D Riley Guenther (Tri-City, Prince Albert, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with Angers (France, Ligue Magnus). Last season, he had one goal and two assists in 28 games with the U of British Columbia (USports, Canada West). . . .
F Dávid Šoltés (Prince George, 2013-15) has signed a one-year contract extension with Banská Bystrica (Slovakia, Extraliga). Last season, he had three goals and four assists in 10 games. . . . He started the season with Košice (Slovakia, Extraliga), putting up seven goals and eight assists in 31 games. He was traded to Banská Bystrica on Jan. 25. . . .
F Nathan Burns (Vancouver, Saskatoon, Swift Current, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with the Kassel Huskies (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with Saale Bulls Halle (Germany, Oberliga Nord), he had 27 goals and 49 assists in 40 games. He led the team in goals, and was second in assists and points. . . .
D Dylan Wruck (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract with Heilbronner Falken (Germany, DEL2). Last season, with the Straubing Tigers (Germany, DEL), he had one goal and nine assists in 38 games. He is a dual German-Canadian citizen.
Now that F Matt Savoie has signed with the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, you are free to wonder where he’ll play next season. I would suggest that he will end up at the Winnipeg-based Rink Hockey Academy — Ice co-owner Greg Fettes owns a piece of the action there — or, if Hockey Canada should decide to give him exceptional status, he’ll play for the Ice. . . . Savoie will be one of a few Ice prospects to play at RHA, which before long will have other WHL owners exploring how to hook their wagons to nearby academies.
Don’t forget that 50 Below Sports + Entertainment, which owns the Ice, also owns the MJHL’s Winnipeg Blues. So you can look for an Ice prospect or three to play there, too. . . . Maybe that also will bring on a rush of other WHL franchises looking to purchase their own junior A teams.
Having Savoie playing at RHA will allow the Ice to take advantage of the WHL rule that covers 15-year-old players and emergency recalls. By playing with a short roster and declaring an emergency situation at various points during the season, the Ice will be able to get Savoie into its lineup for far more than five games.
There are rumours out there that claim the WHL has changed its 15-year-old rule in order to allow Savoie to play more than 30 games with the Ice in 2019-20. We know that isn’t true because the WHL surely would have informed its fans were that the case. Right?
On Friday, the Ice acquired the WHL rights to F Dylan Holloway from the Everett Silvertips. Holloway, a Calgarian who is to turn 18 on Sept. 23, had 40 goals and 48 assists in 53 regular-season games with the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers last season. He was honoured as the AJHL’s MVP and the CJHL’s player of the year. However, he has committed to play for the U of Wisconsin Badgers in the fall. . . . The Silvertips got a fifth-round pick in the 2021 bantam draft in the exchange, along with a conditional first-rounder in 2021 and a conditional second-rounder in 2022.
The WHL held its annual general meeting in Kelowna on Tuesday and Wednesday. When it was over, the league posted a news release on its website that contained nothing in the way of breaking news.
Included in that news release, under the headline Over $10 Million Invested in Capital Improvements to WHL Arena Facilities, was this:
“All WHL Arena Facilities across Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest United States will undergo over $10 million in capital improvements prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, including the installation of new NHL-licensed acrylic rinkboard systems, improved video scoreboards, and ugraded lighting standards. The improvements are designed to address player safety and improve the fan experience.”
The WHL forgot to thank taxpayers in various communities for their help in funding these projects. An oversight, surely.
The best part of the Toronto Raptors’ championship-winning victory on Thursday night in Oakland? Drake chose to stay in Toronto so his TV time, at least on the ABC telecast, was, well, it wasn’t.
Look, the Raptors’ victory on Thursday night was a terrific accomplishment. But please don’t try telling me it was the greatest moment in Canadian sporting history. Because of the political situation at the time, nothing will ever top 1972 and the eight-game series between Canada and the Soviet Union that was won by Paul Henderson’s goal. . . . Put the Raptors’ championship right there with the Blue Jays’ first World Series victory, one step below Team Canada’s victory over the big, bad Russian bear.
