Sharks sign captain Patrick Marleau to a 2-year, $12.6 million contract extension, Patrick Marleau-Doug Wilson conference call transcript

San Jose Sharks resign Patrick Marleau extension

San Jose Sharks captain Patrick Marleau signed a 2-year, $12.6 million contract extension today that will keep him in teal and orange until 2010. The agreement puts an end to offseason trade rumors surrounding Marleau that have been making the NHL rounds at a steady pace. The latest was squashed Friday morning as Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey described a phone conversation with GM Doug Wilson. Gainey said that Marleau was described as one of the cornerstones of the Sharks franchise, and that he would not be going anywhere.

The longtime Shark Patrick Marleau holds franchise records in almost every offensive category, goals (219), assists (272) points (491) and game-winning goals (41), and has served as team captain since the 2003-04 season. He finished last season as the second leading scorer, registering 32 goals and 46 assists for 78 points in 77 games played.

The contract extension for Marleau follows those signed recently by Joe Thornton, Craig Rivet, and Milan Michalek as the Sharks solidified the nucleus of a dominant Western Conference team for the foreseeable future.

Transcript of Patrick Marleau's conference call:

[Q] How important was it to get this done before training camp, instead of having a little bit of uncertainty ahead of you?

[PM] It is very important. We have been negotiating for a little while now, but once you start negotiations you want to get things done as quickly as possible. Now going into training camp with everything done we can just focus on hockey. Where the focus should be.

[Q] Can you tell me a little about the term of the contract with 2 years, not 1 year, not 4 years, is that an ideal length for you, or is that something the team was pushing a little bit?

[PM] No I think that is what ended up working for both parties, as far as money-wise anyways. So I think it was agreeable as far as the years came to two.

[Q] Was there a point where you thought this might not get done before training camp, prepared to go into the season playing in your last year, or were you always confident that it could get done?

[PM] You start out hoping things will get done more quickly, but that being said I would have been able to put it aside and been able to play. They have been open, if something was going to happen I would have had an inkling of what was going on.

[Q] Could you imagine what it would have been like to play in another city, this is all you have known in your hockey career. How unappetizing was that prospect?

[PM] I have put a lot of thought into it, I have been here the longest now. I'm the last guy standing. I have come up with the team, and now that we have what I think is a Stanley Cup contending team it probably would not be the best time for me to leave. I am going to stay here, and stay in the Bay Area. I love the fans, the team, and I love my teammates. It is going to be an exciting time for Sharks fans and myself, as we go after that Stanley Cup.

[Q] Did you talk to any of the other guys on the team while you were going through that process? Whether you wanted to sign for one year, or two years, or whether you wanted to sign at all?

[PM] I have obviously talked to some of the guys. Milan has made a commitment, Joe has made a commitment. Having some of those guys locked up makes it a lot easier to stay and play with those guys, and you know you are going to be on a winning team. That definately does come into play.

Transcript of General Manager Doug Wilson's conference call:

[Q] Can you tell us how you feel after a pretty productive summer in terms of making longterm progress for your club? In addition to Patty, there is a whole summer full of deals you have done.

[DW] Well, to be honest with you the credit deserves to go to the players. I think we have mentioned many times that it is our responsibility to make this a place where players want to stay and be a part of, and be able to win. The players have the choices and they step up. I am really proud of the guys to understand how every contract negotiation is connected to 22 other players. I just can not say enough about our group stepping up and doing what I think is needed under this system to keep a hockey team like ours together.

[Q] Was Patty's deal a long steady thing or did it pick up recently?

[DW] It has been pretty steady. We have a great relationship with Patty and his agent Don Baizley, and the last contract we did with him we basically did it in 1 day. This one, I think we knew we were going to get there. We did have a common goal, and this is why you have to give Patty credit too. He did not want any distractions. To get it done now prior to going into camp is important for all of us, and for his teammates. I just can't give enough credit to the players for stepping up and getting this done.

[Q] Do you consider Patrick the archetype of what you want your players to be, what does he mean for this franchise in terms of longevity and in terms of what he does on and off the ice?

[DW] Well he is, he has that balance. He understands, and I am a little biased in this, hockey players understand that there is no one bigger than the game, and no one bigger than the team. I think the relationships our players have with the fans are based on that premise. So I think he gives back, and he is very involved with the community. When we get to these types of negotiations, it is bottom line performance on the ice. His record speaks for itself. I think the group of guys understand that we are coming into the prime of where our team is at. We want to build on what we have accomplished because we have not accomplished all of our goals. That goes for individual performances as well as collective team performances. It is an exciting time for us. For this number of players to step up and want to be a part of it, I think they sense there is something in place. I think it really comes down to the players looking forward to the challenge.

[Q] There was another story out of Montreal today that talked about Marleau. Bob Gainey jokingly shot it down saying he called you and asked if you are going to trade him to me. Did that become any kind of distraction or annoyance, or is that something a general manager just learns to live with?

[DW] No, I think it is a compliment. I told every player, it was the same way when I played, be very worried when they stop calling and asking about you. Many teams call about Patty, about Joe, about Cheech, Milan, a group of young players. You learn from listening and taking all these calls that there is only one priority, and that was to re-sign Patrick. Did many teams call? Absolutely. Did teams call as recently as the last couple of days? Yes they did. But the response to every one of those teams was that we are trying to re-sign Patrick, and that is what we expect to do.

It is funny that the last time I was in Montreal to do Milan's contract. I was checking out of the hotel about 6 in the morning and the skycap comes up to me and said are you here to trade Patty to Monreal? I looked at the guy and said you got to be kidding me. He thought he had an inside scoop.

[Q] What are your plans between now and camp?

[DW] I like the idea that how players come back into camp is a great indicator for us. I am pretty excited that a number of players are already back in town. We are looking at maybe doing a couple of other things. A lot of GM's now, everybody loves their players now going into camp. We want to give our guys the opportunity I think they deserve, and we will go from there. But I may add another couple of guys, or one guy, coming into camp in the next few days. We are still working on some things.

[Update] Sharks sign Marleau to extension - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update2] Hahn: Marleau Isn't Going Anywhere - SJsharks.com.

When you look at Patrick Marleau's track record you can’t deny that he's one of the top centermen in the League and one of the greatest Sharks players in the team's history. He arrived at his first training camp when he was just 17 years old. He never spent a day in the minor leagues.

He's won multiple World Championships with Team Canada. He's a two-time All-Star. He's the franchise’s all-time record holder for games played, goals, assists and points. Were it not for the work stoppage two years ago, Marleau would have reached the 700-games-played plateau faster than any player in NHL history.

[Update3] Sharks sign Marleau to $12.6M extension - TSN.

But Marleau struggled in the playoffs, going scoreless with a minus-5 rating in the Sharks' six-game second-round loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Coach Ron Wilson launched thinly-veiled criticisms at his captain, who absorbed and accepted much of the blame for the Sharks' latest early-round postseason exit after the NHL's fifth-best regular season.


Stockton Thunder release 2008 ECHL Allstar Game logo and jerseys

2008 ECHL Allstar Logo Patrick J Kelly Cup
2008 ECHL Allstar Jerseys
Stockton Thunder Dan Chapman Chris Cichocki

The Stockton Thunder released the 2008 ECHL Allstar Game logo, allstar jerseys, and allstar merchandise today in an afternoon press conference. Stockton city councilmember Steve J. Bestolarides, Stockton Chamber of Commerce CEO Doug Wilhoit, Stockton Sports Commission Director Don Miller, Stockton Thunder head coach Chris Cichocki and president Dan Chapman were on hand for the logo unveiling.

The logo, created by graphic designer Joe Bosack, consists of a black thundercloud outlined in gold, and a bold 'Allstar' trimmed with lightning bolts. "We like that the color scheme matches the Thunder's" Stockton President Dan Chapman said. "It is a simple logo, something that is very classy, and something that will reproduce well".

The 16th annual ECHL Allstar Game will be hosted at the 9,737-seat Stockton Arena January 23rd, with a skills competition held the day before on January 22nd. It was also announced today that fans will have an opportunity to take photos with the Stanley Cup and the Patrick J. Kelly Cup during the event. The festivities are projected to bring in more than $1 million in revenue for the city of Stockton, and they will serve to showcase the new Sheraton Stockton at Regent Pointe hotel currently under construction adjacent to the waterfront arena grounds.

The Stockton Thunder, an ECHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, begin the 2007-08 season on the road October 19th against the Bakersfield Condors. The Thunder open their home schedule October 27th gainst the Alaska Aces. Tickets are available from stocktonthunder.com or 209-373-1500.

More information about the ECHL's Patrick J. Kelly Cup is available here.


Trio of Northern California boxers headline September 13th Fight Night at the Tank

Jose Celaya
Jesus Rodriguez Hector Alatorre Riot Boxing
Eloy Perez

A recent press release announced a trio of Salinas boxers, Jose "Cuate" Celaya (29-3-0, 15KOs), Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez (15-2-0, 5KOs) and Eloy Perez (8-0-1, 1KO) will headline the third edition of the American Metal and Iron Fight Night at HP Pavilion September 13th.

Celaya is a talented and technical boxer, looking to fight his way back into the top 10 after setbacks against James Webb and Eduardo Sanchez. Team Garcia's Jesus Rodriguez recently captured the California State Light Welterweight title with a unanimous decision win over Hector Alatorre in a Riot Boxing event at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Super featherweight Eloy Perez, also a Team Garcia boxer, dominated Barbaro Zepeda in a May 24th American Metal and Iron Fight Night at HP Pavilion. Heavyweights Teke Oruh and Billy Zumbrun will face off in a 6 round contest, and San Francisco's Karim Mayfield will open the card with a Jr Middleweight bout against Farid Shahid.

Tickets for the event are available via Ticketmaster, or by phone at 408-998-TIXS. The weigh-in for the event will be held at the San Jose Clarion Airport Hotel Wednesday, September 12th.


Jose "Cuate" Celaya has been announced as the main event fighter for the third edition of the 2007 American Metal and Iron Fight Night at the Tank boxing series to be held on September 13 at HP Pavilion at San Jose.

Celaya, with a current professional record of 29-3-0 with 15 KO’s, is a Salinas native who is very familiar with American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the Tank, since this will be his fifth time fighting at HP Pavilion since 2002. His last fight was June 2006 at HP Pavilion and went all six rounds ending in a unanimous decision, crowing Celaya the winner.

Celaya has been undefeated when fighting at the Tank and he will be looking to keep his winning record alive in September at American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the tank. His opponent will be announced shortly.


Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez (15-2-0, 5 KO’s) and Eloy Perez (8-0-1, 1 KO) are both young up and coming stars that pack a big punch representing Team Garcia out of Salinas, CA.

Rodriquez last fought at HP Pavilion, March 29, defeating his opponent Carlos De La Cruz by a unanimous decision and has stamped himself as a big-time contender. His most recent fight was on July 14 at the San Jose Civic Auditorium where he fought Hector Alatorre (14-2, 5 KOs) and claimed the California State Light Welterweight title with a unanimous decision victory.

Eloy Perez, a 20-year-old super featherweight, used blazing hand speed and a "nobody's home" defense to win every round on all three scorecards in the opening bout at the last American Metal & Iron Fight Night at the Tank event. Perez, shut out Barbaro Zepeda (8-15-2, 2 KO’s), and dismantled him one round at a time, showcasing his excellent technique and strength.

2006-07 San Jose Sharks season in blog review

Following the post-lockout 2005-06 season in review, here is a review in blog of the San Jose Sharks 2006-07 season:

[October 2006]

Sharks trade Korolyuk and Fahey to New Jersey for retired defenseman Vladimir Malakhov and a conditional 1st round pick. Sharks announce opening night roster.

A Hockey Night in San Jose against Dallas on October 18th saw the Sharks hand the Stars their first loss of the season. Nabokov said of the 2-0 win, "It's the whole team. It's never about individuals. I don't win the games. We have to be good defensively and offensively, and sometimes you have to get lucky." A couple of hockey broadcast notes from 2 NHL cameramen are included at the end of the post.

[November 2006]

On a trip to New York City, the Sharkspage editorial staff of one watched the Rangers at San Jose from downtown Manhattan; Dispatch from the Media Capital. Canadian newspaper La Presse publishes 2 informative articles on hockey blogs.

After a blowout 7-3 win at Los Angeles, the Kings travel to San Jose and return the favor with two goals by Alexander Frolov in a 4-2 win. The Philadelphia Flyers bring the worst record in the NHL into HP Pavilion, and the Sharks earn a 6-1 win against a team struggling to keep its head above water.

