Wednesday, December 29, 2004

THE HOCKEY LOCKOUT BLOG RETURNS (WHO CARES)

Here's the official Lockout Blog for this holiday week... three days early! I've decided to post it now and simply go on vacation again, because there's really nothing to report--- other than that the NHL itself has been completely defeated this holiday season. It's almost as if the NHL is not missed at all.

Hockey fans were waiting with baited breath for the return of the World Junior Hockey Championships on TV. The games from Grand Forks have been getting prime time treatment on TSN and live radio airplay on a network of stations including FAN 590 Toronto, THE TEAM 1200 Ottawa and 570 News Kitchener. TSN has spared no expense, giving the championships big-time treatment and hyping up Sidney Crosby (junior hockey superstar) every chance they get. The Canadian team has been touted as being possibly the best we've ever sent.

The games have packed the joint in Grand Forks with lots of Canadians coming down from Manitoba and elsewhere to cheer the Canadians on. And the games have packed the sports bars in Toronto. Keep in mind that Toronto is not noted for being a junior hockey hotbed. Torontonians are widely seen as nothing-but-Leafs fans. But I can attest, there's lots of interest here in the World Juniors. I was at a sports bar the other day--- okay, it was Hooters, and nobody was watching the Hooters girls, they had packed the joint to see the World Juniors and watch Canada blitz the Swedes. Should Canada make the finals, the bars will be packed again. So yes, it's a Merry Christmas, finally, for the bar owners. A big help has been the fact that the games are live in prime time. Nice to see them on at a normal time, instead of early in the morning all the time.

And if you're a hockey fan there's tons to watch this week. The Spengler Cup is also going on and Team Canada is over in Europe taking on the world, and Rogers Sportsnet is covering the games. Which means there's an abundance of hockey and sports action on the tube right now. I was at a sports bar today in Toronto and there were hockey games on three channels: TSN had the World Juniors, Sportsnet had the Spengler Cup, and Leafs TV had a good NCAA game. To top it all off The Score has been showing bowl games all week for the football fans. So the two most popular team sports in Canada, hockey and football, are on TV all week. And you know, international hockey is good hockey. People like this stuff; they love to see Canada beat up on the Americans, and the evil Russians. For sports fans, life in Canada is good.

Some time ago I accused the NHL owners and players of being a bunch of Grinches for trying to steal hockey fans' Christmas. Well, as they said in the fable, these NHL Grinches didn't stop hockey from coming... it came, just the same. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays indeed, hockey fans, and Happy New Year.

January 1st will be a really big day for football fans because that's when all the traditional big bowl games are played, so I'm sure the NHL will be sorely missed this weekend, this Saturday. Boo hoo.

You know, it's really bizarre, the last couple of weeks. Hockey is all over the tube, Todd Bertuzzi's conditional discharge was all over the papers, and interest in the sport itself is as high as ever. It's really easy in a week like this to say: who cares about the NHL! And the pressure to get a deal done is pretty much nonexistent right now. The NHL board of governors will meet on the 14th of January and it is assumed that this is the "drop dead" date that everyone has been talking about. Speculation after the recent negotiations broke down was still of the hopeful sort, of the "now the real negotiations can begin" variety. But since then there's been absolutely nothing. Now, there's again increasing resignation about the fate of the season. Even the Hockey News, which had been much more hopeful than anyone else about a deal getting done, has printed up some pretty grim assessments of the current situation recently.

Conventional wisdom has it that the owners are going to hang tough, that they will never give in on their demands to bring in a salary cap, and that the only way this thing will get settled is for the players to give in on the salary cap issue to save the season and for that matter the league. It is basically admitted that the only way to save the season is for the players to capitulate.

Some commentators are speculating that the players will rise up against Bob Goodenow and dump him as union boss for making a mess of the negotiations, and bring in someone who isn't so hardline and get a deal done. But the silence has been really deafening from the players so I doubt anyone in the players' ranks is really serious about THAT idea. No, I am pretty certain the players are gonna stick it out with Goodenow, although by the 14th I suspect the pressure will REALLY be on to try and do SOMETHING.

But is there pressure or isn't there? The Americans don't care at all about what's happening, we all know that. Jim Rome on the radio said that hockey's popularity is slipping fast, it's now barely ahead of pro wrestling. Tune into ESPN Radio any time and listen to what they have to say about hockey: nothing. No one in the United States of Football and Baseball cares. The players, seemingly, also don't care. Most of them are over in Europe, whooping it up playing hockey. They are insulated from the Canadian commentators and Canadian sports fans. So most of these guys will feel no pressure, no obligation, to try and save the NHL season, even though they're not making much cash playing in Sweden and Switzerland. This is about principle, darnit! Prime Minister Paul Martin says he's offering mediation to end the lockout, but nobody on either side in this thing is interested that sort of thing. I suspect this is boiling down to a big line in the sand for both sides re: the salary cap, and I suspect everyone on both sides is so convinced the fans will come back that they'd be willing to cancel the whole season, just to get their way. The American teams are supposed to be down to their cult followings anyway, so they figure that THEY'll be back, and Canadians will always support the NHL because hockey is the official sport of Canada, and to not support hockey would be unpatriotic, un-Canadian activity. So all the fans will come back, no matter how badly the NHL treats them, basically because all of them are hard core fans, not like those bandwagon-jumping baseball fans--- or so the theory goes.

Some people are already speculating that this season is OVER. I heard Roger Lajoie last week talking to Stan Fischler on the FAN, and he basically thinks that there won't be any more talks and that it's too late for any deal to get done to salvage the season.

I'm not prepared to write this season off just yet, you never know with these labour disputes. But we should know for sure the fate of the NHL season within two weeks. And yes, I don't see the owners giving an inch on the salary cap. They want revenge. They want blood.

LENNIE BRISCOE IS GONE

Jerry Orbach, one of the big reasons why Law and Order has been so popular for so many years, has died of prostate cancer at age 69. The story from MSNBC.

TOLL FOR TSUNAMI HITS 80,000

CNN continues to report climbing death tolls for this horrible disaster- we are getting reports of entire families being killed. A lot of grieving relatives in Canada have been affected by this disaster. People are coming home from the Pacific telling harrowing tales of close calls and escapes.

There are also scientists who say the whole earth shook because of this and that the earth's speed may have been affected- the earth might actually be speeding up because of this. Hope this doesn't mean we're all going to die, now.

I'll look for more stories about this terrible tragedy.


Monday, December 27, 2004

HOW LAWYERS CAN GET ON TV: SF ATTORNEY BECOMES BIGSHOT ANALYST

After thinking about it some more I think I may junk that whole idea about going into the investment business, I'd hate cold-calling clients and I'd be no good at it, and besides, I'm no good at numbers and can't count. And I won't develop any transferable skills beyond making money for bosses who'd be sent to jail for insider trading. About the only thing I'd like about business is getting rich. But there are other ways to get rich, like book deals. No, I think reporting on the investment business would be a better fit for me, so sign me up, CNBC.

And on another subject, I think I spoke too soon about bidding farewell to politics, I'm already having second thoughts. I think that if I can't get back to broadcasting, then I'm probably going to use my political experience with big PR consulting firms. But my preferred backup plan would be finding a way to re-activate my law license that I still have. Then I could at least gain some real, transferable skills that I might actually be able to take to TV land at a later date, covering trials and crime and stuff.

People who know me from way back know that before I turned to media, I briefly pursued a legal career. I had hoped to get into a firm that did entertainment law so that I could get into movies and TV eventually. But my career collapsed on takeoff during the early 90s recession in the legal profession, and no firm wanted to allow me to article. Criminal law was my second choice, but no one would let me do that, either. When I finally made a deal to article at literally the last minute, it was with a firm in a small city that I didn't want to live in to begin with. In fact, I spent my entire articling year commuting, back and forth, five-and-a-half hours each way every weekend from my home in Saskatoon to this position in this burg I didn't want to practise in. The firm gave me an articling experience consisting of divorces ( lots of them ) and what most lawyers describe as "dog cases" and "fish files" (cases and files the other lawyers don't want to do). About the only good thing was the criminal law exposure, I give them credit for that. I did manage to get a couple of clients out on conditional discharges (just like Todd Bertuzzi).

The irony is that while nobody in the legal profession wanted to take me on as an articling student, when I had to do internships in the super-competitive field of TV, I not only got to intern at one national network, I managed to intern at two of them. Go figure that out.

A year ago, I learned that the law societies across Canada had relaxed the rules regarding inter-provincial mobility, so I could transfer my license to Ontario if I wanted to without having to endure additional requirements to article; that was a big boulder removed from my path right there. But because I didn't get the experience in criminal law or entertainment law, my articling experience is seen as a big strike against me... especially on Bay Street. Not even the fact that I worked to help elect Bay Street lawyer/bigshots would help me. In fact, most of the lawyers I met on these campaigns were trying to get out of law- they were either quitting or being fired. In fact, one of them succeeded in getting out, to a big policy job with the government. Now she's working for a bunch of political consultants. But she was a top organizer on that campaign she was working for, so that helped her a lot, I think.

(Speaking of campaigns, it looks like someone I met on both of John Tory's campaigns, Cynthia Cheng, managed to get herself published in the Toronto Star today. Not some letter to the editor either; a real article. She told me she was trying to get into writing and so on, so I'm assuming that's the same person.)

Bottom line is that if I were to go back to law I'd need to find a way to get criminal law or entertainment law experience somewhere in town, although the real reason I'd want to go back to law is to get experience so I could write screenplays for David E. Kelley or get a job as a color commentator on Court TV.

It's articles like this next one that make me sometimes think about going through the hassles of trying the legal field again, even though I'm not officially licensed in Ontario. Here's an article about a lawyer in San Francisco named Harjot "Ginny" Walia. She has a criminal law practise in the Bay Area and has only been practising for two years. But she was able to build her practise by getting herself on TV. One time she went up to Nancy Grace and said she was a big fan of her show and offered to be a guest analyst on Court TV. Lots of guts. And guess what, they put her on the air!

