Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Third Goals on the Third Day Are the Charms.

The games: Portland Winterhawks vs. Vancouver Giants (WHL) and Vancouver vs. San Jose.

Why I chose them: It's Vancouver all around, what's not to like? Besides, I'm in training for the day I will be pro Vancouver, all the time. And that would be the day Stefan Schneider joins the roster. But there is hope: about a week ago, the cameras did a close up shot of the Canucks' GM in his box seat over his shoulder. On a tiny scrap of paper was his roster, a handwritten list that included Stefan's name. There in a small corner of an NHL rink, on a small piece of paper, was a small part of Portland. He's been reassigned to the Manitoba Moose for now, but you go boy. We'll be waiting and watching. And we will have faith.

Is breakaway one word?/best play by a draftee so far: Brad Ross, turning over a new leaf with more scoring on 2 breakaway goals (so far) and fewer penalties. It's his third of the season (the first was also a breakaway), and he just got back to action on Monday. Also, I met him on Monday, and just like Spencer he's totally polite, direct and way more charming than you'd expect of someone who likes to start some business out there. Most impressive all around and it's very clear he grew up over the summer. Oh and speaking of Spencer, he just scored HIS third goal of the season.

Thank god this is happening: There's two simultaneous fights underway, courtesy of Derek Pouliot and Tayler Jordan. Both following a clean hit. That's hockey...clean hits mean dirty fights.

And get used to these names: Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi just combined for our fourth goal and we are now 4 -1 in the second. Oh, and if I heard Andy Kemper correctly, Rattie just scored his third goal of the season.

To refresh: The Portland Winterhawks' regular season is three days old.

And across town: Nino Niederreiter is playing with the New York Islanders in a game with Calgary. I either have to get up in the middle of the night or watch the replay tomorrow morning. I can think of no better reason to go to bed early and get up with the sun tomorrow.

He must have used the force: Portland Winterhawks forward Luke Walker has signed with the Colorado Avalanche and is currently in training camp with their AHL Team, the Lake Erie Monsters. Luke was never drafted by the WHL: he made the Winterhawks' roster after answering a training camp invite. He went through two NHL drafts without being chosen, and this was his third and last chance. He ultimately played on the US World Junior Team that won the Gold Medal, even though he got kicked out of a scrimmage in the tryouts, and he had to fight to stay there. You go boy, indeed. Other than Stefan, this is the story that truly does warm my heart. Luke was one of my favorite players and I suggest you put him on your NHL radar. You will be glad you did.

Now, in case you're wondering what all of Portland's NHL stars in the making will be earning one day:

Section 10, Free Agency.

10.2, Restricted Free Agents. Group 2 Players and Free Agents. Any player who meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart and (1) is not a Group 1 Player or Group 4 Player, and (2) is not an Unrestricted Free Agent, shall be deemed to be a Group 2 Player and shall at the expiration of his SPC, become a Restricted Free Agent. Any such Player shall be free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any such Club, and and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any such Player, subject to the provisions set forth in this Section. As used in this Section 10.2, "age," including "First SPC Signing Age" means a Player's age on September 15 of the calendar year in which he signs an SPC regardless of his actual age on the date he signs such SPC.

First SPC Signing Age Eligible For Group 2 Free Agency
18 - 21 3 years professional experience
22 - 23 2 years professional experience
24 or older 1 year professional experience

Morals of the story:

The game: So the key to getting to free agency faster is to sign later. That is, if the NHL doesn't think of you as "old" for being 24 years old at your first SPC signing. Plus, you always think when you hear free agent (restricted or unrestricted), it means the player is free to do as he pleases, and go where he pleases. Forget that. According to this rule, you're not free to do anything except try to read this bloody rule several times over to figure out just what exactly you are entitled to do.

Life: We think that people who live their dreams in the NHL or anywhere else are happy and free and never have problems. Bullshit. They are just as restricted by rules as we are, and one blindside hit can end your dream just like that, as it may have in Marc Savard's case. Living a free life is everyone's dream, but who really does? It's like the Joni Mitchell lyric...dreams lose their grandeur coming true. And sometimes they don't come true at all, or get cut short by unforseen circumstances. Junior hockey players are out there right now, taking their chance while they have it. Doing the very most with it. They have it right. Go out there and score your own version of three goals in three days. Take the chances while you have them and keep taking them if they come along again. Life is short and there is only one real chance to live it right, so what are you waiting for?

