Bringing an Ice Rink to Frostburg…Hopefully

You have to start somewhere, and I figured I might as well get the momentum going.

Now that I’m settled in at Frostburg State University as an employee, I feel comfortable being involved with projects that makes the campus buzz. It helps strengthen my connection to the campus and community and gives me something else to think about at work.

I’m seeking a grant at FSU to bring a seasonal outdoor ice rink to the campus. There are a lot of moving parts, but I won’t stop until it comes.

If I don’t get a grant that could be awarded this fall, then I have to wait until next June to hear the results of another grant.

What you’re here for at this blog is to be involved the grassroots movement.

I need volunteers for construction, operations and acquisition of donated ice skates for skate rental. I need to know more about the folks who will use this. I primarily want students, faculty and staff to use this. Though if it’s cold enough in December and January between semesters, I’d see about opening it up to the community.

Here’s what I can tell you:

  • The rink will be unrefrigerated. If you know someone with money to buy a 12-ton chiller and a better rink system, tell me. But we’re going au natural.
  • The rink will either be 48′ x 96′, 60’x 80′ or 50’x 100′
  • That size depends on location. I’m still in talks trying to find an agreeable location.

This both excites and scares me. The scary part is not knowing what Mother Nature will do. Two winters ago was frigid as can be. Last winter dumped over three feet of snow.

As well as hoping to acquire enough skates for people who need to rent skates.

The exciting part is seeing this rink filled, seeing people enjoy ice skating and hockey in Allegany County again. I don’t know too many students at FSU who will make the drive to Wisp Resort in McHenry just for ice skating in the winter. This helps make it more accessible for them or else that’s an 80-minute roundtrip drive plus at least 60-90 minutes of skating. That’s a three-plus hour excursion that’ll be hard to do on a school night. And a lot of students don’t have cars up here either.

I hope to share more news soon about the progress of this project.

In the meantime, take this survey about your opinions concerning an ice rink at FSU:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VTDRVQL

And if you’d like to help or donate to the cause, please leave a comment.

 

 

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Responsibility in Blogging

This is sort of a PSA to any hockey blogger who cares to read. It’s some inside journalism stuff, so feel free to move along if this minutiae isn’t your lede.

Blogging is often a place to provide added analysis, arguments, pleas and an aggregated potpourri of the internets so you’re kept in the loop. Sometimes that requires actually talking to someone to enhance the story.

Sports blogging has found a way to find 10,000 niches in an individual sport or league, whether it’s the jerseys and logoswhat refs are officiating the game  or strictly how the farm system is faring.

Several of those blogs mix quantitative, qualitative and opinionated analysis. Some on a higher level than other.

Most sports blogs hone in on their favorite team, though.

There can only be so many fan blogs that aggregate what the mainstream media or team embedded media reports only to be “enhanced” with their own roasting hot takes. Some focus on the mix of People magazine meet TMZ aspect of the team but at least use its credentials to gather original reporting  to enhance the blog (and sometimes photos/videos) on their slice of hockey life reporting.

Blogs often critique player performances, propose trade scenarios and even have the open letter—a definite no-no on editorial pages because it’s basically a column. Don’t try to cheat.

Most of that can exist in somewhat of a vacuum, but certain blogs may need a question answered to give a fair analysis. You know, acknowledge that someone from the organization you are writing about is affected in all of this. Or that we can’t pontificate from the keyboard and may the internet kingdom hear all. (This entry is one of those pontificating blogs.)

I ran into that issue recently about the Washington Capitals decision to move its equipment sale and Fan Fest from a Saturday to a weekday.

The basis of the blog was going to be that popularity comes at a price and it’s difficult to make everyone happy. The solutions are few to make it better for everyone, including those working the event.

I needed to ask the organization why the move was made. The reason could be very different from what I thought the reasons would be and I’d have to start from scratch. You cannot assume what the answer is. That’s how you get sued.

However, I was asked not to contact the Capitals media relations department on behalf of the credentialed blog because they wanted to keep a positive relationship with the team. If you fairly offer critiques about player performance and front office decisions on players, coaches and prospects, then the marketing and fan experience items are fair game. Every event is a money-making opportunity for the team, even if admission is free.

