Tag Archives: 92-CITI-FM

Winnipeg Hockey Fans Were Right. They Almost Had The Coyotes Last Year.

Last February, when Joe Aiello and I started talking about all the hockey rumors on 92-CITI-FM, it was intriguing to watch the response. The local mainstream media instantly crapped all over us.

Joe and I were expressing our interest in all the chatter that had been emanating from MTS Centre where more than one employee talked openly about the changes that were planned for the building, the employees and the future of hockey in Winnipeg.

At first, it was thought that there was an opportunity for True North Sports and Entertainment to acquire the Atlanta Thrashers, but as we looked and listened more closely, it was apparent there was an even greater chance, at the time, that the Phoenix Coyotes might move north. The rumors did not stop circulating until mid-May and by then, it was clear that while most MTS Centre employees were convinced something was happening, by the middle of May, all the talk had died.

We thought we were right. We thought Winnipeg hockey fans and MTS employees were right, but unless True North ever admitted it piblicly, no one would know for sure.

Then, this past week, Mark Chipman, president of True North, admitted during a speech to the Chamber of Commerce that he and his partner, David Thomson were only minutes away from acquiring the Coyotes last May.

In fact, according to Chipman, if the City of Glendale had not committed to a guarantee of $25 million toward any monies lost by the Coyotes operation during the 2010-11 season, the Phoenix hockey franchise would have been heading back to Winnipeg on May 10, 2010.

“We literally came within 10 minutes of acquiring (the Coyotes) in May 2010 when the City of Glendale met a 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time deadline to wire the funds necessary to pay for the league’s losses for the (2010-11) season,” he told the Commerce gathering at the Fairmont.

“We left somewhat disappointed, but uplifted by the fact that the league had taken us so seriously and, as a consequence, had indicated it would just be a matter of time before we would actually acquire a team.”

That turned out to be true, too.

Although it really doesn’t matter now whether or not True North was close to acquiring a team 13 months ago, it’s nice to know that the time Joe and I spent chasing all the talk, wasn’t in vain. The fact is, True North was close to bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg, despite the protests of the major media. And, in the end, our first instinct, the Atlanta Thrashers, turned out to be correct. At least, it became correct on May 31, 2011.

I now feel I can look back on what I wrote at www.citifm.ca and rest secure in the knowledge that we were right — and so too, were the hockey fans of Winnipeg.

 

 



AJC Gets Scoop. Everyone Else Watches.

It was exactly 15 months ago that I wrote on www.92citifm.ca that the Atlanta Thrashers was the NHL team likely to move to Winnipeg if any NHL team ever moved to Winnipeg.

The reasoning was simple. For one thing, anyone who had spent any time around the MTS Centre knew that True North Sports and Entertainment had asked the folks in Atlanta about the availability of their hockey team. At least, that’s what more than a dozen True North employees were telling people. For another, the Thrashers had a problem that other teams didn’t.

Unlike the Phoenix Coyotes who would own the building in which they played and would, as a result, generate and collect all the revenues from that building — just like the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets — the Thrashers would be an orphan if the current owners, Atlanta Spirit Group, ever sold them to another local owner. In other words, the Atlanta Spirit Group would still own Phillips Arena and the Atlanta Hawks but someone else would own the Thrashers and would likely have to pay rent to the ASG folks just to use the building.

That doesn’t work. Period.

So if the Thrashers were going to be sold, they’d have to be sold to somebody who was going to take them away from Atlanta — to a building that was available and was owned by the buyer.

That’s why Winnipeg made sense in February of 2010 and it makes sense now. And it’s why the Phoenix Coyotes were NEVER moving back to Winnipeg.

When the Atlanta Journal-Constitution got assistant NHL commissioner Bill Daly on tape, saying there was no guarantee that the Thrashers would still be in Atlanta in 2011, one can understand why. It would be virtually impossible to own the Thrashers on your own and pay rent, — or even get free rent, but no revenues — from a building that belongs to somebody else.

The Thrashers are very likely to move. And it’s also likely that Winnipeg is the only reasonable destination.

However, before anything happens, the NHL will make certain that it has exhausted every possible scenario in an effort to keep the team in Atlanta. Even if there is no guarantee that Atlanta has a legitimate future as a home to an NHL team.

* * *

STATEMENT FROM THE COMMISSIONER

Commissioner Gary Bettman made the following statement on his radio show this week:

“I think everybody needs to take a step back because I think there’s been a fair amount of speculation, supposition and even hysteria in the media, which has been largely fabricated,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com. “I wish I had a dollar for all of the reports a month ago that said the Coyotes were definitely moving, and it was going to happen in a matter of days.

