Posts Tagged ‘Opinion’

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The Calgary Flames aren’t leaving town if they don’t get a new arena. At least not in the short term.

On Tuesday, Flames president and CEO Ken King announced the team is no longer pursuing plans to construct a new facility in Calgary, classifying recent meetings with city officials as “spectacularly unproductive.”

The update comes after King revealed the two sides have not sat at the negotiation tables in more than a month, despite a willingness from Flames’ ownership to move away from its CalgaryNEXT proposal in favor of the city’s preferred Victoria Park site.

“We would not say we’re not interested (in Victoria Park),” King told reporters. “In fact, we’re interested enough to put up a very, very substantial participation, but apparently it’s not enough.

“It’s unfortunate, because I really thought we had something that would work, and it would seem pretty clear that it’s not. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get there, and I think it’s time that we stopped pretending and were a little more direct and a little more honest with our fans and with our city about that fact.”

There is frustration on the part of Flames’ ownership, particularly when their Alberta counterpart, the Edmonton Oilers, unveiled the new Rogers Place last season, a project that was largely publicly funded and came to fruition after Oilers owner Daryl Katz considered Seattle as a possible new home for the team if it was unable to land a new arena in Edmonton.

“This is the business side. It’s the boring side (but) it’s important. You’ve got to be viable, you’ve got to be able to secure your long-term future,” King added. “But I think our fans want to know if our two new goalies can stop pucks, if we can compete, and if we can beat the guys up north. Apparently we can’t beat them on the building front but maybe we can beat them on the ice.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, on hand for the announcement, echoed King’s sentiments on the city’s inability to see value in a new arena.

“One of the dynamics here that strikes me as a different, particularly say from Edmonton, I don’t get a sense from the city that there is a commitment to or a belief in the importance of having the right infrastructure and having a major league sports team,” Bettman told reporters. “I don’t see the same level of city commitment here that I’ve seen in other places.

“This team needs a new arena. This city needs a new arena. But there is no realistic prospect of it coming forward based on everything that has and has not transpired. The city was made aware last February as to what it would take to do an arena; it was their best shot at getting it done. The city is nowhere close to embracing that, so there was no point in continuing.”

While negotiations appear to be at a standstill, with King stating he does not see an immediate arena resolution on the horizon, he added that the possibility of relocating from Calgary is not something ownership has discussed.

That was most evident in June, when King shot down relocation talk after Flames’ president of hockey operations Brian Burke mentioned Quebec City as a potential landing spot for the franchise.

“In the short term, nobody should doubt the Flames’ or their ownership’s commitment to the community,” Bettman added. “But at some point, I envision without a new building there will be consequences that everybody is going to have to deal with.”

The Flames came to Calgary in 1980 after spending the franchise’s first eight seasons in Atlanta. In 1983, the team then made its home at the Scotiabank Saddledome, currently the NHL’s oldest arena, save for the since-renovated Madison Square Garden.

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Ray Lewis is arguably the most important player in Baltimore Ravens history, and head coach John Harbaugh believes the Pro Football Hall of Fame should induct the 13-time Pro Bowler as soon as possible.

The Hall announced its 108 early nominees for the 2018 class Tuesday, and Lewis was one of 11 first-year eligible players. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher, and New England Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour join Lewis among the first-year nominees.

“Ray Lewis is a definitely first-ballot, unanimous selection to the Hall of Fame, without question,” Harbaugh said to ESPN’s Jamison Hensley on Wednesday. “There’s no doubt about that.”

Lewis won the second Super Bowl of his career under Harbaugh’s tutelage in 2012, helping the Ravens to a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII.

His off-field history, however, includes a misdemeanor charge of obstruction stemming from previous murder charges in connection to a January 2000 killing in Atlanta. Some believe that should hinder Lewis’ candidacy, but Harbaugh dismissed that notion.

“If anybody votes against him, then there’s an agenda,” Harbaugh said.

NBA: Playoffs-Oklahoma City Thunder at Houston Rockets

The new-look Houston Rockets have yet to take the floor together as a collective unit, yet James Harden is ready to board the hype train by comparing his current roster to perhaps the best one he’s ever been a part of.

Harden has just one NBA Finals appearance on his resume. It came back in 2012 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, who fell in five games to the Heatles of South Beach. So are this year’s Rockets as good as that Thunder squad?

“Both teams are similar as far as talent and versatility, a mixture of vets and young guys. Both are very, very, very talented,” Harden told Vice Sports’ Michael Pina. “Now, obviously, the difference is we were younger back then, but both are good.”