Next up: Section 10, Free Agency. Section 10.2, Restricted Free Agents, Definition of a "Defected Player."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

So, Unpooh and Unbother...Portland 7, Vancouver 2.

First, if you're looking for me, here you go:

I know from my stats one of the loyal readers of this blog is a Spencer Bennett fan/family member?: If so, my sincerest thanks for reading this blog and definitely check out the oregonlive blog. Your boy inspired much of today's entry. True, it came from a litany of cliches, but still,...I don't often get inspired by people half my age, so kudos to him. And if it is his family tuning in, nice job raising him properly. He's super-polite, looked me in the eye, shook my hand, and all around was totally respectful and very friendly. Definitely look for a profile over on oregonlive later this season when I have the time and opportunity.

As for the Hawks: Take that, Vancouver. We took 'em out, 7 - 2 in the home opener. Now, the only question is...why couldn't we do that in last year's playoffs? No matter...onward to what promises to be an awesome season. And here's a kibble from Spencer I didn't use on the other blog: when I asked him about how last night was different from Saturday, one of the things he told me was that they wanted to prove last year's team wasn't a fluke. Point proven and onward to a weekend of bobbleheads, victory and the season ticket holder party.

Late day update: Luke Walker, as expected, has signed a three year deal with the Avs and has been assigned to their AHL team. Now, how does this work, you might ask? Well, funny you should ask. The terms of his deal were not disclosed, but I think they probably go a little something like this:

Article 9, Entry Level Compensation: For players drafted in 2010, the entry level minor league compensation is $67,500. That's a salary that it takes some people years to earn. And, players get a bonus, as follows: 9.5, Exhibit 5 Performance Bonuses. Clubs and Players may negotiate, and a Player who is subject to the Entry Level System under Article 9 may be paid bonuses for the types of performances, and in the maximum amounts, set forth in Exhibit 5. Oh, and if you're wondering what Exhibit 5 is: There are bonuses awarded for darn near everything except showing up, including goals, assists, time on ice, the all star game, being on the ballot for NHL awards, points per game, plus/minus ratings, blocked shots, save percentage and GAA, to name just a few.

Morals of the story:

The game: Now I understand why players go scrambling for the puck on an icing and why they put themselves in danger at every opportunity. Forget the Stanley Cup. I believe the real reason starts with a b.

Life: Ok, I want a bonus for every flippin' thing I do every day, as follows: being quiet in my apartment so as not to disturb others; getting up every day and being on time to the bus stop and work; obeying all traffic signals, signs and other drivers when I do drive; going to the gym and working out for my appointed and recommended 30 minutes a day; working 8 - 10 hours a day by fulfilling my job description to the fullest extent possible; and kindly holding the door for anyone who has more challenges in life than I do. Surely, these kibbles of good behavior must be worth a little something extra, don't you agree?

Up next: Back to topic with a full entry about the CBA.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pooh and Bother: Seattle Thunderbirds 4, Portland Winterhawks 1.

There must have been a curse last night: Because Ryan Johansen and the Columbus Blue Jackets also Pittsburgh. So maybe it wasn't so bad. My favorite NHL Draftee and my favorite team facing off against each other. Win, lose or draw, still a good game.

Monday is the new Saturday: Because tomorrow, the Portland Winterhawks play their first home game of the regular season against Vancouver, the team that took us down in the second round of the playoffs. With a few more NHL draftees en route back to Portland from training camp and the home ice advantage, we stand a much better chance.

But major bummer alert: Ian Curtis, the goalie who figured Vancouver out and shut them down last year, is down with an injury until at least October.

On the upside: Captain Brett Ponich is on his way back from St. Louis Blues' training camp. Ditto for all-around troublemaker Brad Ross, who was sent back to us from Toronto and Riley Boychuk, who's on the way back from Buffalo. We are still waiting word on Ryan Johansen, Oliver Gabriel and Nino Niederreiter and whether Luke Walker will stay with Colorado's AHL team, where he has been assigned for now.

And if you want to know what else I've been up to in the past 48 hours, you can check it out here:

Of course, there's plenty of NHL action on about town: Like say, the Edmonton Oilers, with little goal scoring genius Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall in tow, cooked Vancouver 8 - 2. That's right. The future is now and it lives in Edmonton. For tonight anyway. Personally, I'm in for Eberle being the next Matt Duchene...steady, quiet, smart and awesome. And I predict he will quietly steal the thunder now and again from this year's number one draft pick.

