The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Five Things

Five things for a snowy Monday in Southeastern Wisconsin:

Five things that have to happen before the NHL (or any other league) puts a team in the Las Vegas area:

1. The city needs a new arena and/or stadium, built to major-league standards. The Thomas & Mack Center is a nice place and everything, but it isn't an NHL or NBA palace. It also doesn't have the luxuries that an arena build in the last 10 years or so has (the T&M is over three decades old). To be taken seriously, Las Vegas has to heed the words of Ray Kinsiella's muse: "If you build it, they will come."

2. There has to be corporate support for a new team – and not just the casinos. Someone other than the resort people need to put their money down to sponsor the team. The lack of corporate support has been a major thorn in the side of many current franchises – including Nashville – and without this, no owner in their right mind would move their team here. The casinos aren't reliable as long-term supporters, due to the mercurial nature of the gaming industry.

3. There has to be some visible means of support from the fans – meaning Personal Seat Licenses and season ticket pledges. This is the other half of the "support" equation. The city has to try to encourage those who live in "The Meadows" to put their money where their mouths are – sign up and put a deposit down for season tickets for any team that would play there in the future. And, a promise to keep those tickets for a certain number of years wouldn't hurt, either.

4. The city has to convince one or more of the major sports to have a team play a regular season game (or series, in baseball) in the city, preferably in the brand new venue. Yes, the NBA All-Star Game is nice, and it does showcase the city as a potential home to a franchise, but it's just a one-shot, fly-in and fly-out thing. What kind of crowd would you get if you have two teams that aren't playing for either pride or a title facing off in your city? In the NHL, have three sets of teams come in on three separate nights to play a single game in the city, and see what the reaction is to the game.

5. The issue of sports wagering has to be addressed by the casino sports books – to the league's satisfaction. Obviously, the issue of accepting wagers on games played by the team are primary, but the issue that any sports league has about the city is wagering on their sport in any one of the sports books – period. It is primarily for this reason that there will never be an NFL franchise in Las Vegas, since betting on football is the biggest money maker for the casinos and sports books in Nevada.

Five things you probably didn't know about me (and were too afraid to ask):

1. I routinely drive the western end of the oldest Interstate highway in the state of Wisconsin.

2. I own a baseball card of a man with my last name – to whom I am not directly related; and a football card of a man whom I am indirectly related but have met only sparingly in the last 10 years.

3. I have never set foot in the state of California.

4. The only place I have ever set foot outside of the continental United States is Ontario, Canada.

5. When I attended opening night of Miller Park in April of 2001, it was not only not the first National League game I had ever attended, but it was also not the first baseball game I had ever witnessed indoors.

Five things about the 2007 edition of the Nashville Predators:

1. This team goes out onto the ice every night, expecting to win. These aren't your father's Predators; no longer do we sit there, try to outwork the other team, and hope and pray that we can get a lucky break and maybe win. No, this team goes out expecting to come out on top when the final horn sounds. It shouldn't surprise us in the least that we're leading the league in points; that's exactly where we're supposed to be with this bunch of players.

2. Right now, the Predators have, arguably, the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Vokoun and Mason are in the same class – if not outright better – as that of Anaheim's Giguere and Bryzgalov, San Jose's Nabokov and Toskala, and Detroit's Hasek and Legace. Neither one may end up winning the Vezina Trophy this year, but the Jennings Trophy (lowest GAA) isn't completely out of consideration.

3. This team has depth. The joke in the old Bud Light Hockey Falls advertisements is true about this team: their second line is as good as the first. We have three legitimate scoring lines on this squad, and we have defensive pairings that other teams would kill to have. If that's not enough, consider how this team did with the loss of Scott Nichol to a suspension earlier this year, and the other various injuries we've had. In the recent past, injuries would have sunk us. Right now, we're still sitting atop the heap of the NHL. That says something – especially when we can call up a guy from Milwaukee and not miss too much on the blue line.

4. Even our weak points are actually strengths, if you look close enough. I've pointed out elsewhere that the Preds take their share of shots on net, but over 40% are blocked or miss the net. Of the percentage of shots that actually make it on net, a good chunk of them go in – so even though it's frustrating to be outshot nightly by the opposition, it doesn't mean it's a bad thing. And the other thorn in the side, the power play, isn't as bad as we make it out to be. The Preds are in the top third of the league on the power play in terms of efficiency. This is a team that is capable of scoring on the power play any and every time – and the only way it doesn't happen is if they make a mistake.

5. We have players on this team with championship experience. Don't believe me? Look around: Erat and Vokoun have played on a World Championship winning team, and at the Olympics; Upshall and Zanon have Calder Cup wins under their belt, and Tootoo and Weber played for the Admirals during the '06 CC Finals. Arnott has won the Cup; Kariya played in the finals; Radulov has a Memorial Cup win under his belt.

Five worst moments in my life:

1. My mother's death in 1980.

2. My grandmother's death in 1985.

3. September 11, 2001.

4. Watching the Hershey Bears skate off the ice of the Bradley Center with the Calder Cup in 2006.

5. Watching Gorman Thomas strike out to end the 1982 World Series.

Five best moments of my life:

1. My marriage to Sarah Lehner in October of 1993.

2. My graduation from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1989.

3. June 9, 2004, and watching the Milwaukee Admirals win the Calder Cup on TV live from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

4. Super Bowl XXXI, the Green Bay Packers winning their first Super Bowl in nearly thirty years.

5. February 16, 2001; my first ever visit to the Gaylord Entertainment Center. Despite the fact that Evgeny Nabokov shut out the Preds, I was in love with the place and the team from that moment onward.