The CFL’s regular-season opener was three plays old on Thursday night and the Saskatchewan Roughriders already had lost their No. 1 quarterback — Zach Collaros — to a headshot. This really wasn’t the start that the league or the Roughriders had wanted. Collaros has a history of concussions, so this was horrible news for the Roughriders. . . . The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were penalized 25 yards on the play, but Simoni Lawrence, who delivered the cheapshot, wasn’t ejected. . . . A four-game suspension would be about right if the CFL wants to deliver a message about such plays. That won’t happen, though. Instead, it’s likely to be one game and a stern warning.
F T.J. Foster (Edmonton, 2008-13) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Guildford Flames (England, UK Elite). Last season, he had 11 goals and 30 assists in 50 games. He actually started the season on a try-out contract with Sport Vaasa (Finland, Liiga), going pointless in one game. . . .
F Braden Christoffer (Regina, 2012-15) has signed a one-year contract with Stjernen Fredrikstad (Norway, GET-Ligaen). Last season, in 47 games with the Bakersfield Condors (AHL), he had seven goals and three assists. . . .
F Evan Bloodoff (Kelowna, 2006-11) has signed a one-year contract with the Coventry Blaze (England, UK Elite). Last season, with the Fife Flyers (Scotland, UK Elite), he had 27 goals and 17 assists in 55 games. He led the Flyers in goals.
F Matt Savoie, the first-overall selection in the 2019 WHL bantam draft, has turned his back on the U of Denver Pioneers and signed with the Winnipeg Ice.
The Ice announced Thursday that Savoie had signed a WHL contract. The move comes after he made a verbal commitment to Denver in March.
“Obviously, it’s a tough decision,” Savoie told Winnipeg radio station CJOB. “Both are great options. It was a long process. . . . In the end I felt Winnpeg gave me the best opportunity to develop as a player and a person.”
Savoie and family members visited Winnipeg and the Ice’s training facility and the Rink Hockey Academy after the May 2 bantam draft.
Savoie, 15, and his older brother, Carter, also spent last weekend in a spring camp that was put on by the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints.
The Ice also holds the WHL rights to Carter, 17, who was the AJHL’s rookie of the year with the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Carter also has made a commitment to Denver. The Ice acquired Carter’s rights from the Regina Pats on April 3. On Thursday, Carter said in a tweet that he intends to return to the Crusaders and that he also intends to honour his commitment to Denver.
“We’re pretty close,” Matt told CJOB of his relationship with Carter, “but we know we both have different paths in our hockey careers.”
The Ice held the first two selections in the 2019 bantam draft in Red Deer on May 2. It used the picks to take Savoie and F Conor Geekie, both of whom now have signed WHL deals.
From St. Albert, Alta., Savoie had 31 goals and 40 assists in 31 regular-season games with the Northern Alberta X-Treme prep team. In five playoff games, he put up three goals and nine assists, helping his club win the league title. He later was honoured as the league’s MVP.
That came one year after he was the bantam prep league’s MVP for finishing 2017-18 with 28 goals and 69 assists in 30 regular-season games for the X-Treme.
The Savoie family applied to Hockey Canada for exceptional status late in 2018. While Hockey Canada has yet to make an official announcement, numerous reports this spring indicated that the application had been denied.
Had Savoie been granted exceptional status, he would have been eligible to be on the Ice’s roster in 2019-20. As things now rest, he is eligible to play five games before his club team has it’s season end, after which he could join the Ice on a full-time basis. He also is eligible to play games with the Ice in 2019-20 on an emergency basis, and who knows what the maximum is under that rule?
When it was suggest to him by CJOB that he could play five games with the Ice in 2019-20, Savoie responded: “That’s a question for the WHL.”
