Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Kennesaw State buys land capable of housing hockey arena

You may remember back in 2005 there was talk that Kennesaw State University would add Division I hockey as a sport. They would have played at Philips Arena temporarily until they built an arena. The University of Alabama-Huntsville would be a natural rival. But adding hockey didn't work out at that time and they continue with just a club hockey team.

About a year ago I heard from someone involved with that club team that starting DI hockey was back on the table as Kennesaw was acquiring land on which an arena could be built and working on re-zoning. I've kept my eye on this since then, and finally today something came out on it.

Within the last year, the KSU Foundation has cobbled together 88 acres between I-75 and I-575 and below Chastain Road. At least seven soccer-sized athletic fields will be laid out along with a track and restrooms.

A jogging trail will encircle a 10-acre lake. Intramural and club teams, including lacrosse, rugby and flag football, will use the fields.

Wesley Wicker, executive director of the KSU Foundation, said a minimum 2,500-seat soccer stadium also will be built. It could be expanded to handle 7,500 spectators.

Wicker added that the site could accommodate another stadium — for football.

KSU is considering adding the big-dollar, high-profile sport.

Hockey isn't mentioned in the article, but that doesn't mean it isn't in the master plan. We'll see what it looks like next month.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

2009 Gladiators Teddy Bear Toss

Tonight was the Gwinnett Gladiators' annual Teddy Bear Toss.

What the heck is that, I wondered as the crowd filled in.

This guy is loaded for bear, er ... bunnies. I would venture to guess he's been married most of his adult life.

It's not easy being green.

Nor being sand and mauve-colored. Stoezer laughs as he shows this soccer ball to Sully. Hey, this isn't an animal.

The bears actually rained down on a no-goal. It was this guy's fault, as he had an itchy goal-light finger. But given that the Gladiators only scored one actual goal mid-way through the third, maybe the premature toss wasn't so bad.

Team photographer Dale Zanine takes a picture of mascot Maximus swimming in the bears.

Mottha f'ing snakes on the mottha f'ing ice.

Awwww. Stoeszer with a heaping of bears.

Near the loading docks the boy scouts bag up the bears. And dragons. Ah, so that's what that yellow thing was.

Sadly, not everybear made it.

Note to Gladiators readers: As previously mentioned, the rate of posting on this blog is going to go down drastically. I've created a thread at HFBoards in which to discuss the team. I'll post information in that thread from time to time (tonight it will be who's starting the next three games). Please join the discussion there. I will also sometimes post information on NHL prospects in the ECHL at my new blog. But if you continue to come just here, you will be disappointed.

Friday, January 16, 2009

AJC losing $1 million a week

From Creative Loafing:

On Wednesday, during the newspaper’s quarterly staff meeting, employees got to meet the new publisher, one Doug Franklin...
Franklin also told the assembled crowd that the AJC is currently losing about $1 million every week...
The AJC is owned by a private trust, but ultimately controlled by family scion Anne Cox Chambers, a charter member of Forbes‘ “Richest People in America.” The story goes that Cox bean-counters are afraid to suggest to the company matriarch that they want to shit-can her hometown paper, the one her daddy bought back in ‘39. But even with a reported $13 billion in assets, how long will Cox Chambers, who’s pushing 90, want to float the family newspaper in its present form?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Changes, maybe a new bookmark

Over at HFBoards, I posted a notice that I’m moving on from covering Thrashers prospects at Hockey’s Future to more general topics in prospect development. Change is in the air, and this is a happy one.

What does that mean for this blog? Well, it was always meant as a complement to what I was writing about for HF, so since I won’t often be working on Thrasher prospect topics, I won’t often post on the blog. I figure that occasionally I’ll post things I happen across that would be relevant, some notes on prospect alumni, maybe a touch of local hockey, and out of a sense of justice, efforts to seek truth when all that’s coming out is spin and well, lies. Not to put too fine a point on it.

I’ve created a new blog to complement my broader prospect topics. If you like prospects as a general thing, I invite you to read it. If you’re only interested in the Thrashers though, you probably won’t dig it. Maybe just do an RSS feed and if there’s a title that interests you, great. I was always taught to under-promise and over-deliver, so I'm not going to try to sell it to you. There are other blogs that self-promote and then when you click over it's disappointing. And some of them do it for a living.

