By Jonathon Gatehouse - Monday, May 13, 2013 - 0 Comments
Jonathon Gatehouse on the fun and futility of Toronto’s playoff run
If will be of little comfort to disconsolate fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but in the wake of a heartbreaking Game 7 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins, the old saw is as true as ever: Close only counts in horseshoes and hand-grenades.
Yes, the Buds, making their first playoff appearance in nine long years were tantalizingly, agonizingly, impossibly near—battling back from a 3-1 series deficit and standing on the cusp of victory having built a 4-1 lead halfway through the third period, only to see it slip away. First the Bruins’ Nathan Horton scored with a little over 10 minutes left to make it 4-2. Then Milan Lucic made it 4-3 with just 1:18 remaining. Then Patrice Bergeron tied the game with only 51 seconds on the clock.
And finally, iresistibly, inevitably, in overtime, after Toronto’s Joffrey Lupul had twice been denied on the doorstep, first by Tuukka Rask’s arm and then a few seconds later, his mask, the payoff came at the other end of the ice. A scrambley goalmouth sequence where Toronto failed to clear the loose puck and it again ended up on the stick of Bergeron and in the back of net. And just like that, the season was over.
But while the manner in which the defeat came about stings, it won’t be what is remembered. In the NHL playoffs, your team wins, or it loses. And even moral victories quickly fade.
(Pop quiz: How many games went to OT in the Leafs 2002 Conference Final against Carolina?
Answer: It doesn’t matter, they lost.)
What is clear is that after waiting 46 years and counting for a Stanley Cup, and finishing out of the playoffs every single season between the NHL’s last two lockouts, Toronto has once again discovered that even futility can be fun. These past two weeks when the Maple Leafs finally gave their fans a reason to care about spring hockey, the city came alive. Blue and White sweaters were pulled out of the deepest recesses of closets, dusty flags reattached to car windows, and face-painted crowds gathered in bars and downtown streets to cheer and—for a little while at least—hope.
Up against the Bruins, Cup winners just two years ago and a team that has all but owned Toronto in regular season play over the past decade (28-17-7), it was never going to be easy. But a stirring 4-2 victory in Game 2 (on the heels of the 4-1 drubbing Boston handed them in the series opener) fanned the embers of playoff passion back to life.
In the hours before Game 3, Toronto’s first home playoff tilt in 3,289 days, the city took on a holiday feel with thousands of fans flooding the area around the Air Canada Centre. (Police eventually had to close off access to a packed plaza where the TV broadcast was being shown live on giant screens.) And inside the building the atmosphere was, for once, no less electric. The rinkside platinum seats—$796.75 each, including tax and surcharge—were actually filled before the puck dropped. The pumped up crowd made noise without the score board’s urgings, booed villains like Bruins captain Zdeno Chara, and Mayor Rob Ford, and even looked the part, abandoning suits and ties in favour of Leafs jerseys and freebie team scarves. And late in the second period when 22-year-old defenceman Jake Gardiner, playing in just his second career post-season game, scored to half a two-goal deficit, the roof almost lifted off.
By The Canadian Press - Sunday, May 12, 2013 at 5:24 PM - 0 Comments
HALIFAX – Hockey Nova Scotia overwhelmingly voted to ban bodychecking for some minor hockey…
HALIFAX – Hockey Nova Scotia overwhelmingly voted to ban bodychecking for some minor hockey players on Sunday following pleas from physicians that the body contact increases the risk of head injuries to children.
The board unanimously voted to eliminate bodychecking for all peewee players, who are typically between 11- and 12-years old.
It was also removed for the B and C levels of the bantam and midget leagues (ages 13 through 18), with only one dissenting vote of the 21-member board.
By Manisha Krishnan - Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 9:13 AM - 0 Comments
A passionate athlete and outdoorsman, he was happiest on a ski hill or a frozen river
Peter Kirk Fachnie was born June 22, 1952, in Barrie, Ont., the first of three children born to Lionel Gordon Fachnie and Kathleen Piper. Lionel was a sergeant in the Royal Canadian Air Force, so the family moved often. After the birth of Steven, their youngest, the Fachnies left Borden, Ont., for Penhold, Alta. Lionel piled suitcases and blankets on the back seat of the car, a makeshift bed; Kirk, then 5, and four-year-old Claire stared out the rear window the whole way.
In Alberta, Kathleen, a bank teller, won the kids a pony in a contest. They named it Patches for its brown, black and white colouring. Kirk, a big fan of westerns, rode Patches alongside his dad in a fringed vest and a cowboy hat he was rarely seen without.
When Kirk was 10, his dad was posted to CFB Baden-Soellingen in Germany, where Kirk quickly made friends with the other army brats, playing hockey and baseball. His parents took full advantage of their European location: the family camped all over Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and France.
In 1967, the family moved to Ottawa, where the kids enrolled at Rideau High School. Kirk, 13, though shy at ﬁrst, eventually joined two rock bands, Buster Brown and Trillium, that practised in the Fachnies’ basement. Kirk’s passion was the guitar—he loved the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 6:00 AM - 0 Comments
It’s tough to score when the goalies fill up the entire net
There is one thing about the game of hockey that has not changed since before hockey was hockey. It is an axiom older than the six-a-side game, older than the division into three periods, older than even Lord Stanley’s cup. It is there in the official rules of the Amateur Hockey Association of Canada, created in 1886 to select a national champion: goals are to be “six feet wide and four feet high . . . unless otherwise agreed.” One hundred and twenty-seven years later, those are still the official dimensions of the goal wherever hockey is played, from Hamilton to Hong Kong.