“I mean, people who are reporting on this stuff are simply making it up, and that’s unfortunate for our fans. It’s unfortunate for the fans who have a club they don’t want to lose, and it’s unfortunate for building up expectations in other places.”



Atlanta to Winnipeg? Sounds Like February 2010.

Bill Daly, the vice-president of the National Hockey League, is an interesting guy. Whip-smart and with a sound handle on the business side of hockey, Daly was always at the forefront of the “Save or Don’t Save the Phoenix Coyotes” argument. And for him, there was never any doubt. If you listened closely, there was never even a waver in his voice. He said from Day 1, the league was going to do everything humanly possible to keep the Coyotes in Phoenix, and it did.

That’s why his comments this week regarding the future of the Atlanta Thrashers were somewhat stunning. He made it clear that he hoped all would go well in the Thrashers’ efforts to find a new investor in order to maintain a franchise in Georgia, but he didn’t say it with quite the same conviction he did when he said the league would do everything possible to save the Coyotes.

This time, Daly essentially alluded to a clear fact of capital, saying that in the United States, the market will determine the future. Whether it’s a business or a hockey franchise, Daly made it known that if the market couldn’t carry the Thrashers, the Thrashers might have to be carried to another market.

We wrote on the 92-CITI-FM website in February of 2010 that a team was on the verge of heading to Winnipeg and that the team would be the Atlanta Thrashers, not the Phoenix Coyotes.

It’s not going to happen for the start of the 2011-12 season, not a chance, but as Daly suggested this week, the Thrashers future in Atlanta isn’t quite as guaranteed as the Coyotes future was in Phoenix/Glendale.

Those with their hands on the pulse of the NHL still believe that the Atlanta Thrashers will end up in Winnipeg for the 2013-14 season — or sooner and it will be the Thrashers for a handful of reasons:

1) The Thrashers are 28th on the NHL’s list of announced attendance (don’t believe a word of announced attendances), behind the Islanders and Coyotes. The league knows they play in a college football town and the league also knows the attendance isn’t going to get any better.

2) The team’s owner has worked very hard for more than two years to find a business partner and he has not enticed one person who was interested in buying a chunk of the franchise and keeping it in Atlanta.

3) The Thrashers play in the NHL’s Eastern Conference and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has two problems with his East-West split — the Detroit Red Wings and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Both teams are located in the Eastern time zone and yet they play in the West. Detroit, being an Original 6 team, has first dibs on a spot in the Eastern Conference, and Bettman would be happy moving an existing, yet struggling Eastern team to the West so he can move the Wings to the East. Atlanta to Winnipeg (just like the Islanders or maybe Florida to Kansas City) works.

4) An NHL franchise in Atlanta has failed before. The Flames crashed in the late 70s and were eventually moved to Calgary. Moving a second failed franchise in the same market is not as horrible an optic as moving Winnipeg to Phoenix and then Phoenix back to Winnipeg.

5) Bettman wants to appease the new, suddenly militant NHLPA which now has former MLBPA boss Donald Fehr as its executive director. Fehr hates salary caps and will quite happily take his players out on strike if there is one tiny, little thing he doesn’t like. Fehr loves labour strife and he’ll create strife were it doesn’t really exist. So in order to try and save his “cap-based-on-revenue” concept, Bettman needs to keep revenues high and the cap moving up every year. That means he must get out of struggling markets soon and while he did everything he could to save Phoenix because of his legacy, his ego, the optics of the situation and the promises he made to the community, he won’t be quite as enthused about saving a franchise that has none of those concerns.

We will know this year if (first) and when Winnipeg will get a new NHL franchise.

I wrote in February of 2010 that it would be the Atlanta Thrashers. I still believe that today.



The NFL Makes the Right Decision… Sort Of.

The National Football League made an interesting, and proper, decision this week. They decided that for this season’s playoffs, at least, the team that won that won the coin toss wasn’t necessarily going to have the advantage over the team that didn’t.

And while the coin-toss winner will continue to have an advantage in one sense, when it comes to the post-season, the coin-toss winner can’t get away with having a great field goal kicker and little else.

By a vote of 28-4 (who voted against this?), the league decided to give both teams a chance to score in overtime so long as the team that won the coin toss didn’t score a touchdown. In other words, if the team that got the ball first in OT went down and kicked a field goal, the other team got a shot at tying the game or winning it with a touchdown of their own.

