Thursday, July 29, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

At the beach this week, so this will be a slightly different "My View" since I haven't been too connected to what has been happening in the world. So welcome to some of the warped and random thoughts rolling around in my brain.

After being at the beach for a week, it occurs to me that our country must have a shortage of mirrors. How else do you explain people going out in public looking the way they look. Yikes!

Did you know that jellyfish taste nothing at all like jelly?

It's amazing all the places sand can get into.

I discovered that old pirates never die. They just get blown offshore.

Reading while sun bathing makes you, well, red.

Be careful if you leave alphabet soup on the stove because it could spell disaster.

I lost my job at an orange juice company because I couldn't concentrate.

I was having a beer at a bar on the beach when a jumper cable walked in. The bartender said, "I'll serve you, but don't start anything."

Sharks will not bite attorneys when they are out swimming. Professional courtesy.

Being at Myrtle Beach for the week is interesting. I went to college just a couple of hours up the road at the University of South Carolina, so when football practice or class work didn't dominate my time, I spent quite a lot of time here. Lots of good times and memories came flooding back during the time here. A little different, however, as I come back after 30 years away and with two children and a wife in tow. Not so much partying and a lot more putt putt and family things. Life changes, but who we are today is shaped by the experiences- good and bad- and the people that we have encountered along the way. This place has special memories of good times spent with people that shaped me.

 We have all heard the expression "you can't go home again." And in some respects, that is true. However, we never forget those people and experiences that have forged our character and molded our life and the places that are special to us.

I'm no longer a college kid that is at the beach to party. I am an adult with adult responsibilities and priorities. I haven't gone home, but I have visited a place with special memories that is a part of who I am. A place that has helped shape the person I have become today.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Remember the auto industry bailout, when you and I as taxpayers became the owners of General Motors and Chrysler? One of the provisions of these auto companies receiving funds from the government was that dealerships had to be closed under the guise of "cost savings". A recently released report from the Inspector General of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, Neal Barofsky, brings to light some stunning facts about these closures. According to Barofsky, "Dealerships were retained because they were recently appointed, were key wholesale parts dealers, or were minority or woman-owned dealerships." Well, so much for colorblindness. 2,000 dealerships were closed costing approximately 100,000 jobs. Want to know another little interesting fact? The report states that in areas were there was an over saturation of dealerships, primarily urban areas, dealerships were left untouched. The areas where dealerships were closed? Rural areas. Want to tie this together? There are 1300 rural counties in the United States as identified by the Census Bureau. In the Presidential election of 2008, Obama lost those 1300 rural counties by nearly 80% according to the Rural Policy Research Institute. The bulk of the closed dealerships were in rural areas. Can you say "payback?" One final point. Executives from both auto companies said that closing the dealerships would not save them money, and would economically harm the communities where the dealerships were closed. The administration, however, insisted on closing these dealerships because of the President's desire for "shared sacrifice". In a word, this is unbelievable. The Machiavellian nature of this administration should make every American fearful.

We have a "panic room" in our house. It's called the kitchen.

Have you done the prudent thing and contributed to your IRA or your company 401(K) to save for retirement? Good for you, but get ready, because the federal government is coming after your money. In a little known move, the Department of Treasury and the Department of Labor are soliciting public comments on the proposal "to convert 401(K) plans and IRA's into annuities or other steady streams of payments." Simply put, the government is considering taking your retirement savings and handing you a promise that they (the government) will pay you some monthly benefit over your lifetime. According to, this idea was hatched in the House Education and Labor Committee, chaired by George Miller (D-California) and in the House Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Jim McDermott (D-Washington) that "focused re-directing tax breaks to a 'new' system of retirement accounts to which all workers would be required to contribute." If this system were implemented, the effects would be disastrous for those that have saved for retirement. Those individuals would lose all control of their money and would instead get a guaranteed payment. This may or may not meet your required living expenses and amounts to forced confiscation of your money should this become law. Why would the government want to do this?  Your money would be used to immediately pay for their mind boggling budget deficits. We already have a foretaste of how this would work. Take a look at the Social Security system. Are you comfortable relying on that as the example of prudent fiscal management? A tactic such as this amounts to nothing more than unabashed socialism and fosters an atmosphere of class warfare in our society.

My motto is "Never say never", which makes it difficult to tell people my motto.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is being pushed mightily by the White House in an attempt to get Congress to pass the bill. What is this proposed new law, you might ask? The PFA provides for a wide gamut of new workplace regulations and reporting, but the centerpiece is the collection of payroll data for each employee at a public or private company. Ostensibly, this is to be used to eliminate discrimination in salaries based on gender. Practically, it would give the federal government almost unlimited control in setting policy and rates for employee pay, from the largest employer down to a mom and pop business. According to National Association of Manufacturers, the PFA could put a company in violation of the provisions of the proposed act even though the company was complying with existing labor laws. So now the federal government wants to be in the business of setting the pay scale for all employees in this nation. As a small business owner myself, I find this to be untenable. The audacity of this administration is beyond words. At least words I can use on a family blog.