But the goalies did not, alas, stay the same size in the meantime. Many of you can probably name the starting goaltenders for any postwar year of the Original Six NHL: in 1960, they were Johnny Bower, Glenn Hall, Harry Lumley, Jacques Plante, Terry Sawchuk and Lorne “Gump” Worsley. None of these men was above six feet, and the Gumper was five foot seven. By contrast, the first six goalies taken in the 2012 NHL entry draft average six foot three, and the league already features galoots like the Senators’ six-foot-seven Ben Bishop and Tampa Bay’s six-foot-six Anders Lindback. The Oilers have a six-foot-ﬁve starter, Devan Dubnyk, and just traded for a six-foot-seven AHL goalie, Niko Hovinen.
As anyone who has seen footage of a 1985 NHL game since 1985 will be aware, the equipment goalies wear has grown in tandem with the men who play the position. It is a shock to see the tiny and ill-protected goaltenders in old games that are, for some, fresher in the mind than 2009. Efforts to rein in egregious advantage-taking have been semi-successful, but the arms race is unrelenting. For a while, goalies were adopting taller leg pads, threatening to deny shooters the “five-hole” between the legs altogether. The league has adopted a maximum pad height in response, but it has to be adjusted for each player: taller guys do have taller legs. Unfortunately, that may just create an incentive to invest in taller legs. You think six foot six is tall? Just wait.
By The Canadian Press - Friday, March 1, 2013 at 3:17 PM - 0 Comments
CHARLOTTETOWN – A hockey association in P.E.I. is warning players and coaches to act…
CHARLOTTETOWN – A hockey association in P.E.I. is warning players and coaches to act appropriately when shaking hands with their opponents after receiving several complaints of aggressive behaviour on the ice.
Rob Newson of Hockey P.E.I. says the organization sent out a letter in January following three complaints concerning the way players were shaking hands after games.
Newson says inappropriate language was used in at least one case, while the others involved what he called aggressive taps of the players’ gloves.
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 9:28 AM - 0 Comments
Phil Birnbaum, who along with “Tom Tango” is probably one of Canada’s two great gifts to quantitative analysis in sports, has been studying the NHL over the past few weeks. It was only after a second or third reading of his series breaking down luck versus skill in the NHL standings that I was able to really grasp what he was saying. I’m a fluent speaker of basic stats-ese, but not a native. Phil is a pretty approachable explainer of things (including some of the things devised by Tango), so usually I don’t have to bash myself over the head too hard with his findings. But I didn’t see how interesting the message was until now.
Probably all hockey fans know instinctively that the introduction of the shootout has injected a fair amount of randomness into the year-end NHL standings. Birnbaum, looking at the shootout-era data, has now shown just how much. In the old NHL that still had ties, it took an average of 36 NHL games for a team’s actual talent to become as important to its standings position as sheer randomness. “Talent” is defined here as repeatable ability, ability relevant to prediction: after 36 games, your team’s distance in the standings from .500 would be about half luck and half “talent”, and that would be reflected in your guess as to how they would do in the next 36 games (assuming nothing else about the team had changed). Over a full season, we could be confident that there was little randomness left in the ordering of the teams in the league table.
But in the new post-ties NHL, Birnbaum notes, the standard deviation of standings points has shrunk from about .2 per game to .15. Continue…
By Nick Taylor-Vaisey - Wednesday, January 23, 2013 at 1:00 PM - 0 Comments
To woo fans back, some teams dug a lot deeper than others
Hover your cursor over each circle to read more about the giveaways:
In the days after the NHL lockout ended, teams rushed to offer special deals to fans to make amends. If the euphoria on display last week was any indication, much has been forgiven. But if teams truly want to satisfy fans after the protracted dispute, opening night giveaways won’t go far enough, says a sports marketer and former hockey executive. Cary Kaplan, the president of Cosmos Sports and a former executive with the Hamilton Bulldogs hockey team, says the flurry of discounts were an important gesture, but won’t provide the “sustained change” fans deserve after so many months of being deprived of the game.
Players should be front and centre in that effort, says Kaplan. They should call season-ticket holders to thank them for their loyalty, or do more for fans on game days. “Why doesn’t every player sign autographs after every game? Why isn’t that mandatory?” he asks. “Kids don’t want free popcorn. They want to meet Phil Kessel. That’s the power these players and leagues and teams have.”
Still, Kaplan admits the discounts didn’t hurt. Of the teams that reportedly offered freebies, Maclean’s looked at how much they were potentially willing to put on the line for their first home game, relative to their team salaries (see graphic, below). For instance, if every Carolina Hurricanes fan took advantage of the savings offered on opening night— half off tickets and merchandise, cheap food and drink—the team would have given up an estimated $2 million in revenue. That amounts to about three times what it paid its players for the night’s work. Five of the 10 most generous teams were in Canadian cities, while Winnipeg and Toronto were further down the list.
