Thursday, July 27, 2006

Yet another great fantasy show coming up

As referenced in a post last week, maybe the greatest line in the history of TV. And remember our huge football mock draft show Thursday night, August 17 at 7 PM EDT!

THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER will be huge again on Thursday night from 8-10 PM EDT on

8 PM: We talk fantasy baseball at the MLB trading deadline with baseball analyst Tim Foust.

8:20 PM: COLLEGE fantasy football? Yep, that's what we're talking, with College Fantasy Football Insider honcho Brian McDonald. Now, this is standard fantasy football adapted for the college game, different from the college football team draft we are conducting on the show August 24.

8:50 PM: We get back into standard NFL fantasy football talk with a look at key position battles, unclear running back situations, a look at the dropoff after the "Big 3" in the first round, players on the spot for an '06 breakthrough and much more.

And for a fascinating look at the real world outside the "sports bubble" we often inhabit, check this out.

Thoughts and prayers to the father-in-law of founder Nathan Noy, felled by a heart attack today and not doing well at last glance. All the best from all of us and our readers to your family.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The entire fantasy sports world -- it's what we do

With the above phrase being used, let me pile in on deeper with the wonderful Duckman quote my main man (and Northcoast Hockey Tonight co-host, Northcoast Hockey Tonight happening to air from 7-8 PM EDT on Paul Teeple uses on his STC morning show with the great Jim Kushlan: "I hope this doesn't sound grandiose, but tonight I begin my pre-ordained ascent towards the global adulation I so richly deserve."

We've got a great lineup as usual on Thursday night for THE FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER on STC, following the aforementioned Northcoast Hockey Tonight show (in which Paul Teeple and I will look at Michael Peca's move to Toronto, the continuing Ed Belfour chronicles, and the madness that is the New York Islanders -- and we'll share our favorite memories of the Neil Smith era at Nassau). Without further ado:

8 PM: We start with our usual look at niche fantasy sports with our fantasy potpourri segment. We will look at Day One of the British Open and how Tiger and Phil's starts bode for the remainder of the tournament and the entire season. We'll also look at what may be a migration into NASCAR from other circuits and the progress of the American open-wheel merger that we have been crusading for for so long. We'll preview our college football team draft on August 24 and we'll preview next week's interview with Brian McDonald of College Fantasy Football Insider. They have a very unique approach to fantasy sports with their emphasis on college football -- and if we, home of th e hot dog contest and Olympic medals drafts are calling somebody else's drafts unique, that says something!

8:30 PM: We begin the Long Goodbye, a two-month frolic through the remaining days of fantasy baseball in 2006. We will take a look at headlines and anticipated developments as well as trying to convey lessons learned for 2007. These two components will make up most of our baseball coverage for the rest of the season.

8:55 PM: Football coverage takes over, as we break down Draft Day strategy inside and out -- to say nothing of how and why you need to be thinking it over ASAP. Hint -- the word "value" may come up once or twice. The fantasy football talk continues until 10 PM EDT as we cover America's favorite hobby from all angles. Don't forget our biggest show of the year, the football mock draft on Thursday, August 17 beginning an hour early at 7 PM EDT.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

As promised, the NHL Improvement Manifesto

We will discuss this tonight on, specifically Northcoast Hockey Tonight. It is our long-promised NHL Improvement Manifesto. Enjoy!

We at help produce the program NORTHCOAST HOCKEY TONIGHT (Thursdays, 7-8 PM). Show host Paul Teeple and myself cover the entire world of hockey, but we focus largely on the NHL.

On the July 13, 2006 episode of NORTHCOAST HOCKEY TONIGHT, we promised that we would be bringing forth the NHL Improvement Manifesto, a plan to help the NHL build on the successes of the first post-lockout season and help to minimize any of the problems which have continued to plague the game. Many of these moves would need to be collectively bargained, but the league and the players have worked increasingly well together since the lockout and the change in leadership at the top of the players’ union. Our manifesto is not based on near-term gain for the league, because short-term thinking has choked off progress for decades. All aspects of the program are aimed towards medium-term and long-term gain. Here is the plan:

1. Shorten the season to 70 games – and conduct the World Cup of Hockey tournament every season to help compensate for lost revenue. It is still possible that some adjustments might need to be made to the salary cap, however, but since many players are of the opinion that the season is too long and grueling, this move could be successfully collectively bargained.

