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SBD/March 24, 2011/Leagues and Governing BodiesPrint All
It appears that a plan for the Capitals and Rangers to kick off the '11-12 NHL season with games in Russia "is dead," according to Dmitry Chesnokov of YAHOO SPORTS. The plan was for two NHL teams to "play exhibition games against KHL clubs, and then open the NHL season with two games -- one in Moscow and another one in St. Petersburg." But KHL President Alexander Medvedev told the Russia Today TV Channel, "It looks like that we will not see such matches next season. And we have only one reason that the NHL due to their, sort of say, exclusively business-like approach." KHL sources indicated that the "reason there will be no NHL teams in Russia this season" was the NHL's revenue guarantee request. The NHL reportedly asked for a guarantee of $2-3M, and the KHL "saw it as unreasonable because of simple economics -- the Russian league would not be able to break even due to Russian hockey economic streams." Asked for a response, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, "I am not prepared to disclose the substance of our discussions, but I will confirm that the discussions did not result in an agreement to bring NHL teams to Russia for next year." Chesnokov noted at "one point the optimism was so high" that a Rangers representative traveled to Russia to discuss the plans. Sources said that Medvedev and another KHL official "met with the NHL in New York last month to try to salvage the deal," but talks "didn't progress" at the most recent meetings (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 3/23).
OPENING IN SWEDEN? In N.Y., Jesse Spector reports Stockholm, Sweden, "appears almost certain to be where the Rangers will begin the 2011-12 campaign." Even as a deal between the NHL and KHL for a Rangers-Capitals opener in Moscow or St. Petersburg appeared close last month, a source said Sweden was "still in play." The Rangers "have to start the season away from home because of the renovations" at MSG. Sweden is a "good fit for the Rangers not only because" it is the home nation of G Henrik Lundqvist, but because of the "popularity there of Norwegian winger Mats Zuccarello, who was voted MVP of the Swedish Elite League" last season (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/24).
The PGA Tour "has given preliminary approval to a concept in which Q-School graduates would no longer head straight to the Tour," and Commissioner Tim Finchem in a memo to players said the "proposed format enhances the Nationwide Tour from a competitive perspective while making it more compelling for television viewers and fans," according to Jeff Rude of GOLFWEEK. Finchem said the change also "increases the attractiveness of the Nationwide Tour for the umbrella sponsor as well as local tournament title sponsors." Rude reported under the proposal, "about 75 players who don't make the FedEx Cup playoffs would compete for 50 Tour cards in a series of three tournaments with the top 75-100 from the Nationwide." Players "would be seeded under a weighted system entering the series, and Tour cards would go to the top 50 in points at the end." Currently, the "top 25 from the Nationwide and top 25 and ties from Q-School get Tour cards." The Tour is in the "discussion-and-feedback stage," though Tour Policy Board member Paul Goydos said that he "thinks the plan will go through." But World Golf HOFer Lanny Wadkins said, "It's ridiculous. It sounds like old guys trying to cover their butts. Is this an old boys' club or who the best players are?" Rude wrote, "My first reaction is that I don't like the proposal. It strikes me as too much of a closed shop, too restrictive, too protective of current members making the rules, too much of a half-dream for Q-School entrants and too little of the concept of keeping immediate hope alive" (GOLFWEEK.com, 3/23).
MORE DETAILS: In Boston, Michael Whitmer notes instead of Q-School "offering PGA Tour cards for the best finishers, a late-season, three-tournament series will be created if the new plan is voted in." It likely would "take the place of the Fall Series, which this year is a cluster of four tournaments held after the Tour Championship, bringing the tour season to a close and giving those who didn't make the FedEx field one more month to make sure they finish the year among the top 125 on the money list." The Tour feels that "those who play their way up through the Nationwide Tour are better prepared to compete at a consistently high level than someone who gets hot in November and December at Q School" (BOSTON GLOBE, 3/24). ESPN.com's Bob Harig writes, "Just the fact that the PGA Tour is considering blowing up the way players qualify for the tour is an interesting development. Whether the concept takes off and actually goes into practice is a ways off, and how it is received by players remains to be seen." While the concept "has been preliminarily approved by the PGA Tour policy board, it will still be some time before it could go into action." Further discussion is "required by the player advisory committee as well as another vote of the policy board." In order for it to go into effect for the '12 season, it would "obviously need to be approved before Q-school gets under way this year, with the first stage beginning in October." PGA Tour Exec VP & COO Andy Pazder: "We're very early on in the process. There are a million and one details we have to discuss. It's not going to happen overnight" (ESPN.com, 3/24).
MIXED REACTION: Golfer Bubba Watson said of the current Q-School format, "You need to tweak it a little bit. I have always thought that you need to come from the Nationwide Tour and start from one platform and move up to the big show." Watson spent three years on the Nationwide Tour and said he "learned about myself, learned a lot about traveling, learned a lot about the game." Referring to players getting their PGA Tour cards, Watson thinks the ideal situation would be that "Q-school has five and Nationwide has five, and the rest battle it out in a three tournament series" ("19th Hole," Golf Channel, 3/23). But the GLOBE & MAIL's Lorne Rubenstein wrote, "Don't tell me that the PGA Tour would do this. Don't tell me that the PGA Tour would eliminate the conditions of the one tournament that serious golf folks find a must-watch because it provides a direct, albeit, highly chancy route to the big show. ... Come on, don't tell me that the PGA Tour will purge itself of Q- school in its current, frenetic form and thereby deprive planet golf of the game's most thrilling, nail-biting, agonizing tournament" (GOLFCANADA.ca, 3/22).
The Dew Tour plans to downsize from a five-stop to four-stop series this summer, abandon its single-sport events and add new disciplines in '11. The NBC- and MTV-owned tour today announced it will hold events this summer in Ocean City, Md., Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Each of the stops will feature BMX and skate events, and the tour will add its first surf event at Ocean City and its first bowl contests for skaters in Ocean City and Portland. The tour will drop its BMX-only event in Chicago and skate-only event in Boston. The move represents a significant strategic shift for the Dew Tour, which is run by Alli Sports. The tour shifted to single-sport events in '09 in order to move into larger, metropolitan markets like Chicago and Boston. But Alli Sports President Wade Martin, who oversees the tour, said that single-event strategy was not as effective as the tour hoped. The single-sport approach resulted in fewer competitions, which meant there was less diverse programming on NBC, MTV2 and USA Network, and fewer days of competition, which reduced activation opportunities for sponsors. Martin: "The single-sport events never reached the promise we wanted. They never had the scale and reach that makes the Dew Tour special."
MONEY REINVESTED IN EVENTS: Martin said the 20% savings that will result from dropping an event is being reinvested to make the four remaining stops stronger with new disciplines like surfing and skateboard bowl. Martin: "It was more important for us to invest in each event than scale." Unlike the X Games, which adds new disciplines each year, the Dew Tour has stuck to the core events of skateboarding street and vert, and BMX park, vert and dirt. Martin said the tour's more than $2M purse will not shrink and a Dew Cup will still be awarded to the top competitor at three of four stops in the tour's five core disciplines. The tour will drop from 20 hours on NBC last year to 18 hours this year. It still will have 22 hours on MTV2 and USA. The Dew Tour only has a title sponsor for the Salt Lake City event, which will be known as the Toyota Challenge. It is working to find sponsors for Ocean City and Portland and does not plan to sell a title sponsorship to the Dew Tour Championships in Las Vegas.
EVENT DATE Dew Tour at Ocean City July 21-24 Dew Tour at Portland August 11-14 Toyota Challenge September 8-11 Dew Tour Championships October 13-16