[December 2006]

Rookie Joe Pavelski scores 4 goals in his first 5 games, on pace for 40 goals and 0 assists for the season. Joe Sakic scored 2 goals and an assist, and Mike Grier was unsuccessful on a penalty shot in a 5-2 loss to Colorado. A 4-0 shutout over Phoenix (including the return of Ricci and Nolan) sparks an opinion column about the future and direction of the franchise. Kings goaltender Barry Brust picks up his first win as the season long Jason LaBarbera waiver fiasco continued.

With the exception of a 5-0 blowout loss in Anaheim on November 21st, the best regular season or playoff series in the NHL last year was the San Jose Sharks vs the Anaheim Ducks.

The tension before the December 16th meeting in San Jose was palpable in what should have been an early season playoff preview. Mark Bell and Shane O'Brien dropped the gloves in a very brutal fight, and Jonathan Cheechoo and Joe Thornton (PP) scored to complete a come from behind 4-3 victory. A win by Anaheim would have extended their Pacific Division lead to 12 points. Los Angeles Times writer Hellene Elliott penned an article with the title, "the high-flying Ducks just aren't on our radar". That comes after the LA Times noted at the start of the season that they would not sent their reporters would to follow the Ducks or the Kings on the road.

The Dallas Stars return to San Jose and bring their own brand of smashmouth hockey with them en route to a 3-0 win. In a pre-Christmas affair, the Sharks extinguish the Flames 4-1 in front of a national HNIC audience. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson also discussed what he wanted for Christmas, no Calgary power plays. "Yes, and that is what I wanted for Christmas. That is what I asked Santa Claus for" said Wilson. The Sharks and Ducks top early NHL Allstar voting.

[January 2007]

Christy Hammond from Behind the Blog sent in an excellent report on Steve Yzerman's Detroit Red Wings retirement ceremony, it was a preview for the Sharks-Detroit series in San Jose a week later. The Red Wings jumped out to a 3 goal lead against Evgeni Nabokov only to give up 9 unanswered goals as the Sharks obliterate Detroit 9-4.

Defenseman Christian Ehrhoff scored a Gordie Howe hat trick with a goal, an assist, and a fight against Columbus during a 5-2 win. The Sharks then lose a Western Conference semifinal rematch with Edmonton 3-2, giving up 3 goals in the first 11 minutes of play.

Evgeni Nabokov turns in a stellar 26 save effort during a 3-1 win over Colorado. Three power play goals by Cheechoo, Marleau and Thornton raise the Sharks power play percentage to a league best 26.5%. During the 2007 pre-Allstar Game festivities, Jonathan Cheechoo and Matt Carle take a few laps on the Texas Motor Speedway. A Dallas come from beind 3-2 shootout win in San Jose sparked a critical mid-season progress report.

Toronto Star deputy sports editor Chris Young answered a few questions about coverage of the NHL, the newspaper business, blogs, and the quote machine that was Charles Oakley in a brief interview.

[February 2007]

After scoring 16 points in 11 games (9G, 7A) and leading all rookies in +/- (+10), Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe named NHL Rookie of the Month for January. The Dallas Stars completed a 2 game back-to-back sweep in San Jose with a 4-2 win in San Jose. Vesa Toskala registers 2 assists and 20 saves in a 4-2 matinee win over the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Battle of California continues with the Sharks dominating Anaheim 7-4 in the first game of a home-at-home series. The win is punctuated by a Scott Parker 2 punch knockout of George Parros.

Eric McErlain and Ellen Blanchard of Offwing send in a few notes and photos from the Sharks 3-2 come from behind shootout win at the Verizon Center (aka the Phone Booth) in Washington. The Sharks trade Josh Gorges and a 1st round 2007 draft pick to Montreal for veteran defenseman Craig Rivet, and a 2008 fifth-rounder.

The Anaheim Ducks increase their Pacific Division lead over Dallas and San Jose with a 3-2 win at HP Pavilion. Teemu Selanne scored the game winning goal and Anaheim goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov made 40 saves on 42 shots. Trade deadline shocker as the Sharks pick up the second biggest name available at the wire, Sharks trade for St Louis Blues power forward Bill Guerin.

[March 2007]

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scores the game tying goal with less than 5 minutes in regulation, but the Nashville Predators emerge with a 4-3 shootout win on a slick move by J.P. Dumont. The Preds earned their 43rd win and the NHL points lead. The Vancouver Canucks down the Sharks 2-1 in a tight checking affair that may serve as a preview of a Western Conference playoff matchup.

Evgeni Nabokov heats up with his third shutout in 4 games against the Edmonton Oilers. Edmonton is headed in the other direction dropping seven straight games. Bill Guerin has his first breakout game as a Shark, scoring a hat trick in a 7-1 San Jose win over Chicago. Vesa Toskala returns from an injury to earn his first win in 15 games, shutting out the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0.

An interesting tale of one goalie pad's journey to the big show, From Fan to Factory to the NHL. Ben Wright of the Atlanta Thrashers previews a Sharks-Thrash matchup, and I try to preview the Sharks for Atlanta fans here.

The Sharks clinch a playoff berth with a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings and ageless goaltender Sean Burke. Sharks reach 100 points with 4-2 win over Phoenix Coyotes, the all-time record of 104 points during the 2003-04 season is well within reach. Prior to the Phoenix game the San Jose Jr Sharks Under-16 team lost a tough game in the USA Girls/Womens Hockey Championships at Logitech Ice in San Jose.

[April 2007]

Earl Sleek of the Battle of California hosts Sharkspage for San Jose's 3-2 overtime shootout win over the Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim. Ryane Clowe and Shawn Thornton dropped the gloves for one of the best fights of the season, Thornton actually yelled at the refs to keep their distance and let them continue. San Jose Sharks head coach Ron Wilson called for Teemu Selanne's stick to be measured, resulting in an illegal stick penalty.

Calgary took 7 penalties against the top rated NHL power play in the first two periods, and the Sharks 4-3 win kept the Flames, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Brad Stuart from clinching the 8th and final playoff spot. Jonathan Cheechoo ties the game 3-3 with 33 seconds left, but Mattias Ohlund scored the game winner for the Vancouver Canucks in overtime. San Jose and Nashville are fighting for the 4th and 5th playoff seeds, the loss leaves Nashville in front with a possible home ice advantage in the series.

[W.C. Playoff Quarterfinals - Nashville vs San Jose]

For the second straight year the Sharks will face the Nashville Predators in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This warrants a look back at the 2006 series.

The knee-on-knee hit heard round the NHL occurs in Game 1 as Scott Hartnell injures Jonathan Cheechoo with a hard check to his lower body. The debate crossed the boundary from hockey media to mainstream media, and everyone has an opinion on whether it was a hard check or a deliberate intent to injure. Photos show Hartnell going out of his way to land a shot on Cheechoo's knee. After making a mistake on an earlier play, Patrick Rissmiller scores 8:14 into the second overtime to give San Jose the win in Game 1.

Headline for Game 2: A second game, a second Sharks forward injured in 5-2 loss to Nashville. Alexander Radulov hits Steve Bernier from behind up against the glass and is suspended for 1 game. Again, the debate rages on whether it was a clean check or not. The Nashville Predators earned a 5-2 win and tied the series at 1-1. Ryan Clowe challenged Scott Hartnell at the end of the game for his hit against Cheechoo in game 1, but the result was 3 simultaneous fights as time ran out. Former Predators Den blogger Jason Kirk contributes his thought on the contentious game.

Nashville was unable to find an answer for the Sharks depth up front, and careless penalties plagued Nashville in a 3-1 loss in game three. Trying to open it up did not work in game 4, which Nashville lost 3-1. The Predators lost their composure in game 5, losing the game 3-2, taking 9 penalties, and losing the series 4-1. Nashville head coach Barry Trotz on the San Jose Sharks, "Take nothing away from San Jose. They played a real strong team game. They’re big, they're fast. They’ve... got all the elements to win the Stanley Cup, there is no question. Their depth, their four lines, that's what makes them real strong".

[W.C. Playoff Semifinals - Detroit vs San Jose]

Hockeytown vs Silicon Valley, a second round playoff preview. Prediction or famous last words? "Hasek steals a game in Detroit and San Jose, but there are too many Sharks and not enough water for the Red Wings. The injuries to Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Brett Lebda, and the pounding administered by San Jose will eventually force the top seed in the Western Conference to wilt."

Back-to-back goals 24 seconds apart are the key to game 1 as Evgeni Nabokov posted a 2-0 shutout and the Sharks delivered a solid road game. In game 2, the Sharks gave up 3 unanswered goals by Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Cleary (SHG), and Pavel Datsyuk, allowing the Red Wings to tie the series with a 3-2 win.

Detroit Red Wings beat writer Ansar Khan previewed game 3 in a brief interview prior to the start in San Jose. Detroit stormed out of the gates in game 3, outshooting San Jose 16-7 in the first period, ringing a shot off the post, and captain Nicklas Lidstrom caught Evgeni Nabokov moving in the opposite direction to give the Wings an early 1-0 lead. Detroit could not sustain the effort, Ryane Clowe scored on an offspeed shot, and Jonathan Cheechoo scored on a scramble in front of Dominik Hasek to give the Sharks a 2-1 win, and a 2-1 lead in the series.

The fourth game in the Western Conference Semis is where things began to fall apart for the San Jose Sharks. Headline after the game: Last Minute Loss: 2nd period goal with 4.5 seconds left Homstrom, 3rd period goal with 33.1 seconds left Lang, Schnieder's GW slapshot in OT. Defensive lapses, rookie and veteran mistakes, and an inability to lock a game down defensively when holding a lead resulted in a 3-2 overtime loss for San Jose. Sharks head coach Ron Wilson was critical of players on the ice for the last minute Detroit goal, and during the post-game press conference he called on members of his team to wake up or they would be headed home.

The Sharks lost a game 5 Cinco de Mayo showdown in Detroit 4-1. The Red Wings were able to adapt to the injury of defenseman Mathieu Schnieder by giving more minutes to Danny Markov (26:31) and Chris Chelios (25:40). Nicklas Lidstrom logged a game high 29:04, and finished +2 with an assist and 2 shots on goal.

San Jose tried to dictate the physical play of game 6 early, but it was Nicklas Lidstrom's goalmouth saving block of a point blank Mike Grier attempt with Dominik Hasek out of the crease that may have been the turning point of the game. Mikael Samuelsson converted on a 2-on-1 to open the scoring, and he added a second goal with 8 seconds left that would seal the game and the series. Dominik Hasek turned in his best performance of the series, and finished with a 20 save shutout.


ESPN News on the first Californian selected in the opening round of the NHL Draft

Here is an archive clip from ESPN video on the first Californian-born player ever to be selected in the first round of an NHL Entry Draft. The Nashville Predators selected WHL Vancouver Giants defenseman and Rancho Santa Margarita native Jonathon Blum 23rd overall in 2007.

Blum said of being drafted in the first round, "It's awesome to get picked as the first Californian. The way I look at it is, it gives people playing in California hope, because you don't get too many guys that come out of here. They all come from Canada and the East Coast. It gives them a chance to say, if he did it, why can't I."

In 4 games against international competition at the annual USA Hockey Under-20 Development Camp in Lake Placid earlier this month, Jonathan Blum registered a goal and an assist. Blum also earned a silver medal with Team USA last summer at the Under-18 Junior World Cup in the Czech Republic.

[Update] Q-and-A with Franson and Blum: Giant prospects - Nashville Predators.

[Update2] As noted earlier on this blog, San Jose Jr Sharks alumni Corbin McPherson was drafted in the third round by the New Jersey Devils (87th overall). The 6-foot-4, 210 pound defenseman from Folsom will return to the Cowichan Valley Capitals of the B.C. Hockey League this season under coach and general manager Scott Robinson.

[Update3] The Hockey News proclaims the rise of California - Sharkspage August 2006.


Max Giese: Lukas Kaspar on the Cusp? 2004 first rounder trying to find his way to San Jose

Lukas Kaspar

Ever since the San Jose Sharks traded up to draft Lukas Kaspar 22nd overall in the 2004 Entry Draft, it has been a roller coaster journey for the talented Czech winger. One filled with highs and lows that have made him hands down the most enigmatic prospect in the Sharks system. Blessed with a powerful shot and dangerous stride, the 6-foot-2 210 pound Kaspar possesses the ideal frame for a winger in the NHL. Yet his struggles to contribute consistently on the scoresheet, and the Sharks depth of offensive talent, have combined to put the once flamboyant Lukas Kaspar in a holding pattern.