Now she's a big analyst on Court TV and Fox News and is getting lots of clients as a result. So now she's rich and famous. It's things like that that make me wonder how I could get back to doing something connected to the legal profession, although to be honest, I'd much prefer something in TV.

As for Nancy Grace, last time I heard she was going to do a new legal show on Headline News.

(UPDATE- Here's an article I found from Nova Scotia on what a lot of law school grads were able to do. Turns out I'm not alone, lots of people have left the business. One guy chucked his law degree and went to film school, because he wanted to get into the film industry. That's what this article doesn't mention: for people with law degrees, their only hope is to go back to school because the only entertainment jobs you can get with a law degree only go to top Ivy Leaguers and other geniuses. I have TV experience and have a brother who works on big Hollywood movies in B.C., but darnit, I don't want to go back to school yet again! I've got enough education! Isn't there some way to get in which doesn't require me to part with a boatload of borrowed money? Arrggh!!! ! !)

TSUNAMI

Here's a link to CNN's news coverage of the quake and tsunami that has killed some 22,000 people in Asia. And they are still counting the dead.

So sad.

FAREWELL TO POLITICS

Well, I have made a decision with respect to the new year. I have thought it over and I have decided to completely get out of politics. Therefore, this is the final post you will see at the CAIRNS BLOG on politics from me. (At least, until the next one.)

There are personal and professional reasons for this. The professional reason is that I have decided to try and move back into broadcast and print journalism in a major way next year, which may mean starting up a production company of my own. Or it may not. I may end up junking this whole idea of getting back into broadcasting. I sort of have a love-hate relationship with that whole business. Overall, the working environment is much better in politics and I had hoped there might be some possibilities to get into political media relations-type work. But that hasn't been a real possibility for a while because the Conservatives are completely out of power. It's pretty obvious from where I sit that my immediate hope of getting anywhere media-wise is to make a trip back down to the CBC and freelance my way in, which means I'll need to ditch all forms of active political involvement even though I'm not planning to cover politics anyway. So politics is going.

As for personal reasons: while I've forged a lot of friendships in politics and enjoyed many good experiences, the bad experiences have finally, at last, outweighed the good as far as I'm concerned. I think the last federal race was what took the cake for me, the final straw that broke the camel's back. I simply didn't have fun on that campaign. While I could go into a long list of reasons why I felt this way, I'll simply leave it at that. (Conversely, the provincial leadership race was a good experience, but not enough to make up for the bad experience that was federal politics.)

And I could care less about social issues, or same-sex marriage, or even health care. Really, do I care? Compare my blog to these other political bloggers and it's obvious, I just don't care about these issues. Politically, all I care about at the end of the day is business and the economy, and whether I'll be able to watch my favorite shows on TV without the CRTC getting their hands involved! That's it. There's not much else in politics that I care about.

So there. I think I'm just going to get out of politics. I won't rule out a return, though, if there's a chance I'll have a good time with it. Otherwise, I'm done.

There! End of statement.

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UPDATE: With respect to that statement above as to whether I'm going back to broadcasting or not, the reason I am actually up in the air about it is that I've been considering pursuing something related to finance, and not simply financial journalism. Now that the crash is long over, I'm thinking of trying again to do something connected to sales and trading in an investment bank. But I'm beating my head against the wall trying to figure out how to write a resume that will appeal to these people. I am reading a book right now on these guys who made gazillions in Asia. I got the book as a Christmas present. Sounds like fun: get richer than Donald Trump. I may do the Michael Lewis thing: work in sales and trading during the day and pursue journalism and my other interests (write crappy screenplays, do crappy standup comedy etc.) at night and on weekends. Or I could do what Jim Cramer did, trade all day and appear on CNBC as a guest star. That would work.

Friday, December 24, 2004

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

THE CAIRNS BLOG will be taking some time off to enjoy the holidays... in the meantime enjoy this link to TSN's World Junior Hockey Championship website.

Monday, December 20, 2004

TV NEWS NEWS- TUCKER CARLSON TO MSNBC AND OTHER USELESS INFORMATION

Some news from TV news to tell you about. MSNBC is stealing Tucker Carlson away from CNN- apparently Carlson's contract is up and they want to give him a prime time show to replace Deborah Norville. Norville's show got the boot last week. Read all about it at TVNewser. They want Carlson because he's more of a centrist than a real, true conservative, and the folks at MSNBC want to go after the middle ground/independents left behind by those donkeys at CNN and those elephants at Fox News.

(UPDATE- By the way, this move is not official yet and in fact it might not happen after all. Just read that Wonkette is now saying this could all be a negotiating ploy. And now TVNewser is reporting a counteroffer is being prepared to keep Tucker Carlson at CNN. Stay tuned, folks. )

And last week CNNfn went off the air to relatively little fanfare. So sad- a victim of the dot-com bust. CNN used to have so many offshoot networks, there was CNNfn and there was CNNSI. When I was still at The Score, they had CNNSI on all the time; they used to get their highlights from CNN's feeds. And CNN did a lot of quality stuff in sports reporting, too. Now they're down to just CNN and Headline News, and Headline News is moving its operation to New York to take over the offices vacated by CNNfn. So quite a few of the CNNfn people will latch on with Headline, which, for some reason, is planning long-form stuff like a legal show (with Nancy Grace), plus an entertainment show. They're planning to get rid of the 30-minute wheel in prime time and be a cable network like the rest of them.

Apparently they can get away with doing this type of big format change in the United States; remember when The Nashville Network morphed into Spike TV? Headline was getting lousy ratings so that is the real reason/excuse why they are adding more talk shows. But here in Canada, you can't do it. If you're CTV Newsnet, you can't deviate from the 15-minute wheel without getting told what not to do by the CRTC. You have to go through all the rigmarole of applying to get the CRTC's permission, just so you can show live breaking news events and election nights! You don't want to compete with the CBC, you know, this being Canada, land of protectionism.

Anyway, that's what CNN Headline News is doing, scrapping the 30-minute wheel. No wonder Rudi Bakhtiar left. I don't think that she has a new job yet. In fact I read somewhere that she may actually be on some sort of "leave of absence" from CNN--- so she's technically still there. I dunno what the real deal is.

TVNewser also reported an Ashleigh Banfield sighting; she was on Bill O'Reilly's show. She, too, has no job yet: if she did get a job the whole world would know about it by now. Even in unemployment, she still attracts lots of gossip/vitriol on the TV news boards. "What do you think of Ashleigh?" "That horrible woman, and her glasses? I hate her guts! She should go back to Canada!" And so on.

As for CNNfn's departure, their final shows aired last Wednesday. This is sad: the brokers and the financial journalists cannot be happy down there right now. I know, I know, no one watched and no one cares.

I read that a lot of the CNNfn people are waiting, just waiting, for Rupert Murdoch to finally start up his much-ballyhooed Fox News financial channel. Then you watch, everyone will quit/get off the street and go over there. Fox News is killing everyone with their business programming right now, consisting of Neil Cavuto and his, ahem, big mouth. I think he's simply trying to keep up with everyone else at that channel. Anyway, he's bodyslamming everyone, including CNBC; they also have a few other shows, including Bulls and Bears, and their financial reporters are refugees from CNN and CNBC, people like Terry Keenan and Martha MacCallum. That's another thing to look forward to when Fox News Channel comes here: news babes.

In other CNN news, Apprentice 1 loser Kwame Jackson is going to host an interview show on CNN. Don't know when that is.

And CNBC finally got rid of McEnroe and his 0.0 ratings. So sad.

CBS News still does not have an anchor to replace Dan Rather yet and won't have an announcement until the new year at the earliest. A new rumor floated out there on the boards is that Katie Couric is another possibility for the anchor chair at the CBS Evening News. Wait a minute, isn't she under contract to NBC's Today Show? Seems like everyone and their grandmother is in the running to replace Dan Rather, everyone except John Roberts. He's the heir apparent that nobody wants. Maybe if they give the CBS gig to Couric, Roberts will come back to Canada and replace Lloyd Robertson... assuming Lloyd ever retires, and that's a big if.

I also read a blurb somewhere that they might not even replace Rather officially when he leaves in March, that they may go without a permanent anchor for a while until they get their big star replacement. So maybe John Roberts becomes the permanent temporary substitute anchor for Dan Rather come March, and stays there until they find someone better! What a PR debacle this is for CBS... and, for that matter, for John Roberts! You know, maybe they should just cancel the evening news altogether. The only people who sponsor these newscasts are drug companies who sell Vioxx and Celebrex, it seems, and boy are they in trouble. Pfizer had to pull its ads off the air voluntarily because of the heart attack risks associated with their anti-arthritis drug Celebrex. That's Brian Williams' entire years' salary down the drain. Maybe Rather, too, is getting out just at the right time, just like Tom Brokaw. Why Peter Jennings wants to stick around, who knows.

( I'm kidding, I don't really want the evening news off the air, folks. But I DO want to see ads that aren't for drug companies. They're the only people who advertise on the evening news! I know the average age of people who tune into the network newscasts is something like 59 years old, but surely they don't all need doctors! Tsk, tsk... news anchors promoting sales of prescription drugs!)

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I put up some additional links to websites of news/entertainment TV people like Bill Tush and Samantha Harris. Bill was with CNN showbiz news for many years (actually, he was there forever: he was at WTBS in the dark ages when it was a crappy UHF station, way before it became Superstation TBS). Samantha was last seen doing weekends on Extra; she's also an actress.

You know what, I think I'd really like to do entertainment news. I don't have too much experience at it, though, and frankly there aren't many jobs at it on TV. And it's shaky business. Heck, Bill Tush got laid off from his cushy gig. And last time I checked, poor Julie Moran, formerly of Entertainment Tonight, was doing crappy infomercials shown on TV late at night.