Are people born with photographic memories, or do they just take time to develop?

And that, my friends, is my view.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Predators Future Looks Bright as Current Owners Buy Del Biaggio Shares

David Shoalts, a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail and a source of unending venom toward the Nashville Predators, wrote an article on July 16th that was headlined "Future of Preds, Stars Still Up in the Air".

Today, the future of the Predators was brought into focus.

And the future looks bright.

Today, Nashville Predators Chairman Tom Cigarran announced that the Predators ownership group had signed an agreement with the bankruptcy trustee Todd Neilson that was administering the William "Boots" Del Biaggio bankruptcy liquidation. That agreement will allow the ownership group to purchase the Del Biaggio interest for $15.2 million.

Del Biaggio had originally invested $25 million to purchase 27% of the Predators at the time of the sale by original owner Craig Leipold.

Del Biaggio was later found to have falsified his financial records and was convicted of fraud after filing for bankruptcy.

The concern about the Del Biaggio stake was that the bankruptcy trustee could possibly sell to an individual or group that was not local or would not be acceptable to the existing ownership group. If this had occurred, a potential conflict with the bankruptcy court would arise as the current ownership group had the right of refusal in accepting a new owner. This potential conflict has now been completely put to rest.

The ownership group had made it clear early on that they would attempt to buy the Del Biaggio interest. The question that was unresolved would be the valuation of that interest. What was a minority interest in the Predators worth? Obviously, it was worth more to the local owners than an outsider, but was it worth the full $25 million that Del Biaggio initially invested? And would the bankruptcy trustee accept an amount well below the initial amount of the investment by Del Biaggio?

Also in question was the ownership interest of Warren Woo, who was a 5% owner of the Predators through his investment with Del Biaggio through their investment company called Forecheck Investments. Would Woo want his interest bought out by claiming, rightfully so, that he was duped by Del Biaggio?

Woo is a thoughtful and knowledgeable man who was victimized by Del Biaggio. Woo could have asked that his interest be bought out by the existing ownership group.Would he do so?

Perhaps most importantly, would the NHL, the Nashville Sports Authority, and CIT, the Predators primary lender, forgo their claims against the Del Biaggio estate and free up the Predators to buy the Del Biaggio interest?

We now know the answers to those questions.

This acquisition of the Del Biaggio interest is nothing but positive for the Predators and their future in Nashville. The Predators will pay $5 million to the bankruptcy trustee this year and $5 million for each of the next two years under the terms of the agreement. This settlement removes the cloud of uncertainty over the ownership of the Predators and once and for all should shut the mouth of hacks like Shoalts that have continually harped on the "unsettled" nature of the the ownership group.

This also allows the team to remove some of the debt that had been accrued in the acquisition of the team from Leipold. This should mean more money available for hockey operations in the coming season, specifically, more money for player acquisition. Debt reduction has been a priority of the ownership group, and this move is a significant step in that direction.

Settling the ownership question should allow the current ownership group to bring in another partner if they desire. A year ago, Calgary businessman Brett Wilson, a personal friend and business partner with David Freeman, was prominently mentioned as a potential investor but stated that he was reluctant to consider a potential investment while the Del Biaggio ownership interest was in the hands of the bankruptcy court. That roadblock is now removed and frees the ownership group to pursue this option should they deem it appropriate.

The fact that Warren Woo decided to keep his investment in the team is telling. Woo is a savvy businessman and I have no doubt that he would have sought to exit the ownership group if he thought the investment in the Predators was unsound.

As part of the agreement, the Nashville Sports Authority, in a spirit of cooperation, released any further claims against the Del Biaggio estate, as did the NHL and CIT. This is significant, because if any of these entities had chosen not to release their claim, then this deal would not have happened. Each of these entities recognized the value of having the Predators operate without the encumbrance of the Del Biaggio bankruptcy hanging over the team.

Nashville has a hockey club that is owned by Nashvillians. This ownership group loves hockey, and they love Nashville. Chairman Cigarran was interviewed today on 104.5, a local radio station, and he said several things that should bring joy to the hearts of Predator fans. The money quote from Cigarran was:

"The investment of owning this team is not financial. It is for the good of this city and for the youth of this city."
This is a group of owners that love hockey. That has been evident by their words and their deeds. This ownership group also loves Nashville, and they believe that having hockey is good for businesses here and the city in general.

For hockey fans in Nashville, this is a winning combination.

This agreement still has to be given final approval by the bankruptcy judge overseeing the Del Biaggio case, but it is expected that this will occur.

When it does, the cloud of ownership uncertainty will be gone. The hockey club that competes hard and wins on the ice will have ownership that can devote their efforts to continuing to make this franchise the very best free of outside distractions. Ownership can devote their efforts to attracting more talent and retaining the stars that are already here.

This team is solid on the ice and in the front office. Always has been. Now they have gotten very solid in the ownership group.

Rock solid.

The future of the Predators has gotten much brighter.