Some aspects managed crowds better by allowing season-ticket members priority access to certain activations and the equipment sale.

I could have contacted the organization myself, but while my track record and reputation is good in several journalism circles, the Capitals media relations department has no clue who I am. Most Caps fans don’t know who I am either on here, or that they come here for news. This site is a hobby. Other sites were opportunities, even though as a professional journalist I should not be working for free, for anyone.

I asked the Caps PR twitter account about the change but I didn’t receive a response. It was a long shot but contacting them that way would get things in the open. Anything beyond that, phone calls, emails, I’d leave for something I’d be getting paid for.

Here’s what I would have asked:

  • Why was the Fan Fest and equipment sale moved from a Saturday to a Wednesday?
  • Depending on the answer, then I’d follow up with, Was it because the event tends to be crowded, verging on overcrowding, each year? (It’s held at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, where reminders are frequent to not stand or sit in the bleacher stairways because of the fire code.)
  • Did the Metro construction on the Blue/Orange lines happening that week affect the decision? (It would have proved troublesome on a weekend to get there for some fans.)
  • Is this a one-time decision or likely be repeated in future years?
  • Do you keep track of the crowd or attendance at Fan Fest? Has it increased or decreased or stayed the same each year?
  • If crowding continued to be an issue, would returning the Capitals Convention help lessen the crowd at Fan Fest?
  • Regardless, are there any plans or talk that the Capitals Convention to return? What would it take for that event to return?

That helps cover a lot of areas, helps build rapport with an organization giving you access and helps form an informed opinion. You don’t want to risk a libel lawsuit or even be forced to write a correction or retraction because you didn’t ask the source for their side of the story.

The organization can chose to not answer any and all requests (keep records), or answer some but not all, but it still helps with building a story. With as many national and international media properties cover NHL teams, a blogger or freelance request could seem like a headache to them that they can brush off. But you never know how many clicks certain posts can produce, so at times you have to at least acknowledge the request.

I blame some of my journalism brethren for a habit by columnists to creep into blogging. I’ve seen too many columnists in daily papers, mainly at smaller circulations, hypothesize and place blame on someone or something without asking the person they’re hurling suggestions (or blame, maybe even praise) to in 550 words. The best practice in columns is to ask that source of the issue what they think, even if it leads to an awkward conversation, to get a complete view of the issue. Your thoughts may change, maybe backing down from what you originally thought, but it makes a better piece.

Your source continues to trust you. Your readers continue to trust you. And that’s not something you can easily reacquire after it’s lost.

North Central Recreation Center to be used to ‘maximum potential’

Expect to see more activity at the North Central Recreation Center’s ice rink in 2016.

New General Manager Steve St. John e-mailed me after seeing my message to Cambria County Commissioners of suggestions for activities at the rink saying that the community ice rink will be busier.

“I would like to tell you things will be handled much differently going forward,” St. John wrote. “I plan to utilize the facility to its maximum potential. You should see changes as soon as I can make a few moves after the first of the year.”

I’d like to celebrate but will reserve judgment when I see the results. He at least seems determined and receptive to suggestions and change, which is partially why he was brought in to take over. The other reason being SMG lost its contract to an Idaho arena to a competing company, so St. John was effectively without a job there.

 

Is Anybody Home at North Central Recreation Center?

ncrc_exterior_004July 4, 2017 Update:

It might have taken a little longer, but full credit to NCRC turning things around.

The rink now has a dedicated website, northcentralrec.com that has an easy-to-read schedule.

The ice slots are filling up, and I’m exited to see regular pick-up hockey scheduled.

What do you make of the changes?


2016 Updates: 
Operations have sorted themselves out since this original article. The NCRC will be booked to pretty much its maximum because Planet Ice closed is scheduled to close on July 31.

Before that, the rink’s operator installed a new manager, who told me changes will be coming and it will be fully utilized. That was before Planet Ice’s closure.

