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OITGDNHL: We Are The Kokusai Green Preservation Society


the admiral

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It's the offseason, and offseason talk is a mangled mess of Olympic musings and realignment jokes. So let's finally make the list.

GROUND RULES

1. Entries have to demonstrate incompetence, absurdity, and capital oversight that could only be possible in the National Hockey League, not by dint of its business of contesting hockey games but because the NHL is and has always been a business run by complete idiots. E.g., "they should have waved off a goal that should have counted in a Leafs game; OITGDNHL!" is just a transient frustration with a hockey game and not the documentation of an stultifying and hilarious institutional failure.

2. Quote from and cite existing sources where you can, so it looks nice and official. Wikipedia, The Instigator, so on.

3. We should probably try to stay on topic and not go up our ass too much between entries.

* * *

Let us begin with what might be my favorite NHL story.

Chapter 1

Buffalo Sabres Draft Player Who Fails To Exist; NHL Is Okay With This For Approximately Two Months

The Sabres' general manager at the time, Punch Imlach, was reportedly fed up with the slow drafting process via the telephone, a process intended to keep draft picks secret from the rival World Hockey Association. Imlach decided to have some fun at the expense of the league and Clarence Campbell, the NHL president for the last 28 years. After finding a common Japanese name in a Buffalo-area phone book, Imlach chose to select star center Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League's Tokyo Katanas, with "Katanas" being an approximation for "Sabres" in the Japanese language, both referring to types of swords. (The JHL, although it was a real entity, had no team representing Tokyo at the time; Kokudo would not relocate to the city until 1984.) The NHL made the pick official, and so it was reported by all major media outlets including The Hockey News.

Tsujimoto's pick came at a time when the NHL was only beginning to expand its reach for players outside Canada and the United States; Scandinavian players were beginning to be drafted into, and enter, the league at around the same time. Although the players of the Soviet Union, at the time an international powerhouse, were effectively off-limits, it would have not been out of the ordinary to be scouting for new hockey talent in unusual places, which is part of the reason there were no major objections to the legitimacy of Imlach's draft pick.

Imlach did not acknowledge the fake draft pick until just before the start of training camp that year. The NHL would eventually change the pick to an "invalid claim" for its official record-keeping purposes. Campbell did not find the hoax draft pick nearly as funny as Imlach, but this was after Tsujimoto's name had appeared in several NHL publications. Tsujimoto is still listed among Sabres' draft picks in the Sabres media guide.

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I was going to post something about how the NHL has had more lockouts under their current commissioner* than any of the other major leagues but the NBA has been locked out four times (though one of them lasted all of about several hours) during Stern's tenure so that one is a no-go.

That being said, the NHL is the only North American major league to lose an entire season to a lockout. OITGDNHL.

*Recognizing of course that the lockouts are the faults of the greedy :censored:s who own the teams and that Bettman is not exclusively at fault and that even if Bettman were to leave the commissionership the owners would just replace him with another toady.

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Other posters can likely do better justice to this, but I believe Alan Eagleson bears mention.

PROTIP: When the head of the NHLPA is considered a possible candidate for the NHL Presidency, he's probably not doing his job as head of the Union.

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It's the offseason, and offseason talk is a mangled mess of Olympic musings and realignment jokes. So let's finally make the list.

GROUND RULES

1. Entries have to demonstrate incompetence, absurdity, and capital oversight that could only be possible in the National Hockey League, not by dint of its business of contesting hockey games but because the NHL is and has always been a business run by complete idiots. E.g., "they should have waved off a goal that should have counted in a Leafs game; OITGDNHL!" is just a transient frustration with a hockey game and not the documentation of an stultifying and hilarious institutional failure.

2. Quote from and cite existing sources where you can, so it looks nice and official. Wikipedia, The Instigator, so on.

3. We should probably try to stay on topic and not go up our ass too much between entries.

* * *

Let us begin with what might be my favorite NHL story.

Chapter 1

Buffalo Sabres Draft Player Who Fails To Exist; NHL Is Okay With This For Approximately Two Months

The Sabres' general manager at the time, Punch Imlach, was reportedly fed up with the slow drafting process via the telephone, a process intended to keep draft picks secret from the rival World Hockey Association. Imlach decided to have some fun at the expense of the league and Clarence Campbell, the NHL president for the last 28 years. After finding a common Japanese name in a Buffalo-area phone book, Imlach chose to select star center Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League's Tokyo Katanas, with "Katanas" being an approximation for "Sabres" in the Japanese language, both referring to types of swords. (The JHL, although it was a real entity, had no team representing Tokyo at the time; Kokudo would not relocate to the city until 1984.) The NHL made the pick official, and so it was reported by all major media outlets including The Hockey News.