If Hockey Canada doesn’t grant him exceptional status, he could return to the X-Treme for a second season with the midget team. He also could play a number of junior A games with the Crusaders as an AP.
Asked by Winnipeg radio station CJOB where he will play in 2019-20, Savoie replied that it is “undetermined where we’re going or what we’re doing.”
In the same news release that revealed Savoie’s signing, the Ice announced that it has released 100 more seats at Wayne Fleming Arena, the rink on the U of Manitoba campus in which it will play at least its next two seasons. After renovations, that arena is expected to have a capacity of around 1,600. The Ice didn’t reveal whether Savoie will get a cut of tickets that were sold after his signing was announced.
WHL 2019 FIRST-ROUNDERS
3. Prince George — D Keaton Dowhaniuk
4. Prince George — F Koehn Ziemmer
7. Kamloops — D Mats Lindgren
14. Swift Current — F Matthew Ward
20. Kamloops — F Connor Levis
21. Swift Current — D Tyson Jugnauth
1. Winnipeg — F Matthew Savoie
2. Winnipeg — F Conor Geekie
5. Brandon — F Nate Danielson
6. Brandon — F Tyson Zimmer
8. Seattle — F Jordan Gustafson
9. Saskatoon — F Brandon Lisowsky
10. Seattle — D Kevin Korchinski
11. Moose Jaw — D Denton Mateychuk
12. Medicine Hat — F Oasiz Wiesblatt
13. Calgary — D Grayden Siepmann
15. Spokane — F Ben Thornton
16. Brandon — F Rylen Roersma
17. Regina — D Layton Feist
18. Edmonton — F Caleb Reimer
19. Victoria — D Jason Spizawka
22. Prince Albert — F Niall Crocker
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The Victoria Royals have acquired D Will Warm, 20, from the Edmonton Oil Kings for a fifth-round selection in the 2021 WHL bantam draft. . . . From Whistler, B.C., Warm played three seasons with the Oil Kings. Last season, he had two assists in 33 games. He missed a lot of time with a knee injury. . . . In 153 regular-season games, he has 10 goals and 28 assists. . . . The Oil Kings selected him in the fifth round of the 2014 bantam draft. . . . Warm also was named the WHL’s humanitarian of the year for the 2018-19 season, winning the Doug Wickenheiser Memorial Trophy. . . . Warm is one of eight 20-year-olds on Victoria’s roster, joining F D-Jay Jerome, Belarusian F Igor Martynov, F Tanner Sidaway, D Jameson Murray, D Scott Walford, D Jake Kustra and G Shane Farkas. . . . Farkas was acquired from the Portland Winterhawks on May 2. . . .
Edmonton’s roster now includes four 20-year-olds — F Zach Russell, D Parker Gavlas, D Conner McDonald and G Dylan Myskiw. F Trey Fix-Wolansky also is 20, but has signed an NHL contract and is expected to play in the Columbus Blue Jackets’ organization.
The Medicine Hat Tigers have signed D Ryan Nolan to a WHL contract. Nolan, from Calgary, was a third-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . Last season, he had eight goals and 16 assists in 31 games with the bantam AAA Calgary Northstar Sabres.
Darrell Hay is back in the coaching game, having signed on with the Boise State Broncos. Hay, 39, is the son of Don Hay, who has more victories than any head coach in WHL history. . . . Darrell, a defenceman, played four seasons (1996-2000) with the Tri-City Americans. . . . During his pro career, he spent three seasons (2004-05, 2006-08) in Boise playing for the Idaho Steelheads. He is employed by the City of Boise, working in the Parks and Recreation Department, with a focus on the Ice Pilot youth hockey program. . . . Before relocating to Boise, Hay spent one season (2016-17) as an assistant with the BCHL’s Salmon Arm Silverbacks. . . . With the Broncos, he will work alongside head coach Lloyd Ayers. . . . The Broncos play in the PAC 8, an American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II league.
