Somewhere between here and Monday, hockey got turned on its ear.
A few examples: Commissioner Gary Bettman presided over a press conference announcing the moving of a hockey team TO Canada and did not cry at any point. Roberto Luongo was not the first goalie to blink in an important game. The NHL is putting Brendan Shanahan in charge of discipline - a guy who may still be a great fit for the job, but was a willing participant in the infamous 1997 Red Wings-Avalanche brawl. (He was the one who tackled Patrick Roy.)
The next thing you know, they'll tell me that the 2011-12 season will be played on roller skates.
I'm thrilled for the good people of Manitoba. Though I've never been there myself, I'm told that winters there are just as challenging as winters here (if not more), and it never hurts to have a little entertainment on those cold January nights.
Furthermore, a big congrats goes out to the folks at the Winnipeg Sun and Winnipeg Free Press for getting a chance to cover the NHL again. There is a big difference between being a sportswriter and being a fan, but we want to cover the best, too. Not that the American Hockey League isn't an interesting assignment, but during their temporary sojourn in the Eastern Conference's Southeast Division, the road trips are bound to be pretty fun.
As a hockey fan and, if you remember, a prospective NHL owner, I'm a little concerned about Winnipeg crowding my market share if I ever bring the Phoenix Coyotes to the Copper Country. (The dream is still alive!)
Winnipeg is about 90 minutes (or 70 miles) further away from Houghton than Detroit is. Hey, if the Maple Leafs can justify keeping a team out of a reasonably fertile market like southern Ontario, why can't I?
I'm happy for them. A city, a province and maybe even a country got a rather raw deal, and for once, the stars aligned to make it right. This also lowers the probability of more awful Leafs-Senators games on Hockey Night in Canada, which I am also all for.
It does remain to be seen, now that seven Canadian NHL?teams exist, how they're going to handle "Hockey Day in Canada,"?in which all the Canadian teams are supposed to play each other.?Triple threat match? Give Detroit or Buffalo honorary Canadian-ship?
However, turning back the clock isn't going to right the NHL's wrongs. Retro isn't always right. The Thrashers are no more because of a hilariously dysfunctional ownership group and a failure to promote the team (and the game) in what is known as a bad sports town. As much as I'd love to see the Quebec Nordiques or Hartford Whalers come back, I'd just as much like to see the Florida Panthers or New York Islanders work in their current situations.
For once, I agree with Bettman. Hockey may seem silly in the Southern U.S., but if grown right, on and off the ice, the net benefits to the game are more. They're always going to turn out in droves in the 'Peg. But if they can do it in Florida, everyone wins.
Brandon Veale can be reached at email@example.com.