Kaspar's development has been as perplexing as his play on the ice. Projected at the draft to be a pure goal scorer with game breaking offensive abilities, Kaspar has surprisingly grown into a reliable two-way forward sacrificing offense to fine tune his defensive play. His path bears a slight resemblence to fellow Sharks 2001 first round draft pick Marcel Goc. Like Kaspar, Goc was projected as a top six forward. He later developed a solid 2-way game on the third line, and stood out with his penalty killing expertise. If Kaspar is going to stick in the NHL, questions about his consistency and fortitude mean a slot on the first or second line would be a difficult proposition. "(Kaspar) tends to float, and he needs to work harder for his chances. He often waits for plays to develop as opposed to initiating them" says David Burstyn, who has seen plenty of Lukas Kaspar while scouting the AHL and OHL for McKeen's Hockey.

Critics of Kaspar look at average offensive totals during his first two seasons in the AHL, 14 goals and 36 points in 76 games for the Cleveland Barons in 2005-06, and 12 goals and 40 points in 78 games for the Worcester Sharks in 2006-07. Several players drafted below Kaspar in 2004 have already made an impact at the NHL level, but each player takes his own time to fully mature to the best of their ability. While he has not been fast tracked to the NHL like fellow Czech Milan Michalek, the key is that Lukas Kaspar is getting better every year. He has steadily improved his defensive game, and maximized the advantage that his size, speed, and skill give him. Evidence of that fact, Kaspar went from a -18 in 2005-06 to a -1 in 2006-07.

Lukas Kaspar

Kaspar learned the defensive side of the game at a young age, playing against grown men in the Czech Elite League at seventeen. After a year in the OHL with the Ottawa 67's, Kaspar began playing in the AHL as a 20 year old. He was not counted on to be a go-to player early, but instead to fit the role of a reliable player who can contribute at both ends of the ice. His international experience includes two World Junior Championships, where he was asked to kill penalties and check the opposition's top scoring lines 5-on-5. This upward development curve has stymied some of Kaspar's offensive creativity, but eventually it will lead to a more complete hockey player when he finally puts on a San Jose Sharks uniform. Also of note, at this stage in Marcel Goc's development he was just preparing to play in his first season of North American hockey. Lukas Kaspar already has two full years of AHL tutelage under his belt.

"He's very creative with open ice, he has a nice skill set, soft hands, great on-ice vision, and superb passing skills on top of his heavy shooting arsenal" says McKeen's Burstyn. Kaspar has the size to impose his will in the offensive zone, and impressive straight away speed to create scoring chances. Never lacking in confidence, Lukas oozes creativety with the puck as a slick playmaker on the wing.

The light at the end of the tunnel is rapidly approaching for Kaspar as he enters this year's training camp in San Jose. He has his first legitimate shot at making the opening night NHL roster. All will not be lost if he is assigned to the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester. He will be given every opportunity to carry the offensive load for the first time in his AHL career. With a strong performance in Worcester, it is likely Teal Nation will get their first look at Kaspar in a Sharks uniform as a midseason callup. With Lukas Kaspar's more complete game, do not be surprised if he is an instant success when that moment comes.


Cheechoo Tameu Ska

Whiskey Avengers San Jose
Whiskey Avengers San Jose

Cheechoo Tameu - The Whiskey Avengers (MP3 file)

A friend passed along the song "Cheechoo Tameu" from local San Jose ska band, the Whiskey Avengers. It is an infectious tune, with a verse of good old hockey game thrown in for good measure. Last night the Whiskey Avengers played at The Blank Club on Almaden. If you like love songs about whiskey and the odd ska cover of Inner Circle and George Michael, WA will be at the Cardiff Lounge in Campbell on August 29th and SJSU on September 6th.

[Update] A couple of photos of the headline band the Aggrolites are available here, here, and here. The Aggrolites recently combined forces with Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong to produce the hit "Into Action".

[Update2] I posted a video of the Whiskey Avengers cover of George Michael's Careless Whisper on youtube here.


Milan Michalek signs 6-year $26 million contract, 2 team Sharks-Ducks rookie tournament will be in Anaheim

Milan Michalek signs 6 year contract with San Jose Sharks

- On Friday, the San Jose Sharks signed right wing Milan Michalek to the longest contract in San Jose Sharks history, a 6-year $26 million deal that will keep the Czech forward in teal until 2014. Milan discussed the extension, "It was a few years (of unrestricted free agency), but I'm really happy in San Jose. The organization is great. I'm glad they wanted me for so long because I wanted that too."

Milan Michalek scored 26 goals and 40 assists to register 66 points in a season where he began to come into his own offensively. His ability to stop and start on a dime and create room in the offensive zone has been constant throughout his career. Skating on the top line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo Michalek started to take advantage of his 6-foot-2, 225 pound frame, driving the net with authority and manhandling defensman in the corners. The physical play combined with explosive speed made Michalek a topic of constant inquiry from other general managers throughout the league.

San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson also had high praise for Michalek on the defensive side of the ice, "We think he has great upside and will be a dominant player... He may be our best defensive forward next to Mike Grier. He is a player we want others to emulate." Milan Michalek finished his second full NHL season +17, second behind only Joe Thornton.

- Sharks' Michalek cashes in - Globe and Mail.

The $26-million (U.S.), six-year agreement they reached with the 22-year-old forward Friday won't kick in until 2008-09, once Michalek's current pact expires following the coming season. He'll make $942,400 in 2007-08 after earning $471,200 last year...

"You have to understand how this CBA works on a daily basis, you have to make decisions much earlier and much quicker than you did in the past," Wilson said in a conference call. "It's also one of the reasons why we feel that the players we know the best are the ones we've drafted, developed and had a lot of time with."

- David Pollak of the San Jose Mercury News updated the Sharks effort to re-sign captain Patrick Marleau to a long term deal. Pollak noted that Marleau is comfortable with his role as captain, that he has put criticism by head coach Ron Wilson behind him, and that Joe Thornton's recent contract extension will influence his decision. The equanimous Marleau also mirrored previous statements by Ron Wilson and general manager Doug Wilson about the Sharks playoff exit, telling Pollak "We weren't able to let games go and start fresh for the next game."

- The San Jose Sharks released a 2007 training camp schedule. Training camp practices begin at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose September 14th. The annual Teal and White game will be held at HP Pavilion Monday, September 17th. The Sharks open the regular season on the road in Edmonton October 4th.

- The Anaheim Ducks announced on Thursday that they will host 2 rookie games with the San Jose Sharks instead of the annual 4-team Pacific Division Shootout. The games will be held September 8th (7PM) and 9th (5PM) at the Anaheim Ice practice facility. Tickets are available through the Anaheim Ice box office for $10 per game (714-535-RINK).

Anaheim's rookie roster will include 2007 first round selection Logan MacMillan, 2005 first round selection Bobby Ryan, prospects Drew Miller and Ryan Carter (who both appeared in the Stanley Cup Final), St. Could State goaltender Bobby Goepfert, and QMJHL goaltender J.P. Levasseur.

- Sharks Prospects Look To Add To Homegrown Nucleus - SJsharks.com.

- Canada-Russia junior clash has intrigue - TSN.

The eight-game Super Series between Canadian and Russian teenagers opening next Monday in Ufa, Russia, commemorates the 35th anniversary of the 1972 Summit Series between Canada and what was then the Soviet Union. That Summit Series was about more than just hockey. It was a clash of political ideologies in a Cold War climate that no longer exists.

The distrust each country felt for the other was evident in several incidents, including series organizer Alan Eagleson barrelling towards the announcer's booth in Moscow, to make sure Canada's tying goal in Game 8 wasn't discounted, and getting into a scuffle with the Soviet soldiers en route.

On the ice, it was a hockey war. Bobby Clarke deliberately slashed Valery Kharlamov's ankle and broke it in Game 6. It would be a tall order for this Super Series of under-20 players to replicate that drama.

- San Jose Sharks pre-season tickets are available for purchase today after 10AM. Tickets are available at the HP Pavilion box office, Ritmo Latino, charge by phone at 408-998-TIXS, 415-421-TIXS, 510-625-TIXS, or 916-649-TIXS and online at ticketmaster.com.


Max Giese - The Forgotten One, opportunity lines up for Sharks prospect Mike Morris after a series of setbacks

San Jose Sharks Mike Morris
C/RW Mike Morris
Born: July 14th, 1983. Braintree, Mass.
Height: 6-0
Weight: 185
Shoots: Right
Acquired: 27th overall 2002

The Forgotten One
by Max Giese

The San Jose Sharks have a reputation around the NHL for developing an abundance of young and talented forwards. When cycling through the list of potential offensive threats, 2002 first rounder Mike Morris is rarely mentioned. While it is true that the forward from Braintree, Mass. has yet to play a game in the NHL or AHL, another factor is the fact that he has spent the last five years playing for an obscure collegiate program off the radar for most. It is unfortunate because Morris has the potential not only to play in the NHL, but to play at an elite level. Morris is the prototypical West Coast type forward the Sharks seem to covet. He possesses speed, intelligence, and character. "He has NHL skills and he's an NHL caliber skater" said Northeastern Huskies assistant coach Gene Reilly.

Besides his impressive on-ice skills, the most intriguing and endearing characteristic of Morris is his resiliency. He has faced adversity the past two seasons with a multitude of injuries he had to overcome with courage and an unwavering spirit. Many players might have given up after one of the setbacks Morris has faced, but he has continued to persevere through several and he remains a legitimate prospect for the San Jose Sharks. "The only question is if he has the fortitude and competitiveness it takes, because everyone in the NHL has that" proclaims Reilly, "those two intangibles will decide if he sticks in the NHL".

The 2002 NHL Entry Draft was a thin at the top, with little depth after first handful of selections. The Sharks held the 27th overall pick, and uncharacteristically stayed put and drafted off the board to select the Massachusetts native out of St. Sebastian's prep school. Morris was his team's captain as a senior, and he carried them to their second straight New England Prep School Championship. Morris lead the team in regular and post season scoring with a broken hand, which earned him the U.S. Hockey Report's Prep Player of the Year award.

San Jose Sharks Mike Morris

After being drafted, Morris attended the USA Under-20 Evaluation Camp, and enjoyed a strong freshman season playing for the Northeastern Huskies. During his freshman season Morris' skill set was instantly evident, and his composure on the ice bellied his age. He was a go-to guy early, and he was quarterbacking the Huskies powerplay halfway into the season. Morris finished third on his team in scoring, while earning a spot on the Hockey East All Rookie Team. Things only got better in his sophmore campagin as he lead the Huskies in assists, and he was second on the team in scoring.

At this point in his career, Morris should have been cemented as a bluechip NHL prospect, but it was not until Mike's junior season where a glimpse of his full potential was realized. Morris finished with 19 goals and 20 assists in only 34 games, to finish well above a point a game pace. He began to generate a buzz among the Sharks brass and hockey mad fans alike. The future looked bright for Morris, and his stock as a prospect was never higher.

Unfortunately, all of that momentum came to a screeching halt in the summer of 2005. Morris was a passenger in a car involved in an accident. He was able to walk away from the crash, but he did suffer a severe concussion that prevented him from skating or practicing for a full year. The NorthEastern standout was forced to redshirt his senior season. "Prominent head injuries are always a major concern, it is a question mark that the management in San Jose will have to continue to monitor closely" says Reilly. His status as an NHL prospect was in doubt. Questions about his ability to take the ice again, and his ability to regain his previous form, were made repeatedly.

San Jose Sharks Mike Morris

Morris answered those questions with an exclamation point during his senior season with the Northeastern Huskies. He returned to play 20 games and tallied 7 goals and 11 assists. Mike Morris was named teams captain, his his presence on the ice lead to a double digit increase in wins over the previous season. "He's an impact college player, if he was in the line up for the full season he would haveve won us another five games" proclaimed Reilly.

Morris began the year getting accustomed to the pace of the NCAA game he could not play for a full season, and he also had to adjust to a new position moving from wing to center. In late October 2006, Morris had a breakthrough weekend that showed he is still a prospect to keep an eye on. He was a catalyst in the Huskies striking upset over the Michigan Wolverines, scoring 2 goals and 2 assists against one of the nation's toughest defenses. "He's a quiet leader. He analyzes, watches, and does on the ice" notes Reilly. While he still had to battle injuries during his senior year including getting his appendix removed, Morris showed he can still play at a high level. He displayed the mental maturity and leadership qualities that won the Sharks over on draft day 2002. Gene Reilly was impressed with Mike's character "He is fearless, and even with the injury plagued seasons he continues to go into the corners without hesitation. He simply loves the game". For those reasons, the Sharks recently signed Morris to allow him to begin his professional career next season.

