Well, it was one heck of a 2012.
It's been a little slow around here lately, but I'm sure it will pick up early on in 2013.
And I can't wait.
Here's to a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and yours. Thanks for reading this little corner of the internet when you want some hockey news or are just extremely bored.
Even those of you who stumble on here when you are looking for the Sun-Sentinel, I thank you.
See you in Sunrise in 2013!
Well, there hasn't been much hockey talk around here lately (except for som World Junior stuff in which a number of Panthers prospects are doing very well).
Hopefully this lockout ends in the coming days and we all get back to normal. You know, hockey news and goofy pictures in this little piece of real estate.
Anyway, I'm covering a number of different things in the coming week. We have a Heat and UM blog I can post stuff onto, but there's really nowhere to put my Orange Bowl/BCS stuff.
So I'm going to use my familiar spot right here.
For the time being, I hope.
Will have my Year in Pictures post coming up soon.
Thanks for reading!
ORANGE BOWL NOTEBOOK
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
Northern Illinois didn't just boost the status of its football program when it ended the season ranked 15th in the BCS standings and received a bid to Tuesday night's Orange Bowl game.
No, the Huskies helped out their entire conference.
How big a deal is it for the Mid-American Conference -- the MAC -- to have one of its teams playing in a BCS bowl for the first time?
So big, the league's presidents quickly approved a plan to pay for the Huskies large ticket commitment so they wouldn't take a financial bath by paying for thousands of tickets the school couldn't possibly resell.
Northern Illinois had to purchase 17,500 tickets from the Orange Bowl -- yet only averaged 15,670 fans at home games this season.
The school offered free tickets to students and sold some to fans and alumni. Yet NIU still had over 7,000 unsold tickets to return to the bowl.
Those tickets, ranging in prices from $75-200 that was paid to the Orange
Bowl, will be distributed to charity organizations in South Florida.
The MAC is expected to receive as much as $13 million in BCS revenue this season instead of its usual $2.5 million. That extra chunk comes for having a representative playing in a BCS game. The MAC figures without Northern Illinois going, it wouldn't have the bonus money. So, the league is helping out.
The Big East famously refused to increase UConn's bowl share when it went to the Fiesta Bowl after the 2010 season. Those Huskies lost almost $2 million because it was stuck with close to 15,000 unsold tickets it was forced to buy from the Fiesta Bowl.
"Kids can come down here and play, the administrators can come down here and take care of the people they need to take care of,'' MAC commissioner Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said.
"There's some pretty significant obligations. We wanted to make sure that the school was not under any kind of a financial hardship. Truly this is going to be a celebration for Northern Illinois, it's going to be a celebration for the whole conference. So we've just ensured that that is the case.''
The MAC likely would have had a team in a BCS bowl even if it wasn't the Huskies. In a rare abundance of conference riches, the MAC was set to have Kent State represent the league as the Golden Flashes went into the conference championship game in Detroit 11-1 and ranked 15th in the nation.
The Huskies (12-1) rallied from an early deficit to win 44-37 in double-overtime. The Huskies have gone 23-4 over the past two seasons and won a pair of MAC championships by going 17-1 in conference play.
Kent State ended up going to Mobile, Ala., to play in its first bowl game since 1972 -- one of seven MAC teams to go bowling.
Northern Illinois, however, is the one everyone will be watching in that prime real estate.
"Well, it's big,'' said Rod Carey, who makes his debut as NIU's head coach after Dave Doeren left for N.C. State a day after the win at Ford Field.
"[We're representing] NIU, our university, and then the MAC conference. We'll represent those guys and carry the burden from a big picture, and we're willing to do it, and we're excited about it. .-.-. We're excited for NIU and excited for the MAC.''
-- When Boise State upset Oklahoma in its BCS bowl debut in 2007, the Broncos pulled out all the stops in a wild game that still is shown on ESPN Classic.
In Monday's press conference in Fort Lauderdale, Carey was asked if he had any trick plays -- like the Statue of Liberty play Boise State ran -- ready for the Seminoles.
"We were talking about that in the staff room the other day, and our running back coach wanted to put it in,'' Carey said. "I said, 'no, we're not doing that. They've seen it before.' It was a funny discussion. .-.-. We're going to play this game to win. Are we all of a sudden going to become something we're not? No.''
-- FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said there isn't any more pressure on himself to win Tuesday's game because it's his first BCS bowl game since taking over when Bobby Bowden was forced to retire after the 2009 season.
"There's always pressure,'' Fisher said. "Coach Bowden was a legend. Coach Bowden is a one-of-a-kind guy. You don't replace coach Bowden. I have to be Jimbo Fisher and move on and do the things we do. .-.-.
"But our philosophies and beliefs are very similar, believe it or not. A lot of my core values came from coach Bowden many years ago.''
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
Locked out hockey players working out in small ice rinks across North America do so wearing black or white jerseys with their union's letters -- NHLPA -- printed across the chest.
The National Hockey League Player's Association could be closer to breaking up and being decertified come Friday morning.
Following the lead of the players' associations from the NFL and NBA, the NHLPA's 700-plus members are expected to overwhelmingly vote to authorize its executive board to "file a disclaimer of interest" and decertify the union.
Decertifying would allow individual players to file antitrust lawsuits against the league in an attempt to end a lockout about to enter its fifth month. Players represented by the union cannot file suit against the league, hence the decertification.
It should be noted that even if the measure passes - as expected - the NHLPA won't necessarily be broken up. But it will be a much easier process if that becomes the course of action.
"Right now, anything different to make the process move forward has to be looked at as good news,'' Panthers goalie Jose Theodore said.
"We have tried pretty much everything so far. I think we have given up a lot and have always offered to talk. They are the ones who always want to take breaks and don't want to negotiate. If you see things aren't moving, you have nothing to lose. We're not playing. Things aren't going in the right direction.''
High-profile football players such as Tom Brady and Peyton Manning filed a class-action suit against the NFL soon after they were locked out and the NFLPA decertified.
Both the NFLPA and NBPA came back together not long after agreements were reached to officially negotiate with the league again.
The NFL lockout lasted four-plus offseason months after the NFLPA disbanded; the NBA lockout ended less than two weeks after the NBPA decertified. Both of those lockouts ended as league owners didn't want to lose a season -- or in the NFL's case, any meaningful games.
The NHLPA is most definitely taking a risk because NHL owners haven't shown they collectively care if there is a season or not.
The NHL, after all, is the only North American professional league to lose a season to labor strife (2004-05).
"We have been left in a position of last resort with what has gone down,'' Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "I still have confidence in the system that something is going to get done. I've been through this before and had a little more patience. This is frustrating.''
Electronic voting by the NHLPA's members began on Sunday with a deadline of midnight Friday. Results of the voting -- some players have said 99 percent of the union will vote in favor of it -- should be available Friday morning.
The measure needs two-thirds approval to pass. If it does, the NHLPA -- led by former baseball union boss Donald Fehr and his brother Steve -- would have until Jan. 2 to file the disclaimer with the National Labor Relations Board.
The NHL is led by commissioner Gary Bettman -- an attorney by trade --and anticipates the measure passing and eventual decertification.
The league proactively filed a class action complaint in New York Federal Court saying it has every right to lockout players in order to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
The league also filed an unfair labor charge with the NLRB.
"Things worked out for the other leagues, but will it work out for us? Time will tell,'' Jovanovski said. "You look back now and we're somewhere around 100 days. I didn't think it would take this long. I'm running out of things to do. It's nice being around your family, but we're athletes. We want to be out there on the ice.''
Through all the legal wrangling, time to save a portion of the 2012-13 season is running out.
On Wednesday, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told Toronto's 590-AM that a deal needs to get done soon as Bettman doesn't consider anything less than a 48-game schedule to be realistic.
A 48-game season was salvaged after the 1994-95 lockout although the 2004-05 season was completely cancelled in February of that year when a new CBA couldn't be agreed upon. That lockout didn't end until the summer of 2005.
The league is announced the cancellation of another swath of games on Friday as games through Jan. 14 are gone.
With an abbreviated scheduled, however, cancellation of games now really doesn't matter as a new schedule -- think East vs. East and West vs. West games only -- will need to be drawn up.
In 1994, the NHL ended its lockout on Jan. 11 with teams kicking off what would be a 48-game schedule a few days later. If this lockout were to end, players would begin reporting immediately -- although a short training camp wouldn't open for a few days.