Still, I'd really like to do something connected to entertainment, TV or no TV. It would be fun interviewing these big movie stars in sunny Hollywood. Beats reporting on crime and car wrecks in the middle of winter anywhere in Canada. I feel bad for these reporters in Toronto these last couple of days. Man, they are freezing their tails off, doing these standups in minus-20 weather. I saw reporters like Catherine McDonald and Cortney Pasternak on TV, freezing to death doing their standups for the usual crime/death stories they were doing for Global. I can relate; I've been on TV shoots in absolutely freezing, blizzard conditions and it is no fun at all. The money these reporters are making ain't nearly enough, folks.

More soon.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

MY BIG FAT REALITY TV BLOG

Now that the Apprentice is over, there's really not much left in terms of reality TV to watch. Heck, I'll probably go back to watching The Amazing Race. I don't really care about the contestants, but I love watching them travel all over the world. That's the reason to tune into that show. And I'll probably tune into The Billionaire again. But I'm just not into it, not into placing bets or any of that. So don't expect me to blog on it.

Just for laughs, I found a link to Pulse40, the marketing business of the lovely Elizabeth from Apprentice 2.

And for more laughs, here's a link to Raj's web site. I kid you not.

The new season for the Apprentice 3 is due to begin January 20th, with degreed-smart people taking on the high school grads. And that boxing show The Contender, starring Sugar Ray Leonard, is coming soon as well.

For those still interested in championship reality TV, on Monday FOX airs the final beauty contest for that hideous The Swan, and on Tuesday TBS airs the finale for the almost-as-lame Real Gilligan's Island. This is like the BCS... all these bowl games!

FOX TO BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS BOSS: "YOU'RE FIRED!"

I had said that I had given up completely on My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss... I didn't even bother to tune into last week's lousy show. Well, it seems FOX also just gave up. The show was such an embarrassing, massive stinker that it won't even make it to the finish line! They yanked the episode that was scheduled for tonight and replaced it with Malcolm and King of the Hill. I also read they were also supposed to take the next three weeks off, so they're off the schedule one week early. Official word is that they've put the show on "hiatus". Which, in normal people's language, translates to: "it may be allowed back on the air but don't bet on it."

In this series the phony tycoon/actor who played the Boss ("get the hell out of my office!") went into a nearby room to find out from the Big Boss who should be "fired" from the show. And supposedly it was a big secret who this Big Boss was and we were all going to be shocked and surprised as to who it was supposed to be. Well, I read on one of these forums that on the final episode they were going to reveal the Big Boss to the lucky last survivor. What I read was that it was a chimpanzee, and that the chimp spun a roulette wheel to determine who the losers were! And the "dream job" was working as a zookeeper or something equally stupid. Well, that would have been a lame way for this show to have gone out. FOX probably is doing all of us a favor by axing this show.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

THE SATURDAY NIGHT VINCE- UM, I MEAN LOCKOUT UPDATE

Well, here it is, another Saturday, another Hockeyless Night in Canada. I'll talk a little about hockey later, but first I want to talk about Vince Carter.

Clearly the Carter deal is the talk of the town and has been getting more attention from ordinary folks than these stupid hockey talks. Last night I was at the convenience store and the one brother says to the other brother: "heard they dealt Vince?" And that's all that people want to talk about on the radio and in the coffee shops. I'll tell you, no one cares about the NHL today. Among ordinary folks and young people it's the NBA that rules around here in Toronto, and all they care about is this deal that sends the Franchise out of here to New Jersey.

That injury-prone crybaby was finally shipped to New Jersey and good riddance to him, but this deal to ship him out of here is getting a lot of mixed reviews. Many people like the deal, but others feel Rob Babcock got hosed and that the Raptors got nothing in return. There's a story that Alonzo Mourning may never play for the Raptors and may be part of another deal to come. But a lot of people feel the Raptors basically only got Eric Williams in return for Vince and are mad about that; others are really upset that Vince was traded to a team in their own division.

Vince's fans, and he still has fans here, are completely aghast that he's been traded; an almost equal number of others are saying good riddance and don't ever come back. People either like this deal or they hate it. And there are probably a few middle-ground type people who want to see what comes of these draft choices and whether or not a few other deals are made.

Certainly the one thing a lot of fans aren't happy about is with the team on the court. This has been a TERRIBLE season so far for the Raptors, in a terrible Atlantic division. A .500 record is enough to be in first place but the Raptors are sitting there, dead last. A lot of fans are angry that they have to put up with what appears to be a rebuilding year for the Raptors and they have every right to be angry, but that's the reality right now. They weren't going to win with the team they had, so they've had to blow it up. But that doesn't mean the fans are any happier about it. There's a lot of criticism about the draft picks by the Raptors recently, and general complete disgust with the direction of the franchise. Personally, I'm glad they made the Vince deal now: I was getting really worried about his injuries and was worried one more injury would finish him for the season, or even for good. Then the pathetic Raptors would have been stuck with him.

This Vince Carter is not the same Vince Carter that we saw a few years ago. This Vince Carter is too injury-prone and doesn't seem like a happy camper. He may have been something back in 2000 when he was setting the league on fire and winning every big game on a last second jumper. In fact, that team seemed to have so much potential. I wish that group was able to stick together a little longer, but the truth is they never recovered from the departure of Tracy McGrady to Orlando. McGrady and Carter were a young-one-two punch who could have built a dynasty in Toronto had they hung around here. But they didn't, and then came Carter's injury problems. To make matters worse, Glen Grunwald panicked over players not wanting to come to Toronto, so he broke the bank for over-the-hill Hakeem Olajuwon. That was really the worst deal of all time and hung the Raptors out to dry. And the reason that deal hung the Raptors out to dry was simple: they needed some cap room to bring in some more young talent. As exciting as that team was back then, they needed better players.

I remember back when Vince re-signed with the Raptors to a multi-year deal three years ago. Everyone thought this was it, the Raptors were going to win the championship. People were celebrating as if the title was in the bag. Which shows you what these people in Toronto know. The problem was that they were not going to win with the group they had. There was Vince, and then there was the rest of the team. The rest of the team needed an overhaul; some of those players were old guys who had the best seasons of their careers in 2000-2001 and weren't gonna ever be able to improve on that. And Lenny Wilkens was too much of a veterans' coach so the young guys ended up getting dealt, and that came back to haunt the Raptors. And this team never did get their freaking center! The Grunwald regime botched the overhaul, pure and simple. I could go on. But the Raptors never did get it together and now here they are again, back to being the Devil's Island of the NBA.

And now you have all the sportstalk people on the radio talking about the team leaving again. I wish they would shut up. Rob Babcock had to blow this team up. This team isn't going to become a champion with Vince Carter, so you might as well look to rebuild through the draft and get some young guys in here. I say look at what the Detroit Pistons were able to do and follow that approach; they were where the Raptors are now, and they got it together eventually. Hey, you guys running the Raptors: make sure to get your act together quickly, that's all we ask.

HOCKEY WEEK:

Well, beyond what happened in the boardrooms there isn't much to talk about. Bob Goodenow had a cow over something Gary Bettman said in his press conference about the players' proposal; big deal. They're still not talking. In other news, you have the Worldstars playing over in Europe, that's getting a lot of press. You have the squad for the World Juniors in Winnipeg, getting all set to go next week to North Dakota. And finally, the LONDON KNIGHTS STREAK ended last night at 31 games, they finally lost... 5-2 to the Sudbury Wolves.

It looks like the NHL season is toast for December and probably all of January. Press people had been speculating that December 15th was the probable drop-dead date for this season: that they had to get a deal done by then or the whole season would be toast. Now they say that the drop dead date is actually in early January. Well, guys make up your mind when the drop dead date is! These sports media people are driving me up the wall, speculating on when the season is going to be called off. Others are saying: "the posturing is over, now the REAL negotiations can begin!" I thought these were supposed to be real negotiations? Then again, they really didn't do any negotiating, these two sides simply listened to each other's proposal and then announced it was no good.

Anyway, a lot of people are saying after this week to "get your hopes up fans!"... again... even though there are no more negotiations! They insist these two sides are really not that far apart, now. Well, make up your mind, either they're hell-bent on wiping out the season or they're not! They're now saying there's a chance they'll make a deal in early January. They also say there's a chance they could even make a deal in late January and salvage a portion of the season. There are some silly people, lots of them in fact, who say we can possibly get in a 30-game regular season (!) (?) (!) and have full playoffs. Now that is truly ridiculous. It won't erase the fact that in the pit of winter, ice-cold December and January, there will be no NHL hockey. I'm sure people will want to watch the NHL in the middle of summer. Now that is hockey weather for you. I won't be tempted to tune into a baseball game. Especially now that the Expos are playing in... well, where are they going to play? A homeless shelter, perhaps?

NHL Hockey may still come back this season, but still, wintertime in Canada has been RUINED. We'll never get it back. This is truly a winter without NHL hockey.

Gotta run: gotta watch the movies on TV, you know.

Friday, December 17, 2004

AIR CANADA SHIPPED AIR FREIGHT TO JERSEY

BIG SPORTS NEWS:

ESPN is reporting that Vince Carter has been traded to the New Jersey Nets. TSN has the story and details here. It's all pending league approval.

From the sound of it this was a better deal for the Raptors that what they would have gotten out of Portland. And the Raptors get some more flexibility and cap room.

FROM TSN's SITE: ESPN reports that the New Jersey Nets and Toronto Raptors have completed a trade that sends Carter to the Nets, pending NBA approval.
In exchange for Carter, the Raptors receive center
Alonzo Mourning, guard Eric Williams, forward Aaron Williams and two first round draft picks.

What I'm hearing from the FAN is that Mourning could be shipped off to another contending team in another deal within a short period of time. We shall see.

THE APPRENTICE FINALE- AFTERMATH

I have a link here to a blog entry at marktaw.com about reality TV shows being scripted: in particular Queer Eye and The Simple Life. Not that I really care. I'm no fan of either show. You know, it will be a cold day in hell before I'd allow those "fab five" guys where I live. I'd take out a baseball bat and get rid of them if they try and rearrange the furniture in my place. There's a reason straight guys don't watch that show, folks.