So, if Edmonton can blow past my bet for this year's Stanley Cup: Then surely the Winterhawks can pick up their game after Saturday's loss and bring us a nice little victory at home. Game on and if you live in Portland, I'll see you there.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

WHL Regular Season = Sam is Even Shinier and Happier

The game: Season opener between WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks.

OOOHHHH and it comes with this: Cutie pie referee/lawyer Matt Kirk is refereeing. I really must get on board with the WHL's officials' schedule and trek to all games where said ref is present and accounted for.

Why I chose it: Duh.

The distraction: Trying to keep track of the various Hawks who are still with their NHL teams. Tonight, they include Brett Ponich (St. Louis), Ryan Johansen (Columbus), Nino Niederreiter (Islanders), Oliver Gabriel (Columbus), Luke Walker (Colorado), Riley Boychuk (Buffalo).

Speaking of the NHL and reality: I will now take the time to worship executives at HBO, which will begin running a documentary about Pittsburgh and the Capitals in the month or so leading up to the Winter Classic. Even picture perfect wonder boy Sidney Crosby has already admitted he's human and you may see some less than perfect behavior. If you watch the DVD thingy about him and you watch the Winter Classic against Buffalo, I can assure you the boy knows how to drop the f-bomb. And may I just say, thank god. Because if he behaved himself on the ice too, then even I, loyal card carrying Crosby fan, would have to rethink some things.

The late evening moral of the story: I love game day. I mean I freakin' love it. Anything is still possible, it's anyone's game and you can feel the earth move. Especially season-opening night. No matter what else is wrong with your life, no matter how bad things might be, it makes it all ok. What I'm trying to figure out is how to live every day of my life like that, because that's how it should be. We should get up, go forth and conquer and not come home until we've howled at the moon, burned every bridge and danced on every bar. It should all be like draft day and game day and Stanley Cup final day. Monday is the Hawks home opener. I will therefore avow to get up, go forth and do more than make paper clip forts and read the Winterhawks' Twitter feed all day long. At the very least, I will build a very serious paper clip fort that will protect all my tacky Hawks promo gear from being burgled.

Next up: Back to topic with the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The NHL Pre-Season = Sam Is a Shiny Happy Person Again.

The game: Toronto vs. Ottawa. Hopefully Portland Winterhawk Brad Ross' new employers will see fit to guide the team to a better outcome than last night's shutout loss to the Senators. And indeed they are well on their way, complete with some serious fighting. Yep, Brad is definitely a good fit for the Leafs. But hello Ottawa, where is Peter Regin? I had one crap-ass day at work, the least you can do is give me some very honkin' tall Danish pretty boys to look at.

And across town in Ohio: NHL 4th overall draft pick Ryan Johansen made his debut with the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight. Alas, he did not get on the boards, but the only thing more exciting than watching from a downtown bar in Portland with fellow fanatics when Ryan was picked is watching him suit up for his new employers. And right smack dab in between Rick Nash and R. J. Umberger. Do I care that they lost to Washington 6 - 2? Do I care that Ryan didn't score? Ummmm....let's see... plus one, carry the three, divide by A quasi-hometown boy is out there living the dream. Game on and stop worrying about the stats, my little bean counters.

Speaking of's late and I really don't want to read another paragraph about contracts and hockey ages and entry-level compensation. So tonight I will just leave you with this moral of the story:

Life: I love the way the media coverage of rookies/draftees is all about stats, will they be returned to their junior team, are they ready for the NHL, are they good enough, blah, blah, blah. Excuse me, what do the rest of us who have never played in the NHL, never coached in the NHL and never been on an NHL payroll know about it, exactly? And who are we to judge? I can barely stand up on two skates, let alone skate and shoot at the same time. If I tried to, I'm pretty sure Vicodin and an emergency room would be involved. If I stressed out over hockey the way some fans do, I'd cease to enjoy it. So maybe I am a freak, but here's the deal:

Hockey is what we live for. It's what we love. It makes even the worst day worth living. And tonight, somewhere out there, young boys who just graduated high school are proving that yes, Virginia, you can live your dream. Perhaps rather than telling them how they ought to be living, playing or talking, we should be learning from them. They're not expanding their waistlines and shrinking their minds and giving up. They haven't sold out and they haven't given in. Why should they? For that matter, why should anyone?

