The Fischler Report: 9/6/21

NHL skaters primed to go to the Olympics. Jesperi Kotkaniemi heads to Carolina. Syracuse Crunch owner speaks. Brian Boyle gets another shot.

NHL IN THE OLYMPICS -- WHAT IT ALL MEANS

We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries. Deputy NHL Commissioner Bill Daly.

Peace -- it's wonderful.

The National Hockey League, the NHL Players' Association and the International Ice Hockey Federation have not been the best of friends for years. 

Now they're pals and NHL participation in the Olympics seals what amounts to a neat NHL-NHLPA-IIHF peace treaty.

Any event that couples unity among these respective heavyweights cannot be dismissed as anything but a YAY! situation.

Thus, the decision to have the NHL participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Games hosted by China has its virtuous side. 

The theory, "Best On Best" makes sense. The possibility -- though greatly exaggerated -- of "growing the game" through the Olympics is fine and dandy, depending on how significant the growth. We shall see about that.

But there's a cogent point that simply cannot be overlooked although it naturally was overshadowed by the ecstatic reaction of union members who lobbied so hard for a trip to Beijing.

Health, guys, health.

That's the overriding factor. Health over wealth explains a very, very important addition to the agreement. Check it out, please.

The agreement allows for the possibility of a later decision to withdraw in the event evolving Covid-19 conditions are deemed by the NHL and NHL Players' Association to render participation to be impractical or unsafe.

We hope, of course, that once and for all the pandemic will be eliminated. But the reality is that there are significant health issues which the NHL is monitoring to the utmost; and that is a wise thing.

No way that NHL participation was an easy decision for the league's high command. 
The Olympic break -- from February 3-22 -- comes at the very heart of the season; a prelude to the hearty playoff gallop.

It's the height of the NHL's melodramatic homestretch when arenas draw capacity crowds. This produces sustainable income not likely to be matched by Olympic participation. 

Tearing out the guts of a season is painful to see the least; but that's the price ownership and fans have to pay.

For that reason, ownership never enthusiastically embraced Olympic participation and I've backed them on this from the get-go.

But what's done is done and now we should extract the most enjoyment out of what looms as a thrilling "Best On Best" tournament.

My hope is that the health situation, world-wide, is satisfactory enough for The Games to be played.


THE CONTROVERSIAL SIGNING OF KOTKANIEMI

The two wisest comments made in the wake of Jesperi Kotkaniemi becoming a Cane -- and not a Canadien -- came via the rival general managers.

On the Habs side, Marc Bergevin refused to pay crazy money for the fleet Finn and simply said: "Carolina used the tools available and we accept that decision."  (Fair enough.)

Canes commander-in-chief Don Waddell explained: "Jesperi has been on our radar since his Draft year. He'll flourish in (coach) Rod Brind'Amour's system and culture." (Also fair enough.)

In Montreal cry-baby columnists can moan 'til the cows come home that Carolina's move was "vengeful" -- a getting even kind of thing, re the Sabastian Aho offer sheet of yesteryear. 

Which only goes to show that on Ste. Catherine Street West one can be absurd on top of absurd. (Ergo: Sacre bleu!)

Bergevin figured that Jes wasn't worth keeping at that crazy cost and Waddell counters, "He'll be an important piece of what we're building for years to come."

The Canadiens wasted no time cashing in by acquiring The Prince of Palos, Illinois -- Christian Dvorak -- the ex-Arizona center who'll fit snugly in the momentary gap left by Kotkaniemi's exit. Ergo: no gap at all.

In return the Coyotes cash in with Montreal's first-rounder in 2022 and second-rounder in 2024. 

What this all means is that Bergevin lost little -- if anything -- of his offense that took Montreal to the Cup Final. Dvorak actually could be a better player in the upcoming season than The K-Man.

Meanwhile, Carolina can surely be regarded as a Stanley contender; more so now than ever.

That does not mean the Canes are better than The Champs. That will be decided in the marathon schedule ahead of us, and thereafter. 