On the eve of the NHL’s shortened season, one in four Canadian hockey fans told a Harris-Decima poll they’d watch the pros less this year. It will take more than cheap hot dogs to win them all back.
Now that every team’s hosted a home game, we thought we’d take a look at how all the discounts paid off, assuming they played a role in filling seats in NHL cities. The first graph below looks at how full arenas were on each team’s opening night. The second graph looks at how opening night attendance compared to each team’s average attendance during the 2011-12 season.
By macleans.ca - Friday, January 18, 2013 at 2:08 PM - 0 Comments
Ken Campbell, author of Selling The Dream, takes your questions
Personal trainers, road trips, sport psychologists and league fees: there’s no end to the lengths some parents will go to give their child a shot at NHL greatness. But are the financial and lifestyle sacrifices worth a slim shot at living the hockey dream?
Author and The Hockey News senior writer Ken Campbell joined us this afternoon for a live chat about his new book, Selling the Dream, a look at the price we pay for our national obsession.
View a full replay of the conversation, below:
By Ryan Mallough - Thursday, January 17, 2013 at 1:42 PM - 0 Comments
Here’s what you’re thinking, according to polls from the week
British Columbia: The Vancouver Canucks are ready to hit the ice, but they have a way to go to get their fans back. A poll by Insights West found that hockey support in B.C. dropped by nearly half over the course of the NHL lockout, while those who say they are not much of a fan or not a fan at all jumped from 14 per cent to 42 per cent. The poll’s accuracy will soon be put to the test.
Saskatchewan: When it comes to celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017, leave the party planning to the people, say people in the prairie province. Nearly 70 per cent of residents from Saskatchewan agreed that ordinary citizens and not government should be planning Canada’s sesquicentennial festivities. Three in five Canadians feel the same way. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:56 AM - 0 Comments
The conventional wisdom on the NHL lockout, usually delivered with a sneer, is that Canadian hockey fans will belly-crawl back to the league uncritically now that all the bickering and all the tantrums have ended. Like all conventional wisdom, it is conventional because it is quite a safe bet. I know I’ll crawl with everyone else: I’m capable of intellectually segregating my fondness for the game of hockey from my loathing of the existing institutions of hockey. (It’s not all that difficult! Nor is it shameful!) What’s different about this lockout is that in the meantime I took the bait of regular-season NBA basketball with enthusiasm for the first time ever. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM - 0 Comments
Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner’s question for the government side yesterday afternoon.
Mr. Speaker, Conservative import tariffs are forcing Canadian hockey families to pay $200 more to suit up their kids in hockey gear than American families pay. Tomorrow, on Black Friday, thousands of Canadian families will head south of the border to buy hockey gear to avoid this Conservative hockey tax. That creates American jobs in American cities. Why will the Finance Minister not give Canadian families a break this Christmas, help Canadian retailers and get rid of this job-killing hockey tax?
By Robert Lewis - Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 4:24 PM - 0 Comments
Robert Lewis’ witness account of Paul Henderson’s goal at 1972 Summit Series
Robert Lewis was the editor-in-chief of Maclean’s from 1993 to 2000.
Like millions of Canadians I remember exactly where I was when Paul Henderson scored the goal that won the 1972 Summit Series for Canada against the Soviet Union: in the stands behind and to the right of the Canadian bench in Moscow’s Luzhniki Ice Palace. The date was September 28, 1972. I was reporting for Time magazine.
Truth to tell: I really didn’t see how Paul Henderson scored the historic goal. I mean, I could not have described it. I knew from the lusty roars from the 3,000 Canadians on the other side of the rink, and the red light behind Russian goaler Vladislav Tretiak, that Canada had taken a 6-5 lead in the deciding eighth game of the series. But my seat was at the opposite end of the rink from the Russian goal. The “Palace” was so ancient there was no gondola, no press box. Fans and other reporters, craning for a vantage point of the scramble at the Soviet net, obscured my view. I looked up at the clock: 34 seconds remained in the game. Improbably, Canada had come from behind again in an historic match that changed the face of hockey as Don Cherry knew it.
By Paul Henderson - Friday, September 21, 2012 at 11:15 AM - 0 Comments
Henderson remembers how in 1972 he called for his teammate to get off the ice so he could make the shot
Sept. 28 will mark the 40th anniversary of Canadian hockey’s iconic goal. When Paul Henderson scored in the last minute of the final game of the 1972 Canada-U.S.S.R. Summit Series, it electrified a nation that had been on an emotional roller coaster since the Soviet Union’s stunning Game One victory on Sept. 2. Henderson, a good but not great NHLer, had already risen magnificently to the occasion, and had scored the winning goals in the sixth and seventh games. In his memoir, The Goal of My Life, Henderson describes Game Eight’s indelible moment.
Time ticked down. There was less than a minute to play at Luzhniki Arena in Moscow and the fans, including the 3,000 Canadians present, were on the edge of their seats. Phil Esposito, Yvan Cournoyer, and Peter Mahovlich were on the ice in that final minute as I watched from the bench. I then did something I had never done before, and would never do again in my hockey career.
