NHL Report: January 23, 2009 - Metro US

NHL Report: January 23, 2009

The Toronto Maple Leafs are wretched and have lost seven of their past eight games heading into the all-star break this weekend, and I received this email from a disgruntled fan Thursday:

“Marty, I had two Maple Leaf tickets sitting in plain view on my car dashboard. Some bastard broke my window and left two more.”

Enough said.

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the aforementioned beleaguered hockey club, will announce Friday that it is expanding its television holdings to include a soccer channel and perhaps a general-interest sports service modelled after MSG in New York.

A source in the know told me last night that MLSE has purchased GolTV, Canada’s all-soccer network, for about $10-million from Insight Sports in Toronto. GolTV is a digital service that airs European and South American soccer programming.

Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum has interests in both MLSE and Insight.

Insight has invested at least $6 million in GolTV since its launch in 2005. The channel lost more than $2 million in each of its first two fiscal years.

MLSE will use GolTV to carry a schedule of games involving its Major League Soccer team, Toronto FC.

Even more ambitious would be an application to launch a general-interest sports channel.
MLSE is looking at the example of MSG, the New York-based cable channel formerly called MSG Network, which airs New York Rangers, New York Knicks, Buffalo Sabres, MLS’s New York Red Bulls and the WNBA’s New York Liberty games.

Much of this was reported last October by The Globe and Mail’s William Houston in his Truth and Rumours column.

Houston, incidentally, has accepted a buyout offer from The Globe and Mail and will write his final Truth and Rumours column next month. That, I reported in my York Report on Tuesday.

What I didn’t mention then, however, was how Houston unwittingly saved Nick Kypreos’ job at Sportsnet years ago.

The television network was in its first year of operation when Scott Moore, then Sportsnet’s chief of programming (and chief of CBC Sports these days), decided Kypreos wasn’t polished or skilled enough to remain on the air.

Moore told me that, on the morning of the day he was planning to fire Kypreos, Houston somehow came up with the information and led with it in Truth and Rumours.

“I don’t know how Bill got the information,” Moore said, “but I didn’t want it to look like things got out at my network before they actually happened. So I decided I’d keep Nick, just to spite Bill.”

A decade later, Kypreos remains with Sportsnet and has evolved into a formidable analyst and reporter, which isn’t often the case with ex-jocks.

Yesterday morning, Kypreos reported on The Fan 590 – a Toronto radio station that is owned by the same company as Sportsnet – that he had been told by his sources that Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby is slightly injured and planning to skip Sunday’s All-Star Game in Montreal.

If you aren’t familiar with Brigette Lacquette, you should be.

Scouts are raving about this 16-year-old Manitoban.

Lacquette is astonishing them by thoroughly outplaying male opponents in the Western Manitoba AA Midget Hockey League. She is her league’s top talent. She was the youngest player at the recent World Under-18 women’s hockey championship in Germany and was chosen best defenceman.

“Several scouts have told me that, if Brigette continues in the direction she’s going, she’ll be the greatest female hockey player in Canadian history,” said Scott Taylor, sports editor of Grass Roots News, Manitoba’s Aboriginal newspaper. “She’s one of the few players I’ve seen who can do everything all game with her head up. She’s so fast that she flies by opponents. And she’s a great playmaker.”

Brigette lives in Mallard, Man.

“We’re nowhere,” said her father, Terrence Lacquette, a Metis who has lived in Mallard his entire life. “Our community has about 80 adults, 40 kids, 20 dogs and 15 cats.”

Still, dozens of universities — including Cornell, Providence, Minnesota and North Dakota — have found Brigette and are bombarding her with expressions of interest.

Brigette, though, is only 5-foot-7 and so, barring a serious growth spurt, she won’t likely break the NHL’s sex barrier.

But there are scouts in Canada who think she has more raw talent at her age than many contemporary NHLers did at 16.

Primarily because of salary-cap restrictions in the NHL, trades can’t and won’t happen in the NHL like they used to (Geez, what are the Canadian sports networks going to do on trade-deadline day?).

But if the Anaheim Ducks keep sliding downhill after the all-star break, look for them to deal Chris Pronger and his $6.5-million salary to one of the few franchises that can afford the veteran all-star.

Speaking of veteran all-stars, Keith Tkachuk of the St. Louis Blues is playing in the late 2000s on the same team as Alexander Steen.

In the early 1990s, Tkachuk played on the same NHL team (the Winnipeg Jets) as Steen’s father, Thomas Steen.

And Brendan Shanahan, as you know, has returned to the New Jersey Devils. He was placed on a line alongside Travis Zajac.

Zajac was in kindergarten when Shanahan last played with the Devils, in 1991.

Marty York is Metro’s national sports columnist as well as an
instructor at the College of Sports Media in Toronto. He can be heard
regularly on Vancouver radio station CKNW with Sportstalk host Dan
Russell. Contact Marty at marty.york@metronews.ca

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