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The Friday Feature: Coach K Speaks Out!

Coach K

Welcome to what will hopefully become a weekly staple here at Panther Parkway:  The Friday Feature, where we have a friend of the site speak out on some of the issues of the game, and give us their honest and direct opinions with no strings attached.  Up first is someone that I consider to not only be a good friend to me, the site, and many of you, but a person who’s opinion I am truly interested in hearing.  You know him as “Coach K”.  Who is he?

Kosta Papoulias (Better known as Coach K), is a radio personality and associate producer with the Web Sports Media Network. He appears regularly on Montreal Hockey Talk (, a smash-mouth, uncensored Montreal Canadiens post-game show. Kosta has spent the better part of the last 18 years behind the bench at all levels of hockey, and speaks often to some of the best minds in the game, sharing his insight and analysis. Coach K lives near Montreal, with his loving wife of 13 years, Carole, and their 2 daughters, Amanda and Kristina.

Let’s get to it:

1) So Coach K, knowing the passion you have for the game, and the knowledge you have, I’m going to get right to it.  What is your position on the NHL Lockout, specifically is one side more out of line than the other?

This time, I place the blame on not only the owners, but their executives as well. Most GMs in the NHL have spent the last 7 years trying to find ways to circumvent the salary cap. Only a select few, like Ken Holland, Ray Shero and Steve Tambellini, have built their teams through the draft. Granted, as time goes by, keeping their blue chip draft picks becomes more difficult, but it’s the right way to build a team. They are in the minority though. Most GMs, especially in major markets where the pressure to win is immense, think that trading young assets for high priced talent is a recipe for results. I guess Bob Gainey and Glen Sather learned the hard way that it’s a formula for mediocrity. There is also the mind numbing negotiation tactics of Gary Bettman. Just because a lockout worked last time doesn’t mean you have to slam another one down everyone’s throats, while maintaining the facade that the league is negotiating in good faith.

NHL Labor Talks Resume Today. Will Progress Be Made?

The NHL and the NHLPA are scheduled to resume labor discussions today, however the talks aren’t expected to touch on the items that are keeping the sides at bay.  Instead the two sides will discuss what the definition of hockey related revenue is.   HRR to you and me.  It was reported on that there are no talks scheduled beyond Tuesday, once again giving the impression that there’s no sense of urgency to to get a deal completed by either side.

As the week progresses, we will certainly start coming dangerously close to seeing the cancellation of regular season games.  I personally would expect by the end of this week if not sooner we’ll see at least two weeks worth of games taken off the schedule.  While both sides have made some headway in discussing “secondary” issues, the major concerns still hang in the balance.  Frustration is mounting among fans, and certain players (Krys Barch) have begun voicing their opinions.  There’s even a We Love Hockey petition that’s been started.

I have read over the past few days that unless the players are willing to take a 15% pay cut, the league has no interest in discussion HRR.   I’ve also read the the two biggest drivers of that are Gary Bettman and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs.  The hardball stance that is taken by the league seems to be agitating the players, as they’ve offered to have serious discussions, yet the league has apparently avoided them.  Read the rest of this entry

REDlines: Yes It’s October. No The Lockout Hasn’t Been Settled.

September has ended, and October has begun.  Remember back in late June and early July before all this lockout nonsense how we used to tweet “Is it October yet”?  Well, it’s here, and instead we are slowly approaching the point where regular season games are going to start getting cancelled.  Not how we envisioned the start of fall.  So while you sit around your televisions tonight watching the Bears and Dallas, or maybe the Orioles and Tampa, here’s some of today’s top stories:

* Former Florida Panther Ray Sheppard lands himself a gig with the Orlando Solar Bears as a special assistant.  Our
Sports Central.

* It was not a good weekend for Krys Barch.  Here’s two views on his Saturday night heart to heart talk with Twitter.  Globe and Mail and the National Post.

* Is Pat LaFontaine going to save the Islanders?  Isles Talk.

