Friday, July 18, 2008

Where is Perry Mason When You Need Him?

In case you don't know who the guy pictured on the left is then allow me to introduce the lawyer of lawyers one Perry Mason who only lost one case during his run on TV from 1957-1966.

We bring him up mainly because it seems that on Thursday the hockey world was more about legal issues than the announcement of the 2008-2009 NHL regular season schedule which is kind of sad to see.

As old time hockey fans, one of the things we liked to tell people we liked about hockey was unlike other sports the main focus tended to be about the sport and not the legal issues that overshadowed.

On Thursday, MSG filed their response to the NHL lawsuit as John Dellapina reported at his blog. Got to admit that the owners of a cable company in an industry that repeatedly gets accused of violating anti-trust laws is rather funny in it's own way.

In reading the argument filed by MSG, one kept waiting to see the "we are the experts on questionable business practices so we know one when we see one" brief offered. While that did not happen at the same time one does have to give some credit to the legal team that MSG used here as they very much earned their fees in the brief that Dellapina linked to in his blog here.

Now the last thing we would ever try to be is any kind of legal eagle but for us there is one area that stood out at least to us as making so much sense is in their conclusion where the Dolan legal team wrote:

"If MSG prevails on its antitrust claims, the NHL plainly cannot discipline MSG, or compel it to pay damages, for filing those claims."

For us it does make sense is because the final ruling on the original lawsuit has yet to be be made and despite setbacks for injunctions requested by MSG there remains not final ruling on the original lawsuit.

IF MSG like the Dallas Cowboys and then Los Angeles Raiders did in winning their own court cases then the attempt to discipline MSG does in fact disappear. However we got to admit that we are rooting for MSG to win their case because we hope it leads to the end of the Gary Bettman era as commisioner.

The Southern Perry Mason perhaps?

In yesterday's Tennessean, Brad Schrade reported that one of the reported investors of the Nashville Predators claims that bankrupt and disgraced Predator co-owner William J. "Boots" Del Biaggio III told him that the NHL allowed him to bypass the supposedly strict financial background checks for prospective owners.

The accuser Doug Bergeron is a Canadian investor living in California who was offered a share of the Predators and is no saint in his own right. Bergeron was the former chairman of a company called Verifone, a company that was accused of overstating their profits.

Not to mention that Bergeron's investment company DGB is also currently suing Del Biaggio to recoup money they claim was fraudulently obtained. It is very clear that Bergeron has an ax to grind with Del Baggio but at the same time one has to ask some serious questions about how Del Baggio was able get past the NHL supposedly tough background checks.

That Gary Bettman is once again quiet when accusations about people who Bettman publically supported to become NHL owners only to discover misdeeds makes people wonder just how strict these background checks are.

Here is the part that makes us ask that question as NHL VP Bill Daly responded to an email request for an interview sent this:

"With respect to Mr. Del Biaggio's apparent claim that the League waived certain of our standard financial background checks, we do not believe that to be the case," Daly's e-mail said. "Due diligence on Mr. Del Biaggio's ownership application was treated in a consistent manner as with the applications of other prospective owners."

Then please someone with the NHL explain how not one, not two, not three but FOUR current NHL owners are under some sort of US federal investigation over either their business practices or how they report their company's money matters? Yet the NHL is worried about the Dolan's wanting to be able to control how they market the Rangers makes one say that their priorities are all screwed up.

It is way past time for Gary Bettman to go if for no other reason than because the list of former NHL owners on his watch that Bettman himself publically supported only to wind up being nothing more than a criminal is too large to ignore. If there is even the slighest bit of truth to theses accusations than Gary Bettman must go.

The International Perry Mason

The Saga of both the supposed "peace treaty" between the NHL and the members of the IIHF took yet another serious hit when the KHL announced that they would not sign any members of the NHL from July 10 until at the very least August 1st.

Nice try guys since that would mean that the KHL is claiming that the contract that soon to be Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov signed with UFA of the KHL is fair and binding despite that Radulov having a year remaining on his contract with the Nashville Predators.

It seems that the KHL wants to claim that this is fair and tries to link former Russian players who left Russian teams to join the NHL as reasons why this is an acceptable move.

So with this soap opera getting lamer and lamer with each passing day then here is our suggestion to the NHL on how to get the Russians to live up to their agreement: Inform the IIHF that since the KHL is claiming that nobody has signed any documents then the NHL will not sign this agreement if Radulov's contract with UFA is allowed to stand.

The Russians keep threatening to raid the NHL for top level players but truth be told when the very best Russian players are not even interested in returning home then it is doubtful that any NHL superstar in their prime will bolt and risk their playing career.

Then the NHL should also inform the IIHF that the NHL will not be sending any NHL players to the Winter Olympics after the 2010 games in Vancouver unless the Russians not only void Radulov's contract but abide by said already written agreement AND agree to a fair Player Transfer Agreement.

The biggest weapon the NHL does have against the KHL is the 2014 Winter Olympics which will also be the first Winter Olympics ever held in Russia. Use the promise not to allow NHL players to attend the 2014 games against the Russian Hockey Federation.

It is risky since the Russian could threaten to boycott the 2010 games but given how much is at stake for them in 2014 the odds are against that happening.

Dawes Deserved a Better Deal

Yes we are biased, yes we have been vocal supporters of Nigel Dawes since we first covered him in 2004 but to see Dawes being low balled by the Rangers for a reported 587,000 is a joke to us.

Tell us how exactly do the Rangers justify this contract after giving Voros and Rissmiller 1 million each? If they say that Dawes was a one year wonder then go look at Voros and ask what he has done in his NHL career and for how long.

Voros has all of 55 NHL games under his belt, Rissmiller 180 games with 18 career goals to show for it (Dawes has 15 in 69). To see Dawes be treated in such a manner makes us wonder when Glen Sather is going to learn to treat his home grown prospects better.

If the Rangers want to claim that next year Dawes can file for arbitration then sorry Sean Avery showed the Ranger world how the team operates in arbitration so we will pass on that.

Pass the Salt We Got Words To Eat

Yesterday we said "No Thanks" to Freddie Sjostrom because we thought his refusal to accept the Ranger qualifying offer of 880,000 was selfish. We was very much in the wrong as Steve Zipay of Newsday reported that Sjostrom was working on trading his 880,000 for a 2 year deal at 650,000 a season.

Hmm eating those words taste better than we thought because we are glad to be wrong instead of watching Sjostrom take the money and a sure guaranteed ticket out of town.

Why Sjostrom is willing to do that does not matter but our apologies to him do. Given the glut of possible 4th liners on the roster then Sjostrom helps his cause more by being willing to accept a whole lot less to remain a Ranger.

We would love to know whether a team can trade a newly signed UFA as under the old rules a re-signed RFA could not be traded for the first 6 months of his contract.

The question now begs who will get to stay: Betts, Sjostrom, Orr, Voros, Rissmiller, Anisimov, Moore, Byers, or someone else? At this point in time it just might boil down to salary over play.

Stay tuned at the very least training camp should be fun to watch.

(Perry Mason picture courtesy of EW.Com)

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