Link – Rangers Ballpark Deal Will Sneakily Cost Taxpayers a Few More Hundred Million Dollars

Here’s how it works. The agreement, in addition to raising the city’s share of the money by extending a series of tax hikes that are currently paying for the Cowboys’ Stadium, includes an “admissions and parking tax”—a surcharge on tickets and parking. That’s normal, and is a big part of most stadium financing deals.But in just about every other case, the city (or county/state) uses that tax to pay its share of the stadium’s cost. In this case, the Rangers get to use that tax money to pay down their own stadium debt.

Is there a worse way to spend municipal funds than to get into agreements with billionaire owners to build stadiums? I can’t imagine what it would be.

Link – Jaguar mascot escapes leash, is shot dead after Olympic torch ceremony in Brazil

A jaguar used in an Olympic torch relay ceremony was shot to death after it escaped its leash and tried to attack a soldier, the Brazilian army said Tuesday.

Things are not going very smoothly in the lead up to the Olympic Games in Rio. I’m a bit worried about how the Games themselves will turn out. Usually we see some stories like this come out and then things pretty much come together, but it seems like there have just been more stories about things that could go wrong in Rio than usual.

Link – Las Vegas NHL expansion team is ‘done deal’: Report

C2GlobalSales / Pixabay

It won’t be officially official until next week, but I know NHL GMs have been looking over the expansion draft rules that will be in play at the end of the 2016-2017 season and making plans to structure their rosters accordingly.

This should be an interesting season of teams positioning themselves to avoid losing players for nothing. May even make for some strange moves at the draft this year. There are some teams out there that have some difficult decisions to make about players with No Movement Clauses, and other young players at the same position. For example, look at the great goaltending tandem that just won the Calder Cup, both sitting behind an older goalie with a no-trade who would have to be the one goalie protected.

The Blue Jackets aren’t the only team out there like that. What will they do?–done-deal—report-171320924.html

Link – Strikeout – Sports and Mental Health

“Need further evidence that sports reflects societal cleavages? As indignation over single fatherhood reached a fervent pitch, Sports Illustrated released its infamous “Where’s Daddy?” cover chastening high-profile athletes. As the gay marriage debate raged across America, openly gay Michael Sam sought a roster spot in the hyper-masculine NFL. Spanning the Vietnam War to gender equity, professional sports has precipitated societal trends and, arguably, policy reforms.

The exception: mental health. On mental health reform and awareness, the four professional sports leagues have adopted a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” approach. Roger Goodell, the NFL’s powerful commissioner, has expressed more concern about protecting the NFL shield than employees’ mental health. When the topic is broached among players, they are more guarded than Bill Belichick during a press conference. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall is one of the few professional athletes to divulge his mental health struggles. Diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, he has partnered with the Project 375 Foundation, a mental health advocacy organization. Marshall has chided the NFL for its inaction.

Here’s the irony: In the extremely competitive sports world, professional athletes employ sports psychologists to prepare for high-pressure contests. When an athlete visits a sports psychologist to “get his mind right,” isn’t this a natural segue to discuss anxiety and strategies to manage it? Think of how many kids are plagued with mental health issues and the impact a sports superstar would have. The opportunity for a high-profile athlete to fill the mental health void is there. He (or she) would earn media plaudits, endorsements, and public admiration. The time is yesterday.”

It is interesting. Athletes use sports psychologists all the time. There have been TV series about it. But how many are willing to openly talk about mental health issues? There are a few in recent years, but not many. Even then, most of those have been ex-athletes talking about the effects of head trauma. There seems to be a bit less stigma about that than just coming forward and talking about depression, despite the fact that many, many people deal with it at some point.

Here’s hoping more people all over become willing to talk about it.

Link – Facts about Gordie Howe (that often feel like fiction)

Honestly, this Rotoworld timeline for Howe’s life and career reads more like a series of Chuck Norris jokes than it does a factual career resume for “Mr. Hockey.”

It really does. To play with that much of an impact well into his 40’s and early 50’s seems ridiculous now, let alone back in the 70s without all we know today about treating injuries and working out.

It’s a good day for hockey fans to take a moment and remind ourselves of how great Gordie Howe really was.

Facts about Gordie Howe (that often feel like fiction)

Link – A bid to stay competitive

IMG_0290.JPG“The $42 million project is the latest piece in the athletics facilities equation for Oregon State University, which says it is determined to keep pace with its Pac-12 Conference opponents.

Since 2001 OSU has added a new Sports Performance Center, the Beth Ray Center for Academic Support, a new basketball practice facility, a track and field complex, the Samaritan Sports Medicine Center and other upgrades that have cost more than $200 million.

“It helps us stay competitive in football,” said Mark Massari, OSU deputy athletic director for capital projects and internal operations during a tour of the construction project with Gazette-Times reporters.

“Almost every program since the Pac-12 was formed (in 2011) has renovated their football stadium. Some, such as Cal and Washington, have redone the whole stadium. We have to keep up. And we can’t stop with the Valley Football Center. We have to get going on the west side, too.””

There’s a word for this much capital investment in infrastructure. That word is “business”. That is what College Football is, even at a place like Oregon State, which will never be confused with the “big-business” football programs like Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, or even, Oregon. Even schools like Oregon State find themselves spending $200 million just to “keep up”, and keep the football money flowing in.

Freakonomics on Leicester and Relegation

jarmoluk / Pixabay

jarmoluk / Pixabay

The past week’s Freakonomics podcast was about the “longshot” Leicester win of the English Premier League. If you really want to understand how big a surprise this was, as well as good discussions of relegation, and sports gambling, you could do worse than listening to the podcast.

