SBD/Issue 172/Leagues & Governing Bodies

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  • NHL Finals Could Start This Saturday With Detroit Win Tonight

    If Red Wings Win Tonight Against Blackhawks,
    Stanley Cup Finals Will Likely Start Saturday
    The Penguins won the Eastern Conference championship last night and sources indicated that should the Red Wings win tonight's game against the Blackhawks to capture the Western Conference championship, the Stanley Cup Finals "likely would start on Saturday, May 30 in Detroit," according to E.J. Hradek of ESPN.com. The NHL in recent days has been "working behind the scenes with NBC" to adjust the original schedule that had the Finals beginning June 5 if "both Conference final series didn't end in four-game sweeps." However, with the Penguins sweeping the Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals last night, the pushed-up schedule would again be in play. Hradek wrote the "possible change would spare the league an embarrassing, television-created, eight-day hiatus and the competitive nature of the playoffs wouldn't be compromised by an unusually long layoff for both clubs" (ESPN.com, 5/25).

    TAKING CHARGE: FANHOUSE.com's Eric McErlain wrote playing Stanley Cup Finals Games One and Two on "back-to-back nights probably isn't ideal for the players, but it sure beats the heck out of dropping a one-week break into the midst of the playoff season." The NHL has "made a simple calculation: would the complete disappearance of the Stanley Cup finals from broadcast television in the U.S. cause more damage to the league than adjusting the schedule to the benefit of the rights holder? Cleary, they've decided the latter" (FANHOUSE.com, 5/25). In Detroit, Drew Sharp writes unless the Red Wings "bail him out with a series-closing victory tonight," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman "could be staring at a long layoff -- maybe even six days -- between the conclusion of the conference finals and the start of the championship series." That is "insane, especially when the NHL finds itself in a direct championship series battle with the NBA." Bettman, "in some ways, is at the mercy of NBC." But "isn't it time that he and the rest of the league grow a backbone and tell all who care to listen that the NHL is never stronger than when it more vigorously advocates its marketing strengths?" (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 5/27).

    WATCH & LEARN: YAHOO SPORTS' Greg Wyshynski wrote the NHL is "currying a lot of good will lately." Ratings are "up appreciably, for one thing," and "more people are watching hockey on television than we've seen in years." ESPN writers like Bill Simmons and Gene Wojciechowski who "don't really have any reason to care about the sport and feel they haven't been given one in a good, long time are writing the equivalent of puff pieces on how wonderful the sport seems to them all of a sudden." But Wyshynski noted if the Stanley Cup Finals do not start until June 5, "we're looking at a ridiculous television-influenced decision" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/25).

    SOMETHING'S MISSING: In Toronto, Gary Loewen wrote it "seems like weeks" since the Penguins and Capitals "battled in a thrilling playoff series." The conference finals, "by comparison, have been Dud Lite" (TORONTO SUN, 5/26). Also in Toronto, Garth Woolsey wrote Red Wings-Blackhawks, a matchup of two Original Six teams, has a "traditional feel, but there's no substitute for having a Canadian team still alive at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs" (TORONTO STAR, 5/24).

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  • NHL GMs Will Likely Face First Salary Cap Decrease Since '05-06

    Daly Says NHL Salary Cap Could Drop
    By As Much As $2.5M For '09-10 Season
    NHL GMs this year "will likely be facing the first decrease in the salary cap since it was instituted" for the '05-06 season, according to Rich Chere of the Newark STAR-LEDGER. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that the salary cap "could drop by as much as $2.5[M] for the 2009-10 season from its current $56.7[M]." Although Daly "couldn't say, it is not inconceivable that the figure could fall to $50[M] for the 2010-11 season." Daly in an e-mail said, "At this point, we don't really have a good estimate of where the cap will be. If the NHLPA wants a 5[%] inflator, and we agree, the cap should be relatively 'flat.'" He added if there is "no inflator applied, the cap will be down" $2-2.5M. Chere noted that possibility has GMs "very worried about how much they should pay to keep their own players and what would be prudent in signing unrestricted free agents." Devils President, CEO & GM Lou Lamoriello: "It will affect everybody's philosophy and everybody's decisions. Because, if you're signing any long-term contracts of two years or more, you don't know what potentially can happen and how far down the cap will or can go." Maple Leafs President & GM Brian Burke: "The problem with the salary cap is it backdates reality by as much as 12 months. It doesn't reflect current economic conditions. ... So this year's revenues won't reflect the changing conditions and therefore the cap won't reflect them." Chere noted because of the "fears for 2010-11, GMs are likely to be more cautious this summer" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/24).

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  • NASCAR Meets With Drivers, Team Owners To Discuss State Of Sport

    Helton (l), France Lead Meetings Between
    NASCAR Execs, Team Owners, Drivers
    NASCAR officials yesterday held two meetings with team owners and drivers to discuss "how to improve the NASCAR product, including on-track racing and ways to entice fans that may have stopped watching or attending to take another look," according to Jim Utter of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Suggestions included "changes to the car NASCAR utilizes in its Sprint Cup series; changes to the tires; and reduction in horsepower in the engines." Almost a dozen NASCAR execs, including Chair & CEO Brian France and President Mike Helton, as well as ISC Vice Chair & President Lesa France Kennedy, "led the discussions." France said that there were "many suggestions made about the new car and he would be open to adjustments to the car if it didn't dramatically change the financial model of owners." Not all Cup drivers attended the meeting, "in part because of the late notice of the meetings and drivers' previous commitments." France: "We're going to do more of it because it was productive. We do a lot of communication with our teams and drivers, mostly at the track. We'll still do that" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 5/27). NASCAR VP/Communications Jim Hunter: "Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new form of communication" (ESPN.com, 5/26). 