Tsujimoto's pick came at a time when the NHL was only beginning to expand its reach for players outside Canada and the United States; Scandinavian players were beginning to be drafted into, and enter, the league at around the same time. Although the players of the Soviet Union, at the time an international powerhouse, were effectively off-limits, it would have not been out of the ordinary to be scouting for new hockey talent in unusual places, which is part of the reason there were no major objections to the legitimacy of Imlach's draft pick.

Imlach did not acknowledge the fake draft pick until just before the start of training camp that year. The NHL would eventually change the pick to an "invalid claim" for its official record-keeping purposes. Campbell did not find the hoax draft pick nearly as funny as Imlach, but this was after Tsujimoto's name had appeared in several NHL publications. Tsujimoto is still listed among Sabres' draft picks in the Sabres media guide.

I had no clue of this.

THIS. IS. FANTASTIC.

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This isn't the best example, but it's the most fresh in my mind because Sodboy brought it up with a twitter discussion about steroids in the NHL.

In 2006 Bryan Berard was the first NHL player to test positive for steroids, but because the NHL didn't administer the test, he wasn't suspended. All he got was a two year ban from international play, which was nothing because old "Eyeball Injury" wasn't likely to participate in any international play.

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Chapter 49

No One Who Goes By The Name "Boots" Could Possibly Do Anything Illegal

In 2007, Craig Leipold agreed in principle to sell the Nashville Predators, namely to NHL darling Jim Balsillie. However, Leipold rescinded the sale, likely at the behest of Count Bettman, when Balsillie went rogue and started selling season tickets to the "Hamilton Predators" despite not yet having the legal rights to sell Predators tickets, especially when the Hamilton Predators did not exist. Now eager to keep the Predators in Nashville (or, failing that, Kansas City, but definitely not Hamilton), the NHL fast-tracked a sale to a consortium led by a guy named Boots Del Biaggio. Unfortunately, they forgot to do their homework, where they would have found that Boots Del Biaggio didn't have any money. Then this happened:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Pursuant to a plea agreement, William “Boots” Del Biaggio, III, of San Jose, Calif., pleaded guilty yesterday before Hon. Charles R. Breyer to one count of securities fraud, announced United States Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello.

In December 2008 the United States charged Del Biaggio, 41, with securities fraud, charging that in 2007 and 2008 he defrauded multiple parties to obtain and guarantee loans of approximately $100 million in connection with various ventures, including the purchase of an interest in a major national sports league franchise. In addition to pleading guilty to this charge, Del Biaggio agreed to pay restitution in connection with his misuse of funds at three investment funds at which he was a principal: Sand Hill Capital Partners III, BDB Management, LLC, and BDB Management III.

Ownership of the Predators reverted to the local minority investors, but then the managing partner, a David Freeman, didn't have any money:

But then Sommet Group chief Brian Whitfield fired off the slapshot heard ’round the hockey world, exposing Freeman’s $3.3 million tax lien.

The quiet man who loved sports and his city was in trouble with the IRS for a not-insignificant amount of money — and by his account, just because he was trying to do the right thing. In an email to team leadership, Freeman said he fell into debt to keep the Preds solvent.

“I … loaned the Predators several million dollars on a ‘short-term’ basis in 2007 to complete the purchase of the team. Due to subsequent events eventually culminating in the bankruptcies of parties associated with the team, it has become appropriate for me to convert my loan into an additional permanent investment in the club,” the email read, in part. “Unfortunately, reacting responsibly to the acts of others in a manner most beneficial to the team created a short-term liquidity problem for me.”

He was so tied into the team he had come to love, so dedicated to its fan base, so eager for its success, he shelled out cash he needed for his personal obligations.

. . .

Authority members raised questions as to whether Freeman’s lien resulted in the abrogation of the team’s lease with the city. It gave the authority a strong bargaining chip — do what we want or we’ll go to court, invalidate the current (and quite frankly, very Predators-friendly) lease and make you swallow a bitter pill indeed.