F Joel Broda (Tri-City, Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2004-10) has signed a one-year contract with Innsbruck (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). This season, with Dornbirn (Austria, Erste Bank Liga), he had nine goals and nine assists in 22 games. . . .
D Mário Grman (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2014-16) has signed a one-year plus option contract with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). This season, with Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia, KHL), he had four goals and four assists in 54 games. . . .
D Travis Brown (Moose Jaw, Victoria, 2010-15) has signed a one-year contract with Esbjerg Energy (Denmark, Metal Ligaen). This season, he was pointless in one game with the San Antonio Rampage (AHL), had 10 goals and nine assists in 29 games with the Wichita Thunder (ECHL), and had five goals and eight assists in 17 games with the Indy Fuel (ECHL). . . .
Some KHL news . . . Slovan Bratislava (Slovakia) has withdrawn from the KHL due to inability to find financing to fund the club in the KHL for the 2019-20 season. All players under KHL contracts have been released. Players with WHL ties who played for Slovan this season are D Mário Grman (Red Deer, Kootenay, 2014-16), D Andrej Meszároš (Vancouver, 2004-05) and F Kyle Chipchura (Prince Albert, 2001-06). . . . The club has applied to re-join Slovakia’s Extraliga but the application hasn’t yet been accepted. Slovan must pay all outstanding salaries from this season before being accepted. Per the KHL, Slovan was more than 150 days late in paying player salaries at some point this season. . . . Slovan says that the club’s current owner has promised to pay the outstanding player salaries and fund the team in Extraliga for next season. The club also is behind on paying arena rent to the city of Bratislava and will enter into negotiations with the city on this. . . . Slovan has a coaching staff in place but no players under contract for next season.
And then there were four . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings joined the ranks of WHL teams without a head coach on Tuesday morning when they announced that David Anning’s contract, which expired on May 31, won’t be renewed.
The news release didn’t mention assistant coach Don MacGillivray, whose contract also ran out on May 31.
Anning, 34, spent seven season with the Wheat Kings, first as an assistant coach and then as head coach for the past three seasons. From Winnipeg, Anning joined the Wheat Kings from the MJHL’s Steinbach Pistons.
Anning put up a 102-87-23 regular-season record as Brandon’s head coach. That has him fourth on the club’s all-time victory list, behind McCrimmon (423), Bob Lowes (363) and the late Dunc McCallum (251).
The Wheat Kings missed the playoffs this season for the first time in six years.
MacGillivray, also from Winnipeg, was a long-time MJHL coach. He just completed his third season as an assistant coach with the Wheat Kings.
Earlier this spring, Wheat Kings owner Kelly McCrimmon also relieved general manager Grant Armstrong of his duties.
There has been speculation that former Victoria Royals head coach Dave Lowry could be Brandon’s next general manager. Anning’s departure will have people wondering if Lowry could be hired to do both jobs.
However, McCrimmon has told Perry Bergson of the Brandon Sun that he is leaning towards hiring two people to fill those roles.
Lowry spent five seasons as the Royals’ head coach before joining the Los Angeles Kings as an assistant coach prior to the NHL’s 2017-18 season. The Kings dismissed Lowry on April 17 following the hiring of Todd McLellan as their new head coach.
In the WHL, the Kamloops Blazers, Prince George Cougars and Spokane Chiefs also are looking for a head coach.
Matt Bardsley, the Blazers’ general manager, is expected to meet with Shaun Clouston, the former Medicine Hat Tigers GM/head coach, this week. Kamloops is working to replace Serge Lajoie with whom it parted company after the season.
The Cougars are looking for a replacement for Richard Matvichuk, who was fired late in his third season as head coach. Muddying the waters in Prince George is that Mark Lamb, who is preparing for his second season as general manager, is rumoured to be in line for an assistant coach’s position with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
The Chiefs need a replacement for Dan Lambert, who left last week after two years as their head coach. Lambert now is an assistant coach with the NHL’s Nashville Predators.