 

Original:

Yes, that’s a legitimate question you have to ask yourself about the North Central Recreation Center near Johnstown, Pa.

Is anybody home?

Likely not.

I debated writing about a place I haven’t visited yet, but when the barrier of finding out a schedule becomes so great, it forced my hand.

I finally received a response Nov. 19 after I tried calling and emailing the rink and its management company headquarters in the spring. I gave up during the summer and tried again this week and received a response the next day.

Let’s cut to the chase: A government-owned recreation center whose management is outsourced to a private company is not open for business every day.

For a better part of the year—and the better part of each day—it sits idle.

A manager confirmed to me in an email that yes, the rink is not open daily. She said in a follow-up response that they financially cannot run both the War Memorial Arena and NCRC full-time. Part of the reason to blame is that “hockey leagues at the school level have decreased.”

It’s an indoor rink, so it’s not like they’re battling the elements.

As much maligned I found the efforts at Morgantown Ice Arena battling technology issues from a decade ago by using technology from 30 years ago, the North Central Recreation Center in Ebensburg, Pa., somehow makes it worse.

I will give Morgantown this: after visiting the rink, I found that they are so busy with programs for youth, college and adult hockey plus figure skating and public skate, there isn’t any room left for other programs. Morgantown needs a second sheet of ice, more staff and a technology upgrade, along with some customer service improvements.

The North Central Recreation Center, however, is managed by a conglomerate called SMG. They manage some impressive stadiums and arenas, mostly minor league facilities save for a NBA arena here and there plus Soldier Field in Chicago and Everbank Field in Jacksonville.

You might know them better as Spectacor Management Group, or maybe its older name, Comcast Spectacor before it broke off from Comcast. That’s the arena management group based in a Philadelpia suburb founded by Flyers owner Ed Snider, who sold his stake in 1997. Today, hotel company Hyatt and concession operator Aramark run the arena management company.

I just can’t see how a company that large can allocate enough resources to run a recreation center with care. It’s beginning to show in Cambria County, where SMG also runs the storied War Memorial Arena in Johnstown—now Hockeyville USA.

You’re open, when?

Look, everyone knows how much money it takes to run an ice rink. The utility costs to keep rink cold, the lobby and locker rooms heated and the showers run isn’t cheap.

It’s certainly possible that when this giant company looked at the books and what they could schedule for ice time, they would lose less money by closing the rink for most of the day to avoid paying staff to stand around with empty ice.

That is so dire, I wonder what keep the rink open at all. Why are they not being more aggressive bringing events to the rink?

My curiosity into what exactly goes on at the rink started where I always begin: looking for the schedule.

Schedule of Events page  lists public skate times and then pricing for parties. And if you want to book a party or get more information, the page says to call between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

This is what that message signals to me: We want your business but only if you can call during a three-hour window during the busiest time of your weekend, likely during a birthday party we’re trying to prepare for anyway.

The amenities page also shows that “Will be developing learn-to-skate and hockey programs.” Who knows when this was last updated. I guess they really didn’t need to update it since they don’t exist?

In the navigation bar, an ice rental link lands you on a Google spreadsheet that gives more insight.

You’ll see public skate times along with father and son stick and shoot, plus practice and game times for high school and youth hockey teams for every single day. Well, every day the rink is open.

Take another look at the spreadsheet and you’ll notice that most days have one event listed. Sometimes two or three. Yes, they are listing private ice rentals, too. If this spreedsheet is accurate, how the hell is a rink operating and making money hosting one event a day?

Be different

Public recreation facilities being managed by a private or non-government not-for-profit agency isn’t uncommon.

Other places, whether it’s a ball field or golf course or rowing facility, have to balance opening facilities for public use and creating revenue through booking events or leagues or camps to offset expenses. The philosophy and justification can get touch with open space parks.

For ice rinks, if you are managing a public ice rink, you ought to be designing programs that are open for admission to the general public rather than closing the facility completely for part of the day.

That means going beyond public skate and father-son stick time.

Broomball, drop-in figure skating, speed skating, drop-in hockey, stick time that’s not being limited to fathers and sons, which does nothing to be inclusive to girls. Or mothers for that matter.