Next time you feel the urge to pass judgment on your favorite players, may I suggest you take the time to remember the following before doing so: Did you live your dreams today, even for just a little while? Did you work out and keep your body in shape and operating at its very best peak physical condition? Did you go to bed at 8:30 the way Zach Parise used to when he was little because he read that that's what hockey players did the night before games? If you did, then good for you, judge away. But if not, may I be so bold as to suggest we suspend judgment until we have risen to the occasion ourselves? These boys left home at an early age, spent the latter part of their high school years in strange towns living with strange people and gave up pretty much everything to be where they are. Unless we have done the same or better, it is not our place to decide whether they are good enough, ready enough or smart enough. They made it. They did it. They got the dream. Be happy for them. And that for a little while, through them we get to be happy too.

There I said it. It's the shiny happy people entry. I feel better. And I promise to never, ever do it again.

Next up: Article 10, Free Agency.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Does Pre-Season Hockey Meet the NHL's Equalization Obligation?

Reminder to program the DVR/proof there is something holier than myself running the show that is life: The NHL Network will begin broadcasting the pre-season tomorrow night with a game between New Jersey and the Flyers and the fun continues with a total of 35 games leading up to NHL face-off on October 7 in Toronto.

Who makes this stuff up?: Article 10, Free Agency. 10.1 Unrestricted Free Agents. And I'm only reprinting the part that applies to current League Years. 10.1: (a) Group 3 Players and Free Agents. (i) For (D) the 2008-09, 2009 - 10, 2010-11 League Years, any player who either has seven (7) Accrued Seasons or is 27 years of age or older as of June 30 of the end of the 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 League Year, shall, if his most recent SPC has expired, with such expiry occurring either as of June 20 of the applicable League Year or June 30 of any prior League Year, become an Unrestricted Free Agent.

Ok, now this I get. And it wins the prize for most words with "tion" at the end of them in one rule: Such Player shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with any Club, and any Club shall be completely free to negotiate and sign an SPC with such Player, without penalty or restriction, or being subject to any Right of First Refusal, Draft Choice Compensation or any other compensation or equalization obligation of any kind.

Morals of the story:

The game: Could this thing be any more complicated? Clearly, it was written by some bored NHL front office lawyer type who really wanted to be a painter, but decided instead in his regret and jealousy of others who took the road less traveled to take it out on the GMs and owners and dealmakers. I think the bottom line here is something I thought I'd never admit: now I see why players are cutting those ridiculous 15-year deals with some outrageous salaries. And the teams are letting them. It's easier and saves millions in billable hours to some lawyer compared to dealing until the midnight hour in the back room of a Marriott over free agents, unrestricted free agents, Group 3 players, Group 5 players and what not.

Life: The CBA is a metaphor for life. It makes everything way more complicated than it needs to be. My mother believes that in the workplace and life, people make things complicated to make themselves feel important. If I can get ten people to work for me instead of the two I really need, then I will look like I'm the boss of things and I'm getting things done. And, if it takes twice as long and involves a small handbook with rules, even better. It's sad when you think that if people felt important without all that, they would keep it simple and they would get more done and therefore look even better and more important.

If I recall correctly when the Penguins were barreling towards their 2009 Stanley Cup, they used "gotta keep it simple" and "play our game" more than a few times in interviews. And hey, guess what? It worked. We don't need CBAs and message points and a 10-year game plan for life or careers. The latter never works out anyway. What we need is self-worth, work ethic and honesty. And the only handbook should be one that relegates any individual who does not possess these things to a rehab center where they will learn that doubling the workloads of subordinates at work just because you can, always being on your Blackberry except when you're sleeping and plastic surgery will not make you more beautiful and more important than other people. And punishment rendered will fit the crime. For example: for being surgically attached to you mobile device, you will be stripped of the Crackberry and placed into a room with other people who are all on their phone, texting, etc. while you have to sit there and know you are the only person who doesn't have one. And by the time you get yours back, your so-called friends have moved on to someone else they just met on Facebook.

Next up: Onward with Article 10, Free Agency.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

At Last, To Training Camp the NHL Goes. So Maybe I Can Go On Living.

So, can we just count this as the start of the season?: NHL training camps open across the league this weekend. Along for the ride are 9 Portland Winterhawks. I think it counts as the official start of the season. Plus, it means juicier headlines on than "Toews takes time out for a golf tourney."