That’s the way the rule should always have been. As we said on 92-CITI-FM this morning, “the CFL doesn’t do a whole lot of things better than the NFL, but one thing it does do considerably better is conduct its overtime.” At least the CFL’s overtime system is fair. Both teams get the ball at least once, both teams have a fair chance to get their offences on the field.

For years — this regular season included — the lucky NFL team has won far more often than it should. It sure doesn’t take any skill to win a coin toss. At least, when this year’s playoffs roll around, both teams will get a fairer, if not a completely fair, shake and that’s a step in the right direction.

In fact, it’s probably the best decision made by the NFL’s competition committee since the day they decided to move the uprights to the back of the end zone.



More Hockey Talk As The NHL GMs Meet in Florida

There were nine NHL games on Tuesday night in the NHL, five more on Wednesday and 10 more on Thursday night. After 14 days at the Olympics, the NHL has a lot of catching up to do. It will be difficult to keep up.

In the meantime, from new rules regarding hits to the head, possible new shootout rules and a lawsuit against the former owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, this is just about the busiest March of the decade.

Let’s look a little deeper inside the NHL…

1) On Sunday, the 92-CITI-Sports Machine was in St. Paul, Minn., to watch the suddenly strong Calgary Flames drill the Minnesota Wild 5-2. So what suddenly changed in Calgary?

Simple, as we told you on Sunday, Flames head coach Brent Sutter put Jarome Iginla on a line with Rene Bourque And Matt Stajan and on Sunday, the line combined for 10 points as Iginla had his 10th career hat-trick.

Not bad, for only the second game together and they were pretty darn good on Tuesday night in their third game together. Bourque and Iginla each scored once and added an assist and the Flames won (4-2)  a rare one in Detroit.

2) If there was one team that would frighten me if I were the San Jose Sharks or Chicago Blackhawks, it would be the Detroit Red Wings.

The Wings have been banged up all season long. For months, they had at least three of their best players out of the lineup. They were half a hockey team for much of the season. But now they’re healthy, the playoffs are beckoning and if Jimmy Howard gets the job done, the Wings could be the sleeper of the playoffs.

But first, they have to play better than they did against Calgary on Tuesday night.

3) This weekend while I was in St. Paul, a number of hockey experts watched the newly formed Iginla-Stajan-Bourque line and wondered aloud which line was the best in the game today.

A couple suggested Alexander Ovechkin-Alexander Semin and anyone on the other side, but the consensus seemed to be that the best line in the NHL was New Jersey’s No. 1 line of Zach Parise, Jamie Langenbrunner and Winnipeg’s own Travis Zajac.

If nothing else, it’s one of the few lines in the NHL that has been together for most of the season and it provide salmost all of New Jersey’s scoring.



Let’s Hope the Hype Doesn’t Bite Our Athletes in the Bottom

As I sat watching the Opening Ceremony at the 21st Olympic Winter Games, all I could think about was this: I sure the media hype doesn’t come back to bite these kids in the ass.

The “Austin Powers” Opening Ceremony was nice (White Go-Go Boots? Interesting choice) last night and Canada’s “I Believe” corps was out in full force. And that’s all good. We want to believe in our athletes.

I just hope that all this pre-Olympic hype doesn’t come back to bite these athletes in the behinds if it turns out that they don’t dominate the podium like we’ve all been promised.

Canada should do well, but there are no guarantees. Let’s cheer for our athletes, but let’s not condemn them for the national media’s insane pre-Olympic hyperbole if things don’t turn out to our liking.

If we don’t win the Games or don’t win all the medals the national media has promised, let’s not be taking it out on the athletes. Make sure we take it out on the people who created the hype machine, not the kids getting all sweaty in our honor.

I will make this vow. Here www.rivercitysportsblog.com and every day on 92-CITI-FM, I will not EVER criticize a Canadian athlete or coach. We all know the athletes will do the best they can and yet m aybe, just maybe, their best isn’t as good as the “I Believe” hype machine guaranteed it would be.

In the meantime, I’ll cheer for the maple leaf and not be too depressed if the Canadian kids don’t win every single medal.



Joe Mack Named Bombers GM. News Conference on Friday.

Joe Mack, who was with the Bombers from 1984-87, will be officially unveiled as the team’s general manager and director of football operations at a 10 a.m. news conference on Friday.

The story was broken early Thursday afternoon on Winnipeg’s 92-CITI-FM.