To Gwinnett Gladiator fans, the accidental audience, first thanks for reading. I’ll still be covering NHL prospects in the ECHL, so you may still find things that interest you, but they’ll likely be on the other blog. Teddy Bear Toss photos will be here though (to me that's more about local hockey.)

The Teddy Bear Toss a load of fun for those who haven’t seen it. And it’s coming right up, Saturday night at 7:05. Bring a stuffed animal, or several, to throw. I actually made a stop to get some TBT material today, but came up empty-handed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This and that

Just a few things that aren't quite worth an entire post for.

1. A well-respected sports publication is going to move into hockey in a few days/weeks. I'm not at liberty to give any details right now, but it's something people have been wanting and waiting for. I feel lucky to have a small role lined up with it -- a prospects angle, naturally.

2. With all praises to the original Big and Little Balls of Hate, I hereby dub Nicklas Lasu the Swedish Meatball of Hate. That came out of my mouth in conversation the other day and I'll now stake a claim to it. For those not familiar, he's a 2008 pick who is meaner than he is tall. Well, for a Swede, who are usually not mean and on the tall side.

3. I've had a lot of traffic coming from Winnipeg lately, thanks to the photos I posted of the Thrashers attendance. Jets fans smelled blood in the water. You can't pick your audience I guess. (Stream of consciousness moment: Winnipeg is one of the very few words I have trouble spelling. I learned to spell Winnebago before I learned Winnipeg, so to me it should have two Es.)

4. Speaking of both attendance and blood in the water, regarding my post on Setoguchi, a Sharks fan wrote in response, "I guess we should thank the Thrashers fans for Setoguchi. All five of them." Touche.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Peverley claimed off waivers by Thrashers

The Tennessean is reporting that the Thrashers have claimed Rich Peverley from the Predators.

Four years ago Peverley was a rookie in the ECHL, and after watching him play two shifts, you could see he didn't belong there. I interviewed him in January 2005 when he wasn't under contract with anyone but South Carolina, and have followed his career ever since. I remember talking to him very well -- that was the night I got into it with the Show Pro who wanted to try to tell me where to stand in the hall. Dustin Bixby intervened, saying I could stand wherever I chose, and could do snow angels in the hallway if I wanted. Someday I may take him up on that.

Having been in Milwaukee, he was an all too often opponent for the players who were on the Wolves.

I found a couple photos with Peverley in them that I took during 2008 preseason. He wore #37, which obviously is going to change when he joins the Thrashers. That was Dan Snyder's number, and off-limits.


Friday, January 9, 2009

Saving Boudreau for the shootout

There was a small storyline tonight at the Gladiators/Stingrays game. Ben Boudreau, son of Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau, has managed to stick with the South Carolina Stingrays for 19 games now, in large part due to the injuries at the top of the system on his dad's team. But Ben isn't let out on the ice much. The Stingrays are playing short-handed, but they still only found a couple shifts for Boudreau. He doesn't have the experience or skill typically found in the league.

Boudreau at warmups.

Here (center right), he's ready. And waiting. As far as I could tell, he got one shift in the first period, and one in the third. He didn't play in the second.

That made for rare photo opportunities.

Short shift, he's right back to the bench.

Stand, sit, wait, cheer (center left).

The two teams went to a shootout. Lo and behold, coach Jared Bednar sent Boudreau out to shoot. He had a chance to be a very unlikely hero.

But it was not to be. Instead, Joe Fallon was victorious.

Are we teammate or are we dancer?

After the game I was waiting to talk to Bednar, and Boudreau was the first one showered and out of the locker room. He said "hey, how ya doin" as he walked by. Later he came back in, probably to get more bags, and asked who I was waiting for to make sure I was taken care of. That was really nice. If I knew him at all (and was quick enough on the draw), I might have teased him about being saved for the shootout. But we're not on those kinds of terms.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009 and the return of the mustache to faces everywhere

Are we at the dawn of a return of the Lanny MacDonald trademark statement?

In the playoffs last spring, several hockey teams grew mustaches as a team-bonding exercise -- the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, the AHL Toronto Marlies and the Chicago Wolves.

(You can see why Valabik's nickname Borat is quite fitting.)

The wearing of the mustache was done tongue in cheek. And lately mustaches have been uncool enough to be considered punishment. Larry Bird threatened to make his NBA Pacers wear blond mustaches and short shorts if they didn't make the playoffs. Among the Chicago Wolves players, the punishment for losing a shootout contest in practice this year is to grow a mustache for a month.