“Pete! Pete!” I hollered at him. Don’t ask me how or why, but I felt if I could get out there one more time I could score a goal. I just felt it. For the first time in my life I was screaming at a player to get off the ice so I could get on, just one more time. You just didn’t do that—I had never heard another player do it in my 18-year hockey career—but I did.
By admin - Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 2:11 PM - 0 Comments
The fans take to Twitter
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 5:00 AM - 0 Comments
The NHL commissioner brought hockey to its knees, twice. Get ready for the third period.
As talks between the NHL and its players’ association over a new collective bargaining agreement sputter and the owner-imposed Sept. 15 deadline looms, another hockey lockout seems all but certain. It will be the sport’s third work stoppage in the past 18 years, although the issues are the same as always: “money and envy,” writes Jonathon Gatehouse in The Instigator: How Gary Bettman Remade the League and Changed the Game Forever. After winning the toughest salary cap in all of pro sports the last time around, team owners are now pushing for further gains—redefining what counts as revenue, limiting the length of contracts and, above all, reducing the players’ share of the pie. Despite record revenues of $3.3 billion last season, the men who run the game claim that the economics of hockey still don’t work. Donald Fehr, the new executive director of the NHLPA and the man who crushed the resolve of Major League Baseball owners, is openly skeptical. And the issues are so complex that they may well take months to negotiate—once the two sides return to the table. Bettman, who will celebrate his 20th anniversary in the NHL’s top job this winter, is facing a formidable foe. But the commissioner shouldn’t be underestimated. Now the single most powerful figure in the history of pro hockey, he’s a man who drew some sharp lessons from his rocky start in the job. And when push comes to shove, he’s more than capable of dealing them out too. Fans trying to make sense of the present dispute best look back at what really happened in 1994 and 2005.
As 1994’s training camps wound down and the league’s deadline loomed, the players began to chafe. And the message they decided to send out to NHL fans across North America was anything but subtle. In Montreal, Habs defenceman Mathieu Schneider skated onto the ice for practice with a piece of white stick tape plastered to the front of his helmet on which he’d scrawled the words Bettman sucks. Joe Sakic, the quiet young captain of the Quebec Nordiques, suggested the new commissioner “knows nothing about hockey and doesn’t care.” Cam Neely, sitting in the Boston dressing room in his long underwear and an NHLPA ball cap, predicted a dire future for any league that would dare to lock out its players: “They’re not shooting themselves in the foot, they’re shooting themselves in the head as far as I’m concerned.” And even Wayne Gretzky, a man so averse to controversy that he invited Alan Thicke to emcee his wedding, weighed in. Wearing a suit, tie and sour face, he met the media at the LA Kings’ practice facility to make it clear that if the season didn’t start on time, there would only be one man to blame. “I’ve played this game for 30 years, and for someone to come along who has only been in our sport for one year and tell us that we’re not going to play is very frustrating and extremely disappointing,” the Great One said. “I’ve worked too damn hard to help push our sport … Hopefully it doesn’t all come down because one person wants to change the format.”
By Blog of Lists - Wednesday, July 11, 2012 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
1. Wayne Gretzky: Pro Stars. At the height of his stardom, the Great One had his very own cereal, which he plugged on Late Night with David Letterman. More recently, he has been pitching his own line of Bigelow green tea—“one great tea.”
2. 1979 New York Rangers Phil Esposito, Ron Duguay, Anders Hedberg and Dave Maloney: Sasson Jeans. The teammates perform a painfully unsexy on-ice dance routine, in overly tight jeans, while singing: “Ooh la la, Sasson.”
3. Alexander Ovechkin: Eastern Motors. “At Eastern Motors, your job, your credit,” sings the gap-toothed star, in ﬂip-ﬂops and shorts, for
a local Washington car dealership. “It’s going to be on YouTube for sure.” Correct.
4. Maurice Richard: Grecian Formula 16 hair dye. “The change was so gradual and so natural, no one even noticed,” the retired legend says. The infamous kicker? A referee opens the penalty box door saying: “Hey Richard, two minutes for looking so good!”
5. Ron Hextall: Canada Dry ginger ale. A simple message from the tough-guy goalie and MVP: “You don’t have to be sweet to be good.”
6. Mark Messier: Lays potato chips. In a long-running series of ads, Messier ﬂashes both his familiar grin and scowl, while driving home the message, “Betcha can’t eat just one.”
7. Doug Gilmour: Head & Shoulders. He doesn’t “score points for how my
hair looks.” But after the game, “when the cameras are just inches away and millions of fans are watching, my hair has to look great.”
8. Billy Smith: Steelback beer. Smith and other former NHL greats make locker-room chat with Steelback’s CEO, while generally looking like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world.
9. Sidney Crosby: Dempster’s. The superstar pitches his favourite sandwich: “Dempster’s WholeGrains and turkey sandwich.” Awkward smiles abound.
10. Mats Sundin: Chunky soup. The beloved Maple Leaf surely took plenty of on-ice abuse for the memorable Campbell’s Soup ad featuring his mother yelling, “Mats, did you eat your Chunky Soup?”
Have you ever wondered which cities have the most bars, smokers, absentee workers and people searching for love? What about how Canada compares to the world in terms of the size of its military, the size of our houses and the number of cars we own? The answers to all those questions, and many more, can be found in the first ever Maclean’s Book of Lists.