Much to the chagrin of folks like David Shoalts.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fehr Himself

The National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) appears to be gearing up for a bruising fight with the owners when the next collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the 2012 season. Listening to the rumblings coming from the players and their association, it appears that they have decided who they want to lead that fight.

Donald Fehr, the former Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

Fehr, 61, is known as a pugnacious negotiator that is unrelenting in his negotiating tactics. One has only to look at the suspension of regular season play and the cancellation of the 1995 World Series under his watch to know that he is more than willing to use any means necessary to achieve the goals of his union.

Fehr taking a leadership role at the NHLPA is not a done deal, but if one listens to the comments from some players, he has significant support.

"He would be a huge asset for the NHLPA," according to Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek. "To have him come in and lead this union, to round up and gather 700 guys and get them on the same page would be great."

Although Fehr hasn't officially declared himself as a candidate for the Executive Director's job, he has not ruled out accepting the position.

So if Donald Fehr becomes the the Executive Director of the NHLPA, what can we expect?

Fehr lead the MLBPA for 26 years and negotiated five labor contracts for the union. The most contentious was the aforementioned dispute between players and owners that saw the 1994 season canceled and the World Series suspended. Fehr, however, was involved in several major labor issues that changed the face of baseball.

In 1975, he argued against the reserve clause in baseball on behalf of pitchers Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith. Essentially, a baseball club could sign a player for a one year contract at the expiration of that players contract under the same terms as the old contract. This had the effect of making a player captive to the club that had signed them to their original contract and kept salaries low since the players could not bid out their services to other clubs.

McNally and Messersmith argued that since their contracts had expired, they were free to negotiate with other teams. In a ruling from arbitrator Peter Seitz, the reserve clause was abolished and free agency was instituted for baseball. After losing appeals in the court system, Major League Baseball established a free agency system that went into effect after a player had played six years at the major league level.

Fehr was also involved in winning a $280 million dollar award for the players after the owners were found guilty of colluding to forgo signing free agents. After the Seitz decision in 1985, 35 players opted for free agency. Only four were signed. In 1986, again only four free agents were signed to contracts and player salaries declined 16% that season.The players charged that the owners were colluding against them and brought multiple cases before an arbitrator.

Fehr was instrumental in shepherding these cases through arbitration, and in 1990, the cases were settled for a total of $280 million dollars. The award was granted to the MLBPA and it was left to the Fehr and the leadership of the union to determine how to distribute the funds to the aggrieved players.

If Fehr should become the Executive Director of the NHLPA, the owners should expect to face a negotiator that is tough, experienced, willing to do what is necessary to achieve the goals of the union. The players should expect a leader that can unify the somewhat disparate interests of the factions within the union. Fehr sums up his philosophy with this quote:

"...there's a simple rule about bargaining. You hope for the best, you do what you can, you treat the possibility of a work stoppage as a last resort, and you prepare for the worst. It's pretty basic stuff."

Don't let the oversimplification lull you into complacency. This is a leader with vast experience and the toughness to take owners to the mat. And he is willing to do so on behalf of his players.

There is no guarantee that Fehr will be named as the Executive Director, but it is interesting to note that Fehr has helped the NHLPA re-draw its constitution in a way that consolidates power back into the office of the Executive Director. Gone are a number of the dysfunctional committees of the past few years and the office of legal counsel has now been brought under the control of the Executive Director. Power in the union is now rests with the Executive Director.

The net effect of these moves is that the next time the union sits down with the owners, there will be a leader that will be truly empowered to act on behalf of the union.

The players are still licking their wounds after the last negotiation with the owners. Part of the internecine strife within the union is a reflection of that contentious negotiation. This time, the union is determined to present a united front behind a strong leader. This time, they are intent on not wilting in the face of pressure from the owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman.

It was apparent the last time that the union negotiated the CBA, under then Executive Director Bob Goodenow, that there was not unity. Fractures in the membership became apparent early in the negotiations and this allowed Bettman and the owners to move toward "cost certainty" and extract numerous concessions from the players.

Whether the players can remain united remains to be seen. The union is making adjustments to how they do business to negotiate from a potentially stronger position. They know that when they set down at the table with the owners, they will face a demand to lower player salaries through a lower salary cap.

It will take a strong negotiator to sit across from Bettman and company to adequately represent the player's interest. A negotiator that will hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and is willing to lead his charges on a walkout if necessary.

A negotiator like Donald Fehr.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Got a spare $42,000 lying around, maybe hidden between the cushions of your sofa? If so, the federal government could use it. $42,000 is the amount that every man, woman, and child in the United States owes for their portion of the national debt. This year. Next year it is projected to be $47,000 per person. In the debate about the debt and spending  levels in this country, fiscal conservatives have often said that we are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren to pay for today's profligate spending. Look around your family and realize that every one of your loved ones is on the hook for this debt. Imagine that your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews are getting ready to graduate from high school with the equivalent of student loans totaling $42,000. Because, in effect, they are. Erskine Bowles, the Democrat co-chair of President Obama's National Debt Commission summed it up best when he said, "This debt is like a cancer. It is truly going to destroy this country from within." Indeed, it is a sad fiscal legacy that we will leave future generations if we do not make some radical changes in the financial direction of our nation.