The power play spelled the end of Freeman’s tenure as chairman of the Predators board.

I commented on this story roughly around when it happened,

Lost in the Coyotes craze was the fact that the Predators were sold to a criminal and passed on to a guy who's broke. Chapter 49 of the new book Only the Goddamned NHL.

and a meme was born.

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This isn't the best example, but it's the most fresh in my mind because Sodboy brought it up with a twitter discussion about steroids in the NHL.

In 2006 Bryan Berard was the first NHL player to test positive for steroids, but because the NHL didn't administer the test, he wasn't suspended. All he got was a two year ban from international play, which was nothing because old "Eyeball Injury" wasn't likely to participate in any international play.

The story's actually even a little better than this. Berard was the first player to test positive, as McCarthy said, under the drug policy the NHL finally instituted after the yearlong lockout. But the policy came with a built-in "free pass" window which allowed players to take ALL OF TEH DRUGS until mid-January. Berard tested positive in mid-November, so he got off scot-free.

Oh and the NHL's drug policy is laughable on every level, if you'd like to read my blog for more details. It's a wonder more players aren't killing themselves.

One of my favorite anecdotal OITGDNHLs is that players were banned from wearing 0 or 00 because the NHL's software couldn't process the numbers once they started computerizing records.

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Okay - how about the extent to which, when negotiating Ilya Kovalchuk's multi-year deal with the Devils (yes, I did that on purpose), they structured it specifically to circumvent the cap rules, only to have him jump ship a couple of years later?

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Okay - how about the extent to which, when negotiating Ilya Kovalchuk's multi-year deal with the Devils (yes, I did that on purpose), they structured it specifically to circumvent the cap rules, only to have him jump ship a couple of years later?

I would say approving a contract as valid and then retroactively punishing it in a future CBA qualifies as OITGDNHL. Apparently, the NHL has never heard of ex post facto.

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In 1983, Ralston Purina (the dog food people) owned the St. Louis Blues but wanted out. They tried to sell the team to a group that would move them to Saskatoon. The NHL blocked the sale. Purina basically abandoned the team (and sued the league) as a result and boycotted the 1983 NHL Draft.

Greater detail here:

http://www.stlouisgametime.com/2009/4/5/823172/the-saskatoon-blues-the-story

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One of my favorite anecdotal OITGDNHLs is that players were banned from wearing 0 or 00 because the NHL's software couldn't process the numbers once they started computerizing records.

One of my favorites too. The idea of Martin Biron unwittingly destroying the NHL's database is so delightful. And on a Compuware note,

Chapter 97

Just A City Boy, Born And Raised In South Detroit, He Took A Midnight Train Going Literally Anywhere

YskekBX.jpg

Columbus Dispatch, 4/24/97

Obviously, the key here is that Karmanos was willing to leave Hartford for a converted airplane hangar. But the second-best part is that he was also willing to leave Hartford for the Greensboro Coliseum. And then he actually did!

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Aw, you beat me to the punch on "Chapter 12: I Got Them Money-Losin', Draft-Forfeitin', Loophole-Findin' Blues."

The best part is that the NHL contracted the St. Louis Blues and then established a brand-new St. Louis Blues that happened to have the same players and intellectual property as the old St. Louis Blues. In the most technicallyest of technically, the Blues franchise only goes back to 1983, and the 1967-1983 organization no longer exists, but I think everyone will agree this is patently ridiculous.

The second-best part is that they almost moved to Saskatoon.

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We had a Japanese player who never existed; how about a Japanese owner who may never have existed? Or, in Rocky and Bullwinkle style, you could also call this story, "The Coyotes of the 90's".

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1012434/

"What does [Takashi] Okubo, the first non-American or non-Canadian owner of a North American major league sports franchise, think of the sorry spectacle his team has become? Who knows? He has never attended a Lightning game, never been to Tampa and never granted an interview to a member of the North American media. (Okubo didn't respond to an interview request for this story.) Among Lightning players and top management, only Oto and Phillips have met Okubo, and no one at the NHL offices has met him—not former league president John Ziegler, who approved Kokusai Green's acquiring a stake in the Lightning, and not Bettman, who has had to live with the aftereffects of that investment.