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Hockey Fans: You’ll Be Back. You Know You Will

As we enter day nine of the NHL lockout, things are very quiet with no talks taking place, and most of us wondering if there’s any even scheduled.  Our greatest fear is that the longer this goes, the worse it becomes, and the threat of a lost season comes at a time when the game is at the height of popularity.  Both sides want the other side to feel some sort of pain, however in order for this settlement to happen, each side is going to have to walk away hurting, and give something up.  That’s how battles like this eventually resolve themselves.  Neither side is going to walk away after this is settled and say “yea baby, we got exactly what we want”.

Trying to take sides in this matter isn’t helping either.  I truly believe that until you realize that both sides are wrong, greedy, and foolish in their own way, you’ll continue to drive yourself crazy trying to figure out who’s more out of line.  It’s not worth it.  You probably have a better chance of scoring through the legs of one slick haired goaltender from the western conference before you can reason with one side or the other.  And maybe that’s why I’ve become a bit “numb” to some of this.  Sure, I’m upset that this past weekend fans across North America who should have been attending the opening of training camps, were likely glued to televisions watching another weekend of college football, and professional football that was being supervised by replacement officials.  Or maybe you were watching your favorite baseball team cling to their playoff chances (like me).  Point is, that you’ve temporarily found something else to occupy yourself, and while you do that, you’re forgetting for those moments about the lockout.

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The NHL Turns Some Heads With A Public Fine

Gary Bettman in 2007. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons

Yesterday, the NHL brought the hammer down.  A quote from Detroit Red Wings VP Jim Devellano apparently drew the ire of the higher-ups in the NHL office, and now his team will have to pay the price.  And it’s a steep price, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger: rumor has it the fine is $250,000.

Here’s the quote in it’s entirety:

“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the Ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle.  The owners own the Ranch and allow the players to eat there.  That’s the way its always been and that the way it will be forever.  And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.”

The quote seems a little too grounded a metaphor to be used as a platitude for the entire lockout, but it’s upsetting because nothing in the statement can be regarded as all that false.  From Devellano’s perspective, this is the owner’s world: they own it, they see that it runs smoothly, and they attempt to make profit from it.  His opinions seems grounded in a thought process that makes some sort of sense.  Which is why it’s so confusing that the NHL’s slap on the wrist was so harsh.

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NHL Threatens To Cancel the Winter Classic!

2009 Winter Classic. Image Source: Wikipedia Commons, Flickr

As we enter the eve of day six of the NHL Lockout, it is being reported that the league (NHL) is seriously considering cancelling the Winter Classic in November as a negotiating tactic.  The news reported in the Toronto Star by Kevin McGran, certainly comes as a shock to players, fans, and many others in and around the hockey world.  What is more shocking is the fact that the two sides haven’t held formal meetings for days, and that apparently Gary Bettman feels that by pulling the game, the players would not be able to use it as leverage to force a settlement.

Read the rest of this entry

Hockey. A Game That’s In Our Life.

The Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, NY packed full of hockey fans waiting for the first puck drop of the season (Photo by Amanda Land).

By now everyone has had time to absorb the announcement of the NHL lockout. To some it feels like déjà vu, to others it’s a completely new feeling. To me it brings back memories of my first season as a hockey fan. Yup, you read that right, my first full season as a hockey fan was during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. A lot of people are surprised when I say I’m not one of those kids who has been watching hockey ever since birth. I had caught a few games on TV with my dad the season before the last lockout, but it wasn’t until the 2004-05 season that I went to my first game. My dad got tickets for a Rochester Americans game through work and we started going to games after my entire family got hooked on the sport. I remember loving the fast pace of the game, and all of the fights. I also remember some of the players who I got to watch play that year. Players like Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Paul Gaustad , Derek Roy, Jason Pominville  and Chris Thorburn all wore the red, white and blue; while Jason Spezza, Antoine Vermette, Chris Neil, Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec were in town with their respective teams almost once a month.  I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when the NHL season restarted the following fall, it all sank in.  Now, I was watching all of those players, plus more, play on TV in the NHL. I couldn’t believe it. Guys I got to know the previous year were now on my TV playing in the big leagues.