If a leper gives you the finger, do you have to give it back?

The reduced tax rates that we all enjoy as a result of the Tax Relief Acts of 2001 and 2003 are set to expire at the end of this year. Although it is popular and populist to cry "Tax the Rich", the fact is that in the eyes of the Congress, we are all rich. Taxes will increase across every bracket: The 10% bracket goes to 15%; 25% rises to 28%; 28% to 31%; 33% to 36%; and 35% to 39.6%. Additionally, the tax credit for dependent children living in your home will be cut from $1,000 per child to $500; the marriage tax penalty returns in 2011; and capital gains will rise from 15 to 20% in 2011 and then to 23.8%in 2012. Taxes on dividends will rise from 15% to 39.6%. Ouch! There are also scores of new and increased taxes on small businesses- the main creator of jobs in our economy. The high cost of our spending and waste in government is going to become painfully apparent next year as all wage earners and savers begin to pay more of their dollars toward social programs and debt reduction.

I was at my optometrist's office yesterday and while I was there, he fell into his lens grinder. He made such a spectacle of himself.

While everyone is focused on the November mid-term Congressional elections, attention should be paid to the lame duck congressional session that will occur after these elections. Why? Because that may be the one last chance to pass radical legislation and pork barrel projects that would not have a chance if a congressional member knew they would face angry constituents in the next election cycle. "I've got lots of things I want to do in a lame duck session. It could be a big deal," says West Virgina Democrat Jay Rockefeller. I guess so. Things that are unpopular or would be outright rejected by voters will be back doored by defeated Democrats. Union card check, the abolishment of secret ballot union elections, was dead on arrival in Congress until the possibility of Democrats losing one or both majorities in the House and Senate. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat said, " those that think card is dead, I say think again. We are still trying to find ways to maneuver parts of the bill before the next Congress is sworn in." Ya know, maybe I am naive, but I thought Congress was elected to represent OUR interests. Instead, Congress is intent on passing an agenda, one that isn't necessarily good for our nation but designed to cede autonomy and control to Washington.

I met this guy name Pavlov. His face wasn't familiar, but his name rang a bell.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Different Perspective on the Prospects

They skate on to the ice, eager with anticipation, wide eyed, and hanging on every word from their coach. They try to make an impression in every drill, every skate down the ice. They are desperate to catch the coaches eye and impress with their effort and skill.

Such is the life of a young hockey player. They know they have to work hard to stand out. Their desire is palpable, and it shows in everything they are doing on the ice.

Such is camp.The next big step in what is hoped to be a long and productive hockey career.

The young men that I am talking about were not at the Predators development camp, although these characteristics applied to them. You can read about the participants in the development camp in the coverage from the local bloggers listed on the right of this blog.

No, I am talking the young men (and women) that are participating in the Predators hockey camp this week on the same ice that the Preds prospects skated on last week. Young hockey players of varying ages and skill levels.

I had an opportunity to watch some of the Predators hockey camp today. I took a special interest in what was going on because my young son was participating in the camp for the first time.

Watching the activities on the ice, I experienced the pride and the anxiety that every father and mother feel when they watch their child compete in the arena. I watched the every move of my son as he skated through drills with the instructors, focused on his effort, watching his technique, and, inevitably, comparing his effort to the others on the ice.

It dawned on me that the emotions that I feel for my 11 year old are no different than the emotions that a parent feels when they are watching their 18 or 20 or 30 year old compete and attempt to impress his coaches. The age and the skill level are different for the players on the ice, but the emotions as a parent are the same.

The joy on the face of my son today is what the game is about. He was excited to be on the ice. The game was fun.

By far and away, he wasn't the best player on the ice. His effort, though, was second to none. And the smile on his face was priceless.

Somewhere for the prospects at a higher level, the game transitions from fun to a business. Impress the coaches, move up the depth chart, and one day, hopefully make the big club.

I hope somewhere in the process for these prospects, there are still smiles, that there is still an element of excitement, anticipation, and fun.

Just like it is for my son.

Friday, July 9, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

The Obama administration has unveiled their lawsuit against the State of Arizona for the the recently passed state law that requires law enforcement officials to determine the legal residency status of anyone that is stopped for just cause. The attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division that is handling the case is assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, who was also an assistant AG during the Clinton years. Why bring this up? Taking a look at the background of the United States Attorney handling this case is instructive. During his time in the Clinton DOJ, Perez volunteered for an organization known as CASA de Maryland, a group that is known for their extreme advocacy for illegal aliens. Perez rose from the ranks of the volunteers to become President of this organization. How did this non-profit organization raise funds and operate, you ask? Two of the most prominent donors were George Soros' Open Society Institute and Hugo Chavez's Citgo Oil. During his tenure at CASA de Maryland, Perez campaigned for an increasing menu of benefits to illegal aliens, including issuance of driver's licenses without proof of identity and in state tuition discounts at public colleges. During his tenure at CASA de Maryland, the organization vigorously fought against enforcement of deportation orders and coordination of local, state, and national criminal databases to detect persons that are illegally in this country. This attitude and stance is now permeating our Department of Justice. Kudos to the State of Arizona for doing what our federal government will not. Know who you're up against and prepare for a long fight.