P.S. If you think the Canes are going a bit too far paying The K-Man $6,100.015 for the new season, how about those ferocious Flyers and mystical left wing Joel Farabee.

Philly is dishing the Syracuse-born-and bred wunderkind  a six-year, $30 million pact. (Just curious; is this because Jovial Joel helped Philly not make the playoffs?)


HEADLINE: AN IMPORTANT DECISION FOR ALL TO NOTE

THE JIVE: Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon has made a gutsy to decision in terms of the Covid situation and how his club will handle it. One of the true wise men of our game -- among many, many others -- Dolgon is placing health first. 

This has been the Gary Bettman-Bill Daly theme since our lives changed with the onset of Covid. Dolgon's as well. Read on and understand his decision:

OK. Let’s get the reason for this opinion piece on the table now.

Our Syracuse Crunch recently determined that any fan (12 and older) attending a game at the Upstate Medical University Arena this season must be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

To be honest, the decision, for us, was an easy one to make. And I state that knowing it wasn’t going to be popular and supported by everyone. No action ever is.

But we strongly believe that it’s the right thing to do.

Now I’m not a politician and I’m certainly not a scientist. I’m just a hockey team owner and, more importantly to me, a father of five and grandfather to three.

So during the decision-making process, which ultimately led us to mandatory vaccinations, I let the Dad in me – and a whole lot of common sense – make the call.

Unfortunately, since day one, the vaccine has become more of a political issue than one about health and safety.  And the media, because as we know controversy drives ratings, continues to fuel the fire as it best serves their specific audiences. And when you toss in “expert” reporting on all types of social media platforms, well you have a real mess of information and a helluva lot of misinformation to digest.

When we were forced to shut down our season in March of 2020, no one could have anticipated we’d still be in the midst of this pandemic 19 months later. Heck, we never expected to play a shortened 2020-21 season in front of no fans. But we did.

The health and safety of our community, fans, players and staff has always been our number one priority.  And it always will be.

That’s why when we were permitted to put a minimum number of people in the stands late last season we opted against it. That’s why instead of using a cheaper but much less reliable rapid COVID test on our players, coaches and trainers, we chose the more expensive and more accurate PCR test -- every day of the season.

And maybe that’s why, unlike several other teams, our organization was not responsible for the cancellation of any games.  And our players were able to practice and develop in a safe setting.

Honestly, that’s what it comes down to: Creating the safest possible environment for everyone.

We’re certainly not naive. We know that being fully vaccinated does not ensure you won’t catch COVID. I’ve got family members and friends who have, but thankfully only suffered a slight head cold and a day or two of discomfort.

But we do know for sure, and there is no debating this, that the vast majority of those on ventilators or losing their lives have not been vaccinated. And that’s a terrible shame.

Over the past few days since our announcement, we have had some season ticket holders opt out of their seats because of our vaccine mandate. Almost all have communicated they’d be back if and when the policy changes.  And we respect that.

Not surprisingly we’ve had a few individuals (who claim to be ticket holders but we can’t find them anywhere in our system) who’ve taken the low road and used social media platforms to not only attack the team but also the many fans who have applauded our decision. It’s unfortunate, but not unexpected.

So to our fans, who we so looking forward to seeing in the arena after way too much time away, I leave you with this:

We want to keep you safe.

We want you to have peace-of-mind knowing we have created the most secure environment possible.

We are planning for an exciting season much like the ones you’ve enjoyed since pro hockey came back to Syracuse in 1994.  And this may very well be the best one yet.

Together we will get through this stronger and better than ever.

Let’s go Crunch!


HEADLINE: ANOTHER CHANCE FOR BRIAN BOYLE

THE JIVE: If any big-leaguer over the years has been a poster boy for perseverance and grim determination, Brian Boyle is it. At age 36, The Big Guy believes he has the goods to help a hockey club; in this case the Penguins.

Brian Burke-Ron Hextall have signed the BB Gun to a pre-season tryout contract. (Let's hope he makes the grade.)