The manager simply gave me that the going rate for drop-in is $165, implying that I’m going to have to rent the ice.

Instead, the rink is looking for its traditional revenue streams and packs it in when they naturally don’t come their way.

Social Media Communication

The social media game is just as weak.

Points for some effort in at least posting reminders about the schedule, but it’s always the same events unless they need to promote some event at the War Memorial.

When a customer has a question, there is never a response either. Parents asking who to contact for birthday parties, how much admission is, or asking if there will be a winter session for learn to skate.

Then there’s this confusing proposition from Sept. 22 where the rink says come on out for Learn To Skate and Learn To Play Hockey from 5 to 6 p.m. … Uh, you really shouldn’t have both groups on ice, even if you’re splitting them up on half ice. This sounds like a disaster.

Scrolling back to June 8, the page advertises that they had ice in until August and were still trying to get people to buy ice. And that’s it.

I mean, I sure hope they had camps or clinics booked for the summer, being the bread and butter of summer revenue. But nothing else?

There was no message saying the ice is down when that time came and no message that the rink reopened. Just simple, simple stuff.

Contract woes

buildingAt least I have an answer to why SMG is running a county-owned facility. Cambria County government was desperate to keeping the War Memorial Arena afloat and a study said the arena should be operated by a private company that would also help keep the Johnstown Chiefs in town, according to a 2009 story in The Tribune-Democrat.  As part of the deal, SMG would also operate the North Central Recreation Center, according to the report.

The ECHL Chiefs left town anyway, and instead a mid-level junior team Johnstown Tomahawks came in. And the former director of the War Memorial was sentenced to prison for fraud, according to the paper.

It’s unclear when the contract with SMG ends. One report says it ended in summer 2014, but an editorial in August says the contract is being discussed now.

At any rate, the Johnstown newspaper advocated for a private company to continue to operate the NCRC, but didn’t endorse SMG to be that company:

If the commissioners and arena authority truly believe SMG is failing to meet its obligations, then they should take steps to find another private contractor to take SMG’s place.

The War Memorial can’t go backward to the days of an authority-hired manager controlling all facets of operation with no checks and balances– and no corporate structure that expects profitability.

SMG is on notice that its work and the results it is showing are being questioned.

The editorial also visits the fuzzy math by the company, showing that it ran a profit when it was receiving a conveniently timed bailout by the state and county to help pay for Hockeyville repairs at the War Memorial that weren’t covered by the prize money so a nationally televised NHL pre-season game could be played.

I’m sure the company will brag to commissioners that NCRC is running at a profit…because it’s closed for most of the year.

Too many rinks?

The only thing I can think to say at this point is Why does this rink exist?

I think I finally found a place where simply, there are too many ice rinks.

In Johnstown, you have the War Memorial Arena downtown. The junior team plays there and a few other youth teams play there—mainly because of the historic nature of the facility, tradition and the allure. Everyone wants to say they played in the “Slap Shot” arena. And more teams might want to play there after the Hockeyville renovations.

You also have Planet Ice, right off U.S. 219 and beside a shopping mall, about 8 miles southeast of the War Memorial.

Both of those rinks are 20 minutes south of NCRC.

Galactic Ice in Altoona is about 30 minutes east,off of Interstate 99.

The Indiana University of Pennsylvania rink is 45 minutes northeast.

All of those rinks have single sheets.

Just take Blair, Cambria and Indiana counties’ combined population, and it’s over 300,000, but spread out quite a ways in mountainous terrain and a couple valleys. The counties have challenge with finding enough higher paying jobs and a drastic decline of population in the city of Johnstown after steel and other jobs left town.

Is the rink necessary? It doesn’t sound like it.

Alternative Programming

It becomes more necessary if a few things happen.

Let’s step away from things that take boatloads of money, like attracting a ECHL team.

Can you focus on specialized programs?

Offer something the other rinks don’t.