Whoever said "nothing is impossible" is wrong. I have been doing nothing for years.

Several weeks ago I mentioned that Donald Berwick had been nominated by the Obama administration to be the adminsitrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This is an extremely important position as CMS will control billions of dollars and take on more responsibility for the healthcare of seniors through the administration of Medicare and Medicaid under the socialized medical program recently passed by congress. Berwick faced a decidedly uphill fight, in part because he is an advocate of rationing healthcare, opposes the free markets, and sincerely believes that individual wealth must be confiscated to pay for healthcare for those that cannot afford it. Seeing that this nomination was in trouble, Obama made a recess appointment and put Berwick in this position, which he will occupy until the end of 2011. So what? I am not using Medicare or Medicaid services. No, but each of us that is working might want to keep a tighter grip on our wallets. Here is Berwick's quotes from a 2008 healthcare conference in Great Britain, "Any healthcare funding plan that is equitable, civilized, and humane must, MUST, redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate. Excellent healthcare is by definition redistributional." This quote exemplifies the mindset of far too many in Washington and bodes ill for those that are working and trying to provide for their families a better way of life.

My wife has really gotten into making pottery, but to me it's just kiln time.

During the 2008 presidential election, members of the New Black Panther Party were videotaped physically and verbally intimidating both black and white voters attempting to enter a Philadelphia polling station. Using the videotaped evidence, the DOJ brought a suit against three identified individuals and the Black Panther Party for violation of section 11(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits intimidation, threats, and coercion. Neither the defendants or representatives of the Black Panthers showed up to defend themselves, and a default judgement was entered against the defendants. Why bring this up? Recently, the DOJ sought to dismiss the charges on what was a clear and vivid example of voter intimidation. The motive for this has been fuzzy and elusive and the DOJ has refused to give a straight answer. Until now. J. Christian Adams, who until last week was a member of the DOJ's Voting Section and charged with insuring the fairness and accessibility of the voting process, gave an emotional and explosive testimony before the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Without equivocation, Adams testified that senior officials in the DOJ and specifically Attorney General Eric Holder had told employees not to bring voting rights cases where the victim was white. If the transgressor was white, there would be prosecution; if the violator was black, no prosecution. Adams resigned from DOJ in protest. This makes one's blood boil. This administration, in seeking justice, has taken the stance that the playing field is no longer level; that justice is no longer blind. And this is a sorry commentary on the state of the leadership in our country.

I believe that condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Predators Skate of the Union

The Nashville Predators held their second annual Skate of the Union for fans at the Bridgestone Arena. The tenor of this meeting was decidedly upbeat with Chairman Tom Cigarran, General Manager David Poile, Head Coach Barry Trotz, and President Ed Lang on the dais to speak to the fans. Preds play by play announcer Pete Weber was the emcee.

Tom Cigarran spoke first, and the Chairman of the ownership group set the tone for the night when he said that the ownership group was "committed to bringing the Stanley Cup to Nashville, and not just for a visit." This statement could have been viewed as trite, but in reality, it is believable because the ownership group is solid and has provided much needed stability to this franchise. Cigarran also said that the ownership group is going to do one major thing each year to improve the fan experience. According to Cigarran, the major improvement this season will be an upgraded roster as evidenced by some of the off season signings and player moves.

Cigarran also assured those in attendance that the ownership group is committed to hockey in Nashville, and he cited two main reasons. First, as owners, they and their families love hockey. They have children- or grandchildren- that play hockey and are dedicated to the game. That love for the game translates to the ownership group doing what is necessary to field a competitive, winning franchise.

Secondly, the ownership group believes that hockey is good for Nashville and that it would be extremely detrimental to see the Predators leave Nashville.In fact, the ownership believes that having the Predators leave Nashville is an unacceptable outcome.

It is one thing to talk the talk, but according to Cigarran, the owners are walking the walk as well. He mentioned that the ownership group has made an additional and significant financial investment in the team. While he did not disclose the details, it is believable because Cigarran is so open and genuine in his demeanor. This group wants the team not only to be sound both on and off the ice, but to be successful in both areas.

David Poile spoke next and talked about the team. He said at the beginning of the season, no one expected the Predators to contend for a playoff spot, but as the season went on, the confidence of the squad "grew by leaps and bounds." The loss to the Blackhawks hurt badly because the team truly believed they could win that series and they would be looking for redemption in the upcoming season.