Morris will attend training camp this year, and he is projected to begin the season with the Sharks AHL affiliate in Worcester. He will be playing alongside new teammates that are significantly more talented than the ones that surrounded him at the NCAA level. If he can remain injury free, he should progress into a team leader, receiving ice time in all situations. The key to his success will be his health, "Checkers in the NHL are more skilled, they angle better, and while there is more respect among players in the NHL because they don't wear facemasks, Morris will have his body put to the test. He will endure some heavy hits" Reilly said.

Morris has spent the summer rehabbing his hips, and he is nearing 100 percent health. "He's a hard worker that will do everything it takes to get himself into prime physical condition" said Reilly. he is also optimistic that Morris will put on a San Jose uniform in the near future "He will be like a sponge. He is very coachable, and will do whatever it takes because he has the passion, want, and will it takes to play in the NHL".

[Update] Summit Series snub motivates OHL star Logan Couture - Canada.com. Thanks to G.J. Berg for the link.

[Update2] Marchment Begins Second Phase of Hockey Career - SJsharks.com.

Bryan Marchment was one of the biggest hitters in the game. However, there was always a softer side to the rugged defenseman that made him a well-liked and respected teammate during his 18-year NHL career.

Now, he will put those skills to use in his new position with his former club. From a development standpoint, Marchment’s work with younger developing players will not change much as he was always willing to lend a helping hand, even if the young talent was aiming to potentially grab his job.

Informal Sharks scrimmage at Logitech Ice 8/22 photo gallery

San Jose Sharks scrimmage
San Jose Sharks scrimmage
San Jose Sharks scrimmage

Several members of the San Jose Sharks (Patrick Marleau, Matt Carle, Patrick Rissmiller, Craig Rivet, Jonathan Cheechoo, Mike Morris, Devin Setoguchi, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Curtis Brown) skated along with Owen Nolan, Mark Smith, Andrei Zyuzin and several others for an informal scrimmage today at the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose. Evgeni Nabokov and San Jose State's Martin Moody served as the goaltenders.

A photo gallery from the scrimmage is available here.

Google Dance 2007

Google Dance 2007
Google Dance 2007
Search Engine Strategies San Jose conference

Once a year Google hosts visitors from the Search Engine Strategies conference at the Mountain View "Googleplex" headquarters for the Google Dance. It was an opportunity to have a few drinks, network, and ask Google engineers questions about different products and services. Offerings of note were the new embed Google Maps feature, handy for directing people to an event location, Google Earth/Sky, and Google Audio ads, an interesting new option for radio advertising to compliment Google's print advertising campaign.

The Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose was a little smaller than those of past years. A few items that might be of interest to the blogosphere include Topix.com's add headlines feature for websites, new search an analytics company compete.com (a promising technorati replacement if they can gather more data), online advertising company adbrite (current adbrite cost for a 1-week text link on NHL.com is $770), local video advertising on superpages.com, and a blog advertising company conviently called blogvertise.com.

The keynote speaker for SES San Jose was given by the CEO of Ask.com, Jim Lanzone. Ask remodled their search engine with an Ask3D interface that delivers contextual search results. Lanzone also touched on the hot issue of search privacy, noting that a results history can be erased at any time.

Two thumbs up for the Google Dance and the SES conference. For more on all things Google visit googleblog.blogspot.com.

[Update] Google Earth to launch new service for stargazers - Yahoo News.

Max Giese: U-18 World Cup Review

NHL General Managers and scouts flocked to the Czech Republic and Slovakia last week to identify the next wave of up and coming talent at the U-18 World Cup. The tournament is a starting point for many NHL international scouting campaigns as several countries send their top u18 players to compete for a gold medal. With the 2008 draft having the best crop of eligible players available since the phenomenal 2003 draft, and plenty of talent upcoming in 2009, this year's U-18 World Cup was an opportunity to see future NHL stars showcase their skill on a global stage.

Ageless rivals Sweden and Finland have struggled at recent drafts, but both seem to be hitting their stride developing young hockey players. Evidence was a Swedwn vs Finland final in the U-18 World Cup Gold Medal Game, which Sweden won 3-2 in overtime. The 2008 class of eligible Swedes is regarded as one of the best in Sweden's history. The group is lead by center Mattias Tedenby, a short but strong power forward with explosive speed and a bone rattling shot. While Tedenby was very impressive and projects to be top 10 pick, the top prospect for Sweden has to be 6-foot-5, 210 pound, 16-year old defenseman Viktor Hedman. Hedman is regarded as the "Swedish Chris Pronger", and will challenge for the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. Hedman scored the overtime winner to secure Sweden's gold medal. He is an offensive catalyst who is outrageously mobile for a player of his size, complete with great hands and vision. Hedman is a rock in his own end. He will not be the lone Swede at the top of the 2009 draft class as center Anton Lander is a highly regarded prospect as well for his competitive drive and savvy two-way game.

Finland was not happy taking home the silver, and they have struggled even more than Sweden recently at the NHL draft. Finnish phenom Toni Rajala and defenseman Nico Manelius may turn that around. Rajala is eerily similar to 2007 first overall selection Patrick Kane. He is a small player, blessed with world class offensive skill, but his standout feature is poise and patience with the puck. Rajala should be a very high pick in the 2009 draft. He will be joined by his defensive teammate Nico Manelius. Manelius is a savvy two-way defenseman with great vision and passing skills. He is a natural, mature beyond his years, and could be a top 4 defenseman in the NHL.

The United States always sends their B team to this tournament, not the USNTDP players. While this precluded them from medaling, it did not stop a few U.S. born players from standing out and seeing their draft stock rise. Two defenseman raised eyebrows, 6-foot-7, 210 pound Tyler Myers has all the tools to be a star. He is a phenomenal skater for a player of his size, with a fluid and powerful stride. Myers is poised with the puck, but his passive play at times turns scouts off. He can play with a healthy disposition and a mean streak if provoked. Another impressive defenseman was Minnesota native Aaron Ness, a great skater with exceptional hockey sense and puck movement. While Team USA was thin in top end offensive talent one player stood out above the rest. The son of former NHLer Basil McRae, Phillip McRae, is a big center with good hockey sense and unreal hands.

While their tournament was a disappointment, Team Canada boasted the most impressive lineup of NHL prospects. Canada was the clear favorite to take the Gold, but they failed to even medal losing the Bronze medal game 5-4 to Russia. For Canada, their goto guy was 2008 eligible center Steven Stamkos, who plays for the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. He is clearly the early favorite to go first overall in the 2008 draft, and he possesses Mike Modano like speed and offensive abilities. Stamkos is the type of player that can lift fans out of their seats with his end-to-end rushes. While most of Team Canada disappointed, a couple of defenseman saw their stocks rise with an impressive tournament. Tyler Cuma of the Ottawa 67's and Colten Teubert of the Regina Pats, were a solid two-way defensive pairing. Both should challenge for a top 10 selection in the 2008 draft. Cuma is an intriguing player for Sharks fans as would be exactly the type of defenseman the Sharks covet. Being a favorite of coach Brian Killrea in Ottawa should confirm the Sharks are already well aware of his talents. Cuma is a big, strong two-way defenseman with good hockey sense and mobility. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and oozes confidence. Teubert is a tall and lanky stay at home defenseman, with an ability to make a good first pass. David Toews, the younger brother of Chicago's 2006 first round pick Jonathan Toews, was impressive displaying great hockey sense, grit, and exceptional penalty killing.

Taking the Bronze Medal away from Canada was a Russian squad, and their blistering offensive attack. The roster was filled with explosive but one dimensional talent, which lead to high scoring and very entertaining hockey. The top prospect on team Russia was center Nikita Filatov, who continues to impress scouts with his sick hands and one-on-one moves to undress an opponent. Joining Filatov on the list of impressive Russians was 6-4 center Evgeni Grachev, who displayed impressive agility and hand skill. Center Andrey Loktionov was a touch above Grachev, with a higher top gear, superb hands, and explosive offensive instincts. He is also an honest two-way player who competes hard. Defenseman Viatcheslav Voinov is another player to keep an eye on. He is a smooth skating, puck moving defenseman who loves to attack when the opportunity presents itself.

The U-18 World Cup is not a make or break tournament for any prospect. Every player has at least a full season and several more tournaments ahead of them before they will be drafted. This was a great start to the scouting season, and it is a tournament valued by NHL management (who often send almost the entire scouting staff to evaluate the talent). For fans who were not able to catch the action, archived webcasts of select games are available at infonet.tv.

[Update] Russia tops Canada for bronze at U-18 hockey - CBC.

[Update2] Front (office) and center: Sharks' Ricci will have done it all - San Jose Mercury News.

Ricci, who retired last week after an injury-plagued season with the Phoenix Coyotes, is now the Sharks' adviser to hockey operations. He wasn't the only ex-Shark with a new job Tuesday. General Manager Doug Wilson also announced that hard-hitting defenseman Bryan Marchment would be working in player development and scouting.

"Both these guys made us a better organization today," Wilson said. "Nobody competed harder and when they speak, people listen."


2007 Born to Fight Amateur Muay Thai Kickboxing Championships in San Jose

Born to Fight 7 amateur muay thai kickboxing
Born to Fight IKF Kickboxing

Saturday night featured a full card of 12 Mauy Thai fights at the Born to Fight VII Amateur Kicboxing Championships at the San Jose Civic Auditorium.

Roger Agtarap (4-0, Cung Le Martial Arts Academy) captured the 132 pound IKF AM Muay Thai title with a 4 round decision over the previously undefeated Mark Jiminez (3-1, Team USA). Each fighter opened with explosive speed, but Agtarap finished the first with several strong flurries and a particularly violent superman punch up against the corner. The high tempo continued in the second and third with technical kicks, knees, and sweeps coming in bursts. Mark Jiminez pressed hard in the fourth landing several round house kicks that echoed throughout the auditorium, but it was not enough to put him over the top as the judges awarded the decision to Agtarap.

In the other co-main event of the evening, Vishnu Gulati (5-1-1, Team USA) landed an accidental knee to the top of Brian Smith's (7-1-1, Sheeley's) head while in a clinch up against the ropes. Smith was unable to continue and the 147 pound IKF AM Muay Thai title fight was ruled a technical draw 1:09 into the first round.

Bryan Padilla (4-0, Unlimited) earned the 160 pound Born to Fight title with a win over Ryan Lugibhl (1-3, Sheeley's). Lugibhl was a game opponent, but Padilla dominated the fight from start to finish. Padilla connected more often, with a much higher velocity, and in the final round Lugibhl was in a defensive shell. Adam Antolin (3-0, CLMA) captured the 126 pound Born to Fight title with a victory over Andrew Moy (0-2, 445). Antolin was warned for holding the ropes in the second. He responded in the third with a series of hard knees in the clinch to earn the win and the BTF title.

Born to Fight Mike Swick Bob Cook Jon Fitch

At top is a brief video clip of the third round of Roger Agtarap's 132 pound IKF MT title win over Mark Jimenez. A photo gallery from BTF is available here. For more information visit borntofight.com.

Born to Fight results August 18th, 2007:

- Todd Oltmann (1-0, Sitan AZ) unanimous d. Lawrence Ward (0-1, Fairtex)
- Abel Carrasco (1-0, AKA) KO R1 Ken Uy (0-1, West Valley College)
- Josh Carter (1-0, Sitan AZ) split d. Marcnell Palacio (0-2, Unlimited)
- Sadie Strayer (2-1, Sheeley's) split d. Jackie Carlos (0-1, Team USA)
- Clifton Gross (1-0, Sitan AZ) unanimous d. Steve Rivera (0-1, Patterson)
- Gabriel Carrasco (3-0, AKA) TKO R1 Matt Lucas (0-1, Pacific Ring)
- Miranda Cayabyab (2-0, Unlimited) unanimous d. Shana Howell (0-2, Sheeley's)
- Andrei Hlusko (1-0, Team USA) TKO R3 Steven Cotterman (0-1, Sheeley's)

- Born to Fight 126 pound title Adam Antolin (3-0, Cung Le Martial Arts Academy) unanimous d. Andrew Moy (0-2, 445)
- Born to Fight 160 pound title Bryan Padilla (4-0, Unlimited) unanimous d. Ryan Lugibhl (1-3, Sheeley's)
- International Kickboxing Federation 132 pound Muay Thai title Roger Agtarap (4-0, Cung Le Martial Arts Academy) majority d. Mark Jimenez (3-1, Team USA)
- International Kickboxing Federation 147 pound Muay Thai title Vishnu Gulati (5-1-1, Team USA) technical draw Brian Smith (7-1-1, Sheeley's) due to an accidental knee

[Update] From Jane Estioko of cungle.com, the next professional MMA event in the south bay will be Cage Combat Fighting October 6th live from the San Mateo Fairgrounds. The first fight starts at 7PM, and tickets for the 2200 seat venue are available at cagecombatfighting.com. James Terry (Team USH) will face Kyle Pimental (NCFA) in a Welterweight title fight, Darren Uyenoyama will face Rolando Velasco in a Lightweight title fight. Also scheduled to appear on the card from Cung Le's Team USH: Elaina Maxwell, Andrew Valladarez, and Rick Almondia.

