Friday, April 20, 2007

Ok, I Admit It...

...I was wrong. I think I'm man enough to admit it.

My Vancouver/Pittsburgh Stanley Cup prediction went down in flames last night, along with Crosby and the rest of the Pens. This prediction was based on the fact that recently we've seen one Canadian team and one struggling American team in the Finals. This seemed like the logical match-up.

In all seriousness, I'm shocked that the NHL allowed the Pens to go out in the first round. The face of the league is done and I would bet American viewership just dropped 20%, maybe more. In business terms and ratings-wise this is terrible for the league.

Plus now the media won't have much to talk about as their two major story lines died last night as well. How far could Crosby take the Pens in the playoffs? And how bad would Ottawa choke? Maybe they'll have to be creative and find new stories to beat to death now.

And if you think I'm just a sad conspiracy-theorist, you may be right, but there is now video evidence proving one major sports conspiracy - and it is related to the NHL, in an indirect sort of way. It's about the 1985 NBA Draft Lottery and how commissioner David Stern rigged the lottery so that the biggest name in college that year, Patrick Ewing, would end up playing for the team in the league's premier sports market, the New York Knicks. Here's the video:

For a detailed description of what happens here, read the first few paragraphs of Bill Simmons' blog, he can explain it much better than I and he has been on this case for many years. Suffice it to say that one of the sealed envelopes gets 'marked' with a crease and then Stern bottom deals that envelope to himself when selecting the envelope for the first pick. If you know what you're looking for in the clip it's actually really obvious.

Now how does this relate to the NHL you might ask yourself, well sit back Chappy and I'll tell you. From 1981 to 1993, do you know who was chief legal counsel to the NBA and David Stern's right hand man and protege? That's right, it was now-NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

David Stern is a notorious control-freak and micro manager, who would do anything - even making sure a marquee player ended up on a marquee team through a little bend of the rules - to ensure the health and prosperity of his league.

If you think some of this mentality didn't trickle down to Bettman you're crazy.

Now I'm not saying that the playoffs are rigged every year or that winners are predetermined. But sometimes I think things are tweaked one way or another in a teams favour. I am going to post two photos proving this I think (but since Blogger is apparently really limited in it's function, photos can only go at the beginning of posts - so check the post above this one for the photos and their description).

And when you look at the photos, consider what teams the outcomes favour - Dallas and Tampa Bay - two teams in non-traditional hockey markets struggling to gain and keep a paying fan base. And consider what teams these photos hurt - Calgary and Buffalo - two traditional hockey markets, who have large and loyal fan bases.

Coincidence, possibly (probably). But it's still something to think about anyway.

We'll call it the Stern-Bettman Competitive Advantage.

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