    NO SOLUTIONS PROVIDED, YET: FOXSPORTS.com's Lee Spencer noted the "overwhelming response from the competitors was that the open dialogue was valuable, yet no one provided concrete solutions." It is "unlikely that any advances will come to the car before" the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and "perfecting the product must be the first step." Spencer: "Only time will tell how responsive the sanctioning body truly will be. Still, there is a sense of comfort knowing the lines of communication are open" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/26). But ESPN's Marty Smith said, "Ultimately, the biggest thing that came out of this, though, was the fact that NASCAR held it at all. It's certainly not their typical style of ruling. It's been a dictatorial style forever. The fact they held this meeting was huge for everybody." ESPN's Dale Jarrett: "In talking to the drivers, they felt like this was the best meeting they had been a part of. A lot of things were talked (and) they felt like that they were going to get a lot of results" ("NASCAR Now," ESPN2, 5/26).

    REPAIRS NEEDED: In Birmingham, Doug Demmons wrote if they "really want to know how to improve the sport, NASCAR should invite fans to the meeting." Fans likely would suggest that there are "too many boring races at boring, cookie-cutter tracks," and that "no one knows from week to week when the race starts." In addition, while ticket prices "have come down out of economic necessity," they "don't need to be jacked back up when the economy starts to improve" (AL.com, 5/25). ESPN.com's Terry Blount suggested six improvements for NASCAR: Greater emphasis on winning; allow adjustments to the car; shorter races; "make qualifying meaningful;" "double-file restarts for lead-lap cars;" and "don't allow Cup drivers to compete for the Nationwide title" (ESPN.com, 5/26). FOXSPORTS.com's Spencer wrote under the header, "NASCAR Needs To Talk About Its Problems" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/26).

    DRUG TESTING A HOT TOPIC: The AP's Jenna Fryer noted "drug testing was a main topic" of yesterday's meetings. The "secrecy and lack of an official list of banned substances led many drivers to worry their careers could be put in jeopardy by a failed test for a simple prescription." Driver Mark Martin said, "If you're taking something as prescribed, I don't think you're going to lose your career. I feel much better now than I did before the meeting." France indicated that he was "confident the issue had been adequately addressed" in both meetings (AP, 5/26).

    NASCAR Has No Plans
    To Settle With Mayfield
    BATTLING FOR POSITION: France Sunday said that NASCAR "has no plans to settle the dispute" with team owner/driver Jeremy Mayfield, who is suspended indefinitely for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy. France: "We'll defend the policy. We're very confident about the policy" (ESPN.com, 5/24). But SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith said that NASCAR "could be in for quite a fight" with Mayfield's lawyer, Bill Diehl. Diehl represented Smith in his divorce and has represented Lowe's Motor Speedway in "various legal matters." Smith: "Bill Diehl is a junkyard dog. I don't mean that other than he is tough. Tough lawyer, brilliant man. We don't need this lawsuit in our sport, but it appears it's going to happen" (Greensboro NEWS & RECORD, 5/24). Smith said if Diehl does file a lawsuit, "there will be a lot of people that will get tired of depositions." Smith also "joined the call of some drivers who say that NASCAR should reveal what caused Mayfield's positive test." Smith: "The best thing to do is let's bring all of this out. You need to know what drug we are talking about. Let's have clarity on that and put it out there and maybe then we can deal with it better" (ROANOKE TIMES, 5/24).

    POP QUIZ: NASCAR Sunday during the rain delay at the Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 "randomly drug-tested 10 crew members from 10 teams," an "apparent tweak to the first three months of in-season testing." NASCAR waited until after the scheduled start of the race "to inform teams and ordered individuals to report for testing at the end of the race." But because rain delayed the start, crew members "were seen entering the infield care center, where the tests were conducted" (AP, 5/24).

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  • IMG, LPGA Drop Purse, TV Plans For Tour Championship Sans Sponsor

     
    IMG and the LPGA have dropped the purse and network television coverage for the season-ending Tour Championship in Houston after being unable to find a title sponsor. The purse was originally announced last November as $2M with plans for weekend coverage on NBC, but the purse was decreased to $1.5M and network coverage was abandoned after IMG was unable to replace Stanford Financial as title sponsor. The Houston-based institution would have footed both costs but was taken over by the U.S. government in February amid a fraud investigation, just months after agreeing to title sponsor the tournament. As the tournament owner, IMG is responsible for television and purse costs and has been pitching a $3-3.5M annual sponsorship to replace Stanford’s estimated $4-5M annual spend, said sources. The LPGA and IMG last week announced a multi-year deal for The Houstonian Golf & Country Club to host the tournament.

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