2. Adjust the schedule as follows: Each team should play 6 games in division and 3 games against other teams in the same conference. Teams would alternate who would host the extra home game each year. Teams should play 16 games against the opposing conference. For 15 of those games, each team would play every team in the opposing conference and rotate the home-and-home games on an annual basis. The extra game would be a home-and-home affair between two designated teams in different conferences. In order to maximize games between Original Six teams, and to build rivalries in other top hockey markets, four teams in the East and four teams in the West would rotate playing the home-and-home game on an annual basis, with all other teams sharing the same home-and-home opponents each year. The four teams in the East would be Toronto, Boston, the New York Rangers and Montreal. The four teams in the West would be Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Minnesota. A more uniform slate would erase the huge discrepancies which now exist in strength of schedule, as well as exposing the top stars of the NHL to fans on a more equal basis.

3. Playoff seeding should be changed. In order to more accurately reflect the actual strength of teams heading into the playoffs, teams should be arranged on a different basis. Keep the 70-game schedule for purposes of awarding the three division champions and the five wild cards in each conference – but utilize only the last 30 games for awarding the 1-8 seeds in each conference. Combined with the more uniform strength of schedule across the league, seeds will once again mean something in the playoffs instead of meaning very little as they do now.

4. Utilize YouTube and other new media means to get must-see videos in front of the public. The NHL, of course, has to work within the parameters of their deal with Comcast regarding the rights to video distribution. But the league has the right to disseminate certain streaming feeds for free and should seize every opportunity to do so, even when no money is guaranteed for doing so. Actively submitting video feeds to rapidly growing Internet outlets such as YouTube and Google Video will tap into a younger market more receptive to the speed and skill that the sport showcases.

5. Make the task of obtaining sponsorship opportunities for top stars the predominant goal of the league marketing department – and expand that department with outside talent if need be. As the franchise player of the Stanley Cup Champion Carolina Hurricanes, and as the leading edge of what could become the First Family of 21st Century hockey, Eric Staal should be presented with numerous opportunities to appear in advertisements this summer. Likewise, Sidney Crosby, Cam Ward, and other stars seizing the baton from the previous generation should be out front as much as possible. The goal of pushing these players to the American public would not be the enrichment of the individual stars, but rather the familiarization by the American public with the players taking this sport forward. Additionally, efforts should be made wherever possible to market Jarome Iginla to urban communities to boost the NHL fanbase in an area where it lags badly.

6. Begin exploring options now for the next TV contract. The league is locked in with Comcast and NBC agreements for foreseeable future, but progress is being held back by the cable deal in particular with the network being in few homes overall and locked out of entire markets. The damage from the cash grab decision that the league made last year cannot be erased overnight, but through careful consideration now, the NHL can be better prepared to make a better choice in the future.

7. Swallow the pride and play up comparisons to football – in America, at least. Such a move would go over poorly up North to say the least, but it would be profoundly unnecessary in a country that relates to it on such a supreme level. But in America, where the game remains misunderstood by such a large segment of the population, the league could benefit immensely by a campaign to draw comparisons to the real national pastime, football. From the proportionality of the scoring systems being similar (i.e. a touchdown is roughly equivalent to a goal), to the physical, gritty play that each sport features, to the similarity of a goal-line stand to a penalty kill, the sports have a great deal in common. Indeed, it can be said with little degree of exaggeration that hockey is football at 100 miles per hour. NBC, which now televises both the NHL and the NFL, should be a willing partner in helping hockey to benefit from football’s popularity.

8. Play more games outdoors. Rumors about the NHL staging a Rangers-Islanders game in Yankee Stadium on January 1 were ill-founded, but the league desperately needs to stage more outdoor games like the one in Edmonton almost three years ago. The curiosity factor and resulting publicity would benefit the league greatly, especially if the majority of said games take place in America. The NHL needs to aim for at least two games a year under the stars.

Fantasy Sports Grand Champion?

Announcement coming Thursday night at 8:25 PM EDT on the FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER on Remember that nobody covers the breadth of sports that we do.

Also on the show:

8 PM: Recap of hot stove action in hoops and hockey and how it will affect the upcoming fantasy seasons.

8:25 PM: Fantasy Sports Grand Champion announcement.

8:40 PM: Second-half baseball analysis continues, with a focus on impact prospects who will be called up and who can help your team.