From Alanah McGinley of Kuklas Korner and Canucks and Beyond, the next season of BodogFight (BodogFight Vancouver) will be filmed concurrently with a 24-fight card August 24-25 at the Squamish Nation Indian Reserve in Vancouver, British Columbia. BodogFight New Jersey premiers Tuesday night on ION Television. More information is available from The Fight Network and Bodogfight.com.

Saturday August 25th will also see two major MMA events, with UFC 74 "Respect" being held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, and a ShoXC card from Vicksburg, Miss. Randy Couture is scheduled to face off against Gabriel Gonzaga for the UFC Heavyweight title, and San Jose's Josh Koscheck vs. Georges St. Pierre is another superfight to keep an eye on. In ShoXC action, Charles "Krazy Horse" Bennett will face Victor Valenzuela, and Jaime Jara will also meet Seth Kleinbeck. For more information visit 74.ufc.com or proelite.com.

[Update2] Muay Thai Pulls No Punches, U.S. popularity of "the science of eight limbs" grows - Asian Week.

Muay Thai, also known as Thai boxing, is an ancient sport that utilizes the body’s various limbs. The national sport in Thailand, where it originated, Muay Thai is fought in a ring with gloves different from those seen in boxing rings in the United States. Whereas boxing is strictly confined to the use of the hands, Muay Thai is sometimes referred to as "the science of eight limbs" because of the use of the hands, as well as the shins, elbows and knees. While the limbs are primarily used, Muay Thai also uses a clinch when many of the kneeing techniques are implemented.


Born to Fight Amateur Kickboxing Tournament tonight at 7PM

Born to Fight 7 amateur kickboxing grappling mauy thai

The 7th annual Born to Fight amateur kickboxing tournament will be held today at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. The event features tournaments for kickboxing, muay thai, and a submission grappling in men's, women's and children's divisions. An evening card of superfights including two BTF titles and two IKF titles will start at 7PM. Tickets are available at the Civic Auditorium box office.

The event is sponsored by Cung Le of the Cung Le Martial Arts Training Center, and Javier Mendez of the American Kickboxing Academy. A long list of celebrity guests attending the event include MMA fighters Josh Koshcheck, Gilbert Melendez, Mike Swick, Josh Thompson, Daniel Puder, Jake Shields, and John Fitch, local boxer Ricardo Cortes, and the famed Judo and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu trainer Dave Camarillo.


National NHL television broadcast schedules out, Bill Patrick will replace Bill Clement as Versus studio host

The national NHL broadcast schedules are out, and they are light on West Coast programming. Versus will air 57 exclusive games of the week, including the Anaheim Ducks vs Los Angeles Kings season opener live from London on September 30th. The Sharks will appear twice on Versus, both games on the road (Oct 29 at Dallas, Jan 29 at Edmonton). After the home opener in London, the Ducks will appear 3 more times but Los Angeles will be shut out for the rest of the season.

Along with the release of the schedule on Wednesday, Versus also announced that Bill Patrick will replace Bill Clement as the studio host for the "Hockey Central" highlight program. Keith Jones and Brian Engblom will return as analysts. Patrick has experience calling the PGA Tour for the USA Network, anchored the sports desk at NBC Sports, anchored Sportscenter on ESPN, and has a solid track record hosting the The U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

Versus will air the first and second game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with games 3-7 to be shown on NBC. The East Coast heavy schedule will showcase Sidney Crosby 8 times, and it features 4 original six matchups. Tom Layberger lists the Top 5 games on Versus this year.

The NBC "Game of the Week" begins with a new 9-game flex schedule January 20th with either Boston vs NYR, or the Anaheim Ducks vs Dallas. NBC will select from up to 4 games each Sunday, and announce the selection 13 days prior to airtime. The Sharks at Rangers (Feb 17) is the only San Jose game in the mix on the flex schedule, the Ducks could appear twice, the Kings zero. Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire will serve as the new NBC studio hosts on location from each game site. NBC has an option to air the NHL through 2008-09.

Across the Canadian airwaves, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation will feature the San Jose Sharks on the road in Toronto (Jan 12). TSN will air San Jose twice in Calgary (Jan 30) and in Pittsburgh (Feb 24), and the French language RDS will feature the Sharks at Montreal (Mar 3). According to William Houston of the Globe and Mail, the CBC will stream all of its telecasts online. TSN also streams occasional hockey broadcasts online at broadband.tsn.ca, but they restrict the games to Canadian viewers only. The CBC will air 85 games this season, TSN 70. TSN and RDS will also air the Canada/Russia Super Series starting August 27.

HDnet will air a flexible Thursday/Saturday broadcast this season, which includes the Sharks at Los Angeles (Nov 3), and features Anaheim and Los Angeles a total of 3 times each through November. The National Hockey League and NeuLion will offer up to 40 games a week on NHL.com via the Center Ice Online pay per view service. According to broadcastnewsroom.com, fans will be able to watch multiple games at one time, zoom in on a particular game, or watch exclusive video of pregame skates and lockerroom access. There will also be individual team channels and the ability to select game highlights of individual players.

Kuklas Korner has a full list of NHL broadcast schedules available here.

[Update] San Jose Sharks 2007-08 NHL Schedule - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] TV scoreboard: Ducks 5, Kings 1, East Coast (can't count that high) - Farther Off The Wall with Tom Hoffarth.


Hockey Notes - August 15th

Mike Ricci retires from the NHL

- Mike Ricci confirmed his retirement from the NHL at a charity golf tournament in Canada earlier this week. According to the Peterborough Examiner, Ricci has not recovered completely from a neck injury that limited him to 7 games with the Phoenix Coyotes last season. Ricci told the Examiner "I tried to play but wasn't strong enough... With that, and other reasons, I decided to retire."

The 16-year NHL veteran (Philadelphia, Quebec, Colorado, SJ, Phoenix) scored 101 of his 243 goals in 6+ seasons as a San Jose Shark, and 162 of his 362 assists. Ricci reached the 30 goal plateau once with the Quebec Nordiques (5 goals and 1 assist in a single game against San Jose at the Cow Palace 06/12/92), and the 100+ penalty minute mark twice. Unfortunately there is no "penalties drawn" statistic kept by the NHL, or Ricci's innumerable battles in front of the crease would find him in contention as an alltime penalties drawn leader.

Mike Ricci was drafted 4th overall by Philadelphia in 1990, and 2 years later found himself a part of the monster Eric Lindros trade between the Quebec Nordiques and the Flyers. Ricci won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 1996, the year the team migrated south from Quebec. The Sharks acquired Mike Ricci in a November 1997 trade for a 1st round draft pick and forward Shean Donovan. In San Jose, Ricci was a leader on the ice and the defacto face of the team off it. He earned the Sharks player of the year honors in 2001-02, and twice logged a full 82 game season to pick up a team Ironman trophy in 1999 and 2000.

Now that his playing career is over, there have been reports that Ricci may persue a role in player development with the Sharks organization.

Mike Ricci vs Christian Ehrhoff

- Without fail whenever you try to take a photo of an individual player, the result is always one of that player getting hit with a check, hit with the puck, or buried under a pile of bodies in front of the crease. Mike Ricci as a Phoenix Coyote last season is no exception.

Nils Ekman signs with HC Khimik

- Former Shark and former Penguin Nils Ekman signed a 1 year contract with HC Khimik of the Russian Super League. Kuklas Korner quoted a sovsport.ru report that Ekman joined the team just before the start of training camp. The official HC Khimik website is available at hckhimik.ru.

- Former Sharks forward Bell pleads no contest to felony DUI - SF Chronicle.

Former San Jose Sharks forward Mark Bell has pleaded no contest to drunken driving and hit-and-run charges and will serve six months in a Santa Clara County jail, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Bell, who was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in June, had faced nearly four years in state prison if convicted of the original charges. He entered the plea Tuesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said prosecutor Cindy Seeley Hendrickson.

James Mirtle has more on the situation Bell faces, 6 months in jail following the 2007-08 season for Toronto, and previous background including incidents while in juniors and the AHL. The Mercury News reported that he may serve his sentence over two summers, and quoted a statement Bell released on Wednesday "I am deeply sorry for the hurt that I have caused to others and for the way in which my actions reflected upon the San Jose Sharks, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and upon myself."

Mark Bell was a likeable personality in the locker room, but the DUI and hit-and-run happened prior to the start of preseason before media and fans learned much about him as a player or a person. It was a horrible first impression, and it hampered Bell for the rest of the year. As Mirtle noted, Bell registered his worst full season as a professional with 11 goals and 10 assists for only 21 points in 71 games played.

Bell was expected to deliver a physical presence for the Sharks on the top line with Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo. He was relegated to third and fourth line duty for much of the year, but he adapted his role and tried to contribute in other areas. Bell earned 9 fighting majors in 2006-07 according to hockeyfights.com, including 2 against Anaheim's Shane O'Brien and Shawn Thornton which set the tone for an intense season-long rivalry.

The 6-4, 220 pound winger saw action in both the Nashville and Detroit playoff series, but he did not register a point and only took 2 total shots on goal. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Bell and goaltender Vesa Toskala for a 2007 first and second round draft pick, and a 2009 fourth round pick.

- The Sharks signed goaltender Dimitri Patzold, odds on favorite to serve as Evgeni Nabokov's backup, to a 1 year contract. A press release from the San Jose Sharks:

San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced today that the club has re-signed Group II restricted free agent goaltender Dimitri Patzold to a one-year contract. In keeping with club policy, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. In 2006-07, Patzold, 24, finished the season with a 10-8-3 record, a 3.35 goals-against average and a .888 save percentage with the Worcester Sharks, the top development AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. Additionally, he registered two wins and one loss in four playoff appearances.

In 2005-06, Patzold recorded a 3.97 goals-against average with Cleveland (AHL). He registered 10 wins and 21 losses in 33 games.

In 2004-05, the native of Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan recorded 18 wins, 16 losses, five ties and a 2.58 goals-against average in 41 games with Cleveland. The six-foot, 195-pound goaltender was selected by San Jose in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft (fourth round, 107th overall).

Patzold is the most NHL ready of the goaltenders in the Sharks system, but highly regarded Thomas Griess and Taylor Dakers could also compete for the backup role. The young German prospect Griess registered a 26-15-2 record (43GP, .912SV%, 2.61) with Worcester of the AHL in his first season of North American hockey. Taylor Dakers was a 5th round draft choice in 2005 (140th overall), and he just finished his fourth year with Kootenay of the WHL.

On the free agent goaltending front, the recent Phoenix signing of Alex Auld left veterans Ed Belfour, Curtis Joseph, Robert Esche and Jean-Sebastien Aubin as viable remaining FA options. The Sharks have suffered a series of injuries to goaltenders in recent years, and a solid veteran backup should be considered a top priority if Patzold or another young goalie does not impress in training camp. The loss of Scott Hannan via free agency to the Colorado Avalanche will put put even more pressure on the decision.

- The Bivings Report posted their list of the Top 10 Newspaper websites:

1. New York Times
2. Washington Post
3. USA Today
4. Houston Chronicle
5. Denver Post
6. Knoxville News Sentinel
7. Fresno Bee
8. Austin American Statesman
9. Tennessean
10. San Jose Mercury News

Much of the criteria appears to be personal preference, but it is a good across the board look at what many of the top newspapers are doing online. NY Newsday's Neil Best recently predicted that the San Jose Mercury News would be the first newspaper in the country to move to an all digital format. A prediction I hope he gets wrong.

On Blogs, Old Media and New York Characters: An Interview with Newsday's Neil Best - The Big Lead.

[Q] Care to take a guess what the first major newspaper will be that goes exclusively online? Is it a move you'd endorse?

[Best] I assume the first to go will be a college paper. That's probably happened already. But I guess if I have to take a stab at the first major paper to do it, I'd go for one in a relatively affluent, relatively young, relatively high-tech oriented area.

How about the San Jose Mercury-News? I think the New York market will be the very last holdout. (The Times did shrink Monday by 11/2 inches, so I guess if the trend continues it eventually will disappear.) It's not a move I'd endorse right now for Newsday, both because it wouldn't make economic sense yet and because I'm an old fart who still likes the feel of a newspaper in his hand.

Of course, transmitting information via print is insanely inefficient, but I assume the printed version will carry on at least until most current fortysomethings are no longer with us. Maybe it will be a niche product for old people, but there are a lot of highly profitable niche products for old people.