(I'm kidding! I wouldn't really beat them with a baseball bat. But I definitely wouldn't let them near my house. Oh, and by the way here's another article on the fakery that goes on with reality TV and the state of the whole genre in general. Seems like a lot of these shows are tanking fast.)

Now onto the Apprentice and I can safely say now that last night's show was a disappointment with the audience. A lot of people on the Television Without Pity forums feel Jennifer was really badly treated during the studio audience portion of the show, when all these VIP audience members gave their impressions about who should win. I agree, Jennifer didn't deserve that treatment. In fact, I think it was a really bad idea, letting a studio audience weigh in on who should be hired. It reduced the hiring process to a popularity contest and that's not right. It just cheapened this show.

Then again, maybe they did the Donald a favor by urging him to choose Kelly. One way to look at it is: if a really unpopular, undeserving person is chosen as the Apprentice, that could really sink the franchise. I read on Jump the Shark about what happened on The Last Comic Standing, and the show was widely trashed by people on that website because it was felt that the wrong person won the competition in the first season. The fans of the show thought the people out there in America who voted were idiots who didn't know comedy. They thought the winner basically ripped off Margaret Cho. I can't recall the name of the guy who won- some Chinese guy, Pad something. Anyway, I don't think he's rich and famous right now- if he was I'd remember his name. Bottom line is people thought he was an undeserving, unpopular winner. (On the flip side, Richard Hatch was really unpopular on Survivor I, but people accepted his victory because they recognized that he played a great game.)

Now I know why The Last Comic Standing sunk so quickly: in theory it was a good show, but it had major, major problems and never lived up to its potential. You had stories of Jay Mohr inviting his friends on as contestants, things like that. Anyway, read about it on Jump the Shark, which also has lots to say about the Apprentice. I'll have to see what they say about this studio audience idea from last night. Personally, this show was slipping all season, but last night took the cake for me. I have to say it's official: The Apprentice jumped the shark with last night's lousy studio audience show. The purity of this game is gone forever. And next season is going to be a stupid street smart vs. Ivy Leaguers type of thing, so this show promises to be more contrived and fake, even without a script.

You also get the impression from last night that the Donald really wasn't all that thrilled to hire Kelly in the end--- there was something about him that he wasn't thrilled about. Maybe his robotic personality- who knows? A lot of question marks about leadership. Well, Trump, that's what happens when you senselessly can people every week on your show. The people who showed a lot of leadership on the show- Kevin, Raj, Pamela, Bradford, even Andy- all got hosed by Trump. You know, I didn't like Kelly either, think he'd be terrible to work for (drill sergeant), but he won fair and square. He won as project manager and won consistently as a team member, and worked with people more effectively than Jennifer did. So you had to give him the job, even if you hated him.

And as for Jennifer- I must say, she did make an effort at feistiness in the end, and she is very good in the boardroom. But I think she was ill-served by the format of the show. Because she was stuck in that catfighting Apex tribe for much of the show, she had to keep her head down to avoid all the infighting, just to avoid the boardroom. So she never really did get to show what kind of leader she was- she was too busy trying to survive. Maybe she's had too much legal training drilled into her. I know that in a law firm environment you sort of have to shut up and do your job, and you have to play a lot of office politics to get ahead. Women really do have to be "fembots" to survive in these soulless, uptight Biglaw firms. It was a skill that served Jennifer well, allowing her to duck responsibility and survive the boardroom battles and go far in this game. She showed plenty of fangs but never enough of her leadership skills until it was too late.

It's really sad what happened this year with the Apprentice. There was so much backstabbing and bloodletting that people couldn't show what they could do--- and too many of the people who did go all-out got knifed. This was too much about how people survive office politics- and maybe Mark Burnett thought it was a great idea from the first season of Survivor and wanted to beat it like a drum, but people don't want to see people getting ahead through office politics, or obnoxious people getting into fights. People want to see how you rise above it.

Speaking of which... has SURVIVOR Jumped the Shark already, or what? Aren't people fed up with all these liars like Chris winning millions of dollars? When is somebody going to win that show who ISN'T a complete snake?

(UPDATE- I remember the name of that guy who won Last Comic Standing: Dat Phan. Anyway, I don't know what happened to him.)

Thursday, December 16, 2004

APPRENTICE 2 WINNER IS...

... yet to be announced. I'll mention who the winner is later on in this post.

I've finally hit on what annoys me about the Donald's show. I think I just hate the world of business. The more I think of it, those four interviewers from last week just annoyed the heck out of me. The whole country club aspect of the business world just sucks. And the Donald seems to be pitching it as something where you have to get awarded the keys to the kingdom by the business establishment in order to make it. What a bunch of nonsense. But I've seen enough of the business world to know that this sort of thing goes on.

Kelly's team is imploding already on the show- all these unmotivated people are doing @#$%-all for him and letting him down. Well, that's the story of the show so far.

Onto other news... there was a story floated out there that Frank Stronach of all people wants to start up a reality show! Good grief, he should stay away. Last thing we need is yet another Apprentice ripoff reality show. In fact, we need fewer reality shows, period. I've given up on My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss already, it's a boring show and it's no fun watching those players get toyed around with. And I just can't get into Branson's show, either; it's a visually spectacular show, but pure luck is determining who wins and I just don't care about any of the contestants.

There's also a story about a reality show coming soon called Who's Your Daddy, where some adopted person has to pick the person she thinks is her real father and win a hundred grand. Man, this is bad. This whole genre is in trouble.

Did you hear that some of these shows may be rigged? There was something over at LostRemote about it, I recall, an L.A. Times story where the writer obtained a confidential script from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, a script that basically proves that that particular reality show is nothing more than a big act. I heard that The Simple Life is scripted, too. I don't think many people are surprised. But Mark Burnett has been on record, quoted as saying none of his shows are scripted- it's all real by him. Well, I should hope so. If The Survivor and The Apprentice ever go scripted, or if people get hired by the Donald based on shock value or whether or not they're a TV star or something, I'd be pretty disappointed.

8:42-
I'm really not blogging too much about the Apprentice show right now. Jen brought in David Stern to be the MC in place of that loser Chris Webber who didn't/refused to show up. And Kelly finally dealt with the human resource issues with his crappy team and they seem to be working again. You know, I really don't care about tonight's Apprentice, I'm really ticked off about this season's show. I dunno whether that rumor about next season is accurate- that rumor of street-smart HS grads taking on Ivy Leaguers. I don't know whether it's accurate and I really don't care, and I'm really fed up with the show.

I'll let you know who the heck wins! HOO HOO HOO- the Donald is flying away in his chopper without seeing the other event they had planned at Jennifer's event! Wow.

Kelly's event had a few glitches- Tony Bennett's manager had a cow over the washrooms not being ready and stuff. And the BOX SEATS for the DONALD WEREN'T READY! And the Donald complained about it! Hoo hoo hoo!

You know, I still can't cheer for Jennifer- she basically let the rest of her team do all the work.

FINAL BOARDROOM

These two are getting GRILLED, BIGTIME!

Jennifer went on her usual rant trashing Kelly. Again, I just cannot give Jennifer an endorsement here. If the Donald gives her the job after spending an entire season firing project managers and berating poor leadership, there is no justice.

AND THE APPRENTICE IS:

... gonna be decided by a studio audience! I DON'T BELIEVE IT, a new low for reality TV.

DONALD TRUMP
sent REGIS PHILBIN into the live studio audience to interview people on who should be hired. Philbin talking to BILL RANCIC and Bill says hire Kelly. They are talking to some VIPs and they are saying hire Kelly, and the audience seems to want Kelly too. Boy this is bad, an Apprentice chosen by the audience. These VIPs are from the Trump organization and from outside. Now Troy gets a chance to speak, and he chose Kelly, and now Amy from last season says choose Kelly. (These must be the former familiar faces people were talking about.) The only people speaking for Jennifer are from her law firm and they are showing people from her law firm cheering for her. Jennifer is sitting there listening to this studio audience and she looks pretty disgusted with it all.

And Regis is still going into the studio audience and getting reactions and it's pretty unanimous. Well, this is making me want to barf. Now, finally someone else is speaking for Jennifer. Is the Donald going to shaft the entire studio audience and choose Jennifer?

Man I want to turn the TV off. This is bad TV. Now they're asking the 16 people who got FIRED and they seem to think KELLY should be hired as well. Man, people are going to be talking about this travesty of a show tomorrow. Now the Donald almost HAS to hire Kelly- or else he'll look like a complete idiot. This is BOOORING television.

Good grief, this looks like it's gonna come down to some boardroom debating shoutfest. Well, it turned out to be civilized in the end.

KELLY... YOU'RE HIRED!

---------------------------------------------

What a contrived, phony ending to the Apprentice, having the studio audience pick a winner! Who came up with that one? Again, they'll be going nuts over this tomorrow.

Man this show is PAINFUL TO WATCH, now they hauled out the group that recorded the MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY theme song. So you see all these fired people, dancing! And Regis Philbin is driving me nuts as the host. GET HIM OFF THE STAGE ALREADY, MAN! And Jill Hennessy is in the audience- big plug for CROSSING JORDAN, eh? The product placement just never stops on this show, does it?

Oh yeah, Kelly's big prize is he works on a big building project in NYC.

There you have it, the end of the APPRENTICE 2 BLOG for this season. I really enjoyed putting this together and taking apart the Donald's show every week, and hopefully I'll do it again for the Apprentice 3.

Man, Regis is too affable for his own good, get him out of there! And now here's Omarosa spouting her opinions. AAARGH!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

HUGE REALITY TV WEEK- APPRENTICE FINALE PREVIEW

Well I have some spoilers about tomorrow's APPRENTICE 2 later in this post. But I'm not going to talk about the Donald right now. I want to talk about Tyra Banks.

Yes, this is the week of all weeks for championship reality TV as America's Next Top Model has its finale on UPN and Citytv. It's between Amanda, Eva and Yaya.