9:10 PM: Fantasy football talk moves into high gear, with a look at impact rookies this season and the most impactful transactions of the offseason from a fantasy perspective.

Tune in Thursday night -- and don't miss our hockey show, NORTHCOAST HOCKEY TONIGHT, from 7-8 EDT. Prior to that show, we will post our 2006 Manifesto for NHL Improvement right here on the blog and we will discuss it on the show. Catch it all right here and on STC!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Nice pub for the Fantasy Drafthelp brand

First of all, the great Peter Schrager of and mentions our hot dog draft from last Thursday in his latest FoxSports column. Thanks for the love, Peter, great stuff from you as always.

Also, the sports media column in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday mentions some potential future growth for our fantasy show. No official word on the speculated item has come down, but we find it quite flattering and we are hopeful. Stay tuned.

On to tonight's FANTASYDRAFTHELP.COM INSIDER show on We've got a full lineup as always:

8:00 PM EDT: We will give a short rundown of our core fantasy concepts. With the aforementioned publicity we have received over the last week, coupled with the increased audience for the show (up about 1,300 since April), I believe that we should go over some of the main ideas we discuss weekly on the show and the context from which we deal every week.

8:15 PM EDT: We'll take a quick look at hockey hot stove transactions since July 1.

8:30 PM EDT: Our baseball analyst Tim Foust joins us to look at the buy and sell candidates in fantasy baseball for the second half of the season.

9:00 PM EDT: We will examine the perspectives of the national media on various fantasy football players this year: where we agree, where we disagree, and where different publications differ among themselves.

9:40 PM EDT: We'll take our last look back at the NBA Draft and our perspectives on what happened as we covered it live.

Check us out live at 8 PM tonight.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Tribute to Number 19

We reserve the right to go a bit off-topic here from time to time -- and this is one of these times.

Steve Yzerman retired yesterday. He is my favorite athlete of all time in any sport and I feel it necessary to add to the tributes coming his way at this time. After I speak my piece, I am providing what I hope will be among the most comprehensive roundups of reaction, career highlights and other relevant notes on the Web.

Before I add my personal perspectives, I would like to mention why he is my favorite. He had outstanding God-given talent, but also radiated class and became, in my opinion, the greatest leader in team sports. His two decades with the captain's "C" set a record by quite a wide margin, one that I believe will never be approached, much less surpassed. Hockey players as a whole tend to be the humblest and classiest in team sports and Steve Yzerman exemplified that better than most. I do not believe that we will see anyone quite like him ever again.

I was not a fan of hockey until my freshman year of college in 1987. Growing up in the Cleveland area, where the media coverage of the NHL has always been woeful, I was simply not exposed to the greatness of the game. But working at public radio station WOUB in Athens, Ohio, I began to read about and see footage in the newsroom of the guy in Detroit with the odd-spelled name and the incredible scoring moves. I quickly began to wonder why he was so obscured by Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, because his numbers and his play didn't deserve to be hidden in the shadows. Singlehandedly, he made me a fan of the Winged Wheel and the game of hockey.

As he grew as a player, embracing the role of captain and the greater emphasis on two-way play mandated by Scotty Bowman in the '90s, I suffered through the team's playoff setbacks. On a shuttle ride at the airport back in those days, an AHL player who struck up a conversation with me upon spotting my Wings jacket told me that the hot rumor was that Yzerman was soon to be traded to Ottawa. It seemed that the man and the team would never get what they deserved.

And then, in 1997, 10 years into my awareness and appreciation of this man and this franchise, they ended the 42-year drought and captured the Stanley Cup. To this day, my favorite video to pop into the VCR remains the postgame footage after Game 4 when Stevie Y accepted the Cup from Gary Bettman and performed his victory lap around Joe Louis Arena. I do not lightly lump in sports events with the greatest moments of my life, but I make an exception for that night, June 7, 1997. That was one of the greatest moments of my life.

Within a week the victory would be overshadowed dramatically by the car crash that would leave team trainer Sergei Mnatsakanov and defensive franchise player Vladimir Konstantinov fighting for their lives. With their friends permanently out of the game, the team went on one of the greatest inspirational runs in the history of sports in the spring of 1998 and successfully defended their title. The on-ice celebration was even more stirring this time, as Stevie cut short his victory skate with the Cup to place it in the lap of Vladdie as the players wheeled him around the ice. They validated their slogan of "Believe," which conveyed their desire to win for their fallen friends.