I do think Newsday will continue as a newsgathering entity far beyond my retirement. It has a powerful brand name on Long Island and there always will be a place for professional journalism. The printed version? Hmm. It'll be around for a bit longer. Let San Jose take the plunge first, and we'll see how it goes.

- Following up on the Chronicle and Mercury News decisions to let go of beatwriters Ross McKeon and Victor Chi, San Francisco Chronicle editor Phil Bronstein posted thoughts on McKeon from Sports Deputy Editor Larry Yant:

Ross McKeon came to the San Francisco Examiner in 1985 after working for the Dean Lesher papers in the East Bay, where he distinguished himself as a sportswriter and copy editor. He started on the sports copy desk at the Examiner and became a leader, rising to the job of assistant sports editor.

In 1991, the San Jose Sharks were founded and joined the National Hockey League. Ross volunteered to cover the new team and became the beat writer for the Examiner. Ross continued in that role when the Examiner and Chronicle staffs were merged. He has covered the Sharks for all of their 16 seasons, the only writer in the Bay Area to have done so.

If you want to know about the NHL's backroads, talk with Ross. In his years of covering games in Canada, Ross would often travel across the country by train, skipping the headaches of airports and enjoying the scenic views of a Canadian winter. On the Sharks beat, Ross broke many stories and consistently gave readers of first the Examiner and then the Chronicle the best coverage in the Bay Area.

- The Mercury News has created a Rethinking the Mercury News program to help the newspaper connect with its customers, and to deliver content and information on the topics and in the form that the customers want. Portfolio's Sam Gustin notes that the Mercury News will be incorporating principals from the Newspaper Next Project into its redevelopment.

- SportsWatch: What Top Sports News Outlets Covered During May - Sports Business Daily.

ICED OUT? ESPN is often accused of cutting its NHL coverage since it has not had a rights deal with the league since before the lockout. Doria said, "Is that a factor in (our coverage)? It's probably a factor but I think our number, to my way of thinking and based on my judgment, accurately reflects the level of viewer interest out there... It just doesn't seem to me that we've changed dramatically to the charge that we're covering them less because we don’t have the rights to them."

- The San Jose Sharks posted a photo gallery of the HP Pavilion Arena undergoing offseason rennovation. An upgraded scoreboard, wraparound LED screens, and a new sound system are just a few of the modifications.

- YouTube video of the day, Owen Nolan's called shot goal against the Dominator Dominik Hasek from the 1997 NHL All Star Game in San Jose.

- Anatomy of a Mike Peca to New York Rangers story, from Dave and Aziz Nekoukar of the Blue Line blog. Just a heads up, I am going to be in NYC October 18-22nd for the Photo Plus Expo conference. Drop me a line if you have any hockey related suggestions.

- LCS Hockey has held an online NHL 94 tournament with players in North America and in Europe. Drop them a line if you would like to partipate in round two, or if you would like to challenge LCS editor Michael Dell and the Hartford Whalers to a game. More information is available at nhl94.com.

- Mike Comrie and Hilary Duff photos from The Big Lead. In related hockey gossip news, a new hockey blog has been created from the commentors at Deadspin, Melt Your Face Off.

- The NHL training camp schedule for California:

Anaheim Ducks
Opens Sept. 10 Anaheim Ice (Anaheim, CA)

Los Angeles Kings
Opens Sept. 10 Toyota Sports Center (El Segundo, CA)

San Jose Sharks
Opens Sept. 13 - Oct. 3 Logitech Ice (San Jose, CA)

- Penners party with Cup, Ducks owner's bash boggles minds of champion's folks - Winnipeg Free Press.

[Update] Debate over NHL's drug-testing policy rages on - Scott Burnside for ESPN.

In less than two full seasons, almost 3,000 random drug tests were carried out on National Hockey League players. One, New York Islanders defenseman Sean Hill, tested positive. Exactly what that says about the state of the game, and the role of performance-enhancing drugs in it, is up for vigorous debate.

If you're the league and its players, the results reinforce the commonly held belief in hockey circles that the NHL did not and does not have a problem with performance-enhancing drugs.

"The NHLPA knew that we did not have a problem in our sport, and that has been confirmed by the test results. We are pleased with the strong educational component of the program," Ian Penny, associate counsel for the players' association, told ESPN.com.

[Update2] Sharks' Smith staying or going? - San Jose Mercury News.

[Update3] Realignment in the Midwest - Eurohockey.net.

Take your eye off minor league hockey in North America for a month, and it appears as if a shift in the time-space continuum has occurred. The United Hockey League, once formed as the Colonial Hockey League to catch the fall of International Hockey League clubs who were not keeping up with its growth across the continent, has re-formed as the International Hockey League. The new IHL moves its office from Lake St Louis in Missouri to the Detroit suburb of Rochester, Michigan...

Its two western outposts, three-time Colonial Cup champions Quad City Mallards and the reigning champions Rockford IceHogs, will no longer take part, and effectively move into the AHL. Quad City will now be a Calgary Flames affiliate, using the same nickname as their NHL partner. Rockford have purchased the dormant Cincinnati MightyDucks franchise and the IceHogs name and will enter the AHL with the same identity as their UHL predecessor. The two Illinois clubs will enjoy local rivalries with Chicago Wolves, Iowa Stars and the Peoria Rivermen in the Western Conference's West division.

Two time Colonial Cup finalists, Elmira Jackals, somewhat stranded out on the east coast in New York state, have moved into the ECHL, while the somewhat jinxed Chicago Hounds UHL franchise ceases operations after a single, failed year. The remaining six IHL teams, four of which are based in Michigan, held a dispersal draft for the rosters of the four departing franchises. Latvian Sergei Durdin was taken in the first round by Fort Wayne, having scored a career high 43 points for Quad City last season.


Norcal Women's Hockey League sponsors Give Hockey a Try Day August 18th

Northern California Women's Hockey League

The Northern California Women's Hockey League, founded in 1993, focuses on providing competition for women of all skill levels and promoting the sport of hockey. Part of that mission includes the semi-annual Give Hockey a Try Day which will be held next Saturday, August 18th at Belmont Iceland (aka the meat locker).

Karianna has more on the event at the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, and notes that equipment will be provided to those 13 and over. She also says, "Chicks with sticks are a tough force to be reckoned with, even if you are ordinarily mild-mannered or a perfectly delicate ballerina to the outside world".

More details from the PDF event flyer:


GHATD is an opportunity for women of ALL ages to try hockey in an encouraging and safe setting. The Northern California Women's Hockey League (NCWHL) will dress you in the necessary gear, give you on-ice instruction, and finish off the session with a scrimmage.

Date: SATURDAY AUGUST 18, 2007
6:15 to 8:15PM

815 Old County Road, Belmont CA

Cost is $20.

USA Hockey Girls Championships San Jose

In March the Logitech Ice Center in San Jose hosted a USA Hockey three tier 32-team Womens's Championship Tournament, and a four tier 48-team Girl's Championship Tournament. There were a handful of posts from this blog rinkside here, here and here, and a short video of the 19U National Championship final between Assabet Valley from Massachusetts and Shattuck Saint Mary's of Minnesota here.

Thanks to Eric McErlain of Offwing for the NCWHL link. Also take a look at the excellent team photos from the last 2 seasons of NCWHL competition at Belmont Iceland that are up on flickr. If you know the photographer who took those pictures, send me an email.

[Update] First Jr Sharks Drafted into NHL, Corbin McPherson Drafted into NHL By the New Jersey Devils - SJjrsharks.com.


Next Strikeforce MMA event will be held at the Playboy Mansion September 29th

Strikeforce MMA Playboy Mansion September 29

A recent press release announced that the next Strikeforce mixed martial arts event would be held at the Playboy Mansion in Southern California. Former PrideFC and WEC veteran and current Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez, former PrideFC and UFC veteran Josh Thomson, WWE and Strikeforce veteran Daniel Puder, and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Bobby Southworth will headline the 10-bout fight card. This follows a very successful June 22nd Strikeforce/EliteXC promotion held in San Jose which many are calling one of the best of the year.

STRIKEFORCE MMA HEADS TO PLAYBOY MANSION History-Making Event Brings Fastest Growing Sport To Illustrious Home Of Entertainment Mogul Hugh Hefner

Beverly Hills, CA; August 3, 2007…. Leading mixed martial arts federation, Strikeforce, will produce a historic, first-ever mixed martial arts event at the world-famous Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills, California on Saturday, September 29th. Amongst those slated for action at the home of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner are undefeated Strikeforce world lightweight (155 lb. limit) champion "El Nino" Gilbert Melendez and UFC and Pride Fighting Championship veteran Josh "The Punk" Thomson.

The 10-bout fight card will also host the return of Strikeforce world light heavyweight (205 lb. limit) champion and The Ultimate Fighter season one runner-up Bobby Southworth as well as the return of former World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) star and Tough Enough 2 reality show winner Daniel Puder.

Loaded with top caliber fighting talent, the one-of-a-kind affair will also lavish each of its guests with a number of other memorable experiences including a top-shelf open bar; a buffet-style gourmet dinner; photo opportunities with Playboy Playmates; and a wine-tasting party featuring the spirits of various gold-medal wineries.

A poker tournament, open to a limited number of guests, will also take place on the Mansion grounds on the evening of the event.

"This is another leap forward into mainstream America for Strikeforce and the sport of mixed martial arts," said Scott Coker, CEO of West Coast Productions, LLC, the parent company of Strikeforce. For over 20 years, Coker has pioneered the growth of martial arts in North America while presiding over his company that is the exclusive provider of martial arts footage to ESPN and the producer of some of the largest-scale fight cards in United States history. In 2003, he was honored as "Man Of The Year" by leading martial arts magazine, Inside Kung-Fu, for his ground-breaking efforts to bring Japan's K-1 fighting to audiences in Las Vegas, Nevada twice annually. "We feel honored that Mr. Hefner chose the Strikeforce brand to entertain an audience at his home and we're looking forward to putting on an incredible show."

The event at the Playboy Mansion will be staged three months after the Strikeforce co-produced "Shamrock vs. Baroni," extravaganza, the first mixed martial arts event to be distributed live on SHOWTIME® PPV. Before a crowd of 10,850 at San Jose's HP Pavilion, former UFC middleweight champion and mixed martial arts legend, Frank Shamrock (Pictures), became the first Strikeforce middleweight champion in history by choking out UFC and Pride veteran, "The New York Badass" Phil Baroni (Pictures), in the second round of the star-studded fight card's main event on Friday, June 22nd.

About Strikeforce

Strikeforce is a world-class mixed martial arts cage fight promotion which, on Friday, March 10, 2006, made history with its "Shamrock vs. Gracie" event, the first sanctioned mixed martial arts fight card in California state history. The star-studded extravaganza, which pitted legendary champion Frank Shamrock (Pictures) against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Cesar Gracie (Pictures) at San Jose's HP Pavilion, played host to a sold-out, record crowd of 18,265. The rapidly growing organization recently re-launched its website, www.strikeforceusa.net, which boasts a bold new look and all-new features, including video streaming capability. Since 1995, Strikeforce has been the exclusive provider of martial arts programming for ESPN and, after 12 years of success as a leading, world championship kickboxing promotion, the company unveiled its mixed martial arts series with "Shamrock vs. Gracie."

On a recent radio interview with Sherdog.com, Strikeforce VP of Marketing Mike Afromowitz mentioned that it took some time to work through the details, but that the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Playboy Hugh Hefner eventually signed off on the first mixed martial arts event to be held at the Playboy mansion. There will be 6-700 guests, but attendance will be invite only and there will be no tickets available to the public. The fights will be taped for domestic and international television, but no details on the broadcast availability have been released at this point.

Two questions from the Beatdown Radio interview with Mike Afromowitz by TJ DeSantis and Jordan Breen:

[JB] Is it important to stay in San Jose where you built that fanbase, or does Strikeforce have ambitions of going nationally and internationally?

[MA] We are always going to stay in San Jose. San Jose is a great market, that is where Strikeforce was born (Strikeforce held its first kickboxing event in 1994, its first MMA event in 2006). It has become a hotbed for the sport since then for kickboxing and mixed martial arts. Scott Cocker built that market, he created it. But like everyone else, we want to go national. It is like a TV deal, the terms have to be right. The situation has to be right. You can't just jump in to something you are not prepared for, that is just strategy.

[TJ] Gilbert Melendez, a Pride Fighting Championships veteran, will be on the card in September. Does Strikeforce have a long term deal with Melendez, what is his status. And is he free to take fights outside of Strikeforce?