But if you pay attention to New York City and Hollywood, which is where most of the nation's trends come from, there's a serious mustache trend brewing. It started out being ironic, but seems to be cementing itself.

Brad Pitt wore a mustache out and about in November. People Magazine quoted him as saying,

"It's fashion. Who am I without creative facial hair?"

Who indeed.

The two-time 'Sexiest Man Alive' was donning the moustache for his role in the Quentin Tarantino movie, Inglourious Basterds in which he plays a WWII soldier, but Pitt embraced the hair as a statement.

And just this week, Entertainment Weekly declared in their year-end edition that mustaches were in for 2009, while soul patches were out, and sideburns were five minutes ago.

Artie Kulda saw himself as a mustache victim when he lost the Wolves shootout competition on Nov. 22. Here's his growth near the end.

But if staches are on the comeback, is being forced to grow one a punishment or a push towards hep cat-ness?

In early 2008, some visionaries were already heralding the comeback of the serious mustache, but much like man skirts, it was too soon. Now, with political and economic change in the air, the time is ripe. Liberals don more mustaches, and they are about to take the executive branch. Indeed, the serious mustache will be an international trend.

Maybe it won't be until 2010 or even 2011, but in the next few years, the younger, fashionable British gent will begin to wear the moustache in cold blood. Not as a statement and not as a bet. Just as a thing he wants on his face.

The lip service is over, let the face-scaping begin. And while we're at it, we need a cooler name for the thing. They call it a "mo" in Australia because they spell it the British way, moustache. That'll do nicely.

A few weeks ago, an ill-informed 24-year-old David Backes made fun of the famously mustachioed 29-year-old George Parros.

"I can't really look at the guy," Backes told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "No one has a mustache anymore and he's got this caterpillar on his top lip."

Get with it, Backes. The cool cats have 'em.

Right now it's a hipster thing to have a mo, but soon it will be mainstream. And then will begin mustache envy by those who can't properly grow one.

And what say the ladies? The ones who have to look at and kiss these things? Blackhawks draft pick Kyle Beach said of his early-season accidental turned team-bonding mustache:

"Girls love it. That's really all that matters."

So dig out those Magnum PI reruns. Work on your "hey baby." It's a good time to be follicly-endowed.


Thrashers still keen on Tavares for 2009 draft

The WJC didn't change the Thrashers' thinking on who the top guy is for the 2009 draft -- to them it's still John Tavares. From CBCsports:

“You have very few chances to get that kind of player,” said Thrashers executive vice-president and GM Don Waddell. “We still have four months left in the season to evaluate, but if it was the Atlanta Thrashers, we’d take John Tavares.”


Hedman not NHL ready?

“Hedman will be a top defenceman in this league - no doubt. But it may take him a little longer,” Waddell added. “Tavares is ready to play and that may be a factor.” (By the way, the undrafted Swede who really impressed him was forward Magnus Svensson Paajarvi.)

Waddell also related an interesting story about Hedman and last year’s draft. After Steven Stamkos, the next four picks were defencemen: Drew Doughty (Los Angeles), Zach Bogosian (Atlanta), Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis) and Luke Schenn (Toronto).

“I asked our guys where they would take Hedman if he was available,” he said. “They told me not ahead of Doughty and not ahead of Bogosian. I then went outside our organization to another scout I trust and respect. He said the same thing.”

One could quibble with the statement that you have very few chances to get that kind of player. If you're the Thrashers, you have quite a few chances actually. They've only gotten out of the first row of tables, what, twice? Three times?

Svensson Paajarvi was really good for sure in the tourney. He looked just as dynamic as Tavares.

I recently talked to a goalie who played with Tavares, who talked about his shot. That was interesting. Now I just need to remember I have that material for when the right time comes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Atlanta as a hockey marketplace

Lest anyone think that there's something wrong with the Atlanta marketplace for hockey, a few observations.

1. I recently went to a late afternoon open skate at the Cooler in Alpharetta that was so crowded I left early.
2. My rec hockey league is filled to capacity, despite the economic crisis, and many people were left out when registration closed.
3. The Gwinnett Gladiators are fourth in attendance in the ECHL with 5,281 per game. This may be down from last year, but it's in line with the economy.

There's a good market here for hockey. Atlanta is being affected at about the same rate as the national average, and hockey is continuing on the same despite the downturn. With 5 million people, a large chunk of whom are transplants from the north (present company included), it doesn't even need to be a conversion project.