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The Tri-City Americans have signed F Jake Sloan to a WHL contract. From Leduc, Alta., Sloan was a third-round selection in the 2019 bantam draft. . . . He played this season with the bantam AAA Leduc Oil Kings, putting up 40 goals and 34 assists in 33 games, and was honoured as the league’s MVP.
Robert Petrovicky is the new head coach of Slovakia’s national U-20 team. Petrovicky replaces Ernest Bokros, the team’s head coach for the past eight years. . . . Petrovicky, 45, spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach with Slovan Bratislava of the KHL and with the Slovakian national team, which is coached by former NHL’er Craig Ramsey. As you will have seen in The MacBeth Report, Slovan Bratislava has withdrawn from the KHL due to financial issues. . . . Petrovicky is the older brother of former WHL F Ronald Petrovicky (Tri-City, Prince George, Regina, 1994-98). . . . Rastislav Stana, a former WHLer (Moose Jaw, Calgary, 1998-2000), is the Slovakian team’s goaltending coach. . . . Slovakia’s U-20 team is to gather on Sunday in Namestovo for a week-long summer camp. . . . The 2020 World Junior Championship is scheduled for Ostrava and Trinec, Czech Republic. . . .
Martin Merk of iihf.com has more right here, including news involving the Slovakian federation having taken the U-20 team out of the top Slovak league in order to focus funding on the U-18 program. . . .
F Tanner Eberle (Moose Jaw, 2010-15) has signed a one-year contract extension with the Sheffield Steelers (England, UK Elite). This season, in 57 games, he had nine goals and 17 assists. . . .
D Mitch Versteeg (Lethbridge, 2006-09) has signed a one-year contract extension with Nitra (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, he had two goals and eight assists in 36 games. . . .
F Reid Petryk (Medicine Hat, Everett, Edmonton, 2009-14) has signed a one-year contract with Frisk Asker (Norway, GET-Ligaen). This season, with the Idaho Steelheads (ECHL), he had 19 goals and 25 assists in 52 games. On loan to the Chicago Wolves (AHL), he had one goal in seven games. . . .
D Aaron Irving (Edmonton, Everett, 2012-17) has signed a two-year contract with Örebro (Sweden, SHL). This season, in 47 games with Storhamar Hamar (Norway, GET-Ligaen), he had 12 goals and 26 assists. He led the league in goals by a defenceman. . . .
D Ben Betker (Portland, Everett, 2011-15) has signed a one-year contract with Zvolen (Slovakia, Extraliga). This season, with the Kalamazoo Wings (ECHL), he had one goal and four assists in 15 games, and he had three goals and four assists in 22 games with Detva (Slovakia, Extraliga). . . . Zvolen’s head coach is Andrej Podkonický (Portland, 1996-98). . . .
F Cody Fowlie (Everett, Kelowna, 2010-13) has signed a one-year contract with Corona Brașov (Romania, Erste Liga). This season, with the Jacksonville IceMen (ECHL), he had 20 goals and 22 assists in 71 games. . . .
F Vladislav Mikhalchuk (Prince George, 2017-19) has signed a one-year, two-way contract with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Russia, KHL). This season, with the Prince George Cougars (WHL), he had 25 goals and 25 assists in 68 games. He led the team in points.
If you are a follower of the Kamloops Blazers and you are wondering who will be their next head coach . . . well . . . you can move Shaun Clouston up near the top of the list, maybe even into the top slot.
Clouston, 51, was dumped by the Medicine Hat Tigers on May 30 after spending 16 years in the organization, the last seven as general manager and head coach. He was the head coach for two seasons before that, and also worked as associate coach and assistant coach.
One day after Clouston was moved out, the Tigers announced the hiring of Willie Desjardins as GM/head coach. Clouston actually worked under Desjardins before succeeding him as the Tigers’ head coach.