  • Instead of stick-and-shoot and pick-up, offer a skills and drills. This isn’t a Learn To Play for people getting on the ice for a first time. The first hour is drills to improve skating, passing and shooting while the second hour is a scrimmage.
  • For the high-skill players, seek out your elite coaches or find trainers who can provide next-level instruction and difficult drills to push these players to the next level. Highly specialized individual skill training that you don’t get in competitive hockey where systems are taught more at the high school level.
  • Do the same for goaltenders by finding a goaltending coach to host goalie training sessions.
  • Partner with an institution or retired pros and become a hockey academy.
  • Spend some money and start a broomball program, starting off with pick-up broomball. It doesn’t require skates and it’s actually fun. Very popular with middle through high school students.
  • Become a site to host sled hockey for both kids and wounded veterans.
  • Advertise with U.S. Figure Skating and reach out to coaches and Olympians that your ice is available, and plenty of it. Actually, go beyond U.S. Figure Skating and advertise to other countries because Canadian and British figure skaters are even training at the Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex in Florida. Yes, there are many advantages to being in Florida, but the ice time is available here. And the ice doesn’t turn to soup.
  • Offer a Learn To Drive The Zamboni School. Several rinks do it because it’s so fun and cool. Here’s a video I did in 2011 about one such class in Laurel, Md.

 

Hail Mary

You could consider it a miracle that the War Memorial won the first Hockeyville USA contest, giving the arena hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades, possibly saving the arena.

The national spotlight surely has more calls coming in. The busier the War Memorial is, the busier NCRC can be.

So, here’s another miracle: a relocated ECHL team.

Thanks to the Hockeyville upgrades, and a new subfloor being installed in summer 2016, the community has a better chance of attracting a ECHL team. That eats up 36 nights plus ice time for morning skate and practice for the home and visiting teams.

I give this a 0.5 percent chance of happening. And be careful with what you wish for. What you want is this in addition to the Tomahawks games because the difference between the two is about 10 nights.

Or, SMG steps up its game bringing in other events and forcing more ice activities at NCRC. From scanning online, the War Memorial brought in Nancy Kerrigan’s Halloween On Ice, Long Island Medium, ZZ Top, wrastlin’, Royal Horses, a music festival, roller derby, a Slap Shot hockey tournament, Jehovah’s Witness Convention and a couple of Disney On Ice Shows. I made it as far back as May.

That’s not a busy arena and loses some events to State College and Pittsburgh, which has better venues. And maybe this signifies to the county government that despite the past issues at the arena—including a former manager being sentenced to fraud—it really should sink more money into renovating and upgrading the arena to be on an even playing field.

The more competitive the War Memorial becomes thanks to quality, the more ice-related events will be shifted to NCRC.

As you can see, there are endless solutions. They take dedication and time to develop. It’s not easy.

But it’s better than shuttering an ice rink for 20 hours a day.

NHL Veterans Getting TKO’d on PTOs

If you’re looking for feel-good stories of redemption from NHL veterans on professional tryout contracts, it’ll be a small chapter.

Only nine players on PTOs signed NHL contracts as of Monday, according to General Fanager:

  • Scotty Upshall (St. Louis)
  • Jonas Gustavsson (Boston)
  • Corey Potter (Arizona)
  • Michal Rozsival (Chicago)
  • Tomas Fleischmann (Montreal)
  • Lee Stempniak (New Jersey)
  • Steve Bernier (New York Islanders)
  • Brad Boyes (Toronto)

Let’s look at some of the notable names of the more than 85 players signed to a PTO during this offseason, according to a comprehensive list from The Hockey Writers. If those numbers are true, only 10 percent of players on a PTO signed a contract.

That number could be bumped up as Martin Havlat is working on a contract with the Florida Panthers, according to the Miami Herald’s George Richards and Scott Gomez could get something done with the St. Louis Blues, according to Andy Strickland.

[Update: Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday afternoon that Havlat will not sign with the Panthers, while Sirius XM NHL reports that Jack Skille signed with Colorado and Setoguchi, below, is signing with a Swiss league team.]

Actually, let’s construct a 23-man roster from the list because there are so damn many guys cut. We’ll leave off Havlat and Gomez giving them the benefit out the doubt.

