Jim Kelley
Thursday December 11th, 2008

I have a confession to make here and I don't think I'm alone in my little "problem" -- I don't always follow a doctor's advice.

Oh, it's not that I don't try to lose a few pounds now and then or get a little more exercise. I certainly listen when my doctor says that if I keep on the path I'm on now, I'm destined to start asking him about any of the 8,000 or so pills that pharmaceutical companies suggest I inquire about being "right for me."

Given that tendency, I thought I might try to see the NHL from a doctor's point of view. So I'm putting on the white coat, sitting in the big chair, and pushing Dr. Phil off to an intervention with Britney Spears so that you, dear reader, can have a session with Dr. Jim.

Hello Dr. Jim: I've been sitting out the first quarter of the season trying to determine which teams in the Eastern Conference have the best chance of a) paying me a boatload of money in my twilight years AND b) affording me the best chance of winning a Stanley Cup, something I've never even played for, let alone won, in a long and somewhat distinguished NHL career. Yet, here we are closing in on Christmas and, assuming I even want to play, I still can't figure out where to sign. Can you help? -- Regards, Mats Sundin

My dear, dear boy, we all get old. It's inevitable. We also all have difficulty trying to remember things like why we do what we do and what we intend to do about it if we actually remember. Essentially it's called senior moment syndrome and obviously you've got a bad case.

First off, you have to decide, or at least try and remember, that you are or were a hockey player. Once you get that straightened out, you have to decide or at least try and remember why you got into this hockey playing business. Was it about playing and the love of the game? Or was it, and is it, about money and cherry-picking a team so that your exit plan goes like a fairy tale where there isn't too much travel, be it by pumpkin coach or first-class corporate charter?

There is no pill for that, just as there's no certainty in picking a Cup team before June, let alone Christmas. My advice would be to ask your personal physician if shutting the heck up is right for you. If it is, let's give the same prescription to your agents and the countless media members who somehow think your every waking moment is of interest to anyone. Then strike a deal with the Rangers.

At least in New York you might have a shot at being in the playoffs, and if it all goes south early, the city's sporting scene is so huge that unless you're caught outside the gates of Madonna's apartment, no one will ever notice that your comeback proved to be too little too late. If, however, you and the Rangers win the whole thing, you get to ride in a convertible down the Canyon of Heroes and, if A-Rod is out of town, have your choice of blondes with whom to ride while waving at the crowd.

To paraphrase the words of ex-New Yorker Sean Avery, that might be dallying with used goods, but at least you won't be suspended, miss a paycheck or have to join Mr. Avery on the anger management couch with Dr. Phil.

Hey Dr. Jim: I'm getting this constant pain in my backside. My partner, Len Barrie, thinks it's a case of Melroseitis. I keep hearing Barry Melrose on TV saying he hopes my team "loses every game." It's like I'm being stuck with a voodoo pin every time he opens his mouth. What should I do? -- Oren Koules, proprietor, Tampa Bay Lightning

Normally I'd recommend taking a valium and chilling, but I no longer am a paid spokesman for that particular product. So I say get a lawyer. You are paying the coach you fired after 16 games his full salary, but there are conditions inherent in that agreement and one of them is that he doesn't make the kinds of disparaging remarks that are causing you and your team such pain in the posterior region. Have your attorney tell Motormouth Melrose that if doesn't swallow the poison pills of his public remarks, it will cost him his $2.4 million. That should should ease your pain.

Dear Dr. Jim: I think I'm having trouble with my hearing. Every time I hear Buffalo Sabres minority owner Larry Quinn telling fans the team is not being sold, I also hear him saying that if the right offer comes along, the team could very well be sold. A publication in Buffalo, WNY Hockey Magazine, reported this week that the team is in discussions regarding a sale, but Quinn keeps denying it at the same time he's saying it could happen. Meanwhile I don't hear a thing out of owner Tom Golisano's mouth. Am I an idiot or just losing my hearing? --Joe Whathesay, Buffalo NY

HELLO JOE: (Sorry about that capitalization shout; just a little doctor humor). It's not you. You see, the Sabres, according to Quinn, are always sort of for sale, just not in negotiations regarding a sale.

That might seem odd to you, but the franchise needed to make that distinction because the NHL has a newly-adopted little rule about full disclosure. It came into play after one of the more recent Nashville debacles when it was learned -- reportedly much to the surprise of Gary Bettman -- that there were odd financial arrangements between now-bankrupt minority owner William "Boots" Del Biaggio and two other owners -- Phil Anshutz of the Kings and Craig Leipold of the Wild (formerly of the Predators) -- both of whom appear to have provided loans to Del Biaggio to purchase his share of the Preds. A little technicality that essentially made them part-owners of two teams at once.

The rule means an owner like AEG (Kings) must submit to the league every one of the arenas it manages that also serve as home to an NHL club, such as Jobing.com where the Coyotes roam and the Sprint Center in Kansas City where, according to reports in the Nashville Tennessean, Del Biaggio intended to move the Preds. The same is required of Jeremy Jacobs, who owns the Boston Bruins and Delaware North, the Buffalo-based arena concessions company with business throughout the league.

According to a report in Sports Business Journal by Tripp Mickle (Nov. 21, 2008): "All 30 of the league's clubs have complied with the new rule since it was instituted in late September, said league sources who spoke anonymously because of the privacy of the new policy."

If that's the case, it explains a lot regarding the statement from Quinn after the WNY Hockey Magazine story: "We are not in negotiations to sell the team and as we have stated in the past, we will never entertain discussions to move the team out of Buffalo."

Leaving aside the fact that the story -- by way of full disclosure, yours truly was the author -- never said the owners were considering moving, the intriguing remark was the part about not being "in negotiations" and it might explain a lot.

You see, under the new rules, not only would the Sabres be obliged to inform the league and Jacobs -- who lent them some $30 million in construction funds in return for the concession rights in Buffalo's HSBC Arena -- that they might be speaking to someone about selling, they would also be obligated to "notify the league when they begin a sales procedure." This requirement was put in because, as Mickle points out, "The league has often found out about potential team sales through the press, but in the future, owners will be expected to alert the league as they begin to put together a sales pitch."

If the Sabres were to admit that the WNYH report was true, they might also have to tell the commissioner that they perhaps violated the newly-instituted rule. That could be a problem as Bettman went on record after the story broke as saying that he knows nothing about an impending sale and therefore the story is, as far as he knows, "unfounded."

If the story is indeed unfounded, then the commissioner is right regarding the "no sale" part of his statement. But if the story is correct and the author as well as the publisher and the owner of WNYH are standing by it, then either the commissioner is lying or a certain party hasn't been following the full disclosure rules. That could lead to fines, sanctions and perhaps even a legitimate blocking of the sale; hence the very carefully crafted statements that there are no talks about a sale, but the Sabres could, if the right offer is there, be sold.

So, Joe. Can you hear me now?

The Doctor is no longer in.

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