Taking Note has been told that Clouston, who is from Viking, Alta., will be in Kamloops to meet with Blazers general manager Matt Bardsley at some point over the next day or two.
The Blazers have been without a head coach since parting company with Serge Lajoie on April 16 after just one season. He now is the head coach of the midget prep team at OHA Edmonton.
Clouston is the winningest head coach in Medicine Hat history, with 375 regular-season victories. He broke Desjardins’ record (323) on Dec. 30, 2017. Clouston also spent time as the head coach of the Tri-City Americans and finished this season with a total of 391 regular-season victories, leaving him 18th on the WHL’s all-time list.
With Clouston as the head coach, the Tigers made the playoffs in eight of nine seasons. They twice reached the Eastern Conference final (2011 and 2014). The only time Clouston missed the playoffs with the Tigers was in 2016 when they lost a tiebreaker game to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
When Clouston left the Tigers, he is believed to have had some time left on his contract — perhaps as much as two seasons.
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F Vladislav Mikhalchuk, who led the Prince George Cougars in points this season, won’t be returning to the WHL for his 20-year-old season. As you will have seen in The MacBeth Report, Mikhalchuk, who is to turn 20 on Oct. 16, has signed with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (Russia, KHL). . . . From Minsk, Belarus, Mikhalchuk played two seasons with the Cougars. He had 14 goals and 19 assists as a freshman, then added 25 of each this season. . . . Last season, the Cougars also had Czech F Matéj Toman on their roster. Toman, 18, had nine goals and 11 assists in his freshman season.
Dusty Imoo, a former WHL goaltender, is leaving the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings to work for Kunlun Red Star Beijing (KHL). Imoo worked in goaltending development with the Kings for four seasons. . . . Imoo had replaced Kim Dillabaugh, when he left the Kings to join the Philadelphia Flyers prior to the 2015-16 season. Dillabough had worked with the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets before going to the NHL. . . . Former NHLer Curt Fraser, who is a family friend of Imoo’s, is Kunlun’s head coach. . . . Imoo played for the WHL’s New Westminster Bruins, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Regina Pats (1987-91). He went on to play nine seasons with the Seibu Bears Tokyo and four wit the Oji Eagles. Imoo played for Japan in the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, and also played for Japan in three world championships.
Václav Varaďa is back for a second season as head coach of the Czech Republic’s U-20 team. Varada is a former WHL and NHL player. He skated with the Tacoma/Kelowna Rockets for two seasons (1994-96), before going on to a pro career that included 493 NHL games. He has been coaching in Czech Republic since 2013-14. . . . Former NHLer Patrik Eliáš is back as an assistant coach, also for a second season. He played 1,240 NHL games with the New Jersey Devils. . . . The Czech U-20 team gathered in Jihlava on Monday to begin a summer training camp. Included on the camp roster are D Libor Zabransky, who began this season with the Kelowna Rockets and finished with the USHL’s Fargo Force, D Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds, F Martin Lang of the Kamloops Blazers and F Matéj Toman of the Prince George Cougars. . . . All told, four goaltenders, 16 defencemen and 24 forwards are on the camp roster. . . . It doesn’t include F Michal Kvasnica, 19. He played with the Portland Winterhawks in 2018-19, but spent this weekend in a camp being held by the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede.
In honor of the underdogs (Toronto Raptors) bringing it to the big dogs (Golden State Warriors), here’s Jim Murray’s column on the old days of the NBA from Feb. 26, 1992. . . . Enjoy!
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 1982, SPORTS
Copyright 1982/THE TIMES MIRROR COMPANY
The NBA Never Had It So Good
When I began to cover pro basketball about 20 or so years ago, it was a hit-and-miss sport, mostly the latter.
Franchises were like floating crap games. The teams dropped their bags wherever they could get a basketball and a couple of hundred people to pass the hat to. If you scratched the St. Louis Hawks uniform emblem, you might see Waterloo, Iowa stencilled underneath.