Buy your copy of the Maclean’s Book of Lists at the newsstand or order online now.
By macleans.ca - Friday, June 29, 2012 at 10:42 AM - 0 Comments
If boys will be boys, then what will men be?
Police are mulling over…
If boys will be boys, then what will men be?
Police are mulling over charges against a hockey coach in Vancouver who is accused of intentionally tripping a 13-year-old player during a post-game handshake.
The child suffered a broken wrist due to the fall which, no doubt, looks intentional.
“I don’t ever want to see that coach on a bench behind kids ever again,” said Richmond Steel team manager, Tammy Hohlweg.
“It’s just horrible that a coach would go after a child like that, and what’s even more horrible is that team won.”
The coach has not yet been identified, but RCMP say he was arrested on Saturday and later released. Charges are pending. The tripped boy is now wearing a cast for his broken wrist.
By Alan Parker - Tuesday, June 12, 2012 at 10:30 AM - 0 Comments
With his vast financial empire, the reclusive tycoon is the master of the Kings’ domain—and a whole lot more
When the Los Angeles Kings hoisted the Stanley Cup over their heads last night at the Staples Center, the biggest winner wasn’t wearing skates, or even among the suits behind the bench. Kings players had to drag him onto the ice and thrust the Stanley Cup into his hands.
His name is Philip Frederick Anschutz, and he’s a publicity-shy 72-year-old tycoon who is far more likely to jog to work (he used to run marathons) or buy a cruise line than tie on a pair of skates or seek the spotlight.
Anschutz, through his private Anschutz Entertainment Group, owns the L.A. Kings. More importantly, he owns the Staples Center, home of the NHL’s Kings and the NBA’s Lakers and Clippers and the WNBA’s Sparks.
The Staples Center is one of the most profitable showplaces in the world, hosting more than 250 events every year—from WrestleMania to trade shows to Michael Jackson’s memorial service as well as every professional hockey and basketball game and most major concerts in the city. And (again, more importantly) the Staples Center is the cornerstone of a 37-hectare sports, entertainment, convention, hotel and residential complex called L.A. Live that is unrivalled in the world—and about to become even more grandiose.
Phil Anschutz’s L.A. Live neighbourhood is soon to become home to a $1-billion NFL stadium called Farmers Field (for which Farmers Insurance is paying $700 million over 30 years in naming rights)—just as soon as Anschutz acquires a pro football team.
And he will. Because Phil Anschutz rarely fails. He came dangerously close to complete financial meltdown a few times during the past half century. But in the end Phil Anschutz wins. That’s why, when LA Kings hoisted the Cup at last, he was the biggest winner when his team—one of his many teams—celebrated winning its first NHL championship down on the ice.
The really scary thing is that ownership of the L.A. Kings and the Staples Center and the L.A. Live district is just a small part—a key part but a small part—of the Anschutz business empire that stretches around the world and touches most North Americans’ lives on a regular (if not daily) basis.
Phil Anschutz owns the Anschutz Company which, through a variety of subsidiaries, owns oil fields, mines, railways, hotels and resorts, cruise lines, arenas and stadiums, TV stations and newspapers, more professional sports teams than any other single entity in the world, and the largest chain of movie theatres in the world.
Subsidiaries of Anschutz Entertainment Group produced the Chronicles of Narnia movie series and Ray, the Ray Charles bio-pic (not to mention the Matthew McConaughey underachiever Sahara).
And that’s not even mentioning AEG Live, the performance arm of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which is the second largest (but more profitable) live-performance promoter in the world after Live Nation.
If you’ve recently seen or bought tickets for an upcoming live performance by Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Bon Jovi, the Black Eyed Peas, Leonard Cohen, Carrie Underwood, Usher, John Mellencamp, Kenny Chesney, Pink, George Strait, Paul McCartney or dozens of other top touring acts, you’ve put money in Phil Anschutz’s pocket.
Same goes for any one of a dozen summer music festivals produced by AEG from the famed Coachella Valley festival in California to Rockness in Scotland to Edgefest in Toronto.
And the Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs touring museum exhibition. And the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles.
And the Grand Canyon Railway. And luxury lodges in U.S. National Parks from Yellowstone to Death Valley to Mount Rushmore.
And the list goes on and on. All controlled (either owned or operated) by Philip Frederick Anschutz, without the worry or bother of interfering shareholders or (usually) majority partners.
And if you put gas in your car, you’re probably putting money in Phil Anschutz’s pocket too.
In March, Forbes magazine estimated Anschutz’s wealth (conservatively) at $7 billion, ranking him 47th on Forbes’ annual list of the richest people in the U.S. In terms of real economic clout, Anschutz ranks far higher than 47th because most of his activities are private ventures, unencumbered by the shareholders attached to a publicly traded corporation.
Back in 2000, Forbes estimated Anschutz’s worth in the $18 billion range. A year earlier, CNN had surmised that Anschutz was the largest single private landowner in the United States. It’s uncertain if that remains the case, but Anschutz still owns enormous swathes of the U.S., much of it oil and gas fields and ranchland.
That fortune was cut in half by the collapse of the telecom bubble (and Anschutz’s Qwest telecom giant) shortly after the 2000 Forbes article, but he regrouped and turned his attention — and financial firepower — to the world of sports and entertainment.