And you know I'm excited about it, because: I got up at 8 am this morning, which I never do on a Saturday. But my attitude is it's 11 am somewhere, and that means somewhere out there, large sweaty hockey players are on the ice. And that's reason enough. Game on.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can: Finally memorize the face-off rule, live without shootouts (well, sort of. We'll see. I might need therapy.) and learn what the heck a run-and-gun play is.

Onward with the rule: Article 9, Entry Level Compensation.

Hey look, I finally understand what a two way player means: Go ahead. Make fun of me. I'll wait. And while you do that, here's what the CBA says:

9.4, Minor League Compensation. Each SPC entered into with a Rookie in the Entry Level System shall automatically be deemed to be a "two-way" SPC with a minor league salary equal to the Paragraph 1 Minor League Salary set forth in such SPC or, if no minor league salary is set forth, the greater of (i) $35,000 (Native Currency) and (ii) the minimum minor league salary provided for players in the Minors; provided, however, in no event may such an SPC provide for minor league compensation, including any bonuses for games played, greater than the amount indicated on the following chart:
2005: $62,500
2006: 62,500
2007: $65,000
2008: $65,000
2009: $67,500
2010: $67,500
2011: $70,000

Morals of the story:

The game: So the key to making money in the minors is get a second job? Which is probably forbidden somewhere in the CBA. Or give up and get an office job that will shrink your brain and expand your waistline and make you wish you were somewhere else. Ok, never mind, maybe the various indignities of playing in the minors aren't so bad.

Life: It's the hockey version of an HR manual, and it's just as complicated. Somewhere in every company's employee handbook I'm sure it says something similar, only it says something like "you shall work under the supervision of people less competent than yourself and make one-tenth of their salary and like it." What makes a major league player worth more than a minor league scrapper? And what makes VPs and directors more valuable than middle managers? Maybe it's this.... a piece of paper from a fancy school that your daddy bought and you didn't really have to earn. Or how about this...the ability to talk a good game without backing it up and instead delegating other people to do the work that you then take credit for. Alas, like hockey, life is not fair and nowhere is this more evident than the workplace. Therefore, I propose a new policy whereby all employees in every company will make the same salary until they can prove on paper and elsewhere that they deserve more and then and only then will they get a raise. And if they want that corner office, they'll have to first earn it by spending a minimum of five years trapped in a cube so that when said office becomes available they will appreciate it and not abuse it. And anyone who does not appreciate their good fortune will be subject to automatic firing without severance. Now, the only question is...why did I got into communications for a living, instead of HR? Discuss. And stay tuned for this: Article 10, Free Agency.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What, No More Shootouts? Why Go On Living?

Major bummer alert: The NHL's Board of Governors has approved a new tiebreaker system in which, direct from, "the tiebreaker among teams with the same total of points in the standings will go to the club with the most regulation and overtime wins - no longer including shootout wins in the decision." So, refresh me, why would I want to watch a game with no shootouts? I mean, really, why not ban fighting and swearing and just get it over with?" Even Gary Bettman is quoted in that same story as saying that their research overwhelmingly shows that fans like shootouts. Um....then why get rid of them? Chat amongst yourselves and let me know if you figure it out. Because I'm at a loss.

On the other hand: NHL pre-season games get underway on September 21, less than one week away. And I pick up my Portland Winterhawks' season tickets in one week. Shootouts or no, hockey is back on all fronts. I'm recommending my own rule for the 2011 - 2012 season, in which the off season will be reduced to a month. Because three months without live hockey action is three months too long. No research required.

Now, speaking of silly NHL rules: Article 9, Entry Level Compensation.

9.3, Entry Level Compensation Limits: The maximum annual aggregate Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, Signing Bonuses and games played bonuses permitted to be paid to a Group 1 Player shall be as follows:

Draft Year Compensation
2008 US $875,000
2009 US $900,000
2010 US $900,000
2011 US $925,000

If the NHLPA exercises its right to extend this Agreement until 2012 (which they have), the maximum annual aggregate Paragraph 1 NHL Salary, Signing Bonuses and games played bonuses permitted to be paid to a Group 1 Player shall be U.S. $925,000.

Morals of the story:

The game: Dudes, if you make close to a million dollars at the entry level, the least the league can do for the people who pay your salary is let us watch a few shootouts now and again.