The game was played in metropolises like Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Anderson, Ind., and Providence, R.I. The Tri-Cities Blackhawks (Moline and Rock Island, Ill., and Davenport, Iowa) were the forerunners of today’s Atlanta Hawks.
But it wasn’t only in prehistoric times that the game was part sport, part medicine show. The public thought the Harlem Globetrotters were the best team in basketball and, to sell out Madison Square Garden, the New York Knicks usually had to share a doubleheader with the Globies.
The public was slow to warm to the game. I can remember, as late as 1961, going to a playoff game on a Sunday afternoon between the St. Louis Hawks and the Los Angeles Lakers and finding a “throng” of about 2,800 at the Sports Arena. And the floor had players on it like Bob Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Clyde Lovelette, Lenny Wilkens, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Rod Hundley.
Even with that kind of talent, I recall Wilt Chamberlain was the highest paid player in the league at less than $20,000. The Lakers had been sent to L.A. by the then-owner Bob Short, with instructions to his general manager to “keep the team going into the Pacific Ocean if they lose money there, too.” The game ultimately thrived in L.A. where the population had a large number of New York expatriates who had learned the game in their youth in the boroughs of the big city, where basketball was “the poor man’s polo.”
I bring this up because the commissioner of modern pro basketball passed through this week with a report to the media on the state of the game in this Year of Our Lord 1982.
One thing is sure: It’s never going back to Oshkosh.
Lawrence F. O’Brien, once the Kennedy family’s political mentor, and ex-Postmaster General of the U.S., reports that rumors of the game’s terminal status are somewhat, if not greatly exaggerated. He broke up the fast break of the doomsayers with a little fancy “D” of his own under the basket:
Rumor No. 1 had it that the NBA was in deep financial trouble and in imminent danger of collapse from top to bottom. “Not so,” said Commissioner O’Brien. “In the NBA, one-third of the league is highly profitable, one-third is breaking even or almost, and one-third is losing money. But corrections in the league population of 23 are not contemplated because cable revenues are just over the horizon for even the most troubled franchises.”
Rumor No. 2 had it that television, the Great White Father of sports, is disenchanted with basketball as a prime time or even Sunday afternoon attraction. “We just signed a new four-year pact with CBS for $88 million and a $5.5 million-a-year pact with cable TV (ESPN and USA). That’s $27.5 million a year we get to split evenly among our franchises. We signed for only two years with cable because we think the numbers there are going to go up substantially and soon.”
Rumor 3 had it that affluent white fans are becoming disenchanted with the almost all-black makeup of the game. “There is no evidence of that at all. Attendance is up eight percent all over the league and some franchises are up dramatically – a 90 percent increase in New Jersey. The color of the uniform means more to the fans than the color of the player.”
Rumor 4 had it that fat-cat owners are pricing the league out of business, as witness Magic Johnson’s $25-million contract. “The average salary in this league is $214,500, and our figures indicate that two-thirds of all team revenues go to the players,” O’Brien said. He did not say it in so many words, but he indicated that, when the league Players Association contract is up this year, the players may have to approach the bargaining table in a “give-back” frame of mind, that, like all labor, it might behoove them to sacrifice individual benefits to preserve the industry as a whole.
Will players be apt to take such a statesmanlike view, he was asked, or will most choose not to care what happens to the goose now that they’ve gotten their golden eggs out of it? “We hold more informal discussions than other sports,” O’Brien pointed out. “I have not personally dabbled into the preliminary negotiations, but I think we have a closer sense of fraternity and purpose about our league that some of the older, more-established sports.”
Maybe they should have. There are lots of us still around who remember when the “league” was a bus load of players riding through the cornfields of Iowa on the lookout for an empty gym and a bunch of farm workers who just got paid, when Walter Brown bought the Celtics for $2,500 and, when someone called the arena to ask what time the game would be played, the answer might be “What time would you like it?”