The Anschutz empire is constantly shape-shifting, expanding in one direction while contracting (and reaping the sell-off benefits) in another. In 2010, for example, Anschutz received $3 billion from the sale of just some of his oil and gas holdings in North Dakota and Pennsylvania. About the same time, he was expanding his stable of arenas into China and working hard on the NFL stadium project in L.A.
The oil business is what made Anschutz a billionaire.
Anschutz was born in Kansas in 1939, the grandson of a German-speaking immigrant from Russia and the son of an oil wildcatter. Anschutz was born into the rough and tumble business of petroleum exploration but he was not born into wealth.
At age 21, just as he was about to enter law school, he was forced to drop out of university to take over the family business which was close to bankruptcy because of his father’s alcoholism and health problems.
Within four years, the younger Anschutz had turned the failing family business around, sold it for a substantial profit and started his own oil exploration company.
He made his first big strike as a wildcatter in 1968 but, almost immediately, disaster struck.
That oil well blew out, causing a raging, uncontrolled fire. Anschutz tried to hire famed oil-field firefighter Red Adair to douse it, but Adair would only work for upfront cash — of which the overstretched Anschutz, still in his 20s, had none.
But Anschutz did know that Universal Pictures was in production on a John Wayne movie called Hellfighters, based on Red Adair’s exploits. He negotiated a $100,000 fee for Universal to film the real raging fire on his property—and used the $100,000 to hire Adair to put out the fire (which Universal also filmed), get his oil field back in business, and buy new drilling rights.
Anschutz’s oil business grew aggressively in the 1970s and he began acquiring large parcels of land, some of which he consolidated into the 9-million-acre (3.6-million-hectare) Anschutz Ranch on the Utah-Wyoming border. A major oil discovery in the area in 1978— the largest in the U.S. since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay discovery in 1969 — meant that Anschutz was able to sell a 50 per cent interest in the oil and mineral rights on his ranch to Mobil Corporation for $500 million in 1982.
By this time, Anschutz had moved his base of operations to Denver. Leveraging the $500 million from Mobil, Anschutz quickly became the first billionaire in Colorado history.
During the 1970s Anschutz had been active in oil, gas and mineral ventures in Canada through Anschutz (Canada) Exploration Ltd. and Anschutz (Canada) Mining Ltd. But the introduction of Pierre Trudeau’s National Energy Program in 1980 prompted Anschutz to abandon further direct Canadian ventures.
He returned to the Canadian oil business in the 1990s, but only as an investor through the Canadian arm of Forest Oil Corp., in which Anschutz is a principal shareholder. Last year Canadian Forest Oil Ltd. was spun off as a stand-alone public company called Lone Pine Resources Inc. Anschutz acquired a large amount of stock in the new company as a result, but it is unknown how much of that stock he has retained.
Through the 1980s, Anschutz began buying up failing U.S. railroad companies, turning them around and selling some of the massive real estate holdings attached to them. Spinning off a subsidiary of one of those railways, Southern Pacific, Anschutz entered the telecom business in 1991, creating the long-distance fibre-optic cable company Qwest just as Internet use was exploding and causing a surge in demand for new capacity.
That explosion pushed his fortune to new heights before the company collapsed a decade later when the telecom bubble burst and some Qwest executives were sent to jail for stock market manipulation. Anschutz was not dragged into the criminal proceedings but did lose more than half his amassed wealth in the debacle.
And once again he changed directions, now moving into sports and entertainment. In the mid-1990s, Anschutz teamed up with L.A. real estate developer Ed Roski Jr. (since pushed far into the background) to buy the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. About the same time, Anschutz became a major investor and founder of Major League Soccer, owning three teams outright—including the Los Angeles Galaxy—and holding minority stakes in several others.
In 1997, Anschutz and Roski began developing the state-of-the-art sports complex which would become the Staples Center and the following year bought a 25% stake in the L.A. Lakers, one of the elite teams in the NBA. When the Staples Center opened in 1999, the NBA Clippers joined the Lakers and Kings as tenants there.
While that combination creates enormous synergies — and profit — for the owners, it can also cause enormous problems.
Last month, with the Kings, Lakers and Clippers all in their respective league playoffs, the Staples Center hosted six playoff games in four days, a perfect storm that will probably never happen again—anywhere.
On Thursday, May 17, the Kings played Game 3 of their Western Conference final against the Phoenix Coyotes. After the ice was covered over, the Lakers NBA playoff game was held Friday evening, followed by Lakers and Clippers playoff games Saturday. Since the Lakers and Clippers use completely different wooden floors, those floors had to be changed between games. Then the boards were lifted and the Kings took to the ice Sunday afternoon for Game 4 against the Coyotes. And then the boards were relaid for the Clippers NBA playoff game Sunday night.
But filling the schedule is what arena and stadium ownership is all about. As Anschutz Entertainment Group built more arenas around the world—the company now owns and/or operates 41 arenas and about 60 other venues—AEG Live was formed to promote and produce (and profit from) entertainment content to fill those cavernous spaces.