Life: If Ilya Kovalchuk and others find $100 million not to their liking, I'll take it. When I was 18, I made $3 an hour at a video store. This got me to thinking, and since we know my thoughts are more entertaining than do we define our worth in life? By the underpaid salary we earn? By what other people tell us? If companies paid us what we're really worth, they probably couldn't afford to stay in business. If other people had their own sense of self-esteem, they wouldn't need to attack yours. Worth in the NHL is defined by talent, stats, popularity with the media and fans, and the rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Therefore, I propose that the federal government introduce a CBA for working class Americans, in which entry level salary is at least six figures and subject to signing bonuses and what not, and in which we have the right to protest anything that infringes upon our rights, well-being, sanity or self-esteem. Hard working Americans are just as deserving of being well-rewarded as hockey players, and if I was queen for a day, we would be.

Next up: Article 9, Entry Level Compensation, part 3.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Age Is Just a Number, Unless Your Employer Is the NHL.

The distraction: Here in Portland, the debacle over the #23 mystery player at our training camp has at last come to an end. The league has sanctioned the team with a fine for essentially hiding a non-drafted, ineligible player in plain sight. It may cost them a draft pick later to boot. Whoever it was and for whatever reason they did it, they obviously thought it was worth it. Enough said. Move on.

Me personally, I'm busy buying fatheads and Center Ice packages and jerseys and what not: I don't have time to give a rip about who he was. But I'm sure one way or another we'll see him down the road, so on with the countdown to the regular season. As of tomorrow, it will be exactly two weeks until the Portland Winterhawks' home opener. And later this month, my new home on Kukla's Korner will be unveiled. So, for me, it's a good season to be a hockey fan.

Of course, that's because I have plenty to distract me from the above mentioned debacle. Like this:

Article 8, Entry Draft: Since the Winterhawks have 13 players off to training camp, it seems appropriate to cover 8.6, Reserve List-Exclusive Rights, b) Drafted Players who leave the Major Juniors prior to age 20.

I hate numbers and love hockey, but alas: This rule is proof that hockey is all about numbers. If a player who is drafted as an 18-year-old ceases to play in the Juniors in the first League Year after he has been drafted, his drafting Club shall have the exclusive right of negotiation for his services until the fourth June1 following his initial selection in the Entry Draft. But if he's 19 when he's drafted, and ceases to play in the Juniors in the first League Year after he has been drafted, the drafting Club only has exclusive negotiating rights until the third June 1 following his initial selection in the Entry Draft.

I always wondered about how "hockey age" is defined, so I skipped ahead to this: 8.10, Age of Players. As used in this Article, "age 18" means a Player reaching his 18th birthday between January 1 preceeding the Entry Draft and September 15 next following the Entry Draft, both dates included: "age 19" means a Player reaching his nineteenth birthday by no later than September 15 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft: "age 20" means a Player reaching his twentieth birthday by no later than December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft: "age 21" means a Player reaching his twenty-first birthday by December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft and age "22" means a Player reaching his twenty-second birthday by December 31 in the calendar year of the Entry Draft. So, this explains the "late birthday" phenomenon. There, I get it. Now I feel better.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, if you're Sidney Crosby, age 22 is defined as "any player who lifts the Stanley Cup before age 22 in the calendar year in which you won the cup" and thereby becomes the youngest captain to hoist the prized trophy.

Life: I never cared about age until I hit 40 and realized that even boys in their early 20s are young enough to be my son and my body decided that it needed to do things like make my knees hurt while hiking and not be able to read close up. That and this rule got me to thinking: why do we care so much about age? The most awesome things I've ever done with my life happened well after I crossed the 40 threshold and I'm not done yet. But society thinks otherwise. Even late thirties is equated with mid-life crises, divorce, disillusionment and suburban angst. What if we had a rule like this in life, that defined our age to a T? What if 30 was defined as what it is? Old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway. Or if 40 was understood to mean "bring it on." After all, if you make it that far, what else can life do to you? It's like, what else 'ya got for me?

My father used to say "life starts at 40" and now I get it. I may be well past the NHL's draft-eligible hockey age, but in life I'm just getting started. It's not too late until we're dead, and if 40 really is the end of the best years of your life, then why bother? Do I wish I could do a lot of things from my youth over? Of course. Would I go back to my 20s? Absolutely not. It was like being a teenager with credit cards and rent. Total nightmare. So, here's the deal: no, you can't go back in life, but as long as you're still breathing, you can always go forward.

Next up: Article 9, Entry Level Compensation.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

All Players 18 or Older Are Eligible for NHL Greatness. Sort Of.

OMG. His deal is the devil: Kovalchuk's annual salary cap hit is going to be $6.66 million.