Harden was in his third season in the Association when Oklahoma City advanced to the Finals, and hadn’t blossomed into the full-fledged megastar he is today. He was, however, honored as the Sixth Man of the Year for his contributions during the 66-game campaign, averaging 16.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.7 assists coming off the bench.

Equipped with a young Harden, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka, as well as established veterans Derek Fisher, Kendrick Perkins, and Nazr Mohammed, the Thunder had the pieces in place to be a mainstay in the Finals picture. Harden, though, was shipped off to Houston that summer after failing to agree to a contract extension.

Bringing in Chris Paul to run the point single-handedly reshaped the Rockets. Not only does it pair Harden with another All-Star in the backcourt, but it also took a bite out of a core that had just increased its season win total from 41 victories to 55, with Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell going to the Los Angeles Clippers.

CP3 is indisputably the best player Harden’s had on his team since his days in OKC, which helps explain why he’s so optimistic about the Rockets’ chances moving forward, and why he’s willing to make such comparisons. Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson, and big man Nene are at least still around, while Houston added depth at the wing positions by signing both P.J. Tucker and Luc Mbah a Moute.

Ultimately, the ’12 Thunder will have the edge until Harden’s Rockets compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy themselves.

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Part of the deal between Nassau County and Barclays Center, where the Islanders play now, but which operates the renovated Nassau Coliseum, is that the Islanders either play four regular-season games and two preseason games at their traditional home, or the county gets an extra $1 million in rent.

Because Sunday’s preseason contest between the Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers is the only scheduled NHL action at the Coliseum in 2017-18, Nassau County is getting its extra million bucks.

Sunday’s game also was little more than a tease. Gary Bettman said earlier this month at the Winter Classic press conference that “my gut reaction is it’s not a viable option” for the Islanders to return to an arena that got a $165 million renovation but still has many of the same issues as it did before the Islanders moved to Brooklyn, simultaneously 22 miles and light years away.

John Tavares nearly blew the top off the old barn when he scored his second goal of the game, an overtime winner to give the Islanders a 3-2 verdict. The level of sound in the old barn is the same as ever when the building is full, and the sellout crowd serenaded the Islanders all the way off the ice.

“It was pretty close to what we had in the playoffs,” Tavares said. “It was through the roof coming out in warmups and certainly the start of the game. Hearing the ‘Let’s go Islanders’ chants and the ‘Yes! Yes!’ chants (for goals) were prominent again. This fan base has got a tremendous identity, and they don’t want to lose hold of that. As players, we recognize that, and we want to reward them with good hockey, so this was fun.”

During the break between the third period and overtime, the fans made their opinion known, loudly chanting, “BRING THEM BACK.” The chant rose up again after Tavares’ game-winning goal.

“They certainly wanted to be heard,” Tavares said. “That’s above my pay grade, but I think certainly this place is very meaningful to this organization and the identity of this organization for a reason.”

 

The identity lives on in the Islanders’ logo, which has not changed since the move to Brooklyn. The tip of the “I” in the word “Islanders” points directly to the location of Nassau Coliseum. Keeping the team’s identity exactly the same is one of the reasons the move has felt half-baked for a lot of people, and why a return to Nassau County, even for an afternoon, was priceless.

“It means a lot,” said Matt Mead of Rockville Center, wearing a vintage Dave Scatchard jersey. “It’s kind of sad, because you know we’re going to have to head to Brooklyn after this, so it’s nice to have one little last hurrah here. It’s a good turnout, and I got to see a lot of old friends that I haven’t seen in a while.

“I’m enjoying it. It’s a 30-minute train ride to get to Brooklyn – it’s not that bad, but I miss coming here, tailgating, being with friends and family. Brooklyn’s a little bit of a pain.”

That pain is measurable in the fact that the Islanders ranked 28th in the NHL in attendance last year, at 13,101 per game, 82.9% of capacity in Brooklyn. That was down from an average of 13,626 (86.2%) in the first season in Brooklyn, while the Islanders averaged 15,334 per game, 94.8% of the final-season capacity at the Coliseum.

Sunday’s crowd of 13,917 not only filled the Coliseum, but the parking lot as well. Arriving in the morning, fans set up their tailgates and Islanders flags flew all over.