When Justin Bieber begins the North American leg of his Believe world tour in September, he will be doing so as an employee of AEG Live. Anschutz has already guaranteed Bieber $80 million for 125 tour shows—many of them played in AEG facilities—with more money to come as merchandizing deals develop and more dates are added to the tour.
When Celine Dion wanted to settle in Las Vegas for an extended period of time to raise a family, Philip Anschutz built the Colosseum at Caesars Palace for her and paid her $150 million for a five-year residency. Starting in 2003, Dion’s “A New Day” show sold out 723 consecutive times before closing.
Since then, AEG Live has contracted Cher, Elton John and Rod Stewart to play extended gigs at the Colosseum. Starting in December, Shania Twain will fill the Colosseum for a two-year residency.
And then there’s the Regal Entertainment Group, a separate Anschutz holding, the largest movie theatre chain the world with close to 7,000 screens in multiplexes primarily located in the U.S.
So when the Kings were crowned Stanley Cup champions, Phil Anschutz duly smiled and applauded. He was barely seen on camera. He certainly did not hog the spotlight.
But everyone throughout the Kings organization and Anschutz’s entire empire knows who the real King is: Philip Anschutz.
By Emma Teitel - Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 11:05 AM - 0 Comments
What’s the deal with ‘While the Men Watch’?
The CBC has some explaining to do. That’s the sentiment among female hockey fans across the country who aren’t very fond of the national network’s recent endorsement of a “female-friendly” sports broadcast called While the Men Watch. The broadcast, live-streamed during the Stanley Cup finals at whilethemenwatch.com, is described as “a first of its kind, live sports talk show for women . . . Sex and the City meets ESPN.”
Hosted by two “real-life girlfriends,” Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso, both blog and broadcast are aimed at sports-wary women interested in anything from “interpreting the rules of the game to coaches in need of a makeover.” Female sports fans are not enthused. “Seriously #CBC?,” tweeted Laurie Kempton. “I’m a serious sports fan. Thanks for the patronizing insult.”
Log onto the show’s blog, however, and it becomes clear that Sutherland and Mancuso aren’t without irony: “If your man is anything like ours,” reads one post, “he believes that players, coaches and refs can hear the instructions they yell out through the TV.” In fact, rather than an insult to female intelligence, the blog reads more like two bored wives making fun of their sports fanatic husbands. It is, in a way, the anti-Cosmo.
Not everyone agrees: Jaclyn Garfinkle, a 23-year-old sports fanatic and an associate producer at TSN’s Off the Record, thinks While the Men Watch is grossly “miscalculated” in its assumption that women don’t know about sports. “I think it’s somewhat ridiculous,” she says. “I think females in Canada are really underestimated in terms of how much they watch hockey.”
Still, one of the show’s biggest endorsements has come from a surprising source: “I think it’s going to be fun,” said two-time gold medallist and women’s hockey legend Cassie Campbell-Pascall. “It may even resonate with some of the most dedicated fans.”
By Richard Warnica - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 9:38 AM - 0 Comments
Turkmenistan’s autocratic president is obsessed with the game
Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, would make a great NHL general manager. He’s a dictator with a history of extravagant, illogical spending. And despite great wealth, mostly from oil and gas, he has failed to lift his country (read team) up the UN standings for health and human achievement.
It is fitting then that hockey appears to be Berdymukhamedov’s newest obsession. The Central Asian autocrat has ordered his government ministries to start their own hockey teams. He appeared recently at a youth hockey tournament in the capital of Ashgabat, decked out in full gear, flaunting his 54-year-old vigour.
The apparent goal is to make Turkmenistan—a largely desert state where summertime temperatures top 45° C—a hockey power. Critics might suggest the country, where poverty remains endemic, could find better uses for its money than pricey indoor rinks. But great hockey minds never listen to the critics. Just ask Brian Burke.
By From the editors - Friday, April 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM - 0 Comments
The league remains dangerously ambiguous about the role of violence in hockey
The NHL playoffs have just begun. But headhunting season is well under way.
In the dying seconds of his first game against the Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber grabbed Red Wing star Henrik Zetterberg by the scruff of the neck and smashed his face into the glass, pro-wrestler style.
In an entirely out-of-control game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers, Penguin James Neal left his feet to flatten Sean Couturier with a high check. The Flyers rookie was caught entirely defenceless, mainly because he didn’t have the puck at the time. As no penalty was called, Neal later delivered a flying elbow to the head of Philadelphia’s best player, Claude Giroux. In the same game, Penguin Arron Asham crosschecked Brayden Schenn in the throat.
By Charlie Gillis - Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 10:39 AM - 0 Comments
Is the golf club giant’s venture into hockey a game changer or a marketing ploy?
Rinks across the country—which have seen their share of consumer fads—buzzed last month with news that TaylorMade, manufacturer of top-of-the-line golf gear, was getting into the hockey-stick business. The California-based company announced a long-term collaboration with Montreal’s Reebok-CCM that both firms say will bring “game-changing equipment” to Canada’s national sport. First up: an eye-catching carbon-fibre stick dubbed the RBZ, featuring a snow-white blade.
TaylorMade cemented its reputation as a trailblazer when it introduced metal drivers to golf in 1979. It’s now the second-largest maker of clubs in the U.S., with $1.3 billion in sales last year. Analysts applauded CCM for reaching between sporting silos with the deal, but these were not strangers spotting each other across a crowded room. Both companies are wholly owned by the global sports-goods behemoth, Adidas Group—a fact omitted from their joint press release and most of the ensuing media coverage.