Mack has not held a CFL position since he left the Bombers in 1987, but he has worked with three NFL franchises — Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins. He won a Grey Cup ring with the Bombers in 1984 and helped build the team that won in 1988 and he won a Super Bowl ring with Washington in 1992.

Mack is a tremendous football man and an outstanding guy. This is a great first step for the rebuilding Bombers.



The Mainstream Media Strikes Again. Mike Judge was Right, it IS an Idiocracy.

LAKE BUENA VISTA,  Fla. – There was a wonderfully funny Mike Judge movie called Idiocracy released in 2007 starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. It was about an average guy who awakes from a 500-year sleep/coma only to find that the United States had been dumbed-down to such an extent that he was now, clearly, the most intelligent person on the planet.

If our North American mainstream media continues to dumb us all down the way it has in recent years, Idiocracy won’t be a far-fetched cult-comedy. Soon, it will be North America.

Let’s take a look at another week in the wonderful world of mainstream media lies, lunacy and lethargy.

1) Isn’t it great when the media runs a guy out of town? Just ask Winnipeg football fans who allowed their own local mainstream media knuckleheads to run Bomber quarterback Kevin Glenn out of town, only to listen to that listen to that same media mob lament Glenn’s departure when he came back to beat the Bombers in the final game of the 2009 season.

In Kansas City, the local media didn’t like Larry Johnson, didn’t like what he (allegedly) said to them and they certainly didn’t want him around. So they joined forces, created a media mob and convinced everyone in the Chiefs organization that Johnson called them all an offensive name and demanded that the Chiefs release him.

The Chiefs did, of course, bowing to the same local media pressure that has helped make the Winnipeg Blue Bombers a team that has had four coaches and hundreds of players (many of them quarterbacks) in just six years.

So what did Johnson do last Sunday? He rushed for 107 yards for the playoff bound Cincinnati Bengals. If the Chiefs never make the playoffs again, it will be too soon. When the media — people who have never played a down of actual real football — runs your team, you’re finished.

2) The mainstream media in Winnipeg has found a new method to help the board of directors of the football club make a decision to fire head coach Mike Kelly. The latest is to suggest that corporate sponsors will cancel their financial commitments to the club if Kelly is back as head coach next season.

As a person who works seven days a week in the corporate sponsorship field, I can assure the board and the local mainstream media story tellers that no corporate sponsor is leaving the football club because Kelly is or isn’t the head coach.

A sponsor might leave because there is a recession and money is tight. He might leave because he doesn’t feel a sponsorship with the club will give him the advertising bang he requires. He might not even want his brand associated with a dumpy stadium and a football club that hasn’t won a title in 19 years. But there is not one sponsor who, honestly, will pull his support because of the coach.

I’ve asked countess corporate sponsors if they plan to pull their financial support from the football club because Kelly is the head coach and not one has said anything of the sort. I’ve also asked more than one board member which sponsors might be leaving and they have no idea.

So let’s bury another mainstream media myth (lie?). There might be reasons why some corporate sponsors would pull their support from the Winnipeg Football Club, but it is NOT because Mike Kelly is or isn’t the head coach.

3) Why would any sports fan spend a dollar on a newspaper? By the time a newspaper gets a story, it’s not just 24 hours old, it’s often multiple-weeks old.

Friday’s official re-signing of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith by the Chicago Blackhawks was first announced in Winnipeg on 92-CITI-FM 18 days ago — on the same day the pending deals were announced by a couple of Chicago-area sports blogs. The Chicago Tribune had the rumours the next morning.

The pending contract signings were discovered as a response to a Sun Media “report,” out of Ottawa that claimed Toews, Kane and Keith were all on the trade block in Chicago because the Hawks had “salary cap issues.” As usual, that newspaper report turned out to be false.

Thursday at 92-CITI, we had the story on the contracts’ details and Saturday, the stories finally reached the local newspapers after the Hawks officially announced the deals (Toews and Kane each agreed to five-year. $31.5 million deals while Duncan Keith signed a cap-busting 13-year, $72 million contract).

And people actually pay money for old news? A lot of people are dumber than we thought.



The Same People Who Called for the Head of Kevin Glenn Now Want Mike Kelly Removed. I Don’t Think I’d Listen.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are not going to the playoffs and now the Bombers, a team that finished 7-11 this season, have officially not won the Grey Cup in 19 years.

Sunday afternoon at Canad Inns Stadium in front of 29,038 loyal  spectators, the Bombers offence just couldn’t get anything going.  Quarterback Michael Bishop went eight-for-26 for only 122 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions and the Bombers fell 39-17 to Kevin Glenn and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Bishop was the 2009 winner of the ignominious Two-and-Out Award.