You know, this is actually one of the better reality shows out there. The bad news is that that's not saying much because most reality TV is trash. But it does attempt to be a good show, and I think it gives a real look at what kind of BS people who go into the modeling industry have to put up with. All I have to say is: who would want to go into the modeling industry? Look at the weirdoes and uptight jerks these models have to put up with. If they hate your look or even hate your age, you're fired! And this industry is full of divas and sleazebags. What a lousy profession. It makes you want to run like heck onto Donald Trump's show.

I give this show credit: they show this business, warts and all. And several of the girls who got kicked off the show announced they may swear off the modeling business. The saving grace of the show is Janice Dickinson. She is a wild woman and she is so HOT! But the modeling industry SUCKS. That is all I have to say about America's Next Top Model. Now onto the Apprentice.

I went over to the Television Without Pity forums to check out some of the reactions to this show and it seems like there's a lot of venom out there, trashing this season's show. The folks over there find both Kelly and Jennifer M. to be cold, cold-hearted personalities- people they generally cannot relate to. Jennifer seems to getting the most negative reaction: people think she's slinked through this whole series while a lot of their other favorites-- like Pamela, for instance- were getting hosed. (There's a lot of people who thought Stacie J. got hosed, too- accused of being crazy etc.) The other thing people are saying is that the "camraderie" of the first season was missing. People like Bill and Kwame and Troy were rivals, but they turned out to be good friends who brought a positive spirit to the competition, as in "let the best person win!" You don't get that sense from this year's show. This season had backstabbing, catfighting, people yelling at each other in the boardroom. You had one team erupt in an all-out mutiny. You didn't see a process where good people were being rewarded for their efforts. A lot of the time, people were being brought down because of incompetent contractors, or two old ladies coming in and criticizing the decor in a restaurant you worked so hard to set up, or because the other team sold one more product on QVC than you- things like that.

The worst part of this season was what happened to the project managers. It seemed like they were being fired every freaking week. I think that really encouraged disloyalty on the part of the team members- they could do nothing, let the project manager take the blame for the loss, blame the PM and get him/her fired. To boot, you had some really cold-blooded, humiliating firings, several of which were questionable. Stacie J. was really shafted when her teammates ganged up on her and got rid of her over accusations she was crazy! She was basically humiliated on national television. Elizabeth, who had enough problems and deserved to go anyway, wound up fired in an even more heartless fashion, not even getting to bring two people in to the boardroom with her! She, too, was basically humiliated on national television. There was the time when the Donald threw away his own rules and fired half the MOSAIC team; so two people got an opportunity to be humiliated on national television. And, finally, Jen C. was canned from her real job, in addition to her fake one with Trump, because her bosses were embarrassed by what she said and did on Trump's show.

You also had people whose fates seemed to boil down to bad luck and a bad team ill-suited to a task; particularly John, fired because he knew nothing about the fashion business, a really unfair sort of reason to knock someone out of the running for the Apprentice. It really seemed as if it was boiling down to luck this season. The people who really put their necks on the line day in and day out were gambling with their careers in the Trump organization, and almost uniformly getting the shaft. I still can't get over the Bradford firing where the guy offered to put aside his exemption, said "compare my performance to the rest of them" and got fired for it.

Gee, I'm hungry right now. I think I'll eat some M and Ms. Writing a blog makes you hungry, you know. I think I'll buy some Pepsi EDGE while I am at it. Maybe tomorrow I'll look up Zagat's ratings and go to a restaurant. Maybe you should, too.

What really got me (and most people, in fact) was the product placement aspect of the show. This season wasn't about working for the Donald, or building business skills- it was about hawking Pepsi or M and Ms. Or you were doing some advertising task, not for the Donald, but for Donny Deutsch! (Hey, maybe Donny Deutsch will get a spinoff reality show about advertising- it might get more viewers than his flop talk show on CNBC.) Or you finally make the final 4, and your fate is decided not by the Donald but by 4 corporate titans who could be counted on to shaft people who didn't fit the profile required by the country club of corporate America. I'm sitting at home looking at this thinking: this is UNFAIR. Thirteen weeks of hard work down the tubes! There's a tremendous sense that the soul, the spirit of the original season was lost; that this show went too commercial, tried too hard to be a reality show like the rest of them, and tried too hard to find "another Omarosa." People who think Omarosa made that first season were mistaken; personally, I was interested in seeing how people could get ahead in business, since I wouldn't mind running my own business someday. And it seemed possible for good people to get ahead. But this year, you can only conclude from this show that there's no way to get ahead in the corporate world without becoming a soulless, complete automaton. (Hence the "Jenbot" remarks you hear about.) That's why the audience has been left cold this season and are switching to CSI in droves. You hear a lot of disgusted fans over on Television Without Pity who claim they are finished with this show. Really, the Donald's show has some serious, serious problems- and this is supposed to be one of the better reality TV shows out there. If this show is a wreck, what's the future for the whole genre? Pretty dismal, I'd say.

Who wins tomorrow? You know, I don't really care anymore. I kind of was pulling for Raj, but then he blew himself up because his contractor was an idiot. Then I kind of pulled for Kevin because he had more of a go-ahead attitude, until he met those idiot interviewers who decided he wasn't good enough for the Donald. But I can't really pull for either of the two people remaining. Kelly probably ought to be the Apprentice because he's put his neck on the line enough times and has come out ahead, but he really lucked out on that QVC task where he set the price that won them the challenge by a measly $10 bucks. Had the women managed to make an additional couple of sales on their task, poor KELLY would have been blamed for setting the price that lost them the challenge, and would probably have been fired. Think about it... PAMELA could be sitting in Kelly's spot in the final 2, had things gone differently.

And ice queen Jennifer's contributed basically nothing all season. All she's good at is yelling at people in the boardroom and getting in catfights with Sandy, and her vicious side has come out. Mark Burnett seems to want to turn her into Omarosa, so that all America hates her in the finals. What a waste of editing time, trying to turn her into Omarosa. The truth is she's boring as heck. Personally, I just feel she hasn't put her neck on the line enough times to deserve to be the Apprentice. She basically did nothing all year. She's been on so many losing teams but craftily avoided being Project Manager, which in this game has been the kiss of death for everyone. She's gotten ahead by office politics, pure and simple; and it's a sad commentary on this whole process. So I hope Kelly wins and that nothing gets screwed up on his final task- although I've heard rumors the Trump people may actually be looking for a woman apprentice and may hire Jennifer in the end anyway. In which case I'll be looking for a new TV set to buy- to replace the one I threw my shoe at. I just can't stand that woman.

By the way, I read on Television Without Pity that, indeed, Chris Webber didn't show up, so poor Jennifer had to deal with that, and apparently the skies cleared so Kelly was able to get that polo match in after all ( and from the looks of it, it was a sunny day, because I've seen tons of promos of players playing polo and stuff. )

Another thing I read was about Apprentice 3. It appears that next year's show is going to get away from men versus women, and pit street-smart people against Ivy Leaguers and other hot-shot people. Hopefully it'll be a better season than this year's show. But a lot of people think the Apprentice is Jumping the Shark.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

FREE STANLEY

An interesting story that has circulated around has been the story of the Edmonton group wanting to "free Stanley"! A group of fans in Edmonton want to make sure the Stanley Cup is awarded to someone this year, in the spirit of the original deed from Lord Stanley- that the Cup revert to its original purpose as a challenge cup for the top hockey team in Canada. Apparently these folks want to go to court to free the Cup from the clutches of the National Hockey League, and hold playoffs involving the top Canadian teams in the CHL and AHL etcetera.

Interesting concept, but the fact is that once professionalism entered the picture the Stanley Cup stopped being a challenge cup for all intents and purposes, and became the championship trophy of major-league professional hockey. And all these other leagues have their own trophies- the Calder Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Allan Cup. And there's likely to be controversy over who gets to compete for the Cup. Does the Original Stars Hockey League have a claim to it? Could a bunch of NHL all-stars get together and form a team at the last minute and compete for the Cup? What if these teams have American players? Or Europeans?! Hey, what if the WHA starts up soon?

The other thing these folks will have to explain is that in 1919 there was no awarding of the Stanley Cup because of a massive, deadly flu epidemic. They actually called off the deciding game of the Cup finals because of it. So there is actually precedent for skipping the awarding of a Stanley Cup in a particular year. Sorry, folks, but I'm afraid that Stanley Cup is gonna stay put right where it is, in the Hockey Hall of Fame, until these boneheads in the NHL get their act together. Besides, I don't want the Stanley Cup going to a bunch of minor-leaguers anyway. The best team in hockey is still out there, locked out.

UPDATE: There's a front-page editorial in the Wednesday edition of the National Post on freeing Stanley, and it talks a little more about the trustees' agreement with the National Hockey League and how it is contingent on the league being "operational". I would presume, though, that "operational" refers to the NHL being in business, as opposed to actually playing. But people still want to pursue this goofy idea of holding Stanley Cup playoffs with all these amateurs and other assorted squads. And Colby Cosh is a big proponent of freeing Stanley and he has plenty to say about it. But it sort of misses the point. These proposed Stanley Cup playoffs would be a travesty that would demean the "real" Stanley Cup playoffs- you know, the ones we've all come to know and expect. This would be like "replacement Stanley Cup playoffs."

I'm sorry, but as good as the London Knights are, they shouldn't be playing for the Stanley Cup. Period. And this whole idea of a "challenge cup"- wouldn't the Tampa Bay Lightning have a say in it? "Hey, it's our Cup, don't we get a say on the matter? It's not our fault we're locked out!"

Nice try, guys, but I don't think I'm that desperate to see the Stanley Cup awarded to the Whitby Dunlops. Those guys in league offices in Manhattan must be laughing at all of us goofy Canadians over this idea.

THUMBS DOWN: PLAYERS WALK

Well, the predictable happened today as the NHLPA sat and listened to the NHL counterproposal and declared it unacceptable. And then both sides had their press conferences. And no new talks or proposals are planned or even in sight.