"I didn't follow the NBA lockout but everyone is bringing it up now,'' Theodore said. "We have to try something new. After meeting with a lot of players and reps, I think this is the best option. We want to play, but we wanted to play in 2004 and that didn't happen. It takes two to Tango. I don't know if they want us on the ice as much as we want to be there.''
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
Because of a lockout currently in its fourth month, the Panthers haven't played at all this season.
Their players are scattered around North America and Europe. Some have decided to remain in South Florida as they practice three times a week in an effort to stay in game shape should this thing end anytime soon.
For the most part, head coach Kevin Dineen and his staff have remained in town, dutifully going into the office each morning.
"I have enough fishing stories,'' Dineen says, "to last a lifetime.''
Some days are spent breaking down video of opponents, others spent evaluating players who are with the team's minor league affiliate in San Antonio.
And some days are dedicated to golf. Or the day there was a pick up game on the ice just steps from their desks in Coral Springs. Or even, in assistant Craig Ramsay's case, a nice trip with the grandkids to Disney World.
"This is different, that's for sure,'' Ramsay said. "But we have a great training staff who are around, the coaches are around. There are enough guys where you can come in, grab a coffee, chat with the boys and get a workout in. I've found ways to stay busy. I've repeated some of the video for sure.''
So although the Panthers were supposed to be in Boston last Saturday night, kicking off a four-game road trip that would have stopped in Washington, New York and Ottawa, their coaches were home in South Florida.
Instead of facing the Bruins, Dineen was in bed early Saturday night as he was on the road at 6 a.m. on Sunday to drive across to Florida's west coast for a pair of youth hockey games in Estero featuring sons William and Declan. Daughter Emma, 15, also had a soccer game on Sunday.
"I've seen more of her games this year than I have in the last three years combined,'' Dineen said.
Ramsay didn't seem to miss chilly Boston as he took in the Winterfest boat parade in Fort Lauderdale. Gord Murphy, another of Dineen's assistants, watched his son Connor play a Canadian junior game on his computer at home.
With Christmas coming, the Panthers offices will be a little quieter than usual as the coaching staff uses this rare downtime to spend with the family.
Dineen is leaving for New England on Wednesday morning and will finally be on the ice running a practice that afternoon. Dineen says he's excited to run the practice at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire where daughter Hannah is a senior forward.
Dineen has stayed in ice shape as he skates some mornings with William, a sixth-grader on the North Broward Prep middle school team.
"I've really enjoyed that. It's awesome'' Dineen said. "I'm in the office at 6:50 a.m. and they skate at 7:30. It's right here, so it works out great. I've really been able to spend some quality time with the kids. I have taken advantage of the down time.''
If Connor Murphy makes the U.S. junior national team roster -- and the lockout is still ongoing -- Gord Murphy plans to travel to the World Junior tournament in Russia later this month to watch him play.
"This is a roller coaster of emotions we're all riding,'' said Gord Murphy, who has been part of four lockouts as a player and coach.
"You think things are going to be settled and get excited. Then you hear other things and you are down again. There are a lot of peaks and valleys. You would think over the years you would get used to it. But you don't.''
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra went through the same uncertainty last year when the NBA locked out its players.
Spoelstra said he had plenty of work to do -- the Heat were coming off a loss to Dallas in the NBA Finals -- but still needed to find the motivation to come in and work day after day.
"The toughest part about it was not knowing when or if it was going to end,'' Spoelstra said. "We burned through double-digit plans because things kept getting pushed back. There is no real way to prepare for it. Thankfully we had a team that had been together. There was familiarity when we came back.''
Like Spoelstra, Dineen says he'll be ready if/when his lockout ends. Sitting on Dineen's desk is a folder with each day of training camp mapped out.
If the lockout ends Wednesday -- which is extremely unlikely -- Dineen would buy a plane ticket home and be back at work Thursday.
"We're keeping busy but we're not coming in here every day and staring at each other,'' said Dineen, whose dry erase board in his office at the BB&T Center is frozen in time as it still lists the lineups from Game 7 against the Devils -- Florida's final game of 2012.
"We'll be ready to go. We're more than ready to go. We are impatiently waiting for our next move.''