TRUTH & RUMOURS
1. LEAVING LAS VEGAS: It was good to get back in the Great White North late Sunday night after spending New Years in Nevada. There was a lot going on in Sin City, particularly on Saturday with concussed Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel inexplicably playing blackjack at Planet Hollywood the day before his team's home game against the Steelers, and singer Chris Brown being charged with assault at a party at the Palms. I'm happy to report we were nowhere near either situation. Perhaps Johnny Football wanted to get out of Cleveland while his Coach and GM were being fired?
But it'll be nice to be back in the SportsCage on Monday and discuss all of these things plus the latest on the Saskatchewan Roughriders. (There's some Rider news further down in this column). I was also able to hook up with Rider great Ray Elgaard in Summerlin, NV for a doozy of an interview which will air Monday evening in the Cage on 620 CKRM.
2. THE LATEST ON THE NHL IN LAS VEGAS: The large bronze structure in the bottom left of the above photo is the brand new Las Vegas Arena which is set to officially open on April 7 with a concert featuring Las Vegas band The Killers with special guest Wayne Newton. If you know the Las Vegas Strip at all, you'll notice the arena is situated on Frank Sinatra Drive just west of New York, New York (on the right) and south of the Monte Carlo.
Prospective Las Vegas NHL team owner Bill Foley said on the weekend he expects to know within "30 to 60 days" if his expansion application - which was officially filed to the NHL last June - will move ahead. In last week's column I noted how much this process has been delayed and a story in Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal described the situation as "complex".
From what I've gathered in discussions with Las Vegas and NHL people over the weekend, this is my prediction: Foley and his Las Vegas group will be granted an expansion franchise this spring to begin play in the 2017-2018 NHL season. The delay has been caused by the uncertainty surrounding the Florida Panthers franchise (which has now been settled), and the arena squabbles of the Arizona Coyotes (which also seem to have been worked out).
However I'm expecting only Las Vegas will get a franchise, while Quebec City and the Quebecor bid will not. Here's why: NHL owners are eager to divide up Las Vegas's $500-million US franchise fee however they're not as anxious to divy up television rights fees with an extra two teams.
Just because Quebec City has built a brand new NHL-calibre arena doesn't necessarily mean they'll be awarded a team (i.e. Saskatoon). Add to the fact Quebec's high income tax rate, the weakening Canadian dollar and the fact Quebec City would be the NHL's smallest market, and you start to see why Las Vegas is far more attractive to the NHL than Quebec City if they only plan to add one team.
Don't worry about the NHL having an odd number of teams at 31 because when the Nashville Predators joined the NHL in 1997-98, they were the 27th team for a time and it worked out just fine.
Why am I so interested in this entire situation? Because I'm a hockey fan, a sports business fanatic, have gotten to know Bill Foley, and above all else, it gives me something to do in Las Vegas while my wife spends days on end shopping.
And as we're fortunate enough to be able to do on a frequent basis, we were in the right place at the right time. The main event on the card was a UFC welterweight title fight between belt-holder Robbie Lawler and the challenger, Carlos Condit. It started off as a defensive struggle but the fifth round is being regarded as the greatest round in UFC history as the two just sat back and launched haymakers with the odd leg kick thrown in. It was five straight minutes of pure mayhem. The MMA world went nuts with this fight! In the end, Lawler successfully defended his title on a judges' decision which came down to a single vote! On Sunday, Joe Rogan blasted the UFC for their out-of-date scoring system.
The whole event helped me out greatly in my role back here in Regina. On November 14, I was in the ring to announce Regina's first-ever professional MMA event with Saturday Night Fights at the Conexus Arts Centre and on March 12 I'll provide the play-by-play of Prestige Fight Club's Queen City Coronation at the Orr Centre on the Fight Network and Access.
4. GETZLAF BACK?: Two sources have informed me the Saskatchewan Roughriders plan to have veteran slotback Chris Getzlaf back with the club in 2016 in the new Chris Jones era, however the Roughriders have not substantiated the tip. All I've been told is that the club has approached Getzlaf's representatives at Gil Scott Sports Management and, as of this weekend, nothing's been agreed upon. However my feeling is that Getzlaf will be willing to come back at a salary that's workable for both sides and that's great news.
5. TWO MEN DOWN: It was leaked on Facebook over the weekend and later confirmed that Weston Dressler got engaged over the holiday season so congratulations to Weston and his fiance! There's a lot of broken hearts with female Rider fans over that one ... And Stampeders quarterback Bo-Levi Mitchell set social media abuzz with his New Years nuptials to wife Madi in the state of Washington. Congrats to all!
6. ESTEVAN KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: The Estevan Bruins announced Saskatchewan Roughriders boss Chris Jones will be the guest speaker at the team's annual fundraising dinner on January 28. Jones won't be doing a ton of public speaking and appearances this winter so this is an event you want want to miss. Joining Jones at the podium will be former NHL'er and SJHL Hall of Famer Alan May, who has the distinction of becoming the first ECHL player to sign in the NHL. For tickets, contact the Estevan Bruins office.
7. A BAKER'S DOZEN: Rider fans were able to get a glimpse of negotiation list quarterback Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma in Thursday's Orange Bowl however his Sooners got rolled by Clemson at SunLife Stadium in Miami. What were your thoughts of his performance? Scruffy compared Mayfield to Stamps quarterback Drew Tate and I got the feeling Mitchell thought that was a bad thing. However I saw the same things too and while he had his struggles at times, Mayfield displayed a tremendous amount of raw talent. His calling card is his fiery demeanor and gunslinger mentality and it's certain he'll get a shot in the pro's no matter whether it's in Regina or somewhere else.
|The two Rod Pedersens|
So, please give me a follow at my new Twitter handle @rodpedersen
9. FEEL THE RUSH!: Saskatchewan is undefeated in 2016 after Saskatoon's Rush opened the NLL season Saturday night with a 10-8 come-from-behind victory at Calgary in a game shown nationally on TSN3.
I've gotta say the Rush is doing everything right because everywhere I turn on social media, I see the Rush whether it be details of the national broadcast, charitable efforts and even their "Name The Mascot" contest.
They've got some pretty nice swag too as the website InsideLacrosse.com noted, "Saskatchewan's uniforms look like energy drinks". Will you be buying any? Don't forget the Rush's home-opener is Friday, January 15 against the Vancouver Stealth however I'll be unable to attend due to commitments with the SHA's Hockey Day In Saskatchewan festivities in Wadena, SK.
10. NO CANADA: And finally Team Canada reluctantly returned home empty-handed on Sunday from the World Junior Championship in Finland after Saturday's 6-5 quarterfinal loss to the host team. I was unable to watch it because you can't find TSN anywhere in Las Vegas but did manage to listen on radio and colour commentator Jack Miller on TSN Radio labelled Canada as a "house of cards".
Not surprisingly, Hockey Canada President Tom Renney defended coach Dave Lowry and his staff and basically said it was the players who didn't get it done. The furor across Canada at the loss was heart-warming in a way, because our nation expects to win every hockey tournament it's in but that's just not realistic. If you took ALL the best junior-aged players in the world and put them in this tournament, Canada likely would've come out on top (i.e. Connor McDavid and company).
But the best draft-elligible player in the world right now plays for the USA and his name is Auston Mathews. Now we'll have to sit back and see how he fares as Monday is semifinal day in Finland and the matchups are USA versus Russia and Sweden up against Finland.
As you can see, 2016 has gotten off to a fantastic start.
THAT'S ALL FOR TODAY! SEE YOU IN THE CAGE