[MA] Gilbert has been signed to a multi-fight deal since last April. It varies fighter to fighter, but we are open to working with other organizations because it can benefit the fighters. In the end it is all about the competition, and fighters with the best matchups. That is the way we set it up, and we want our fighters to take advantage of the best opportunitities that are out there for them.

WEC 29 showcased an excellent night of fights Sunday live on Versus. An angry WEC Welterweight Champion Carlos Condit destroyed the much bigger Brock Larson, earning an armbar submission in his first title defense. Pride Fighting Championships veteran Paulo Filho improved to 15-0 with a TKO over Joe Doerksen, look for Filho to dominate the WEC before moving up to the UFC. Another highlight of WEC 29 was Jeff Curran's firemans carry of Stephen Ledbetter headfirst into the mat. It was a standard wrestling throw with a brutal finish.

It was also an unfortunately busy week of news on the steroid front. Heavyweight boxer James Toney, who tested positive for steroids (Stanazolol and Boldenone) along with his opponent Danny Batchelder (Stanazolol and Oxandolone) after a recent bout in San Jose, had his suspension reduced from a year to 180 days. UFC Stacked 73 from Sacramento saw positive steroid tests from both main event fighters UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk and contender Hermes Franca. Sherk appealed his suspension, and a possible title superfight with BJ Penn could be scuttled. Franca's 1 year suspension and $2500 fine were upheld. Phil Baroni, who lost a headline bout against Frank Shamrock June 22nd in San Jose, was also granted an extension for a hearing in October. According to the California State Athletic Commission, Baroni tested positive for Boldenone and Stanozolol Metabolites. K1 Kickboxing veteran Carter Williams also tested positive for Cocaine after his fight on the undercard against Paul Buentello.

[Update] Upcoming fight schedule: Tonight, Wednesday August 8th in San Francisco there will be up to 8 amateur boxing fights held by SFC Boxing at Fanatic Pavilion (601 Cesar Chavez/3rd). A fight flier is available here. Friday August 10th, the Sacramento Rivercats minor league baseball team and promoter Patrick Ortiz will host a night of boxing with the Fight Night under the Lights at Raley Field. More information is available from raleyfield.com. August 11th, also in Sacramento, Golden Boy Promotions will hold the 2007 Boxing World Cup between Mexico and the Phillippines at Arco Arena. Two WBO champions will see action in seperate fights, WBO Junior Featherweight World Champion Daniel Ponce De Leon and WBO Bantamweight Champion Jhonny Gonzalez, and a fight between Gerardo Verde and Bert Batawang will determine who will get a shot at the IBF Junior Flyweight title holder. Tickets are available from Ticketmaster.com.

Also on the docket in San Jose is the upcoming Born to Fight amateur kickboxing and grappling event August 18th at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. There will be a full slate of amateur fights in the morning, and then the premiere matchups later in the evening. MMA fighters Josh Kosheck, Jake Shields, Daniel Puder, Bobby Southworth, and Ricardo Cortez have been confirmed as celebrity guests. Tickets are available at strongvon.com.

[Update2] The Cold War: Fedor Weighs His Options - Sherdog.com.

[Update3] MMA Weekly World MMA Rankings Updated - MMA Weekly.

Sharks minority owner and ex-Brocade CEO Greg Reyes found guilty of securities fraud

Sharks minority owner and ex-Brocade CEO Greg Reyes was convicted on 10 counts of securities fraud Tuesday, charges that could result in maximum of 20 years in prison or a $5 million fine. The defense team for Reyes will ask U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to set aside the verdict next week, and if that motion is not granted they have signaled an intent to appeal.

David Pollak of the Mercury news reports that the conviction could threaten Reyes' minority ownership stake with the San Jose Sharks. Pollak quoted NHL VP of media relations Frank Brown, "There is no hard and fast rule on the 'felon' issue, but it would likely disqualify him".

In February 2002, an ownership group including Reyes bought a majority share of the San Jose Sharks from George Gund III for an undisclosed sum. Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison released a comment regarding the conviction on sjsharks.com, "We will continue to monitor the situation, but it would be premature to speculate on anything at this point. Regardless of the circumstances, the club’s day-to-day operations will not be affected".

It was the second story regarding Sharks ownership in as many weeks. When news broke on August 2nd that an 8-person ownership group made an offer to buy the Nashville Predators franchise for $193 million, it later came out that the group included Sharks minority owner William Del Biaggio. Del Biaggio would have to divest himself of his investment with the San Jose Sharks if the deal with the Predators was completed.

The backdating scandal at Brocade could be a portent of things to come for Silicon Valley companies. Competition for qualified technical employees reached such a fever pitch during the dot com boom that backdating options became an almost all too commonplace occurance to entice new hires and retain employees. The Mercury News reports that as many as 50 local companies have admitted to internal or federal probes into backdating policies, but the true figure could be much higher.

Former Brocade CEO guilty on all counts - San Jose Business Journal.

The first criminal trial in the country's option backdating scandal began June 18 in San Francisco and was closely watched as other prosecutors mull what they might need to win convictions in other options cases.

Reyes's defense lawyer, Richard Marmaro, said he will appeal. The partner in the Los Angeles office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom said Reyes "is innocent and we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated. At all times, he acted in the best interests of the employees and shareholders of Brocade."

New Stock Option Fears in the Valley, The feds big win in the options backdating case against ex-Brocade CEO Greg Reyes has many wondering if this is only the start for prosecutors - Business Week.

Ex-Brocade CEO convicted in options case - Financial Times.

Prosecutors alleged he and the company misled shareholders for more than four years by backdating stock grants to the lowest price available and understating their cost to the company.

The guilty verdict is a big victory for the government and the San Francisco US attorney’s office, which had been struggling to keep up with the sheer volume of options backdating cases.

The result also serves as a shot across the bow of dozens of other current and former corporate executives who are under investigation by the justice department and the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with backdated options.

[Update] A list of San Jose Sharks and SJSEE investors can be found on the official Sharks website.

[Update2] Tampa Bay Lightning Sold To Absolute Hockey - Tampa Bay Tribune.

After eight years of bring stability to the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, Palace Sports & Entertainment has agreed to sell the team and lease agreement on the St. Pete Times Forum to a new ownership group called Albsolute Hockey Enterprises led by former Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Doug MacLean.

The Lightning's new ownership group – which also includes a Hollywood producer and Florida real estate developer - was introduced shortly after 11 a.m. today during a news conference at the Forum.


Archive July 1st audio interview with forward Joe Thornton and general manager Doug Wilson

KLIV 1590AM radio host and Skyline College Communications professor Fermin Irigoyen asked Sharks forward Joe Thornton and general manager Doug Wilson a few questions about the offseason and NHL free agency on July 1st. Audio of the interviews is available here.

[FI] Is there anyone in particular you would like to see added to this organization?

[Joe Thornton] That is a tough question. I think really we need to re-sign our players. We are so close to getting over the hump and winning a Stanley Cup, I think I am more concerned with getting our players re-signed. Just looking after what we have in our organization.

[FI] How do you see re-signing Joe as an avenue for bringing in other free agents?

[Doug Wilson] I will be honest with you, we look at all avenues to improve this team. They are all parallel paths, and they go with re-signing your own players, working at the UFA market, we acquired Mike Grier last year, and also look at the trade market. We exhaust all of the avenues because that is how you add to your hockey team. The draft is how we acquired Marc-Edouard Vlasic. The dominant conversation today (July 1st was the start of free agent eligibility) is obviously the UFA market, but they are all equal avenues you explore to build your hockey team.

For a collection of hockey interviews from several seasons back, visit the audio archive of Peter Steen at thehockey.net.

[Update] Several Sharks Return to the Bay Area for Captain's Ice - SJsharks.com.

[Update2] San Jose Sharks President and CEO Greg Jamison appeared on KLIV 1590AM August 7th as a guest on the CEO Show, hosted by Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. An archive of the show will be available on svlg.net soon.

Eric Byrnes signs a 3-year, $30 million contract extension with the Arizona Diamondbacks

Eric Byrnes fan outfield

The Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to a 3-year, $30 million contract extension with Redwood City native Eric Byrnes on Monday. Currently hitting .303, the D-backs outfielder is having a career season with 64 RBIs and 28 stolen bases. After being traded from Oakland to Colorado to Baltimore in 2005, Byrnes set career highs for home runs (26), RBIs (79), and stolen bases (25) with Arizona in 2006.

A press release from the Arizona Diamondbacks on the extension:

D-backs sign Byrnes to three-year extension through 2010

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Diamondbacks announced today they have agreed to terms with outfielder Eric Byrnes on a three-year contract extension through the 2010 season, according to D-backs' Senior Vice President and General Manager Josh Byrnes. Consistent with team policy, terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Byrnes, 31, is having another stellar season with the D-backs, batting .303 with 17 home runs, 64 RBI, 21 doubles, 7 triples and 28 stolen bases in 113 games this season. He currently leads the team in batting average, slugging percentage (.497), hits (135), at bats (445), runs (68), triples, RBI, total bases (221), stolen bases and games played. Heading into tonight's game, Byrnes also ranks among National League leaders in batting average (t-17th), hits (t-7th), triples (5th) and stolen bases (6th).

"Eric has played at a high level during his time here and has evolved into one of our leaders," said Josh Byrnes. "We are elated that we agreed to this extension." Byrnes originally signed with the D-backs as a free agent on Dec. 27, 2005, after batting a combined .226 with 10 home runs, 40 RBI, 24 doubles and 7 stolen bases in 126 games with the Oakland Athletics, Colorado Rockies and Baltimore Orioles during the 2005 season. During his first season with the D-backs in 2006, Byrnes set career highs with 26 home runs, 79 RBI and 25 stolen bases while also matching his career high with 143 games played. He also became the first Arizona player to steal 25 bases and hit 25 or more home runs in a season, joining Alfonso Soriano and Jimmy Rollins as the only other National League players to reach 20-20 status in 2006.

Byrnes was the Athletics' eighth-round selection in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft after compiling a .331 career batting average and Pac-10-record 75 doubles at UCLA. He was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection with the Bruins and set school records in runs (235), doubles and games played (242) from 1995-98.

Congratulations to my brother Mike Sasson, Eric Byrnes' agent, and Mark Sasson for putting in the long hours neccessary to get him a solid deal. It is hard to understand how two huge offensive streaks in consecutive years to help Oakland into the playoffs lead to Byrnes being traded, but he will be a fan favorite on and off the field no matter which team he plays for.

In addition to guest hosting on local radio and serving as an analyst on television, my favorite Byrnes media appearance was when he called into a local talk show from a boat in Half Moon Bay to give updates on the Mavericks Big Wave surfing competition. That slightly edges out his dog Bruin's appearance and subsequent McCovey Cove swim on MLB's Allstar Game telecast from San Francisco.

[Update] Who is Royce - Arizona Republic.

The contract, which runs through 2010, came together after Diamondbacks CEO Jeff Moorad, called his enormously popular outfielder into his office after a 14-0 loss to the Braves on the last homestand. Eric Byrnes said Moorad offered him a deal that he thought he could live with and took it back to his agent and longtime friend, Mike Sasson, who joined him in formal talks this week.

"I was shocked when Jeff called me in," Byrnes said. "After the talks in Milwaukee, I thought I'd play out the season and be in a different uniform next year. (Arizona GM) Josh Byrnes said he was glad it didn't work out that way."

Joseph A. Reaves of the Arizona Republic also notes a large donation that Byrnes made to the Pat Tillman Foundation after signing the contract extension.

Byrnes said he was donating $250,000 from his new contract to the Pat Tillman Foundation. He revealed that he has organized Team Tillman, which is made up of 10 Diamondbacks who make donations tied to their on field performances.

Tillman and Byrnes grew up in the same area in California and shared close friends when Tillman played for the Cardinals. "That was important for me to keep (Team Tillman) going," Byrnes said. "And my efforts won't stop. The greatest thing coming across money like this is you have a chance to help."

More information about the Pat Tillman foundation, and the annual Pat's run charity race held in San Jose and Arizona, can be found at the official website pattillmanfoundation.org. A photo of Tillman's bronze plaque at the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, located in the concourse of the HP Pavilion, can be seen here.

[Update2] Byrnes agrees to three-year extension, D-backs commit to energetic outfielder through 2010 season - MLB.com.

SMG-LA.com Major League Baseball player agent Michael Sasson

"I think this is the greatest fit for Eric Byrnes. I am proud to have played an integral role in this contract, in the negotiations, and in this extension, and to be able to have Eric here for the next three years, to give Arizona the fans an opportunity to watch him play, and believe in the leadership role he takes on and off the field in the communty."

