Wednesday, July 14, 2004

NHL News Update

Corrupt Officiating? A new controversy is brewing in the NHL corner of the sports world. It appears that Andy Van Hellemond's resignation from his position as the National Hockey League's director of officiating is because he was borrowing money from some officials, even those who were referees in the Cup Finals. The loans were between $100 and $10,000. This means that Van Hellemond could've been giving preference to certain individuals who loaned him money with respect to prime playoff assignments. An unidentified source says:
"That's why Colin Campbell selected the officials for the final and Mike Murphy was installed as the supervisor for the final. Usually, the director of officiating is the supervisor for the final."
But another mystery source has analyzed the situation in a different manner:
"Van Hellemond didn't do anything illegal and he has since paid back the loans. He just made a very bad decision."
Either way, the NHL does not need this black cloud of controversy surrounding its officiating, which has come under fire by many who want to see consistent standards of officiating from October through the playoffs. Red Wings and the ECHL The Red Wings have extended their affiliation with the Toledo Storm of the ECHL through the 2004-05 season, marking their thirteenth season as inter-league partners. The Wings' other minor league affiliate is the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL. Wings' prospects such as Darryl Bootland, Nathan Robinson, Paul Ballantyne, and Joey MacDonald have played with the Storm. Being in Toledo, it is a convenient location for the Wings to send their players (as is Grand Rapids). Before their affiliation with the Griffins, the Wings had an affiliation with the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings [RIP: 1979-1999]. But it was often difficult to move players from upstate/far eastern New York, with many players having to drive to Detroit just for the chance to make a cameo appearance. Red Wings Preseason Schedule This past Friday, the Wings released details of a theoretical nine-game preseason that would commence September 26 at the Joe, versus Boston. I attach "theoretical" to everything related to the 2004-2005 NHL season, simply because it is protocol to schedule things, but it doesn't really mean much with the CBA expiring on September 15. Just don't set your heart on seeing Red Wings hockey until at least January. But here is the theoretical preseason schedule: September 26, Boston @ Detroit September 28, Detroit @ Colorado September 30, Detroit @ Boston October 1, Toronto @ Detroit October 2, Detroit @ Dallas October 5, Colorado @ Detroit October 7, Dallas @ Detroit October 9, Detroit @ Toronto October 10, NY Rangers @ Detroit Devereaux a Happy Coyote After the Wings decided not to pick up their option for him, Boyd Devereaux signed with the Phoenix Coyotes last week. Devereaux inked a one-year, $650,000 contract, with bonuses bringing that up to a possible $1.6 million. The 26-year-old Devereaux earned $1.6 million as a Wing last season. And the former 6th overall pick in the 1996 NHL draft has to feel re-energized, after a rocky stay in Detroit the past four years and a history of serious concussions. The Coyotes are a much younger team than the Wings, and will be able to give Boyd more ice time and playing experience. The Coyotes' oldest player is 32-year-old Sean O'Donnell (newly-signed Mike Ricci is 14 days younger than O'Donnell, turning 33 on October 27). After stints in Kitchener (Ontario), Hamilton (Ontario), Edmonton, and Detroit, Devereaux will have to deal with quite a climate shock:
"I�m going to miss the seasons. We�re going there in the next couple of weeks to just get comfortable with the area and get familiar with things. I�m preparing for it to be real hot."
Culture-shock aside for the native Ontario boy, Devereaux is looking forward to a fresh start:
"I�m looking forward to getting out there and getting started. They�ve made some moves recently, moves which are going to help us a lot. I definitely think we�ll be battling for the playoffs, and once you get into the playoffs, anything can happen."
Even though the Coyotes are a young team, their front office boasts Wayne Gretzky, who is the Managing Partner and Alternate Governor (part owner) of the Phoenix Coyotes. Maybe rubbing shoulders with the Great One can get Boyd on the right track. I wish him the best, have no hard feelings for his stay here (ie Boyd "De-void"), and hope that he does well in his new desert home. Ex-Blue wins $15 million suit Former St Louis Blues left winger Tony Twist has won a lawsuit against Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, which claimed that McFarlane profited from using Twist's name without his permission. In the comic books, McFarlane had a mob boss character named Antonio (Tony Twist) Twistelli. Tony Twist was an NHL enforcer who had 10 goals and 18 assists in 445 career games. Now he is $15 million dollars richer, as the St Louis circuit court jury found McFarlane liable to the claims. But the sticking point is that McFarlane vows to appeal the verdict, and a previous court ruling awarded Twist $24.5 million in 2000 before that decision was