So are kinematics geeks at TaylorMade about to, in their words, “redefine” hockey gear? Or is this just a cross-market promotional gimmick aimed to capture momentum in the hockey market? The Adidas Group’s 2012 outlook, after all, predicts low- to mid-single-digit growth at TaylorMade, whereas Reebok-CCM is expected to achieve “strong double-digit” increases, thanks to growing interest in hockey south of the border. Marrying the two labels gets TaylorMade in front of hundreds of thousands of hockey players, many of whom also play golf.
By Gustavo Vieira - Friday, March 16, 2012 at 11:43 AM - 0 Comments
It may be early to celebrate, but Canada may get yet another NHL team…
It may be early to celebrate, but Canada may get yet another NHL team in the not-too-distant future, at least if Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Peladeau has his way. Amid news of surging profits for the company on Thursday, Peladeau noted Quebecor it has “all the tools it needs” to bid for an NHL team for Quebec City.
The claim was made as the company reported a fourth-quarter result of $85.4 million in profits and a $4.21 billion revenue in 2011. Last year, the company secured naming rights for a proposed arena in Quebec City, and now it’s eyeing an NHL franchise to play in the venue, awaiting a decision from Quebec City mayor Régis Labeaume this month on a $400-million construction budget to be split between the municipal and provincial governments. Quebecor says it expects the arena to be completed by September 2015.
The last team Quebec City had in the NHL were the Nordiques, which moved to Denver, Co., in 1995, where they became the Colorado Avalanche. Last year, Quebecor bought a 70% stake in the Montreal Juniors and moved the team to Boisbriand, Que.
Earlier this week, Sun Media, which is owned by Quebecor, also announced it was launching community weekly newspapers in Ontario to compete with Torstar Corp.’s Metroland Media Group, in spite of having cut 400 jobs last year to make room for $20 million a year in savings.
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10:48 AM - 0 Comments
The ritual of the small-town hockey game is deeply ingrained in Canada. Far from…
The ritual of the small-town hockey game is deeply ingrained in Canada. Far from the big rinks and big cities of the NHL, players battle on ice, with their sticks and their fists, every winter, from Quesnel, B.C. to Stephensville, Newfoundland.
But the nature of those wars may soon be changing, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Hockey Canada and U.S.A. Hockey are both considering sweeping rule changes that would vastly curtail fighting in amateur and junior hockey on both sides of the border.
“The appetite is there,”David Branch, the president of the Canadian Hockey League told the Times. “The time is certainly right to move forward.”
The proposals come as evidence continues to mount of the toll fighting takes on some players. The Times‘ series on former NHLer Derek Boogaard, published in early December, was a meticulous inditement of the brawling life he learned on his way to the show, and the price he eventually paid for those years.
The NHL seems unlikely to abandon fighting anytime soon. But dramatic change may be coming to its feeder leagues, and sooner than one might expect.
From the Times:
In January, USA Hockey’s Junior Council discussed emergency legislation that would combat fighting with much harsher penalties, starting as early as next fall. The council, composed largely of junior-league commissioners, may propose a system like that used in the N.C.A.A., where players are immediately ejected for fighting and progressive suspensions are doled out for subsequent bouts. Fights in college hockey are rare.
“A switch has been flipped within the United States to address the fighting issue in junior hockey,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, a former N.H.L. goalie who leads USA Hockey’s Junior Council.
By Brian D. Johnson - Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 1:39 AM - 0 Comments
Jay Baruchel, the Montreal-based writer and star of the hockey movie Goon, seems to have goosed the City of Toronto into giving his movie some free publicity. Yesterday, the day of the film’s red carpet premiere in Toronto, the city took down 38 posters promoting the movie, according to Goon distributor Alliance Films.
The poster features Baruchel, Goon’s co-writer and star (How To Train Your Dragon, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Tropic Thunder) gesturing in a way that the city found inappropriate. Alliance Films reports that the posters have been up for two weeks yet it received neither prior notice nor any explanation as to why they were removed.
The cast of the film has been in Toronto for the last several days promoting the movie’s release. “I question whether this has to do with Jay’s tongue or his ability to burn Maple Leafs’ jerseys, neither of which are offensive in any way,” said Goon director, Mike Dowse.
Commented Baruchel: “Another classic example of the cultural divide between Quebec and Ontario, I guess.”
Goon, a hockey comedy, delivers a wicked slapshot of profanity and violence, undercut with a sharp wit and a sweet streak of sentiment. The film has already offended some critics’ sensibilities with its unabashed romance of the enforcer, and its giddy embrace of violence—especially after last year’s deaths of three former NHL enforcers. Now, with the City of Toronto’s help, Goon‘s publicity campaign, like its hero (Seann Williams Scott), is mixing things up.
Does embattled Toronto Mayor Rob Ford have anything to do with the ban? Is he hoping to stir up a bit of culture war to distract the citizenry from his woes? Who knows. Alliance reported the city’s poster action in a press release at 12:36 a.m. today. And I’m sure as hell not phoning the Mayor’s house in the middle of the night.