Forwards

Curtis Glencross-Derek Roy-Devan Setoguchi

Sergei Kostitsyn- David Booth-Patrick Kaleta

Daniel Paille-Tyler Kennedy-Kirill Kabanov

Patrick Dwyer-Jack Skille-Tomas Kopecky-James Sheppard

Extra Forward: Joey Crabb

Defense

Lubomir Visnovsky-Jan Hejda

Andrej Meszaros-Sergei Gonchar

Douglas Murray-Vitaly Vishnevski

Extra D: Ryan Wilson

Goal

Ray Emery

Peter Budaj

What I see is that serviceable third-line and fourth-line shutdown forwards are being shown the door. There are plenty of younger guys available to take those spots, and some that are stuck in the bottom three because the team’s depth won’t allow them to get in the top six.

A few of those players are former snipers whose luster has worn off, some explained like Setoguchi who went through rehab to get his career on track. Others like Glencross who fell off a cliff when traded to Washington from Calgary and plummeted so much that he was released from two PTOs in this pre-season.

Overall, you’ll have a team full of checkers and grinders, doing a good job of wearing down the other team and allowing few goals.

On defense, it’s old and slow. Guys like Gonchar and Visnovsky can make your power play pretty, but keeping goals out of the net will be an issue. As much as the forwards can do, it’s a five-man unit, and the back-end is thinking offense too much.

Glance at the ages and length of time in the league, and you wonder if these guys know that they’re supposed to retire before injury makes them retire. Gonchar is 41; Visnovsky is 39; Hejda is 37 and Murray and Vishnevski are both 35. Meszaros is 29 but plays like he’s 35.

In goal, Ray Emery takes the reigns while Peter Budaj continues his career back-up role. Razor, cut from the Lightning camp after Tampa’s own goalies were coming back from injuries, would be best with a team like the Lightning where he can be sheltered by a good defense as opposed to the lineup above.

Looking at who’s available this year, you could imagine there would be a similar crop come  2017-18 when the NHL could expand to Las Vegas, or even to Quebec City.

Remember, these are just the guys who would accept a PTO.

Look at some of the other UFAs who are without a team and didn’t sign a tryout:

Dainius Zubrus, Eric Brewer, Sean Bergenheim, Olli Jokinen, Stephen Weiss, Michael Ryder and Brenden Morrow. Out of that list, Morrow showed he should be ready to sign retirement papers. Zubrus is getting there at 37 years old and 10 points in 72 games last season in New Jersey.

With the European leagues already underway, can any of these guys still find jobs playing?

ECHL targeting new and old markets

Something strange is afoot at the Circle K of professional hockey.

A head-hunting firm trying to sniff out markets for minor league teams now as the ECHL and AHL realigned to better serve parent clubs and NHL expansion being on the horizon.

The end game is to have one affiliate in each league to one NHL club. Right now the ECHL has 28 teams.

In July, the Tampa Bay Lightning are no longer a shared affiliate of the Florida Everblades, leaving it without an affiliation—at least they haven’t announced  new one yet after getting dumped so late in the summer. That move made sense in the long-term considering the Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos owns German Arena and the club.  The vote was part of a larger philosophy of ending shared clubs, according to the Naples Daily News. I still don’t understand why it wasn’t better coordinated to find the Bolts another affiliate.

In the meantime, Reno, Nev., is listed as the only future market on the ECHL’s website, but that didn’t stop the CHL merge and AHL relegations, which suddenly became future markets in some scenarios.

Reno and Las Vegas were supposed to return to play this season, but that doesn’t look possible.

A group called Hat Trick Consultants is trying its best, though, to find some suitable homes for ECHL teams.

Eastern Shore Hockey 

One of those markets were pursued before, in Salisbury, Md. A viability study is being conducted for a 6,200-seat arena with a 500-seat practice rink in Worcester County, Md., with the idea of having an ECHL hockey team as the primary tenant, according to The Daily Times.

The company behind this pitch is Hat Trick Consultants. The Dallas-based firm is tooting its horn that it’s looking for markets to build rinks in for AHL and ECHL teams, especially with Las Vegas and Quebec City needing affiliates if they are awarded NHL clubs.