He mentioned that over the past three seasons, the Predators had 26 draft choices, and that fans would soon see some of those players in the NHL. Scouting is a strength of the organization, and he singled out Assistant GM Paul Fenton and Head Scout Jeff Kealty for the job they had done in assessing talent and drafting well. According to Poile, drafting is and will continue to be the "bread and butter" of the Predators organization.

Poile spoke to the signing of Sergei Kostitsyn. He called him a bit of a "wild card" and acknowledged that he had a troubled past. In talking to Kostitsyn, Poile said that he told him that he wanted a second chance and wanted to prove that he belonged in the NHL. Poile said that Kostitsyn has tremendous upside and great tools, and it will be up to him to work within the system in Nashville and prove that he belongs here.

Poile then introduced the newest Predator, Matthew Lombardi, who was welcomed by the fans with a rousing cheer. After donning a Predators jersey with his name and the number 15 on it, he remarked that it didn't take long to figure out that he wanted to be in Nashville. He had talked to Vern Fiddler and Scottie Upshall, both of whom had spent time here, as well as Coach Trotz, and he new this team was a great fit for him.

Then David Poile introduced the new Captain of the Predators. It was a poorly kept secret that it would be Shea Weber, and he walked up on the stage to a thunderous ovation from the crowd. He put on a new jersey with the "C" on it. When asked how that "C" felt, he replied, "It feels heavy."

Coach Barry Trotz spoke about Lombardi and said that he had Predators written all over him. When David Poile called, he said, and mentioned that Lombardi was available and what did he (Trotz) think, Trotz said, "What are you talking to me for? Hang up and get him on the phone!"

Ed Lang, the President of the Predators, mentioned that the Convention Center being constructed behind the Arena hurts in the short term because 600 parking spaces were eliminated. When the Center is completed in 2013, however, 1800 parking spaces will be added. More importantly, the Center will put Nashville in a position to bid on an All Star game, perhaps as early as 2014 or 2015.

Lang also spoke about the new television deal, with 60 games being broadcast on Fox Sports South next season. The nest two years will see 65 games broadcast, and in the final year of the four year contract there will be 70 games broadcast. There will be a minimum of 45 games broadcast in HD in each of the seasons.

Fielding questions that were submitted from the audience, Weber said that he was excited about being Captain. He said that he would lead the team in his own way- by continuing to play hard and being a good example- and would not try to be someone he wasn't. He felt that would limit his effectiveness in his role.

Weber also said that he was excited by the additions to the roster and about the team in general.

Lombardi said that not was he excited to be in Nashville, but that his family was looking forward to calling Nashville home. One cannot overemphasize the importance of having the family happy in their new home and the contribution that has to the success of a player in any market.

For the approximately 1,000 fans in attendance, the enthusiasm of the players, staff, and owners was palpable.

The excitement of the fans is indicative of the support this team has in the community.

With a stable ownership group, excellent draft choices in the system, a solid coaching staff, and good players to put on the ice, the Skate of the Union of the Predators looks strong.

Short Term Gain vs. Long Term Growth

On the heels of the National Hockey League announcing record revenues for the just completed season comes an article by David Shoalts in the Toronto Globe and Mail entitled "Players Have Vested Interest in Full Arenas". Besides the headline being a blinding flash of the obvious, the article posits that it is in the best interest of the game, its players, and its overall profitability to have a second team in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and forgo arenas that can't fill up the seats.

Specifically cited are Atlanta and Phoenix as examples of financially troubled teams that would be prime candidates for relocation to the GTA.

There is no doubt that the GTA has enough rabid hockey fans that the area could support another NHL club. There are 5.5 million people in the GTA, most of whom have grown up with hockey and are passionate about the game. Selling out games to a second NHL franchise in that locale would be easy to do.

But would it be the best thing to do?

If the perspective one has in answering that question is a short term perspective, then the answer is undeniably "yes".

If however, the perspective is one of a longer term, and it involves the stability and growth of the franchises and their respective fan bases, then the answer might be "yes, but..."

There is no doubt that the game of hockey thrives in Canada. The passion that Canadians have for the game are deep, remarkable, and enviable. There is a love for the game that is protective, and unfortunately, parochial. The "This Is Our Game" mentality, expressed so enthusiastically during the Winter Olympics, is a two edged sword. Yes, hockey is a Canadian game that is now transplanted into U.S. markets and taking root and growing. No, it is not "your game"- there are fans in the States that love it just as much and are just as passionate.

The attitude of many north of the border is that hockey in most U.S. markets should be rooted up and transplanted somewhere back in Canada, where, in the mind of folks like David Shoalts, it belongs.

Somewhere like the Greater Toronto Area.

Here are the numbers that are really important: Canada is a nation of 34 million people; the United States has 307 million.

Which market offers the most potential for growth?

The problem is that the growth in the U.S. markets takes some time. Growing a fan base and sinking deep roots into a community does not happen overnight. The growth is slow.

Sometimes, local ownership is inept, which stunts the growth of a franchise. Slow growth and weak ownership can plague an established franchise (see: Ottawa Senators, for example) just as it can a new franchise. The difference is that it takes longer for the fans to come back to the game in a non-traditional market than it does in a Canadian market.