“I think we had a good sense that was going to happen,” said Tavares, who owns 89 regular-season goals at the Coliseum, plus five in the playoffs. “That was such a great part of Islanders hockey and who the Islanders are, is a lot of weekend afternoon games or evening Saturday home games, people out in the parking lot with a lot of space, just enjoying the atmosphere of what it was to be an Islander fan. It was great that they got to enjoy that again.”

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Marc-Andre Fleury would have been open to moving to Alberta.

The Vegas Golden Knights goalie was a potential trade candidate last season while still a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and admits he likely would have waived his no-trade clause if he had been presented with an opportunity to be dealt to the Calgary Flames.

“I think so,” Fleury disclosed recently in New York for league meetings, per Sportsnet’s Eric Francis. “I think Calgary is a great town and a great hockey team too. I think they’ll be very good again this year. But here I am.”

“Here” is Las Vegas after Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford ultimately decided to hang on to Fleury as insurance heading into the postseason. It turned out to be a prudent move, as the veteran played a huge role in relief of an injured Matt Murray en route to a 2017 Stanley Cup win.

Fleury was later exposed for the expansion draft, and was happily scooped up by hockey’s newest franchise. The Flames, meanwhile, acquired Mike Smith from the Arizona Coyotes to play in goal for them this season.

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Not so fast, people, Drew Doughty is very happy just where is.

Despite sparking trade rumors over the weekend after implying that he was willing to go anywhere in order to have the best opportunity to win another championship, Doughty made it clear Tuesday that he wants to remain a Los Angeles King.

“I don’t want to go anywhere else,” Doughty said, according to Lisa Dillman of NHL.com.

Doughty’s reiteration of his desire to stay in Los Angeles comes only days after he told The Hockey News that he didn’t care where he played, as long as he won Cups.

On Tuesday, Doughty tried to shed some light on those comments: “My one comment, ‘I don’t care where I play. I just want to win (Stanley) Cups.’ That is true. I just want to win Cups.

“When I said that, it didn’t mean I didn’t want to do it in L.A. The bottom line is all I care about is Cups,” said Doughty. “I don’t want to win a Cup anywhere else but L.A. That’s the bottom line.”

While the Kings struggled last season, missing the playoffs and finishing with their lowest full-season point total (86) since 2009, Doughty still feels that L.A. can compete, and he’s excited about the future.

“It is one of the best organizations in sports,” Doughty said. “We still have some of our best players in their prime. We have these young guys coming up. We’ve got new coaches. Everything about being here in L.A. is very exciting and promising.”

In a league where athletes rarely speak candidly, Doughty’s comments came as a breath of fresh air, but, that doesn’t mean Kings supporters were happy to hear their No. 1 D-man say he was willing to win elsewhere.

“I just speak the truth and sometimes comments get taken in a different way. I’ve always wanted to be an L.A. King since I was 5 years old. When Wayne Gretzky came here, I wanted to be an L.A. King, no matter what.”

Doughty is under contract with the Kings for another two seasons, becoming an unrestricted free agent in July of 2019.

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Despite submitting arguably the best performance of Week 1, Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith believes this season will be his last with his current franchise.

Smith revealed on “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that he’s getting the feeling the Chiefs are aiming to move on from him at the end of this year.

“For sure,” Smith said when asked if 2017 feels like his last year with the Chiefs. “It absolutely does. Without a doubt.”

Smith was dismayed by the Chiefs’ decision to trade up 17 spots with the Buffalo Bills during the this year’s draft to choose quarterback Patrick Mahomes II with the No. 10 pick.

Following the selection, many believed Smith would operate as a placeholder until Mahomes is ready to take the reins.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Smith said. “It’s like, man, (we) could’ve added this or this or this position or this player.”

The quarterback also blasted the San Francisco 49ers, where he spent the first seven years of his career after being selected first overall in the 2005 draft.

Forget the coaching changes, I’m talking just the culture of the building was not (good). Unhealthy. Completely dysfunctional. Different people on different wavelengths, not a clear communication, not a clear goal of the entire building. Very separated. And I think that trickled into the locker room. We had a very separated locker room, offense, defense, special teams. It was not a selfless unit. Not everybody put the team first. I think all of those things that come with dysfunction that are the opposite of what healthy organizations and team enviornments have.

In any event, the 33-year-old certainly made a strong impression during Thursday’s season opener, dissecting the New England Patriots by going 28-of-35 for 368 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions in a 42-27 win.

The Chiefs will certainly have to make one of their most difficult decisions in recent memory at the end of the season.