And I'm sitting here tuning into these press conferences in disbelief. What a bunch of idiots! They are letting this sport go right down the tubes. Just tune into any sports-talk radio station in the United States: hockey is completely out of sight and out of mind. This sport is totally marginalizing itself. And yet these bozos think when they come back they'll be stronger than ever! Like heck they will!

---------------------------------------------------

Irony of irony, tonight of all nights is the finale on CBC of Making the Cut, with six hockey players winning a shot at a dubious grand prize: making it with a Canadian NHL team. Only problem is that the NHL could be out 'til 2006! I know, it's unbelievable that these nitwits are planning to stay out that long. But that's what they're talking about.

And here's the big irony: next year we could see replacement players and replacement hockey. If that happens, you know, ALL these guys from Making the Cut could get a shot at the National Hockey League! Every freaking one of them. Oh, they'll all be scabs, all right, and it won't be real big-league hockey, but still, it's the NHL, baby!!!!

I think it's actually pretty funny: reality getting in the way of a reality TV show. And it hasn't been a bad show either, a lot better than those quasi-scripted affairs like Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and those other turkeys.

"All I want for Christmas is my NHL!"

Well, sorry bud, you ain't getting your NHL! These Grinches are gonna steal your Christmas! Enjoy the basketball games on the 25th, and the reruns of classic games they plan to show--- that's all you're getting under the tree!!!

Monday, December 13, 2004

SCOTT PETERSON GETS DEATH PENALTY

LATEST at Court TV.

OWNERS TO PLAYERS:DROP DEAD!

TSN is reporting that they have obtained a confidential memorandum from the NHL written by Bill Daly, NHL Veep, which indicated the NHL is going to reject the NHLPA offer and respond with a counter-offer.

The memo basically asserts that while the NHLPA proposal would save the league money in the short term, the savings would be basically gone in only a couple of years and we'd all be back to square one.

Actually I think I agree with the NHL on that one- I just don't see luxury taxes working. You think the New York Rangers are gonna care about a luxury tax? Look at major league baseball- George Steinbrenner doesn't care about luxury taxes. The CFL teams don't care about luxury taxes, they go over budget all the time. Bob Goodenow is asking the NHL owners to take a leap of faith and believe in a luxury tax when the fact is that several NHL teams- all the usual suspects, the Red Wings and Avalanche andthe Stars and the Flyers and the Leafs et al- spend like there's no tomorrow on hockey players. OK, so they take a pay cut this year. Big deal, what about next year and the year after that. That's what the NHL seems to be saying.

There's a meeting tomorrow with the NHLPA in which the NHL is expected to deliver its counteroffer tomorrow, which I doubt will be accepted. The union has been adamant about saying no to a salary cap. They've gone to extreme measures- offering a massive pay cut!- to avoid a salary cap. If the NHL comes back with a salary cap proposal there is no deal and no hockey. I am absolutely convinced of this now.

------------------------------------------------------

There's another thing about that NHLPA proposal from last week that I need to talk about and that is: I think this was a last-ditch PR move to try and put the pressure on the owners to get a deal done, and produce some sympathy for the players. It was a move designed to sway public opinion and make these owners a little nervous about the consequences of washing out an entire season.

I've written this before: you get this feeling from among the owners that they believe the fans are 1000% behind them. Therefore the owners feel they can kill an entire season off without repercussion. The owners feel they can demand a salary cap because they feel the fans are blaming the players for the dispute, and will return in full force no matter what. Canadian fans feel cancelling the season will be about improving the game; meanwhile Americans don't care about hockey except for the diehards who'll be back anyway, so no loss. And that's why they feel they can get away with murder. WE CHUMP FANS ARE LETTING THESE GUYS OFF THE HOOK.

I feel that by coming up with that 24% salary cut proposal, the players tried to put the PR pressure on the owners and make the players look like a bunch of reasonable guys. To a large extent they succeeded: their proposal was very well received in the media. And it had to make some of these owners think about whether the fans would return to their sport.

But in the end it didn't move the mountain. The owners are going to simply come back with their usual party line, and there's mass apathy out there right now so the owners feel they can get away with it. Despite all those Molson Canadian ads with fans moaning about no hockey, the truth is that the fans are too busy following the National FOOTBALL League to really care about the NHL... even in Canada. And so the owners don't feel any pressure from the fans to get hockey playing again, and feel they can get away with using and abusing the fans to the Nth degree regardless of the consequences. These owners obviously haven't learned from major league baseball. And for the players, refusing a salary cap is a matter of pride.

So I think the whole NHL season is now likely to fall completely apart and even though I had been an optimist all through this, thinking that at crunch time these bozos would come to their senses, the fact is that we're at crunch time, and no one feels any pressure to get any deal done at all. These people, all of them, are taking the fans for granted, as if they will always be there no matter how bad the ticket prices are, no matter how bad the TV deals are, no matter how boring or violent the game is on the ice.

And you wonder why the NFL and NASCAR are so popular. You wonder why the WWE is such a hit. Doesn't take a brain surgeon, ladies and gentlemen. I mean, even baseball gives a hoot about the fans these days. They at least are looking at ways to clean up their act in the wake of this big steroid doping scandal they have on their hands. Why? Because they know their sport is still in the doghouse because of 1994! But does anyone in big-league hockey care about their own fans? NO!!! Simple answer.

OK, maybe Brendan Shanahan cares. But that's about it- you can count the number of people on your fingers. And that, my friends, is why the sport of hockey is floundering so badly. The NHL needs a dose of humility. They need to remember the fans. And you can't convince me that killing an entire season will be good for the fans.

Well, if these idiots kill off the season I hope the fans send this sport right into the doghouse for a good few years. It would serve all these people right.

One last point I should bring up- a lot of people are already saying on the radio that it looks like the season is done. Not necessarily. It depends on what the players do, now, again. I'll tell you what I think will happen, I think they are probably going to walk out in disgust. I really think these owners are as hardline as they get. We'll see tomorrow.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

SURVIVOR WINNER ANNOUNCED LIVE

ATTENTION WEST COAST VIEWERS- SPOILER COMING

I gotta admit, SURVIVOR's finale is the Super Bowl of reality shows, and it all comes down to tonight. They're announcing it right now.

It came down to Chris and Twila for the title.

And guess who won...

CHRIS WINS SURVIVOR VANUATU in biggest freaking comeback of all times... well, since the Red Sox, anyways.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

MORE REACTION TO THE NHLPA OFFER

THE OFFICIAL LOCKOUT WEEK-IN-REVIEW COLUMN FOR THIS WEEK

I've been reading the papers and the consensus out there seems to be that the NHLPA's proposal was brilliant. It may not solve the lockout problem, but it sure makes the players look like geniuses and heroes--- this after several months of looking like overpaid bums.

I read the Globe and Mail editorial page and they thought it was a great proposal that would solve a lot of problems. I read Al Strachan and he, too, thought it was a great proposal. I tuned into Kathryn Humphreys on Citytv and she thought it was such a great proposal- then again, isn't she married to a hockey player? I'm reading all these hockey writers and they all agree--- this proposal was brilliant. Too brilliant, maybe, but brilliant nonetheless.

I was wondering how they were going to effect a 24% rollback of player salaries and I finally figured it out: these NHL contracts are apparently not guaranteed, unlike the NBA or major league baseball. So they can roll back salaries, no problem. That's why you see stories about baseball and basketball players being confused about the NHL players offering a 24% rollback of salaries. It's mindboggling; to these other pros, this looks like the biggest sellout of all time.

(UPDATE- You know what, I've done more digging and it's the NFL who has the non-guaranteed contracts. So now I'm completely baffled by the NHL players move. How are they going to be able to renegotiate all of these freaking contracts? Beats me. I need to look into these contracts.)

And apparently from what I am gleaning, the NHL players aren't happy about this either, but they've clearly taken a huge beating in this labour dispute from the press and public and this offer may be their only way out. These are huge concessions and I don't think the NHL is going to get a better offer than this from the players, because the players are TICKED. So what do I think? I think there will be a counter-proposal. For sure. Maybe, hopefully, the NHL team owners will go for a shorter-term deal, based on these terms. Certainly this could divide the hawks and the non-hawks in ownership into two camps, forcing Bettman into some major maneuvering. So the dance continues.

Like I say, it's hard for me to believe these goofballs will kill the entire freaking season. This NHLPA proposal makes cancellation look like an absolutely suicidal move by the NHL. Anyway, we'll see. It won't be long, now, before we know the fate of the season.

BRENDAN SHANAHAN'S PROPOSALS TO IMPROVE THE GAME

One thing I should also mention because I've sort of ignored it this week: Brendan Shanahan's big hockey summit to improve the game. They've come up with all sorts of recommendations, the main one being to bring in a shootout in regular season action. I actually favor shootouts in regular season games; they've worked in the minor leagues and they're really exciting. I don't want them for the playoffs, though: the great thing about the NHL playoffs has always been its "marathon" type of nature, with players playing until they drop. So I'd still have them play in the playoffs until they'd drop, and bring in the shootouts for the regular season. You know, I'll bet ya this is another part of the big PR spin strategy of the NHLPA- part of the strategy to make these guys look like a bunch of heroes. Call me cynical, but I am a cynic- the timing was pretty suspicious. Still, I'd welcome any improvements to the NHL. One improvement I'd like to see: to get the players back on the ice.

Interestingly I'm still hearing a lot of talk on the radio about people who claim they don't even miss Hockey Night in Canada. I don't fall into this category: I truly miss Hockey Night in Canada, for one reason: the TV on Saturday night is garbage! All the other channels have JUNK until 11:30, when Saturday Night Live comes on. The alternatives on Saturday nights are terrible: there's COPS, and there's AMERICA'S MOST WANTED. There's TVO's Saturday Night at the Movies! And on CBC you can watch DISNEY features! That's entertainment!! Hey I like movies like everyone else, but I've seen half this stuff already, I don't need to watch it again. And kids movies aren't my idea of entertainment!