The fact remains that the fan base is growing, especially in markets that did not have teams ten years ago. The potential for growth is good in those markets. It takes talent in the front office as much as it takes talent on the ice.

And it takes time.

Shoalts cites in his article an "unnamed former NHLPA official" that says that the GTA needs another team now because it would put more money in the pockets of the players- more than Phoenix or Atlanta currently do.

Fair enough.

Again, look at the long term and ask if that is the right solution. Both franchises, with Jerry Moyes in Phoenix and the ownership group of Atlanta Spirit in Atlanta have been, um, shall we say, inept in the management of their franchises. And it has been reflected in how those franchises have been run and the attendance numbers.

The issue of franchise relocation will always loom in the background in the game of hockey. Unfortunately, there will continue to be poorly run franchises and those that fall on hard times. Looking to move at the first sign of trouble destabilizes a franchise and its fan base over the long term and is detrimental to growth- both of the local market and the game in general.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the issue of franchise relocation could portend very contentious labor relations after the expiration of the CBA at the end of the 2012 season.

According to the unnamed official in Shoalts' article, the problem for the players in the NHL is that there is no way to force the owners to do what the players think is best for them. Here is the money quote:

"As the agreement sits now, there is nothing in there that says the [NHL] has to keep a team in Phoenix. But you would think in spite of the agreement, the League would see the responsibility to their economic partners [the players] to make sure this is as glorious a situation as possible for all parties. The problem is the players don't have a vehicle to put a gun to the League's head and say, move these teams."

Oh, really?

So the players, or the Players Association, wants a vehicle to put a gun to the head of ownership and say move the franchise if they- the Players Association- doesn't think the franchise is making enough money?


The perspective of a player, and the union that represents them, is decidedly shorter term than that of the ownership of a franchise, and rightfully so. A player has a limited number of days to play and is attempting to amass the greatest amount of income over his playing days.

An owner has a longer term perspective. What is good for the franchise now and five years, ten years, down the road, and how does the franchise continue grow is a perspective that the player and his representatives do not have.

This sets up a potential clash between competing perspectives that can be contentious and disruptive. As hockey fans, we know all too well how disruptive.

So we go back to the original proposition of uprooting an existing franchise and dropping it down in the GTA.

Good for the game?

In the short run, absolutely. More revenue and fan interest translates into more profit for the league and the players.

Long term- not so good. Not only does it give the League a perception of instability in the States, it makes the fan base base wary of embracing the game we all love for fear of having a franchise ripped out their community.

Even more importantly, it puts the long term growth and health of the game at odds with the short term benefit of tickets sales and revenues.

It will be interesting to see the resolution of the short term perspective of the Players Association with the long term vision of the League and the owners for the growth of the game and its revenue streams.

The long term health of the game could depend on it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Predators Sign Sergei Kostitsyn

Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile announced today that the team had signed forward Sergei Kostitsyn to a one year contract for $550,000. The Predators had acquired the rights to Kostitsyn from Montreal in exchange for the rights to forward Dustin Boyd and goaltender Dan Ellis.

Kostitsyn, a talented but troubled 23 old, has played 155 NHL games, garnering 68 points (24G-44A). Kostitsyn played in 47 contests last season for the Canadiens.

Kostitsyn's checkered past factored into the value and length of the contract from the Predators. Last season, he was sent down to Hamilton, the AHL affilate of the Candiens and refused to report to the team. He was also told to stay away from the Montreal club because of his negative influence on the squad.

The task for Kostitsyn is to return to the ice with a positive attitude and develop the skills he has flashed in his young career. If he will work and develop under the tutelage of Head Coach Barry Trotz, then the Predators will have secured a productive and potentially explosive winger, and Kostitsyn will have an pportunity to advance his career.

If not, then Kostitsyn could very well find himself out of the NHL.

For the Predators, the cost is minimal and the potential upside to a player like Kostitsyn is significant.

This could turn out to be an exceptional signing for the Predators, and kudos are to be given to GM David Poile for seeing the value in a player like Kostitsyn and getting him signed to a reasonable contract.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pawn Star Predators Make Free Agent Moves

When it comes to the free agent market, the Nashville Predators often resemble the stars of the show Pawn Stars. They rummage through cast offs and attempt to find a bargain on the cheap, one that may have surprising value.

The Predators changed their Pawn Star persona in this year's free agency period by making a quality pick up in the form of Matthew Lombardi, most recently of the Phoenix Coyotes.

Lombardi was signed to a three year $10.5 million contract and will immediately challenge for a position on the top line. He is expected to fill the vacancy that was created when Jason Arnott was traded to the New Jersey Devils.

Lombardi, who at 28 is seven years younger than Arnott, brings pure speed and deft puck handling skills to the Predators. His play making skills and speed will be welcome by a team that has needed explosive play makers.

Lombardi had 19 goals and 34 assists in 78 games with the Coyotes last season.