Reprinted with the permission of the Los Angeles Times
Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 60753, Pasadena, CA 91116
What is the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation?
The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, established in 1999 to perpetuate the Jim Murray legacy, and his love for and dedication to his extraordinary career in journalism. Since 1999, JMMF has granted 104 $5,000 scholarships to outstanding journalism students. Success of the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation’s efforts depends heavily on the contributions from generous individuals, organizations, corporations, and volunteers who align themselves with the mission and values of the JMMF.
Like us on Facebook, and visit the JMMF website, www.jimmurrayfoundation.org.
A dozen years ago, Linda McCoy-Murray compiled a book of Jim Murray’s columns on female athletes (1961-1998). While the book is idle waiting for an interested publisher, the JMMF thinks this is an appropriate year to get the book on the shelves, i.e., Jim Murray’s 100th birthday, 1919-2019.
Our mission is to empower women of all ages to succeed and prosper — in and out of sports — while entertaining the reader with Jim Murray’s wit and hyperbole. An excellent teaching tool for Women’s Studies.
Proceeds from book sales will benefit the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization providing sports journalism scholarships at universities across the country.
Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times wonders: “If the Toronto Raptors win the Larry O’Brien Trophy, will Canada hold it hostage to get the Stanley Cup back?”
You may have heard that New York Jets running back Le’Veon Bell has claimed that two girlfriends — yes, two girlfriends — stole $500,000 worth of jewelry from him. Of course, as Jim Barach of JokesByJim.blogspot.com points out: “Although being a Jet, it’s pretty certain there were no rings missing.”
Found out Sunday evening that the LGIW and I could go to Game 5 of the NBA championship series and tickets would only cost us $120,000. That’s a deal because it’s in Canadian funds. Of course, this being 2019, the tickets cost 100 grand with 20 grand in service fees. . . . Really, that’s 120,000 reasons to watch from the comfort of the recliner.
I just finished reading Big Game: The NFL in Dangerous Times, by Mark Leibovich, and I can’t recommend it enough. Leibovich is a big fan of the New England Patriots, but that doesn’t stop him from trying to pierce The Shield.
The 2019 Kamloops Kidney Walk is a little more than three months away, but it’s never too soon for Dorothy to start asking folks to join her team. While the rest of B.C. walked on June 2, we in Kamloops chose to keep our walk in September. Thus, we will be walking on Sept. 22, at which time Dorothy will be one day shy of the sixth anniversary of her transplant. This also will be her sixth straight Kidney Walk. . . . If you would like to provide her with some support and be part of Team Dorothy, you are able to do so right here.
This definitely was a weekend highlight . . .
I don’t think this is going to be the Seattle Mariners’ season. I watched a game the other night during which, with a runner on third base, the Seattle shortstop fielded a ground ball and threw home, except the catcher had left to cover first base. . . . In another game, with a runner on first, the second baseman fielded a grounder and flipped to the shortstop covering second for what should have been a routine double play. Except that the shortstop stumbled and fell before completing the throw to first base. . . . Sorry, Seattle fans, but there’s always next year.
Despite Buck Martinez continuing to yell at baseballs, I don’t think this is going to be a season to remember for the Toronto Blue Jays, either.
Sorry, hockey fans in Cranbrook, but you aren’t going to get a junior A or junior B team in time for the 2019-20 season. The leagues in question all are well into the scheduling process for next season, so Western Financial Place, once home to the WHL’s Kootenay Ice, won’t have a main tenant for the upcoming season.
The NHL season will come to an end on Wednesday night in Boston as the Bruins and St. Louis Blues meet in Game 7 of the NHL final. . . . The CFL regular season will open one night later with the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Hamilton to meet the Tiger-Cats. . . . Is the NHL season too long, or does the CFL season start too soon?
If you missed it, the Montreal Alouettes fired head coach Mike Sherman over the weekend. He didn’t leave much of a legacy, but . . .