TSN.  Details are here:  

  • Holy cow, I cannot believe the amount of grousing that people are doing about Rogers NHL coverage.  Don't people realize that you get more games for free?  People are having trouble finding the games.  Don't people realize that Rogers puts out a channel grid letting you know where you find the games?  People are complaining about Strombo, skinny jeans, announcers, intermission features.  You name it people are complaining about it.  A little sanity please! It's month one of a twelve year deal.  That's not even enough to call it a work in progress.   The announcers are not all that different than what you are used to seeing, and I am sure the tweaks are being worked out in terms of what has worked on air and what has not worked on air.    Serenity now to quote Frank Costanza! 
See you at the rink!
Steve Clark- TV Play by Play Niagara IceDogs/ Hamilton Bulldogs 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

THE CHL: LAWSUITS, EMPLOYER, EMPLOYEE OH MY!

Let's get one thing out of the way first.   The CHL must change the way that it does business with its players.  They must be accountable and they must spell out more in terms of guarantees when  they compensate their athletes.  Right now, as the Sam Berg lawsuit alleges, there is much confusion as to what a player is and is not guaranteed when they don a CHL uniform and sign a standard player contract.   

That said, a little history lesson.  Back in February of 2014 the OHL enhanced their compensation package from the meagre crumbs that they were doling out in terms of dollars. Now an OHL player:   
  • can claim up to $470 a month of expenses such as movie nights, cell phone bills etc
  • Get $1000 dollars worth of off season training
  • Be able to access their education package 18 months after their overage year, and if they leave before their overage year that could be up to 30 months, 

 In other words players don't have a gun to their head to make a life/hockey decision as soon as their junior career is up.   How many 20 year olds know exactly what they are going to do with their life, if the NHL is not a viable option right away because they have not been signed, or are a marginal or fringe prospect?


Now these new additions to the compensation package represent to me, a start, rather than an endgame when it comes to recognizing players.  Personally, I would like to see a task force that met annually that would be charged with what the right way is to compensate players that reflect the times that we are in.  I would staff this task force with the following:   a couple of recent ex-
  • Consistently looking at the education package to see how it can benefit not only the hockey player but also the league.   Lots of competition for talented athletes out there.  Is the CHL offering the best and most viable alternative for players who seek a pro career?  I say yes they are offering the best path to get to professional hockey and I am sure that they are always looking at improvements and revisions in this competitive environment

  • Compensation to reflect the times that we live, and the life of a hockey player.  We know that hockey players get access to a lot of top of the line equipment.  How about a credit/compensation for a suit to wear on the road for example?   This still would be a stipend, and not a means to the idea of minimum wage.  I am  sure that they could use part of the $470 for this as well, but I'd like to see it on top of that.   I'm not looking for a credit for the custom made Armani, but a reasonable one (this comes from a guy who is always looking for the best deal and has to stand next to Ed Burkholder every week, so I'm well aware of fashion).   Also for one night only, players should wear that beauty that Connor MacDavid and the rest of the Ottters were wearing one night!

  • Continued assurance that trades and the trade deadline are reflecting the needs of the student, as well as the athlete, and not just the team.  Again, I am sure that this is being done, but ensuring the practice of trading is always being looked at. 

  • Continued evolution of the partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association. Again, reflecting the needs of the players.   We all need to remember that they are not only elite athletes, but aged 16-20 where there are a lot of changes both physical and emotional.  
There, now that I've set up a task force, that should get rid of UNIFOR who wanted a provincial government task force to delve into the inner workings of junior hockey.  I cannot think of a worse group to consult on this than the provincial government, who really do not know a thing about junior hockey, and would likely, if I know the Liberal government in Ontario, waste valuable tax payer money while finding out very little in terms of new information. 