So next week, the Ticats will play host to the B.C. Lions in the Eastern semifinal at Ivor Wynne Stadium while the Bombers will disperse this week, but only a few players will have uncertain futures. For the most part, the rebuilding of the Bombers is done and while there is very little doubt that head coach Mike Kelly will go after depth and a quarterback this off-season.

Yesterday, Kelly spoke with Tom, Joe and The Coach on 92-CITI-FM and made his plans pretty clear.

“Defensively, we’re in good shape,” Kelly said. “Offensively, everybody was in a panic because we were forced to rebuild the O-line because a number of players chose to leave. I never wanted to force anyone to stay here and when players asked me before the season if they could go, I found a way to let them go. No one should play someplace against their will.

“So we rebuilt the offensive line and they really became pretty good by the end of the season. John Murphy (the player personnel guy) and I will go out and try to add some depth there. We have some good young receiver in Adarius Bowman and Titus Ryan and Brock Ralp did a nice job for us this year. We improved there and we have Fred Reid and Yvenson Bernard in the backfield and we’ll go out an add some depth there, as well.”

Kelly never mentioned the quarterback and his silence was deafening.

“We had to rebuild the defensive backfield and I think that’s really turned out well. We have some great young corners and DBs and we’ll look around to add depth there as well. Our young defensive lineman, Phillip Hunt, Odell Willis and Dorian Smith, really developed toward the end of the year and we’re pleased with them. We still need to add some depth and we’ll do that.”

While fans and the local mainstream media — ESPECIALLY the local mainstream media — called for Kelly’s head, it should be noted that those were the exact same people who demanded that Kevin Glenn be run out of town. I’d be surprised if Lyle Bauer makes the same mistake twice.

That’s because this Bomber team is on the right track. Winnipeg fans will always highlight the negative first. Like Philly fans, that’s just the way we are. But when you stop and think about how far this team — as a team, not just as a quarterback — has come, you realize that it’s closer to a championship now than it was in 2008.

To recap:

1) Kelly let all the players who didn’t want to play in Winnipeg go elsewhere. Two of the big shots who left, Joe Smith and Derick Armstrong didn’t find work. The players remaining want to be Blue Bombers.

2) Alexis Serna grew remarkably as a kicker under Kelly’s leadership and after one game handling both the kicking and punting duties, the boss knew that Serna was a kicker, not a multi-tasker.

3) Kelly brought Troy Westwood back and he punted quite well in what might have been his last game. At 42, if Westwood retires, he goes out a hero, not a worthless cog sent to the scrap heap as he was with Doug Berry.

4) Kelly rebuilt the worst defensive secondary in the CFL and made it one of the best. He rebuilt the defensive line and he rebuilt the offensive line. By the end of the season, the Bombers had a number of young star players signed to long term deals. The future is very bright.

5) Kelly didn’t let his ego get in the way of making the Bombers a better football club. When it was clear Stefan Lefors couldn’t get the job done, the coach admitted the mistake and went out and got Michael Bishop. In the end, Bishop let Kelly down (along with 29,000 fans), but despite losing the last two games of the season, at one point, Bishop was 6-6 as a starter. It’s unlikely Bishop will be back. It’s very unlikely he’ll ever play again. But he served a purpose in the short term and Kelly has to be credited with going to Plan B. many coaches wouldn’t.

6) Kelly gave the football team back to the fans. In fact, he had two fans speak to the team last Saturday. The Bombers no longer belong to the local mainstream media and that must really piss them off.

Mike Kelly has his shortcomings. Well, one, anyway.

He refuses to bow down on one knee to the mainstream media and that hurt him to no end. Nasty people with thin skins are pretty hard to trust and for Kelly, he was in big, big trouble the day he refused to answer the same question a different way after that question was asked eight times.

The reality is this: the less Mike Kelly says, the better.

In the meantime, the Bombers future is brighter than it has been in a long while. That is, if Kelly and Murphy and Bauer can find a quarterback. As Paul Robosn said after he was fired in Ottawa, “If you can’t find a guy who can fling it, you don’t have a chance.”

Sunday, when Bishop spent the second half going two-and-out, time after time, it was clear the Bombers had no one who could fling it.

If Kelly and Co. can find the guy, this will be a very good football team.



Sitting In the Middle of a Full House in St. Paul is A Lot Different than Sitting in Florida, Tampa or Phoenix — Or Even Denver.