Since Kokusai Green became involved with Tampa Bay, the NHL has mediated disputes involving the Lightning on at least three occasions and has advanced the franchise money or investigated Tampa Bay management for conduct at least once. Though Bettman is loath to admit it, he has been kept in the dark about Okubo as much as anyone. When he went to Nagano in February for the Winter Olympics, he scheduled a meeting with Okubo—only to receive a note when he arrived stating that Okubo was sorry, but he had been pulled away by a business emergency in China. "He sent me a tie clasp," Bettman says.

Esposito and Tak Kojima, a former investor in the Lightning, tell similar stories of last-minute cancellations by Okubo. Tony Guanci, a consultant for the Las Vegas-based Maloof family, which considered buying Tampa Bay last summer and later purchased the NBA Sacramento Kings, says jokingly, "Not only did I never speak to Okubo in our eight months [of pursuing Tampa Bay], I began to wonder if he exists."

Why the shroud of secrecy? In a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa federal court by Ganis against Lightning ownership, management and former team lawyer David LeFevre, Okubo is described by one potential Japanese source of financing for Tampa Bay as a "gangster." In Japan there is a mob organization called yakuza, which has been known to enter the sports world, most notably to launder money through such enterprises as golf courses. Stephen Wayne, the New York lawyer who has handled Tampa Bay's search for a buyer for the last 14 months, contends that any implication that Okubo is involved in organized crime is "entirely unfounded." Adds Phillips, "We deny the charge tenfold." "

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Aw, you beat me to the punch on "Chapter 12: I Got Them Money-Losin', Draft-Forfeitin', Loophole-Findin' Blues."

The best part is that the NHL contracted the St. Louis Blues and then established a brand-new St. Louis Blues that happened to have the same players and intellectual property as the old St. Louis Blues. In the most technicallyest of technically, the Blues franchise only goes back to 1983, and the 1967-1983 organization no longer exists, but I think everyone will agree this is patently ridiculous.

The second-best part is that they almost moved to Saskatoon.

I'm confused there.

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Other posters can likely do better justice to this, but I believe Alan Eagleson bears mention.

PROTIP: When the head of the NHLPA is considered a possible candidate for the NHL Presidency, he's probably not doing his job as head of the Union.

Plus, in 1986, during collective bargaining, Eagleson agreed to mandatory drug testing WITHOUT talking to the player reps.

As his assistant, Sam Simpson, said...

"We expect a very small part of the meeting to have to do with the drug testing. We want to get on to free agency, pension plans. We expect the drug issue to be only touched on at this meeting and then talked about over the summer. I think there has been a lot of misunderstanding about the drug thing. It's not something which has gone through already. It's only been recommended by Mr. Eagleson. If the players want to reject it, that's their right."

I'm confused there.

You have been confused a lot today. Just slow down, start a new tab and read up on all of these items.

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I'm confused there.

You have been confused a lot today. Just slow down, start a new tab and read up on all of these items.

That's not what I meant for being confused.

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Aw, you beat me to the punch on "Chapter 12: I Got Them Money-Losin', Draft-Forfeitin', Loophole-Findin' Blues."

The best part is that the NHL contracted the St. Louis Blues and then established a brand-new St. Louis Blues that happened to have the same players and intellectual property as the old St. Louis Blues. In the most technicallyest of technically, the Blues franchise only goes back to 1983, and the 1967-1983 organization no longer exists, but I think everyone will agree this is patently ridiculous.

The second-best part is that they almost moved to Saskatoon.

Oopsies, sorry about that. I never knew about the contraction/expansion technicality until today. That's awesomely absurd.

The Kokusai Green fiasco would fit in nicely here, as would the John Spano fiasco, and the Kings going bankrupt.

This will be the subject of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary in October:

http://fangsbites.co...0-for-30-slate/

Big Shot (Director: Kevin Connolly)

In 1996, the once-dominant New York Islanders were in serious trouble. Lousy performance and poor management were driving away the hockey franchise’s loyal fan base. The team hit bottom. Then along came a Dallas businessman named John Spano, who swooped in and agreed to buy the team for 165 million dollars. Things began to look up for the Islanders – way up. But it was all smoke and mirrors. Big Shot goes inside an extraordinary scandal that engulfed the Islanders. Featuring the only interview Spano has ever given about the Islanders deal, this film is an unforgettable tale of a dream that became a lie – and how a scam of such epic proportions initially went undetected.

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