What's surprising is that I don't give a hoot about the NHL the rest of the week. I just don't. It's really surprising how little I've missed the NHL. On Friday nights when I usually tune in to sports on the radio, I've been tuning into lots of AHL and OHL games, so I don't feel like I'm missing a thing. In fact, there's an AHL Baby Leafs game on right now. So I'm not missing a thing. Right?!?

Anyway, there you go, my NHL rant for the week. I'll probably have a lot more to say on Tuesday when the league gives its response to the NHLPA proposal. I have a sneaky feeling we're going to see a lot of negotiations this week.

Friday, December 10, 2004

NHL LOOKING AT NHLPA PROPOSAL

Well, the NHLPA stunned everyone with their offer of a one-time 24% rollback in player salaries to the NHL, even though they did not offer to agree to a salary cap. They did throw in a tough luxury tax proposal.

And as for all the rumors that flew on Thursday about the NHLPA walking out in a huff and so on, that was all speculation as it turned out- a bunch of reporters guessing, basing their thoughts on no information as usual. And we still don't actually know where they will meet next week, either New York or Toronto. All we know is they plan to meet again Tuesday at which time the NHL will give their response to this proposal. It is widely expected the NHL will come back with a counter-offer.

OK, so we'll see what happens on Tuesday. But already people like Cam Cole are spreading rumors of doom, with that big headline in the National Post about how Tuesday could be the end of the NHL season, and so on. What is clear, though, is that the NHL is going to have to go carefully through this big binder they got from the NHLPA. They cannot dismiss a proposal to cut player salaries by 24% out of hand. If any, the NHLPA got in a big salvo in the public relations war the other day. Suddenly the players look like a bunch of generous human beings, even if they aren't. And the NHL could stand to look like villains if they kill the whole season.

The battle of the dueling press conferences the other day was pretty hilarious. Gary Bettman claimed that there was no "drop-dead" date, per se, and also said that if the union had some big press conference outlining the proposal line by line that he would "question their motives". Well, guess what, Bob Goodenow had his big press conference and went through the union's proposal line by line, to show the world how great their proposal was--- just what Bettman was warning about. "This is no grandstand ploy -- this is no PR stunt. This is serious negotiations," Goodenow went up there and claimed. Guffaw, guffaw.

You just get the sense that these two guys just won't get along, just won't get into the Christmas spirit of things. Oh well.

Anyway Gary Bettman and the NHL have serious thinking to do over the next few days. We've been hearing rumblings from some of the commentators out there that the NHL's main motivation goes beyond imposing a salary cap- that they want to totally break the union and would be willing to kill the season to get their wish. Who knows right now. I do know there are definitely big hawks in the ownership.

I think this latest proposal demands a counterproposal type of response. Expect to see that on Tuesday, and see what happens after that. It's like a bad tennis match, but at least the negotiation games are still on.

So the NHL lockout continues and we chumps who follow this sport have to find other things to do. You know, football and basketball may be the only major-league sports out there at the moment, but there is still good hockey out there to watch. Tonight a lot of people are tuning in to that game in London between the Knights and the Guelph Storm, a game where the Knights could set the CHL consecutive-games unbeaten record. And coming soon: the World Juniors. So there is hope, hockey fans. The month of December won't be a total washout.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

YOU'RE BOTH FIRED!

Well I want to alert all of our West Coast viewers and those folks tuning into this Apprentice 2 blog from places around the world- you know, Singapore and Japan and South Africa and places like that- that spoilers are coming.

Just thought I'd let you all know what transpired tonight on The Apprentice 2. Well, if you want a complete blog of what happened tonight I've decided to say the heck with it, because we all know they're going to can two people. And the two remaining chumps are going to choose three people for their teams. You can read my post below and figure out for yourself what happened. So I'm just going to just go straight to the boardroom firing session right now and I'll tell you what's going down, and we'll see you right here next week for the big finale.

THE BIG INTERVIEWS AND BIG BOARDROOM

Well, Kelly and Sandy have been backstabbing Jennifer for shirking responsibility and leadership, and so on and so forth. They are right. But is she doomed? I look at these people doing the interviewing... and yikes.

Recommendations: They all liked Kelly. They all seem to really like him. I think he's in the final 2 for sure.

There are concerns about Kevin- worries about "course correction" and concern about whether he will stick with something, and they say he's a little overbearing in an interview- he's a Wharton grad who is in law school now and for some reason they're concerned about that. Wow. Jennifer, on the other hand, they found very bright and focused and ready for a transition to business. Sandy didn't seem to do well at all. They found her ready for a new challenge but light on business experience and don't feel she can hack it. Wow, Sandy looks totally doomed as of right now.

Kevin is fired right away because the interviewers say he lacked direction! Unbelievable.

And now here comes the big final catfight between Jennifer and Sandy. Big big catfight and boy do Jennifer and Sandy look unprofessional. Jennifer is arguing like mad and trashing Sandy's lack of "intellectual horsepower". Wow, Jennifer's such an ICE QUEEN, and she is totally UNPLEASANT! But her act impressed Trump.

BAM! Sandy is fired for supposedly not having enough of a brain for these people. Well, show's over. Well, there you go.

Message from Trump- Winning is Everything.

--------------------------------------------------

They brought back the long-gone "fired" people for the final task.
They picked two teams: Jennifer picked a team with Chris, Pamela, and Stacy(!). They will be doing a Chris Webber charity basketball type of thing- only problem is Chris Webber may not show up.

Kelly picked Raj, Elizabeth and John for his team and they have zero motivation for the assignment- some polo match type of thing. And it is raining like dogs, and the whole event could be cancelled... could be bye bye Kelly.

See you next week, folks.

TONIGHT ON THE APPRENTICE 2

(WARNING- SPOILERS AHEAD!)

I read this blurb that was posted a couple of times on the Television Without Pity spoiler forums and I thought I'd share it with you here- I think ultimately this summary was a bit of PR that came from the good folks at NBC.

NEW YORK -- December 7, 2004 -- In the most eventful "Apprentice" yet, this week's penultimate episode (December 9, 9-10pm ET) features the dreaded interview process followed by fireworks in the boardroom and the firing of two candidates. The second half of the episode sends the final two on their last task and ends in a surprising cliff-hanger leading up to the three hour finale December 16 (8pm-11pm ET). Donald Trump chooses four influential business executives to grill the final four candidates: Alan Jope, COO Unilever North America; Dawn Hudson, President Pepsi-Cola North America; Ace Greenberg, Chairman Bear-Stearns; and Robert Kraft, Owner, New England Patriots. Combined their companies gross more than $80 billion and employ half a million people.

... The two remaining candidates receive their final assignments -- one to organize The Genworth Trump Polo Cup in Greenwich, CT., while the other works with the NBA to produce and run The Genworth Charity Basketball Classic featuring 12 NBA stars.

...The final two candidates each will select three former "firees" from a group of six to help assist in their task. Both finalists face managerial difficulties and struggle to motivate their new employees. Last minute pitfalls arise involving Tony Bennett and Chris Webber.

Bla bla bla.

I figured this week's episode would go along these lines. Now my thoughts about the final two here: I have heard a lot of speculation that the final two would be Kelly and Jennifer. The reason cited for this is that supposedly there's an investigation going on into someone who bet heavily on both of these two in an offshore casino, thinking they would win. No word, though, on who actually wins the thing. Supposedly that will be announced live.

Another rumor floated out there is that there was supposed to be a big battle between the "two blondes" (Jennifer vs. Sandy), but I think the big battle between those two happened a couple of weeks ago when they had their big catfight in the boardroom. I'm inclined to believe the Kelly vs. Jennifer rumors, for two reasons:

(a) Kelly has been a winning project manager three times, has been on several winning teams and had a law degree and MBA.
(B) Jennifer (a.k.a. "Jenbot" by her detractors out there on the forums ) is cool and polished and therefore fits the profile of the kind of boring personality these titans of corporate America want. I think these corporate titans, if they are indeed brought in by Trump to interview these people, are going to fall in love with Jennifer, even though I feel she's been a mediocrity on the job this entire season. Another thing in her favor is the fact that she is supposed to be so smart because she has a law degree and worked as a securities litigator. So I think these titans will completely ignore the fact that she's done nothing fantastic for 13 weeks and has been on one losing team after another. You want the best player on a losing team, choose Jennifer- she'll fit right in with Trump (casinos in bankruptcy etc.) And if she wins in the end I may boycott the show next season, because I just feel several other players have worked harder and their efforts have gone completely unrewarded and even ridiculed. Call me cynical, but I have NO FAITH in the people who run corporate America. NONE. If they pick Jennifer I'll throw up, but at least I have the Pepto-Bismol ready for tonight's show.

As for Kevin and Sandy, I think they could be on the verge of getting screwed bigtime in the interviews. Sandy is probably going to be crucified for not having a college degree, even though I think she's succeeded in the challenges on her wits. I'm sure the Bear Stearns guy and the NFL guy will be impressed by the fact she has all this experience running a bridal store, not. These interviewers are also probably going to disregard her efforts in the challenges completely and that will sink her chances. As for Kevin, to me he looks like simply too interesting a personality to cut it with this crowd of boring white guys who are doing the interviews. Kevin has also put his own neck on the line several times in this whole process and has gotten burned a few times, and the Donald may remember all that. On the other hand, I feel he should be in the final two, because when he's been on his game he's carried his team to victory, and he's got a lot of confidence and a can-do attitude. I'm personally rooting for him, but I'm not optimistic, I think he's about to be screwed, and he'll end up on Richard Branson's show next season, jumping off of tall buildings. We'll see.

As for the rumors of money being bet on Kelly and Jennifer- another thing that Mark Burnett ( the producer ) is awfully good at is stirring up false rumors on the Internet about spoilers and who will win his various shows. Look at Survivor for @#$% sake- there were those "Gervace wins!" rumors floating around on the message boards from the first season, and we all know what happened to Gervace- we never heard from him again. So we'll see if the rumors are true- and apparently there were pictures posted on the Internet about next week's final show, too- so we'll see if this is yet another hoax or not.