More playoff disappointments would come before the final Stanley Cup win of the Yzerman era in 2002. The 7-0 pounding of Colorado in Game Seven of the Western Conference Finals provided a fitting coda to the playoff rivalry with the Avs -- a feud that was arguably the most heated in sports at the time. All throughout the playoffs, Steve Yzerman skated on a knee so shattered that he needed to be shot up like a racehorse and taped tightly before every game. The surgical path he chose had ended the career of every player who had suffered through it. But Steve Yzerman became the first man to come back from it. I think I can speak for all of his fans when I say that we never really had a doubt that he would be that pioneer. It just fit who he is.

Throughout his career, he battled injuries, including various knee problems. He not only never complained, he sought to downplay the severity of them and the extent of the sacrifices he made for his team. To the end, his main concern was what was best for the team. He concluded, sadly, that the uncertainty about how his body would hold up next season would outweigh the solid production that he could still provide when healthy.

Having come to my appreciation of #19 in my own way, imagine my surprise when I read an account that eerily mimicked my circumstances. It's from John Buccigross of ESPN:

"When I was senior at Heidelberg College, I cut a 2-inch by 1-inch picture of Steve Yzerman out of the newspaper and hung it on my dormitory door. I wasn't a Wings fan and had never seen Yzerman play. This was the mid-80's, I lived in Eastern Ohio, and the NHL was on SportsChannel. I wasn't one of the 47 people who had that network as part of their cable package. But his eyes mesmerized me. I thought, this is a person who has big dreams. Big visions. He has a plan and a focus to see it through and stick it out. I knew nothing about him, had never seen or heard him speak, but something moved me to hang that picture on my door as inspiration that life's biggest joys and awards come from dealing with and overcoming pain and discomfort. Those eyes said, 'Nothing good comes easy.' Have a vision and stick it out."

That anecodote is part of a larger story on The Captain here, behind the ESPN Insider wall. It's great writing from a powerful wordsmith and fan of professional hockey.

The best way to sum up what he means to his fans is this: the best word that comes to mind when we think of his is "respect." The Canadian Olympic team chose to vacate the #19 during the Turin Games when Yzerman withdrew from the team for health reasons -- and that's saying quite a bit, because so many players of this generation wear that number out of respect for him. Respect, there's that word again. And as the Red Wings have become over the last decade hockey's version of the New York Yankees, the single most polarizing force in the sport, rarely if ever will you hear opposing fans speaking ill of Stevie Franchise. They will bash the ownership, or other Wings players, or Wings coaches, but not The Man. They know in their heart of hearts that they would kill to have him wearing their colors -- and we who love him know how fortunate we were that he wore ours.

Doubtless Steve Yzerman is befuddled by the response his departure from the ice is evoking. That's part of his charm. In a day and age of entitlement, he not only acted devoid of ego, but was embarrassed when he received the acclaim he deserved. But it's important that his fans have this chance to relive the great moments he provided to us, because it helps take the sting out of the moment we all knew we would face someday but dreaded nonetheless.

On to the links. We start with the great Wings blog Abel to Yzerman, which has some screenshots to capture this moment in time. Also, they've got some great pictures -- Stevie with Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay and Scotty Bowman at the retirement press conference.

The Detroit Free Press weighs in on the retirement -- and reprints an interview with him months after he was drafted in 1983.

EJ Hradek from gives us the historical perspective, with his Top 10 memories of The Captain.

Hradek's colleague Scott Burnside sums up the good times and the bad times.

Eric Adelson's recent ESPN THE MAGAZINE article, available to ESPN Insider subscribers, sums up the aura of the man.

While numbers don't do the man justice, they are jaw-dropping nonetheless.

Fans everywhere are paying their respects.

On the Wings is a blog that I have followed for quite a while now, and they rose to the occasion as I knew they would. Here's a look at some of Yzerman's greatest moments. And here's a comprehensive career history courtesy of the equally outstanding blog Behind the Jersey. The "Heart of a Champion" post is great as well.

The official NHL site summed up his impact on the game very well.

TSN gives a nice roundup of information.

What a great shot.

And Gretzky and Lemieux? They clearly both knew that Yzerman should have been rated with them in the public's mind.

To sum up once again: thanks for more than two decades of service to the team, Stevie Y, and good luck in the front office.