"I would like to say a special thanks to Josh and the ownership group for coming to us. As an agent, you have to represent the best interest of your client, and Eric made it clear at the beginning of the season heading into free agency that he wanted to keep the door open, that this is where he wanted to be." - Mike Sasson

Video from the press conference with Eric Byrnes, Arizona GM Josh Byrnes, Team Manager Bob Melvin, and agent Mike Sasson is available via a link on the official MLB report above.

[Update3] Eric Byrnes talks about the Team Tillman program, the Pat Tillman foundation, and tries to raise awareness for the charity in a video on livevideo.com.


Checking in with Al Iafrate and Warrior Hockey

In an online video posted by Hockey Player Magazine, former Sharks defenseman Al Iafrate discusses his role with Warrior Hockey in equipment research and development, product development, grassroots and pro services, and how Warrior stick technology can enhance a player's game.

Iafrate was previously involved with the design and development of Black Beauty Custom Hockey Sticks, and he just finished a series of summer shooting clinics for warriorhockeycamps.com in Michigan.

A veteran of 4 NHL teams (Toronto, Washington, Boston, San Jose), Al "the Planet" Iafrate holds the record for the fastest slapshot recorded by a human at an NHL Allstar Game at 105.2 MPH. Former Sharks defenseman Shawn Heins surpassed Al with a 106.0 MPH shot in an AHL Allstar Game, and forward Chad Kilger doubled up with a 106.6 MPH slapshot and a fastest skater award in a Toronto skills qualifying competition in 2006.

[Update] Al Anthony Iafrate profile - Legends of Hockey.


Hockey Notes - August 2nd

Drew Remenda, Randy Hahn, and Dan Rusanowsky discuss the preseason home opener against Los Angeles in 2005

- Former Sharks announcer and assistant head coach Drew Remenda will return to the broadcast booth according to a statement by the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday. Remenda will re-join partner Randy Hahn for game broadcasts and host the 30 minute "Shark Byte" pre-game show.

After 6 seasons with Fox Sports Bay Area and 3 with the KFOX radio program, Remenda worked last year as an analyst for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's popular "Hockey Night in Canada" program.

During his time in San Jose, Drew Remenda was the most publicly visible member of the Sharks organization. Regularly making appearances on local radio and television shows, he made it a priority to educate fans and the media about the sport as well as to inform them of the Sharks news of the day. Remenda's most popular episodes of the Shark Byte pregame showed him trading punches with enforcer Scott Parker, taking devastating hip checks from defenseman Kyle McLaren, and taking shots from the team after being tutored by goaltender Vesa Toskala.

Marty McSorely was the television color commentator last season, but he left the booth after game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals with Detroit citing personal reasons.

- The Mercury News' David Pollak quoted co-host Randy Hahn on the return of Remenda, "The Joe Thornton trade and bringing Drew back - those would be the two biggest no-brainers in Sharks history".

- First linked by Paul Kukla, the Sports Business Journal's John Ourand and Tripp Mickle released more details of ESPN's interest in returning to the NHL: Look who's talking: ESPN, NHL; League approaches net about bringing games back as soon as ’08-’09.

The NHL and ESPN are in discussions about bringing the league’s games back to ESPN2 as soon as the 2008-09 season. Multiple sources described the conversations as preliminary. The two started talking the week of July 16 when the NHL approached ESPN about NBC’s nine-game regular-season schedule, plus the playoffs. NBC holds the rights to air the coming season as part of a revenue-sharing agreement, and the network holds a one-year option for the 2008-09 season.

Ourand and Mickle also mention Versus as being a key factor in whether the NHL would return to ESPN. Versus holds the exclusive cable rights to the league until 2011, for which it pays $70 million annually in rights fees. The Sports Business Journal report cites anonymous sources who say that Versus would possibly waive the exclusivity clause for a lower rights fee, a stronger schedule, or a deal extension. One would also have to believe that cross promotion between the networks would be a major issue.

Whether or not NBC extends its deal with the NHL (see below), an ESPN/ESPN2 partnership with the NHL would be a major boost for Versus. Giving ESPN an off night game, or an abbreviated "Game of the Week" schedule would get the sport in front of more eyeballs, and draw more viewers to Versus looking for similar programming. A return of hockey to SportsCenter, and possibly a Buccigross-Melrose highlight show, would kick up the visibility of the NHL a few notches. It would be a win-win-win situation for all 3 networks if done correctly.

Ditching exclusivity for more visibility was an issue discussed on this blog many times.

- The departure of the NHL from ESPN came during the height of the dreaded Mark Shapiro/"Sports Infotainment" Era. ESPN not only declined a $60 million option for NHL broadcast rights in May of 2005, but several ESPN executives took shots at the league on the way out.

It was distinct change of philosophy for ESPN, who negotiated the rights with individual teams to broadcast NHL games as early as 1979. Hockey was part of the early fabric of ESPN, and a national contract to broadcast NHL games came in 1985. After a brief stint with Sportschannel, ESPN continued to broadcast NHL games for 12 years from 1992-2004.

When ESPN cast the NHL aside in 2005, it was a hit not only for the sport, but for ESPN itself. Wherever your thoughts on the sport lie, replacing professional hockey with bowling, Battle of the Gridiron Stars, Stump the Schwab, and a Teammates gameshow was a step back for "The Worldwide Leader in Sports".

- Sports Media Watch tracks the ESPN/NHL reactions from Eric McErlain of the AOL FanHouse, the One Fan's Perspective blog, The Ottawa Sun's Rob Brodie, The Sporting News' Ray Slover, and the reaction from Rangerland.net.

Given that relatively small sample size, the opinions sway 4-1 in favor of returning in some fashion to the ESPN behemoth. That is, if you consider statements such as the following a nod of approval.

"In essence, any relationship between the network and the league wouldn't so much function as a mutually beneficial relationship, but rather would simply exist to get the network to stop beating on the sport so hard" - Eric McErlain.

- Tom Benjamin of Canucks Corner also posts a few notes about the possibility of the NHL returning to ESPN. Benjamin links to a very detailed post by Jason Chung at the Situationist that examines the social psychological and situational forces behind ESPN's reduced coverage, and their impact on the NHL.

Benjamin also links to an excellent column by William Houston in the Globe and Mail, NHL talking to ESPN about replacing NBC. Houston reports that an NBC official said it is premature to speculate on whether or not NBC would pick up its option for 2008-09.

- Finally, the NHL gets it right - Sports Business News.

- A press release from NBC Universal detailed a few changes to the NHL on NBC broadcast that will take place next season. Former coach and GM Mike Milbury will join NBC as an analyst, and Pierre McGuire will host the studio program on location instead of from Rockefeller Plaza.

Mike Milbury commented on the move into the studio, "For years I've been offering my opinion, most of the time without being asked, and not getting paid for it. In all seriousness, I love the game of hockey and am greatly looking forward to lending my voice to the sport and joining the crew at NBC who share my passion for the NHL".

NBC Sports also announced an extension of the revenue sharing broadcast agreement with the NHL through the 2007-08 season, with an option available for 2008-09. NBC will have a flexible broadcast schedule available to them for 9 regular season dates, allowing them to select the most compelling matchup as a "Game of the Week".

- David Pratt of the Vancouver Province, reports that NBC studio host Bill Clement and analyst Ray Ferraro will not be back next season. "Of course I was disappointed. Three minutes into the call and you know you've got to start earning a living some place else" Ferraro said.

- Neil Best of the NY Newsday speaks with Milbury about the move, and notes that he survived 4 different owners with the Islanders, 8 years as GM, and 3 different stints as a head coach. Stan Fischler and Sports Media Watch have more.

- The New York Times recently published an article accusing content makers (National Football League, Major League Baseball, NBC and Universal Studios) of exaggerating and misrepresenting copyright claims to consumers. The Computer and Communications Industry Association (including companies such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo) filed the complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

Julie E. Cohen, a professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in copyright law, said the fair use doctrine of copyright law establishes a broad standard for how consumers can use copyrighted content, including for purposes of criticism and commentary."

Although he has recently moved into another area of focus, Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig was at the forefront of fair use and copyright issues for several years. More information on Lessig's past fair use and copyright work is available from wikipedia and from the official lessig.org website.

- Charlie Walters of the Pioneer Press speculates that AHL Houston Aeros head coach Kevin Constantine will replace Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild.

- According to The Hockey News arbitration schedule, decisions on Jim Slater (Atl), Nathan Paetsch (Buf), and Mike Cammalleri (LA) should be made today. Arbitration decisions on Steve Montador (Fla) and Ryan Craig (TB) are scheduled for Friday. The Forecaster's NHL Movement Tracker has all of the up to date league transactions.

- Greg Wyshynski writes an excellent piece for the AOL Fanhouse on anonymous blogger and Hockeybuzz.com creator Eklund, Unmasked and Anonymous: Answering Ethical Questions About a Blogger Named Eklund.

Wyshynski detailed a number of issues surrounding one of the most popular bloggers online, from his roots as an anonymous blogger at Eklund's Hockey Rumors, to his meeting with head of the Professional Hockey Writers Association USA Today's Kevin Allen, to the revelation that Eklund was a blogger by committee in the early years, it is a thorough and detailed look at a number of the problems hockey blogs can face while offering a hint of the success that can be reached.

I met Eklund for the first time in San Jose during the Sharks-Wings WCSF series. I am familiar with a number of the problems other bloggers have voiced, and I have experienced some of them firsthand when dealing with teams or the NHL, but one reason I have to give him my support was his work during the NHL lockout. While newspapers and media websites were cutting back on staff and coverage, he was ramping up coverage and giving a barren hockey media landscape stories to talk about. I think the description of Eklund as more of an entertainer than a journalist, and acknowledging the fact that he has a number of solid hockey writers on board at hockeybuzz.com, puts his position in the blogosphere in the proper perspective.

- Thunder Lands All-Star Brandon Schwartz, Sniper and 2007 All-Star heads to Northern California after 53-point rookie year - StocktonThunder.com.

- Third round draft choice goaltender Timo Pielmeier will play for the St. John's Fog Devils in 2007-08 according to the German hockeyweb.de website. A rough translation of the article in English is available here. The Newfoundland St. John's Fog Devils are an Eastern Division team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. In 2006-07, the Fog Devils finished with a regular season record of 28-36-6, and lost to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles 4-0 in the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.

- An interesting article on Mark Smith and his Bay Area band the Vinyl Trees was featured last month in the Palo Alto Daily News. Another article in the Daily Pilot reported several hockey players attending a recent Vinyl Trees concert in Southern California. Thanks to Lady Stanley for the link. The official Vinyl Trees website is available at thevinyltrees.com.

- A letter to the President and CEO of Canon USA Yoroku Adachi from the President of the American Society of Newspaper Editors Gilbert Bailon reacts to news that photographers will have to wear official vests adorned with advertisements in order to attend NFL games.

- Haute Couture, Career parallels Thornton's - SLAM Sports.

At last month's NHL draft in Columbus, San Jose engineered the most dramatic moment of the first round by trading up to the ninth spot to butt in line ahead of Florida and grab Couture.

"I skated for Florida at the teen ranch in Orangeville and I met Jacques Martin so I had an idea that they (the Panthers) had an interest in me (at the No. 10 spot)," the six-foot, 195-pounder said. "Then, when San Jose traded up, I thought something might be going on. (Sharks GM) Doug Wilson is a respected hockey man and I know he has a soft spot for Ottawa because that's where he's from and he's a former 67 (who has also drafted Couture's linemate Jamie McGinn, Derek Joslin and Lukas Kaspar)."

- The NHL on Google Video page now redirects to the general Google Video site. Is this a sign that the NHL may move exclusively to Youtube? Probably not, but Google Video did not update full length games after the regular season.

- My apologies for the delay of this post, the recap of the San Jose Grand Prix, and a previously mentioned post on Nikon on blogs. Computer trouble has slowed things up a bit. The posts will be up as soon as possible.

[Update] Locals close in on Predators, Group enters binding letter to buy team - Nashville Tennessean.

The future of the Predators in Nashville looks considerably brighter today after a group of primarily local businessmen seeking to purchase the team entered into a binding letter of intent with owner Craig Leipold on Wednesday.

The deal includes a nonrefundable payment of $10 million to Leipold. It ensures exclusive negotiating rights and serves as the initial payment on the $193 million purchase bid by the group, which includes California-based businessman William "Boots" Del Biaggio III, who earlier had bid to buy the team himself.

John Glennon also reports that the proposal includes San Jose based William "Boots" Del Biaggio III as a minority owner. Del Biaggio will have to give up his minority stake in the San Jose Sharks if the Nashville deal is completed.

[Update2] Oilers' pursuit of Penner a calculated gamble - Edmonton Journal.