So I guess this just wouldn't do, then: In Article 9, Entry Level Compensation, players drafted in the 2010 Entry Draft can earn a whole $900,000 a year. But for now, let's find out how you get drafted in the first place:

Article 8, Entry Draft. Tonight, the basics:

8.2, Draft Choices. The Entry Draft shall consist of seven (7) rounds, with each round consisting of the same number of selection choices as there will be Clubs in the NHL the following League Year. Oh. So, this explains why there are 210 picks. Elementary, Dear Samantha. Since there is no hope for me when it comes to numbers, let's see if I can figure these out:

8.4, Eligibility for Claim. (a) All players 18 or older are eligible for claim in the Entry Draft, except:
(i) a Player on the Reserve List of a Club, other than as a try-out;
(ii) a Player who has been claimed in two prior Entry Drafts;
(iii) a Player who previously played in the League and became a Free Agent pursuant to this Agreement;
(iv) a Player age 21 or older who: (A) has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and (B) played hockey for at least one season in North America when he was age 18, 19 or 20 and shall be eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant Article 10 (d) and;
(v) a Player age 22 who has not been selected in a previous Entry Draft and shall be eligible to enter the League as an Unrestricted Free Agent pursuant to Article 10.1 (d).

Morals of the story:

The game: So if players are keeping it simple, as they are wont to do, then I think the rule here is get drafted when you're 18 and proceed immediately to becoming an NHL superstar. But for fans here in Portland, it's a good thing it's not that simple. Two of our best draft picks this year were 20-year old Luke Walker, who went 139th to Colorado, right behind his teammate Troy Rutkowski (137th to the same team) and 19-year-old Riley Boychuk, who went 208th to Buffalo.

Life: What if corporate America had an eligibility claim rule for employees, which consisted of far more than faking your education on a resume and getting a few friends to front being a former boss who loved you, and instead required companies to hire a private investigator to check out why it is you were really let go from that fabulous VP job with a corner office and all the requisite perks? Naturally they would find out that you are a fraud, and instead of promoting employees who talk a good game without knowing how to play it, companies everywhere would be filled with happy, morally sound people who love what they do and get more done because of it. Oh right, this is America. Where, like hockey, it's not fair. And where the right thing is easier said than done. Wall Street and Toyota and BP have shown us that the easy way may last for a while, but it doesn't last forever and it's never the right way. To prevent said debacles, I say we take our cue from hockey players...keep it simple, put the pucks on net and stay out of the penalty box.

Next up: Cotinuing onward with Article 8, Entry Draft.

Monday, September 6, 2010

From Time to Time, the NHL Will Allow Players to Negotiate Their Own Deals.

The distraction: Keeping track of the 10-plus Portland Winterhawk draftees who are off to NHL training camps this week.

The rule: NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Article 5, Management Rights. Article 6, NHLPA Agent Certification.

Refresh me, who exactly is in charge here?: Article 5, Management Rights. Each Club and, where appropriate, the League, in exercise of its functions of management, shall in addition to its other inherent and legal rights to manage its business, including the direction and control of its team, have the right at any time and from time to time to determine when, where, how and under what circumstances it wishes to operate, suspend, discontinue, sell or move and to determine the manner and the rules by which its team shall play hockey. Nothing in this article shall, however, authorize a Club or the League to violate any provision of this Agreement or of any SPC.

Pretty standard stuff, except for 6.2: Article 6, NHLPA Agent Certification. 6.1. Among the provisions in this section: The Clubs may not engage in negotiations for a Player's SPC (standard player contract) with any person other than the Player or an agent certified by the NHLPA ("Certified Agent"). Which is restated in 6.2, Player SPCs. No Club shall enter into a Player SPC with any Player, and the NHL shall not register or approve any SPC unless such Player: (i) was represented in the negotiations by a Certified Agent or (ii) if Player has no Certified Agent, acts on his own behalf in negotiating such SPC.

Morals of the story:

The game: So, how is "time to time" defined, exactly? When the team feels like, say, circumventing rules and paying players more money than God for longer than they'll even be playing in the League? I know. One day I will get over it. Today is not that day. Now, if only he'd acted on his own behalf and didn't have an agent who saw a 20 - 30 percent commission in that ridiculous agreement...

Life: We need Standard Employee Contracts and Certified Agents in corporate America. Only in my collective bargaining agreement, no employee will be permitted to negotiate their own deal because clearly we already do that and we get screwed. We definitely need agents and there definitely need to be some minimum requirements, like say.... 4 weeks paid vacation, immediate firing of bosses who are less qualified than we are for our jobs and permission to hang up on any customer who commits the life version of "Abuse of Officials."