About the interviewer guys: why the heck did Trump choose Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots to do these interviews?! Wasn't Trump in an all-out war with the NFL during the 1980s, back in the USFL days? Short memories.

THE NHL TALKS HAVE BROKEN OFF

Well, the NHL and NHLPA met in Toronto today and now comes word that in the last hour the talks have completely broken off.

Rumors are flying on the radio that the meeting was acrimonious, that the two sides apparently stormed out of the discussions in disgust and that there are DEFINITELY no more talks happening in the next 24 hours. The NHL is huddled in their offices trying to figure out what to do next. I'm expecting some sort of press release and possibly an announcement of a drop-dead date, just so they can turn up the heat a little bit more.

This is worrisome news, folks.

UPDATE- Late word now from Canadian Press is that the two sides are apparently planning to meet again, sometime early next week in New York at the league's headquarters there. Don't know yet whether the league is planning a counter-offer. And apparently Gary Bettman may face the press hordes later today to explain what is happening.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

ANNE-MARIE GREEN

In more useless news from the world of TV news, I just found out while surfing around the Web that Anne-Marie Green now works for KYW in Philadelphia!

So I fell out of my chair again. Apparently this only happened recently, like a couple of months ago. She was at CablePulse24 before and at Rogers Mississauga years ago- just like Francis D'Souza, Zuraidah Alman and other famous people. And no, I haven't met her, but I know a camera guy who knew her. So that's two degrees of separation, I think.

Who's her agent? She must have an agent to get that gig.

Monday, December 06, 2004

NEWS UPDATE

I have been so obsessed with the NHL, with the Apprentice, and all sorts of other things that I've been ignoring some of the other news going on in the world. Well, here's an update.

Brian Williams went on the air on NBC Nightly News and the folks at NBC say he's off to a great seamless start, that he'll be just fine at the helm, bla bla bla. Good part of starting his new gig in December is that he won't be distracted by the NASCAR season, heh heh heh.

Meanwhile people at CBS wait with baited breath as apparently the big report on Memogate is due out soon, and heads are expected to roll. Report in USA Today suggested a mood of doom over there.

And Rudi Bakhtiar is definitely out at CNN Headline News after a shakeup over there. Read about it over at CNNFan, who quoted Broadcasting and Cable with the story. Seemed the bosses wanted to move her to daytime but she had an out clause in her contract if she was moved out of prime time. So now she's interviewing elsewhere. Actually, the first place I heard about the story was over at TVSpy. There were lots of rumors flying that she was out.

And the Ukraine will get their runoff election after all, although Parliament adjourned for ten days on the actual issue of the rules for this thing. But they'll get their new vote.

The big news from Canada last week was that George W. Bush came to the country and actually had pleasant things to say about Canada. See, Bush is a good guy after all. He remarked about all the people waving at him with "all five fingers" (!). He also stood on Canadian soil and called for North-America-wide missile defence. So the whole country is in an uproar as a result and Martin is now getting bodyslammed in Parliament by the New (and Few) Democrats.

Uh, I watched The Greatest Canadian last week and was not impressed with the show or with the result, but then again, I gave up on that contest a long time ago. I would have voted, but neither Brian Mulroney nor Preston Manning made the final list so I figured, why bother?

Actually, I'm sort of kidding, but you get the idea. Tommy Douglas as the Greatest Canadian? Give me a break. If he was so great, people would be flocking to Saskatchewan in droves to live there. And they aren't. Why? One word, people: SOCIALISM. Actually, I read on one of the other blogs that people in Saskatchewan prefer John Diefenbaker as Number One, followed closely by Gordie Howe. That's what I heard.

And it was a sad week as both Pierre Berton and Global TV reporter David Vienneau died.

There, now you're caught up and I'm caught up. THE CAIRNS BLOG- your last resort for news! (Better off reading the other blogs for news, eh?)

THE HECK IS THIS?

This blog has gone on the fritz tonight. This is not good. Trying to fix the problem, but I dunno what the problem is. This can't happen-- not this week!

Saturday, December 04, 2004

THE NHL LOCKOUT WEEK IN REVIEW

Well, it's Saturday, so time for another NHL rant in the CAIRNS BLOG. Although, I have to say that I got a lot of ranting out of my system earlier this week with that post earlier this week, talking about the talks to be held next week. The other thing I didn't mention was that commissioner Gary Bettman had a meeting with the general managers.

You know, I could be the lone optimist out there right now. I have to believe a deal will get done to save the season- because scrapping the schedule is a completely nutty idea. Both sides want to play hockey, so they claim, and cancelling the entire freaking season is bound to be a big big risk for the entire sport. I'm almost banking these bozos won't go ahead and blow off an entire year for the NHL. I know everyone says they're both far apart and all that, but you know, positions change in a labor negotiation. And I remember all the doomsayers from a couple of years ago who said baseball was going to go on strike again, yet they somehow managed to get a deal done. So I just don't see how these guys can go ahead and blow off an entire season. I'm inclined to think these talks next week might lead to some progress. Clearly people know they are up against deadlines now re: whether or not there's a season, so people are now getting serious about holding negotiations.

But there are definitely big hawks in ownership who want a salary cap no matter what. So the question remains: do they feel any pressure at all from the fans? We keep on hearing from people "the fans will come back".

The other day on the morning show on the FAN 590 Toronto, former NHL president John Ziegler talked about the lockout and mentioned that he thought that throughout this mess, the fans would remain loyal and they would all come back once hockey resumed. He said something to the effect that maybe you'd lose some casual fans, but the vast majority of the fans who went to games are diehards who'll be back no matter what. That's certainly going to be the case in Chicago, where Ziegler is the alternate governor for the Blackhawks. And you know, he's right. A lot of the hockey fans out there ARE diehards who'll be there no matter what. But this is scary thinking. These owners are almost taking their fans for granted. They think they can absolutely rake the fans over the coals without any danger of retribution, because they think the fans will be there--- and besides, hockey is the greatest game in the world, so they'll come back because none of the other sports measure up anyway.

That's the thinking among ownership, and they do have the fans supporting them 1000% right now. I think they think they can get away with absolute murder.

The other thing they've talked about on the radio here is "apathy". A lot of people here, even a lot of big sports fans, are finding that they are able to live without their beloved NHL. People are living their lives. I know from talking to people that a lot of folks are surprised how little they miss the NHL. Maybe it's because of the weather- we haven't been hit by a blizzard yet in Toronto. Or maybe it's because there's a major junior or AHL team playing in town- in basically all the NHL cities in Canada, really. I know that in London, Ontario, where the London Knights have a record Canadian junior hockey winning streak going, nobody is missing the NHL at all. And there's plenty of entertainment options in the big cities like Vancouver and Toronto. So that's contributing to the sense of apathy. Maybe it's simply too soon after the end of the CFL season. Maybe it's because people are watching NFL games. Maybe people are still hoping the season will start--- soon. Lots of possible reasons.

And apparently it's even worse in the United States. I tuned into these radio sports-talk stations in the States and they don't care about the lockout at all, everyone's moved on. This week, they were talking about baseball players on steroids. You know, it doesn't seem to matter what the heck the sport is, the fans are getting raked over the coals by these bums. There's no purity or honesty left to big-time team sports, it seems. So you know what, I think there's apathy, but also weariness and complete cynicism from the masses. I think there's a segment of dedicated sports fans out there who are so fed up they're willing to say: go to hell, NHL! Go ahead and cancel the season! That's less money I'll waste on going to hockey games! I'd say the apathy out there is a cynical see-if-I-care kind of reaction, a sort of defiance. That's definitely MY attitude.

AHL LAST NIGHT IN TORONTO

Well, it looked like an NHL game. It felt like an NHL game. It smelled like an NHL game. But something was amiss. While it was Maple Leafs versus Senators at the ACC, the names on the jerseys were Colaiacovo, Harrison, Tellqvist... and the teams were from St. John's and Binghamton.

And what the heck was Jason Spezza doing in the AHL anyway?

I was there at the game last night and let me tell you, it was great. A fabulous hockey game. The game was held in Toronto for a couple of reasons. One reason: the AHL has had a lot of success by bringing their farm teams to NHL cities to provide "replacement hockey" for the miserable fans. The other reason had to do with the fact that the St. John's Maple Leafs were moving to Toronto next season and they wanted to show the fans what they would be in for. Why they want to move the baby Leafs here, I don't know. The AHL came to Toronto and was a total flop a year ago. Besides, if we really wanted to go see an AHL game we could go to Hamilton. But they're moving the baby Leafs to Ricoh Coliseum next season anyway, whether we want 'em or not.

There was a big crowd- about 17,000 was the report, not quite a sellout- and it was a heck of a game. In the first period there were a couple of really good fights. And there were lots of hits throughout the game. Finally, in the final period, something snapped. Maybe it was the knowledge that they were going to be stuck in the AHL for quite possibly the entire freaking season. Maybe it was the unusually rowdy, young crowd of drunk hockey fans at the ACC. Who knows.

In any event, both teams dropped their gloves and all ten players on the ice got into a huge, stinking fight. And the crowd, most of them inebriated, just totally went nuts. Totally went ape.

After the refs finally got around to clearing the debris and gloves off the ice after that melee, the Leafs scored and they won the game 3-2. So the fans went home very happy and very pleased with the entertainment they saw from the AHL.

I'll tell you, this lockout has been great for the AHL. That league is making a killing putting games in NHL cities. And in fact Edmonton has an AHL team for the entire season up there, not just one or two games. The AHL will be in business there, regardless of whether the NHL comes back or not. But the AHL really belongs in lunch-bucket cities and places that aren't major-league. This league belongs in places like Rochester, Hershey, Syracuse and Providence, not Toronto or Edmonton or Chicago or Philly or any of these other big cities. They need to get the NHL back in there. Will the NHL be back soon? Tune in next week at this same time and we'll have much more of a clue as to what the answer to that question may be.