I wish that the lawsuit filed against the CHL would be disposed of in the same way that I just took the legs out of UNIFOR.  However, when you get opportunists who see dollar signs, and cloak it in a "standing up for the common man, (or junior hockey player in this case) philosophy, then you cannot get rid of them so easily.   For the purposes of this argument,  I will not take a look at the John Chartrand lawsuit as that involves a claim for injury.  Instead the class action lawsuit is the one that I will focus on.  

Lots has been reported on this lawsuit.  You can check any major newspaper in Canada and get a read on it.  I would not recommend the Toronto Star article, as it is fraught with error, and uses dated compensation examples, and in the past wrote a rather glowing puff peace on the lawyer who is at the forefront of the class action.  That man, by the way, is Ted Charney and he runs the Charney Lawyers and specializes in class action lawsuits.   A cursory glance at the firms web page sees that they like to keep their press clippings on the front page of their website, which may or may not be an indication of either their love for the common man who has been wronged, or love of seeing their own name in the newspaper.  It should be noted that the Toronto Star did a fluffy puff piece on Charney during one of this lawsuits that seemed more at home in his marketing brochure than in a major newspaper.   This actually disappoints me, as I generally respect the Toronto Star, just not this time.  Also, the Toronto Star disclosed the fact that its employees are represented by UNIFOR.   I'd say there is a bias there, but I will let you, the reader, decide.

You can judge for yourself here:  




The lawsuit, as I see it from an untrained legal mind, has some merits to it.  There has been a decision rendered on the idea that CHL players are employees in the case involving Kelly McCrimmon and the Brandon Wheat Kings.   You can read the case below, but the WHL lost this case and had their appeal denied and it was seen that junior hockey players and their team had an employer/employee relationship.   The case was heard in 2000, and much has changed since then, but there is no doubt that this case will be an important precedent going forward. The case is here: 


If I were arguing the case, I would argue that the CHL is a unique workplace that offers little in the way of actual compensation, but also offers their athletes a tremendous amount, some that can be quantified and some that cannot.   There have been some that have thrown around terms like "exploited" and "cheap labour", like this was child labour in the coal mines.  What other people get "exploited" with top of the line equipment, access to great training programs, coaches, rehabilitation for injuries,  a roof over the head and most importantly a ticket to the best development league in the world, where while your chances of making the NHL or having a solid pro career in the AHL, ECHL or overseas are more of a reality rather than a pipe dream?   

It would not surprise me to see the class action either win this lawsuit or take a big bite in terms of compensation with a pre-trial settlement.  Should that happen, that would be sad.  The opportunists and the lawyers would win and the very fabric of junior hockey would change.  Yes, the business model of junior hockey has changed, but it is hardily the lucrative money maker some make it out to be. Can you really see the likes of Owen Sound, Sarnia, Red Deer etc doing Johnny Manziel money signs?  Come on, these are small communities with small arenas that do make nice revenue when ti comes to junior hockey but it is hardily a license to print money.  Sure the London's and the Kitchener's of the world do ok, and there is new 12 year TV deal. No finances dislosed on that end, but some of the monies would have to be divided into 60 CHL teams.  That is a lot of hands reaching into the pot. 

 I would rather take the year by year approach of making things better for players, rather than a shot gun approach of a lawsuit, that would fundamentally change, and in some cases, ruin franchises and the game.   

See? That's a pretty balanced approach from someone whom the CHLPA referred to in this manner: 


You would argue anything as long as you kept your nose nice and brown far up David Branch's arsehole. Nothing has changed.

First of all, I have never received a dime from David Branch.  I get paid by the TV folks.  Second of all I have never met David Branchc, and while I have great respect for the man, also feel that he is too heavy handed in the area of supplemental discipline.  Third of all, I have a big nose and there is no way it would fit up David Branch's rear end if I tried.     

Can I go back to putting on my cheap TV make up promote the wonderful competition and athletes in junior hockey?   

Steve Clark TV Broadcaster Niagara IceDogs/ Hamilton Bulldogs/Untrained Legal Beagle