Documenting the Thrashers poor attendance

This is what an announced crowd of 10,750 looked like on Sunday at the beginning of the third period of a lackluster 4-1 loss to Tampa. The photos pretty much speak for themselves, but I would add that there have been several times over the years that I thought the Thrashers had hit rock bottom as a franchise, only to see an even lower bottom. Can it get worse? Sure because they're not yet living in a van down by the river.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Lasu may miss WJC gold medal game

Thrashers 2008 draft pick Nicklas Lasu is playing in the 2009 World Junior Championships for Sweden. But an injury could hold him out of the final game against Canada, the gold medal match.

From the Canadian Press:

Like Canada, the Swedes are a little banged up.

Los Angeles Kings prospect Oscar Moller has not been the force that was expected, but he played well and got his first goal against Slovakia. And winger Nicklas Lasu, a human wrecking ball who hits everything that moves, skated gingerly in practice with a sore thigh and may not be ready to play.

He has 2 goals in the tournament, but they both came in a 10-0 rout of Latvia.

Three Thrashers pro scouts in the building today

For those looking to blow up the team, some good news. The presence of a team's own pro scouts often precedes a trade because you need to know what you're giving up as well as what you're getting. Mark Dobson (Dir of Player Personnel), and pro scouts Pete Mahovlich and John Perpich were all in the building for the game against Tampa, and so was Wolves GM Kevin Chevaldayoff, who really doubles as a pro scout for the Thrashers.

Scouts in the GM's box. The photo has poor lighting, but you could see better through binoculars. Larry Simmons and Don Waddell are on the ends.

Secrets of drafting a rec league team

Yesterday I was a proxy GM in a recreational league draft, filling in for a friend who couldn't make it. Given the shenanigans that go on in the league on and off the ice, I thought drafting would be entertaining, and it was. And still pretty serious too, because people pay a lot of money to play in the league.

How it worked: All the players were rated 1-10 on consensus (kind of like Central Scouting) and then the list was printed out and distributed to the captains. Players can make comments when they sign up online, and those comments were on the sheets too. The league has an average age of about 35. With 15 players on a team, the draft goes 15 rounds.

Each of the 10 captains had to select themselves when players of similar ratings were going, which led to comments like this when someone took a long time in picking: "You could take yourself. Sure, you could reach."

There was one signup who hadn't been in the league before, but put down had been playing since he was 5. He could be really good. I took a gamble on him in the second round, because no risk, no reward, right? On second thought, there's no reward for me here since I play on a different team. I guess all I'm going for is that at the end of the season the comment is "You should let Holly pick your team again."

When in doubt, take the player with the French-Canadian or Russian name. Generally they can play.

There were a lot of moving parts in this draft, as many if not more as in the NHL draft. One guy needs to play a Sunday-heavy schedule for religious reasons. Some skaters also play goaltender and have to keep those obligations first.

Everyone gets picked, even Angry Bob. There's one guy who is not only no good, he has a bad attitude. He was the booby prize at the end, and people took preventative measures to avoid getting him. What kind of preventative measures? Well, there are about 30 twosomes in the league, relatives or carpools that need to play on the same team. It's like the Sedin twins in the NHL, except there are a lot more of them, and they aren't of the same quality. So if you take the player rated a 7 and they're part of a pairing, you have to take the player rated a 3 as well. In this draft there was even a threesome.

There are lots of things besides talent that can affect your draft position, and we're not just talking great attitude. The comment on one player as he was taken: "He's a 6 -- a 4 who brings great beer."

Fellow Stingray rookies pummel Neuvirth in 3, 2, 1...

Sometimes people say more than what's good for them.

Tonight I was talking to Michal Neuvirth, a top goaltending prospect for the Washington Capitals. I had asked him all the questions I had written down, but for some reason I kept going. The equipment manager was rolling stuff out to the bus and I asked Neuvirth if he has to carry bags as a rookie or do anything else like that. He replied with something that he regretted the moment it came out of his mouth. Meanwhile I'm thinking "this is gold." He didn't want to elaborate, but the horse had left the barn at that point, so I got a bit more out of him. I'll let you read for yourself. As a taste, Neuvirth had trouble with the word "heels" meaning high heels (he called them girls' shoes), and also the word underdog.

Normally I don't write up feature stories late into the night after games, but between the timeliness of the groin pull and the comedy noted above, I knocked it out.