Next up: NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. Skipping Ahead to Article 8, Entry Draft.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Gotta Keep It Simple if You're Going to Cut an Outrageous NHL Salary Deal.

The distraction: Keeping track of how the Portland Winterhawks are doing at the pre-season tournament Everett. It's looking good so far. We cooked archrival Seattle 4 - 1 on Friday.

And this, at last: Kovalchuk has made his deal with the Devils, and all inquiries into similar deals have been halted.

Oh the horror of making more money in 15 years than most people will make in their whole lives: The deal is reportedly for $100 million and 15 years, instead of the original $102 million over 17 years. 2 years and $2 million is all it took. And he still makes more money than God at the end of the day. Oh, the tragedy of having to settle for second best.

The article: Article 4, Union Security and Check-Off.

I thought it was some kind of list, but oh no, not the NHL. It can't be that simple now can it?: 4.2, Check-Off. Each Club will deduct from the Paragraph 1 Salary of each Player who voluntarily authorizes and directs such deduction in accordance with this article, an amount shall be deducted from the Player's Paragraph 1 NHL Salary on a monthly basis and shall be remitted by the Club to the NHLPA. The NHLPA shall advise each Club in writing as to the amount to be deducted for each deduction period. Each such authorization by a Player shall be in writing in the form attached hereto as Exhibit 2, and shall be governed by the provisions hereof.

Morals of the story:

The game: It's like tax deductions for players. I wonder what Kovalchuk's deduction will be for his shiny new deal? It should be like taxes in that the more you make, the more they take. So he could fund his membership in the NHLPA and that of all of his teammates for what, say...the next 20 years?

Life: You see how these rules are written, and it's no wonder players get duped by agents and managers and the NHL when it comes to their money, and they end up with nothing even though they made enough in one year to live on forever. It's a lot like life. We complicate it more than we need to. Whether it be the rules that tell us what we owe in taxes, how our company tells us we must do business or how many cell phone minutes we get each month, it's all way more tangled up than it needs to be. That's why my favorite hockey quote cliche is "we just gotta keep it simple and play our game." We have to, but why don't we? With training camps around the corner, I say we treat the start of the season like a New Year's resolution. Top of my list this year is "keep it simple."

Next up on 9/5: Article 5, Management Rights and Article 6, NHLPA Agent Certification.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Recognize That I Need to Get Myself a Better Deal.

I'm tired already: I think I understand now why there are still free agents on the market with only a month to go until the regular season. Because this agreement makes it impossible to make a move without at least 10 people getting involved in a player signing a contract. Because all parties are protected by the same agreement. And because a whole lotta lawyers needed jobs.

The rules: Article 2, Recognition.

2.1, Recognition: The NHL recognizes the NHLPA as the exclusive bargaining representative of all present and future Players employed as such in the League by the Clubs, but not including any other Club employees. The NHL and NHLPA agree that notwithstanding the foregoing, and to the extent consistent with this Agreement, such Players, acting individually or through Certified Agents, and Clubs may, on an individual basis, bargain with respect to and agree upon an individual Player Salary and Bonuses over and above the minimum requirements established herein and other provisions that are not inconsistent with the terms of the Agreement.

I love this part: "Acting individually." How exactly does a humble hockey player who skipped law and/or business school in favor of sport act individually when this 475-page, legal-speak document is in his way?

3.2, Binding Agreement: This Agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the NHL, the Clubs, the NHLPA and all Players, and their respective successors or assigns.

Morals of the story:

The game: Ok, I can't help it. It's late on a Wednesday: Does the "over and above" part include Kovalchuk's deal with the Devils? There I said it. Now I feel better.

Life: Maybe if I'd had an entourage of lawyers, managers, agents and assorted others working for me, I would have negotiated myself a better deal in terms of salary and career. I thought I was doing alright, but I see this and I think you know, we really should have a collective bargaining agreement in life. If us humble peons don't agree to the paltry working-class salary that we get offered by corporate America, our employers should be bound by law to come to a more agreeable arrangement, like say, four weeks' vacation and guaranteed bonuses twice a year, at a minimum. Hey, it works for hockey players, why not for fans?

Next up on 9/3: Article 4, Union Security and Check-Off. Article 5, Management Rights.