Especially interesting were the points raised about how American leagues use the concept of parity keeping interest high in a sport because no one wants to watch sports where too many teams aren’t competitive, and how the most popular leagues in the world are outside the US. (Also, how college sports are much more like European leagues, in that the big schools have fairly few constraints on simply gathering up all the best players, and yet they are still very popular as well.)

Just go listen, and think some more about how American sports leagues are run by their ownership groups. There’s a lot to consider that many in the US don’t usually think about.

What Will The Islanders Look Like in 2016-2017?

cropped-IMG_0073.jpgSince the final horn sounded on the Islander season in Round Two against Tampa, fans have started to wonder what would happen over the off season. There are a lot of reasons this year is different than others, which only adds to the intrigue. First and foremost, the Islanders new ownership group takes over control of the team from Charles Wang on July 1.

Secondly, the Isles have a couple of key forwards who become unrestricted free agents on that day as well.

Thirdly, every team in the league will go into this season expecting that they will have to deal with an expansion draft after the season. Roster moves this summer, and at the trade deadline next year, will be made with that draft in mind, especially given the small number of players teams will be able to protect, and the fact that they will have to honor no movement clauses in choosing who to protect.

On the first point, I don’t think anyone knows what direction new owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin will want to take. It’s entirely possible they will want to bring in a whole new GM/Coaching team, and it’s just as likely they will give Garth Snow and Jack Capuano another year to see if they have what it takes to get the team not just in the playoffs, but to the point of being serious Stanley Cup contenders. The one thing I think is likely, is that the team will not suddenly be a team that spends to the cap. They’ve been a budget team for years, and while the move to Brooklyn and the on-ice success maybe moves the budget a bit, I don’t think we’re going to see the Isles spend to the cap.

This, of course, complicates the free agency question. Kyle Okposo, Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin will all be UFAs. Someone, somewhere in the league is going to offer Okposo something like 5 years at $6 million per, possibly even more than that. Do the Islanders try to match that, or let him walk? Bear in mind that is more money than John Tavares currently makes, and paying Okposo that throws the Isles pay scale out of whack to some extent.

Frankly, signing all three of them puts the Islanders pretty close to the current cap, for the same team that was on the ice this season. I can’t imagine that is going to be the plan again. Especially when there are other UFAs who’s roster spots will need to be replaced as well. (Zidlicky, Strait, Boulton, Bernier)

The financials are also complicated by RFA’s who need new contracts: Strome, Cizikas, Mayfield, Berube, Prince and Quine.

As it turns out, the Isles cap situation, and salary negotiations with free agents, may come down to two players who didn’t even make an appearance in the playoffs, Jaroslav Halak and Mikhail Grabovski. With the way Thomas Greiss played to close out the year, and promising youngster Jean-Francois Berube, a pending RFA, on the NHL roster the Isles really had one goalie too many during the first half of the season. The Isles may try to dump Halak in a trade, freeing up a bunch of salary, and allowing the Isles to not expose Berube to waivers by trying to get him to Bridgeport for playing time.

As for Grabovski, he brings something to the table when he’s healthy, but he hasn’t been healthy the last two years. Short of his health coming back, the Islanders may be hoping Grabo goes ahead and retires. He’s got two years and $11 million left on his contract, so if he thinks he can play again, he may be back, but there is definitely a question about whether he can still play.

If both of those things happen, the Islanders may look quite different next year. Suddenly, they can match offers for Nielsen and Okposo if they so choose, and possibly add another key free agent.

In the end, my prediction, based on no inside information at all, but what I expect as an Isles fan, is that they resign Martin, and one of Nielsen and Okposo.

Grabovski does retire, or gets bought out.

Halak gets traded, but for less than many Isles fans are hoping. Possibly to get the Islanders into the second or third round of the draft. (The Islanders do not have 2-3 round picks this year.) Possibly there’s a depth player sent back as well. The bottom line here is that there is going to be a glut of goaltenders available in trades this season, as teams look to dump older goaltenders to try and protect young prospects at the end of the season. (Think Marc-Andre Fleury, for example) Plus, Halak is coming off an injury, and expensive. The Isles might actually get more value by trading Greiss at this point, but I can’t see Snow counting on Halak being healthy or Berube as the options for 2016-17.

It’s also possible that Berube will be the Isles starting goalie shortly too. if you’re an expansion team, Thomas Greiss looks mighty tempting, unless the Isles get him signed to an extension and make it more expensive for the supposed Vegas team to pick him up. He’s playing for that contract next year.

The Islanders sign a free agent winger, and Isles fans decide it’s too much money for a borderline player, which is pretty much what free agency looks like this year. They probably do the same for a depth defender, and Isles fans will rejoice if it doesn’t involve Brian Strait coming back. 😉

I’d also expect some young guys to start the season in Brooklyn in the place of some of those UFAs listed above. Specifically, I expect to see Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Alan Quine and perhaps Michael Dal Colle in Brooklyn on opening night.

And, like this year, the Islanders will be depending on those young forwards to take a step up and play their way onto the first line. It didn’t happen this year, will it happen next year? If it doesn’t it may be the end of the line for the Garth Snow plan.

I describe the Isles forwards this way. They have the best 4th line in hockey. They have john Tavares, one of the best centers in hockey, Kyle Okposo, a decent top six scorer, and they have about 7 guys who are decent, but should be playing on a third line somewhere. Something is going to have to change in that group, especially if Okposo leaves.

Of course, this is Garth Snow we’re talking about, and a weird year because of possible expansion, so it’s entirely possible that the Isles trade away a couple of those young guys for a proven first line player, and let Okposo and Nielsen walk away too. We’ll see it all play out in the coming months, and it’s going to be interesting.

What do you predict?