The newspaper outlined the history of ECHL bids in Salisbury before, and outside of the arena portion, an ice rink is needed for that area. Salisbury is big enough for a nice-sized minor league baseball stadium for the Delmarva Shorebirds and is home to Salisbury University. The Ice Gulls have to travel to play its ACHA games at a rink in Delaware. The closest ice rink in Maryland is in Easton, Md., about an hour away. That rink is only open seasonally and as anyone from Maryland knows, that’s not the best route to go with Ocean City beach traffic. So instead they head up an hour into Delaware.

Salisbury sounds great, right? Well, that city is in Wicomico County. Worcester County is known for Ocean City—obviously a summer destination.

Hockey blog The Sin Bin spoke to Mike Barack, president of Hat Trick, about how this all plays out:

“We approached Worcester County with not only the arena plan and the idea for a team, but also development around that area,” says Barack. “Ocean City, Maryland is one of the biggest tourist spots in the United States and it could utilized much better with a new facility in the region to go along with the development plan we have put forth, as well.”

Though, with the tight cap on memberships and some geographical hurdles, where would some of these markets look at location-wise?

“We believe that the ECHL would be geographically ideal for these markets,” Barack states, “But we aren’t going to focus solely on that. These markets could be used as relocation spots for the AHL, SPHL, even USHL (Tier-1 US Junior Hockey).”

Ocean City is only Maryland’s second largest city during the summer, when you can enjoy the beach, the swimming and the ponies down the road in Assateague and Chincoteague. Restaurants significantly cut back while some close during the coldest months of the year.

I’ve never been in Ocean City in the winter, and I don’t know if I ever would want to be by the Atlantic in the freezing cold. Ocean City is filled with restaurants and bars–both chain and local mom-and-pop places–amusement parks and putt-putt courses built for warm weather. There’s not a huge jobs center, whether it’s an office complex or factory, to support year-round jobs that could provide the income to see enough of these games, despite the cheap ticket prices.

The same families that fill OC during the summer aren’t going to come back during the winter because thousands of folks drive several hours from across Maryland just to get to the beach and will be there for a weekend or more. You’re not going to get someone to come after work from Annapolis on a Wednesday night to watch goon hockey.

Being close to Ocean City doesn’t cut it during those months. You’re asking a lot of people to drive a ways away to get to this arena, even if it’s placed at the western edge of the county near Salisbury.

It ought to be in Salisbury, in Wicomico County, but the city already has an arena that could seat 4,100 for hockey, but because the public arena is not allowed by the county to sell alcohol, no pro team will want to go there. The ECHL tried before but the county would not change its laws.

Salisbury has about 30,000 people in it plus 8,600 college students at Salisbury University, making it a better population base. Ocean City’s year-round, non-seasonal population? About 7,000. That’s less than the number of students enrolled at SU.

Think about it this way—not only do you need enough people to support watching these games in the 6,200-seat arena, but that practice rink is likely going to be a public rink for adult hockey leagues, figure skating and public skate similar to how other ECHL arenas do. You’re going to need the population, income and interest to support two rinks.

Leagues at a lower level, including juniors, would call for fewer seats, naturally, but I feel like you would need an even more hockey hungry market for the type of junior team to be successful if you’re dedicating 4,000 to 6,000 seats to it.

Tier 1 is the top U.S. junior league. The city with the smallest population in the league has 58,000 people (Dubuqe, Iowa). Most of the remaining cities are 100,000-plus and 200,000-plus.

Tier 2 junior, the NAHL, has teams like the Johnstown Tomahawks where the Pennsylvania town has about 20,000 people but also has Altoona and Ebensburg close by to support the team and arena. This would be more in line of what could be on the Eastern Shore, but not if it’s in Berlin or OC.

I’m somewhat concerned that this is just an exercise in seeing what community can provide maximum tax breaks for the arena they want. It could all be a ruse for leverage against another city where they legitimately want a team but are facing issues (cough, cough, Fenton, Mo.)