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Sunday Conversation: NHL Lockout: A Little Right. A Little Wrong.

The above video appeared on CBC in mid August.  Not much has changed since then.

This article isn’t about taking sides, or making either one look better than the other.  It’s also not about who’s going to suffer the most, or why this lockout is foolish, which it is.  It’s about a better understanding of what’s taken place to get us where we are right now, and why both sides are right, and why both sides are wrong.  On Friday morning as I was driving to a meeting I happened to put on NHL Home Ice just as former Florida Panther head coach Doug MacLean was coming on.  Not knowing what Doug was going to talk about, I listened.  He has just the right amount of passion, smarts, and dry humor to always catch my attention, and this time was no different.  My summary is not verbatim, just my interpretation of what was being said.  I’m not an expert on the situation, nor do I hold MacLean as the expert either.  I do believe however that his points, which are directed at both sides make sense (I feel like that was my disclaimer).

The bulk of his time on the air focused around the NHL lockout and how the league and players found itself to be in the position that they’re in.  Most of what separates the two sides is money of course.  Each wants more, and neither appears to be too interested in making concessions to accept less.  There’s been a great deal of discussion about the math and the numbers that separate the two sides, and that was one of the first things that Doug had trouble with.  One side says that it’s a 7% spread that keeps the two apart, while the other side claims it’s 17.5% keeping them at odds.  Like me, Doug has a hard time understanding how two intelligent men can be so far off…but they are. Read the rest of this entry

Fans Are Not A Doormat


Credit: Hockey Photography by Yuri Peralta

Livid. Frustrated. Concerned. Exhausted. Sick. Helpless.

If you’re like me, the above emotions describe exactly how you’ve been feeling over the last few months. You’re nauseated over the site of Gary Bettman at a podium. You hear the words “wide” and “gap” paired together and you suddenly want to punch the nearest wall. You imagine an October with no hockey and you want to crawl into a hole and not come out until play resumes.

But most of all, you feel completely and utterly helpless. That’s the worst part of this never-ending labor mess for me. I have friends (some hockey fans, some not) come up and ask “so how are things looking, you think?” and all you can do is shrug and muster a “not good.” That response has not changed during any point of the CBA negotiations. Perhaps in some twisted sense, it’s better that way seeing as how we haven’t really had reason to get our hopes up. At the same token, though, enough is enough. When is there going to be a light at the end of the tunnel for the die-hards? Read the rest of this entry

A Lockout Hurts Everyone And Helps No One.

The owners together with Gary Bettman representing the league are unified in their stance.  There will be no hockey until an agreement is reached.  This isn’t anything new as we approach the deadline of September 15th which has been set by the NHL.  The players, with almost 300 in attendance the past two days stand along side with Donald Fehr, are willing to play while an agreement is being worked on.   Even with the players willingness to move ahead under the current arrangement, the league will not bend on their stance.  The following phase that came from Bettman yesterday was repeated numerous times last evening:

“No one wants a deal and to play hockey more than I do,” Bettman said when asked what he would tell fans about yet another lockout under his watch. “This is what I do, what my life is about as far as how I spend most of my waking hours. This is really hard. .-.-. I feel terrible about it.”

I’d like to believe that he does, despite the hardball stance he’s taken.  I’d like to think that the players do as well.  This is about money.  An evil part of most arguments, but it’s the one major part of these discussions that are keeping both sides at odds.  I’m not looking to toss the word greed around too lightly, as I see both sides at times.  The league wants to stop the bleeding for teams that are, and the players want to earn what they feel they’re worth.  Taking a 24% cut in pay isn’t going to get them there.  Hockey related revenue (HRR), the new acronym for 2012 can’t be decided on either.

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