The signing of Lombardi follows the acquisition of the rights of troubled left winger Sergei Kostitsyn from Montreal. Should Kostitsyn get under contract with the Predators, and if he can restart his career, the Predators will have inked two players that can provide much needed offense.

Both conditions are a big "if" for Kostitsyn.

Fans of the Predators have been accustomed to watching their team do little or nothing in free agency. Part of this is due to the financial constraints under which the team operates. The other part is the philosophy of the team- the "Predator way"- in which the belief is to draft well and develop talent within the system. At times, this is frustrating; it takes time to see the fruits of this manner of operating a team pan out.

This discipline- or constraint, if you will- has kept the Predators from paying "stupid money" to free agents and has allowed the franchise to operate with a measure of fiscal discipline that many teams envy. Instead of lavishing dollars on high priced free agents, the Predators have been selective, attempting to plug in players that bring value to the team. Players that can be obtained at a reasonable price and can contribute immediately.

It certainly isn't flashy. It doesn't grab the headlines.

It is incredibly effective.

The signing of Lombardi is indicative of the attractiveness of Nashville as a destination. More importantly, it demonstrates that the Predators will spend solid and reasonable money for a a valuable asset.

Just like a pawn star.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My View

Random thoughts from a warped and fevered mind...

Let's say that you had a major problem, a crisis even, and were looking for help from any source that could provide it. And let's suppose that a proven, effective form of assistance arrived in your hour of need and was just about to go to work to help with your problem when all of a sudden a government inspector showed up and said that assistance could not be used until they- the government- decided if it was effective. Your problem continues to grow and relief is at hand, and you are paying for the assistance, but it is idled until the government says it can go to work. Ludicrous? You bet. Reality? Unfortunately, it is. The world's largest oil skimming vessel, a Taiwanese based ship know as the "A Whale" arrived in the Gulf to assist BP with oil skimming operations but was sidelined because of Environmental Protection Agency concerns about its effectiveness. Specifically, the EPA was concerned that there would be traces of oil in the water the A Whale skims, cleans, and places back into the waters of the Gulf. Uh, the last time I looked, there was a hell of a lot more oil in the Gulf before the skimming started than there would be after the skimming process occurs. This laughable bureaucratic red tape and snafu is indicative of the ineffectiveness of our government to respond in a timely and potent manner to a crisis. Perhaps we should test the government for its effectiveness before we allow them to implement programs or supervise a disaster cleanup.

The closest I got to a 4.0 in college was my blood alcohol level.

Japan or Greece? From a fiscal standpoint, which will our country most resemble? As the United States ponders its financial future, those are the two options that are becoming more and more likely. Japan was a robust nation that in the late 70's and early 80's looked as if they were going to be able to buy the world. Poor monetary decisions and a contraction in their economy have led to 15 years of deflation that has stymied growth and resisted the efforts of the government of Japan to grow the economy. Greece has been the most recent and egregious example of profligate government spending and largess that was supported by flat to declining government revenues. Sooner or later, when you spend more than you make, you run out of money. This is true for an individual or a nation. Greece has avoided default because other members of the European Union have stepped in and loaned them the money to stave off this dire action. It may only be a temporary solution. In the United States, we are facing a great deflationary spiral that is problematic because we are printing massive amounts of dollars and issuing enormous amounts of debt to attempt to revive the economy. Right now, it's not working. And therein lies the risk to our country: massive debt and falling asset values. Will we be Japan and face a long period of economic stagnation? Or will we be Greece and run the risk of defaulting on our debt? Perhaps we will begin to exert fiscal discipline in our great nation by reining in government spending and providing the environment for our economy to reverse and begin to grow consistently again? These are questions that will be answered in the coming years by the fiscal actions that we are undertaking today.

Isn't impotence just nature's way of saying "No hard feelings"?

The Congressional Budget Office is warning Congress that it is essential that the Federal government begin to curtail spending and start to pay down debt. Quickly. The concern is that there is mounting debt coupled with an aging population and this means that it could be very difficult for the U.S. to pay its bills in the future. Think about it- as our population ages and begins to move out of the work force, earned income typically begins to fall as retirees start to live off investments, retirement accounts, and (hopefully) social security benefits. This means less money is flowing in to the government in the form of payroll taxes and more money is flowing out in benefits that have to be paid. What happens in that scenario? The government is going to have to find other sources of revenue. This means that taxes are going up across the board. Income taxes on the benefits that are paid out via Social Security; payroll taxes on the work force; and a host of other revenue raising methods, such as a means test for the receipt of benefits. Two salient points come out of the CBO's warning: know that our government will have no choice but to raise taxes significantly just to meet current obligations; and that your financial security in retirement will be dependent upon what you do financially. Anyone under the age of 50 should expect virtually nothing out of Social Security and should realize that their financial well being will be dependent upon their actions.

I asked my wife where she wanted to go for our anniversary. She said somewhere she had never been before. I said "How about the kitchen?" The swelling should go down in about a week.

And that, my friends, is my view.