overruled. McFarlane claims his use of the name is protected under the First Amendment. That isn't saying much, since the First Amendment is probably the most misinterpreted amendment, and any wrong can be protected by one's freedom of speech if perverted the right way. But the one thing about America is that you can always find a radical court that sides with you, and the Missouri Court of Appeals' Eastern District did that when they overruled the previous award in Twist's favor. Part of me wants to side with Twist: the comics came out during the early 1990's, when Twist was playing with the Quebec Nordiques, and the NHL enforcer was apparently depicted as a mob boss in his comic form. But it isn't clear whether McFarlane knew Tony Twist before he created his comic book character. McFarlane was born in Canada, and Twist is well-known in the inner-circle of hockey fans, but this just isn't enough evidence. Either way, I think that $15 million is way too steep a settlement for the "crime" incurred. And I also think that this was a bad PR move for Tony Twist, since most people think it comical for the former NHL player to be suing a comic book creator for such a frivolous issue. Mike Danton Trial The pre-trial hearing for St Louis Blues forward Mike Danton has been postponed until next week. Danton is accused of the would-be murder-for-hire of his longtime agent David Frost. Mike Danton (formerly Mike Jefferson) is estranged from his family, and reports from his parents suggest that he has had a close relationship with David Frost, who they suggest is manipulating their son. Danton will appear in federal court Monday, July 19. Also charged is 19-year-old Katie Wolfmeyer, who is accused of trying to hire the would-be killer. Through the whole fiasco, Frost has maintained Danton's innocence. The trials of Danton and Wolfmeyer are set to begin in September, where they face up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Danton has been incarcerated since April 16, when he was arrested in San Jose, a day after the Blues were eliminated from the playoffs by the Sharks. Front Office Francis The Carolina Hurricanes have offered veteran Ron Francis a front office position next season, but do not want him to return as a player. Francis was offered the position of director of player development. Says Canes GM Jim Rutherford:
"As an organization, we've talked about going in a different direction with making our team younger."
Francis' role would have him working with prospects and assessing potential trades. Francis, 41, has not made any announcement as to whether he will play next season. Last March, Francis actually jumped boats to the Toronto Maple Leafs, accepting a trade that gave him a chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, he suffered a back injury, and finished with only 4 points in 12 games, and the Leafs lost to the Flyers in the Conference Semifinals. I see this as a precedent to Steve Yzerman being offered a front office job with the Red Wings after he retires. Dan Snyder Remembered Dany Heatley joined several Atlanta Thrashers teammates and officials yesterday to take part in the inaugural Dan Snyder Memorial golf tournament in Snyder's hometown of Elmira, Ont. Last September, Dany Heatley crashed his Ferrari into a brick pillar, with teammate Dan Snyder in the passenger seat. Snyder died later died of his injuries, and Heatley was left severely injured and the focus of a media blitz. Dany Heatley is expected to be indicted for his role in the fatal wreck. The Snyder family has come out in strong support of Heatley, and they are expected to help clear him of the charges. The tournament is expected to have raised up to $100,000, which will go for the building of a new hockey arena in Snyder's memory. Cherry Verdict Soon Don Cherry's future in the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada feature "Coach's Corner" is expected to come out in the next few days. Cherry is without a contract, and reports are that top executives at the CBC do not want him back. One source from the broadcast company gives his chances of returning of, at best, 50-50. My bet is that Cherry is offered another contract with the CBC, because, despite the dirty laundry he brings, "Coach's Corner" is always the spike in Hockey Night in Canada's ratings. Hockey fan or not, many are intrigued by Cherry's straight-forward, honest approach to hockey analysis. Red Wing Free Agent News GM Ken Holland continues to negotiate with restricted free agents Mathieu Dandenault, Jiri Fischer, Pavel Datsyuk, and Jason Williams. All four have until Thursday to file for salary arbitration. Arbitration hearings are conducted between August 1-15. But both sides would prefer to avoid the awkward feel of an arbitration hearing, which pits player against management in a tug-of-war over salary level. The Wings have made qualifying offers to all four, retaining their rights in a mandatory move, since all were below the league's average salary of $1.8 million. Reports are that Dandenault will accept the 10% raise of the qualifying offer, but Pavel Datsyuk is farthest from coming to an agreement, after his 30-goal, 38-assist breakout season.


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