Lighting the Lamp with Rick Ackerman
The National Hockey League made several announcements that you may have missed, so I will be happy to update you on these recent developments that will have a tremendous effect on the upcoming 2016-17 season. I will also relate some rather interesting late-breaking news from the St. Louis Blues.
Yes, expansion looms on the NHL horizon as the new Las Vegas Black Aces will open play this coming October on the Strip in Sin City. The NHL awarded a franchise to billionaire businessman Bill Foley for $500 million. The Black Aces will play in the $400 million, 17,500 seat MGM-AEG Arena, which sits just behind New York-New York and Monte Carlo. 14, 000 hockey-mad Los Vegans have already made season ticket deposits and all 68 Premium Hospitality and Loge/Opera suites have already been sold to just about every casino and hospitality business in Vegas. With help from the NHL in the form of the recent $1 billion deal with Canadian cable and television stations, Foley estimates he will recoup his almost $1 billion investment and show a profit after six months. The Black Aces will be grouped in the Pacific Division and it’s a good bet they will sell out every game as fans flock to the many Sportsbooks before the game to get their wagers down.
That leaves the NHL with one division, the Central, with one less team, so the NHL also announced an expansion franchise would also be awarded to a group from Quebec, headed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney. His consortium, Quebecor, would also pay a $500 million expansion fee and play in the newly constructed Videotron Centre, which seats over 18,000 for hockey. The team will be called the Bulldogs, an homage to the professional team in Quebec City that won two Stanley Cups in 1912 and 1913. The ‘dogs will be grouped in the Atlantic Division, which will force the Detroit Red Wings to the Central Division to even out the number of teams in each division. Detroit actually volunteered for this as management felt the Red Wings would have a better chance of qualifying for the playoffs in the Western Conference.
How wonderful it will be to renew the divisional rivalry with the formerly hated Octopus eaters, eh? This move also prompted Central Division teams to slightly change their names. So, Dallas becomes the Emerald Stars, Nashville becomes the Golden Predators, Minnesota the Green Wild, Colorado the Ivory Avalanche and Winnipeg the Royal Blue Jets, joining the Blues and Blackhawks. It is anticipated the Central will be the most colorful division in the NHL next season.
With this vast influx of money (over $2 billion including the Canadian cable and television deal and expansion fees), the NHL announced the salary cap would increase for the 2016-17 season from the current $71.4 million to a whopping $100 million, mostly to accommodate Stan Bowman and the Blackhawks, who had to resort to dubious means this season to stay under the cap. This move will enable every team to overspend over the summer for costly free agents and make ridiculous trades to bolster their rosters.
The NHL also announced a working agreement with Luxottica Group, the market leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of fashion, luxury, sports and performance eye-care and prescription services. Luxottica has an extensive retail network across the United States, Canada and Europe (with 2015 sales of just over $3 billion), including Lenscrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical brands. All NHL referees and linesmen will be afforded free eye-care services after a total and complete examination by Luxottica’s expert technicians.
On the home front, the Blues made a major announcement, revealing the design for the jersey the team will wear for the 2016 NHL Winter Classic game on January 2 in St. Louis. As you can see, it is a beauty, one our boys will be proud to wear!
More late-breaking news from the Blues involves their Russian defector, Vlad Sobotka. After his team, Avangard Omsk, was ousted from the Kontinental Hockey League playoffs two weeks ago, the feisty Czech contacted Blues’ GM Doug Armstrong about a possible return to the Blues. Armstrong had Sobotka write an essay about why he wanted to play in St. Louis now after rejecting an earlier offer, and apparently Sobotka wrote an excellent paper since the Blues announced he will join the team and hopefully be ready to play in the last two games of the season in Chicago and then St. Louis.
In order to sign Sobotka under the salary cap, the Blues announced that wingers Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin and goaltender Anders Nilsson were all suffering from the same lower body injury (believed to be a severe toe fungus) and would have to be placed on the long-term IR until the playoffs begin. Since his last name starts with "S", Sobotka will replace Jaden Schwartz on the "S-T-L" line. Schwartz will be on the right wing with Paul Stastny and Alexander Steen on the new "Triple S" line. We can all go, "Ssssssssss" when they take the ice, eh? That means another new line, the "BBF", will feature David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Robby Fabbri, who all happen to be best boy friends, making the name for the line quite clever.
In other really big news, the Blues also announced that our lovable blue mascot Louie was injured in a fall down twenty rows of stairs as he attempted to silly-string some guy in an Avalanche jersey Tuesday and will have to be replaced by "Playoff Panda", who just happens to be Louie’s distant cousin from California. "PP" (as he is affectionately known, not to be confused with the power play) will make his first appearance on the last day of the regular season during the game with Washington. Apparently there were some visa problems and homeland security measures that delayed his arrival and hence his debut.
Thank you for reading St. Louis Game Time on this fine first day of April!