ST. PAUL, Minn. — It’s a gorgeous night in the Twin Towns and the “Team of 18,000″ is getting ready to sing State of Hockey here at the Xcel Energy Centre. It’s the Minnesota Wild, a day before Shane Hnidy’s 34th birthday, against the Dallas Stars, with Minnesota’s beloved Mike Modano, not only in the lineup but starting the game and playing on the No. 1 line, at age 39.

It’s been a shaky start to the 2009-2010 season for the Wild. Minnesota’s team heads into tonight’s game at 5-10-0 (1-7-0 on the road) and while the record hasn’t negatively affected the team’s attendance this season, it has been a grind on the staff.

“It’s tough,” said the Wild’s VP of communications Bill Robertson earlier tonight. “It’s a tough economy, it’s tough to sell tickets. We still sell every seat, but we’re not overflowing with standing room like we usually are and it’s tougher to sell corporate suites than it used to be.

“On the upside, merchandise sales are way up because of fans have really taken to our third jersey.”

It’s hard to listen to a guy — even a great guy like Billy Rob — worry about the fans in Minnesota after you’ve already seen games in Florida, Tampa and Nashville this season and have interviewed Doug Moss, the president of the Phoenix Coyotes (check out www.hotdoghockey.com for that interview). Those are markets with big trouble. There is no trouble at all in St. Paul.

However, no one ever would have believed that there could be trouble in Denver, the home of the Colorado Avalanche, and it appears now that there is.

Wednesday night, for a game against Phoenix, the Avalanche drew a franchise-low 11,012 (remember, that’s the announced crowd) ticket buyers. This season, the Avs have averaged just 14,759 through its first five home games and that once again means, “Who cares if MTS Centre has only 15,001 seats?” Not even the red-hot Colorado Avalanche average 15,000 per game these days.

(Oops, Cal Clutterbuck just scored a shorthanded goal from our pal Shane Hnidy.)

With an average of 14,759 per game, the Avalanche stand 25th in the NHL in per-game attendance ahead of only Florida, Tampa Bay, Nashville, the New York Islanders and Phoenix.

Meanwhile, after watching the Atlanta Thrashers play on TV this week,  in front of a crowd that appeared to include the players’ parents and no one else, it’s hard to imagine the Thrashers have the nerve to say they average more per game than the Avs or even the Winnipeg South Blues.

Meanwhile, there will soon be an ownership change in South Florida. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Alan Cohen’s days as majority owner of the Panthers are coming to an end, as two partners in his ownership group are expected to take control of the team.

Two Boca Raton businessmen, Panthers Vice-Chairman Cliff Viner and Managing Director Stu Siegel, will buy most of Cohen’s 43 per cent of the team and become co-managing partners.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, “Panthers fans are desperate for change. The team has not made the playoffs since 2000, the longest playoff drought in the NHL, and has undergone numerous coaching and general manager changes and traded away some of its best players, including Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen and Jay Bouwmeester.”

But here’s the kicker, the paper added: “The ownership change is not expected to resolve the team’s financial struggles. The team’s parent company, Sunrise Sports & Entertainment, is seeking Broward County’s help to restructure its debt on the county-owned BankAtlantic Center.”

It’s a mess on Long Island, Phoenix is a disaster (only 5,585 this past Monday at jobing.com Arena), Tampa Bay and Nashville are hurting, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce has conceded that the Blue Jackets don’t have much life left and now Florida needs government help from a government that isn’t flush.

We all know Gary Bettman doesn’t want to admit it, but the NHL is in big, big trouble.

* * *

KELLY SAYS “BULL-CACA.” THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA DOESN’T RESPOND IN ANGER. WONDER WHY?

Friday morning, during an interview with Tom McGouran, Kathy Kennedy and The Coach, on 92-CITI-FM, Blue Bombers coach Mike Kelly poked the local mainstream media with a stick. Again.

Kelly, laughing all the way, said, “You guys have the only media outlet that isn’t bull-caca.”

He then added, “I don’t think I can be fined $2,000 by the league for saying ‘bull-caca.” Can I? ”

He was assured by McGouran that it was unlikely he’d be fined. In fact, McGouran agreed with him.

“Can’t be fined for telling the truth,” McGouran laughed.

That’s true to an extent. Kelly could still be fined because he told the truth the first time and was fined.

Then again, he had no bone to pick with CITI, a spot on the dial where the interviewers ask good, solid questions without being rude and obnoxious.