What makes Maryland different is that our state has the Maryland Stadium Authority, which receives a chunk of steady funding from Maryland Lotto. That’s a larger pot of money to tap thanks to being a state-level arena-specific funding source. You don’t find that everywhere.ECHL logo

Other locations

Sin Bin also pointed to Hat Trick’s pitch at a sweet looking arena in Fenton, Mo., for ECHL that would seat the same as the Maryland rink. Fenton is a suburb of Saint Louis and has a major interstate going through it, so yeah.

Land of the former Chrysler plant is part of the proposal, but it’s also been bandied about for a St. Louis Rams stadium, another team trying to fleece cities for a taxpayer funded stadium. I just can’t see how you could have ECHL teams in St. Louis, Orlando, Charleston, Norfolk and … Ocean City, Md.

Too bad you can’t see my shocked face because the financing is questionable now for the Fenton ECHL arena because Hat Trick wants the city to own the $45 million arena and its group can run the arena, taking in the profits. Fenton is not a neighborhood of St. Louis–it is a 4,400-resident municipality, which is why local leaders are concerned, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Mayor Mike Polizzi said he did not want the city to have the responsibility of owning the arena, because many of them fail financially.

”They’re talking about 25-year bonds,” and the arena might fail before then, Polizzi said after the meeting. “It’s a major risk and burden for the city.”

“We’re a city of 4,400 including the children,” Polizzi said. “We can’t take on a project of this magnitude.”

If you ever wanted to know the equivalent of a minor league version of an Arizona Coyotes/Glendale business relationship, you found it.

In other news, Casper, Wyo., also has an arena that is finishing up expected to be used for a CHL team before the league merged with the ECHL.

Fantasy Hockey Broadcast Talent for MLBAM’s NHL Network

When news spread that MLBTV will oversee the NHLNetwork in the U.S., faithful viewers (and former ones) felt like this war of attrition of trying to find watchable programming was over.

MLBTV managed to pluck some of the best from ESPN, NBC and other properties whether full-time or part-time. Here’s a sampling of the major personalities from MLBTV:

  • Peter Gammons
  • Bob Costas
  • Harold Reynolds
  • Brian Kenny

And plenty of impressive former major leaguers including Hall-of-Famers Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, recent retiree Ryan Dempster and rising regional media stars including Kelly Nash, who covered the Tampa Bay Lightning for Fox’s Sun Sports.

The NFL Network, though managed by that league, has a solid talent line-up, too, including a local D.C. favorite of mine Dan Hellie.

The NHL Network’s line-up, at least what is officially listed, is small. That’s to be expected when you essentially have two shows. NHL Live, a simulcast radio show, and On The Fly, or whatever they decided to call the running highlights show.

Most of them are part-time and appear on other networks probably more than they do here. Former NHL2Night host Bill Pidto does work for MSG; Kathryn Tappen does plenty of work for NBCSN; Barry Melrose still has some ties to ESPN but has a much larger role at NHL.com and NHL Network and Kevin Weekes is always on.

Keep those guys and gals and build upon that.

After TSN lost the majority of its NHL games we see Craig Button on here a lot more, and more guest appearances by Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger.

It might be a little challenging now that NBCSN is plucking both TSN and ComcastSportsNet talent like Brian Boucher. And don’t bet on Jay and Dan leaving FoxSports1 so soon—or at all.

Whether full-time or part-time, who would else I like to see on the new NHL Network?

John Buccigross. Hockey fans have clamored to unleash Bucci’s Overtime Challenge but without the salary budget and production values, it was a pipe dream for the old variations of NHL Network to do this. Would he leave the Worldwide Leader like Rich Eisen, Peter Gammons, Brian Kelly, Dan Patrick and others?

We can only hope. His hockey contributions have lessened on ESPN.com over the years and his column shifted more to Cawlidge Hawkey than the pros—necessary to grow the sport more in the U.S., but it would help if ESPN broadcast more than the Frozen Four.

My gut on this one tells me he won’t come. He writes about his youngest boy Jack often as he shares his empathy and sympathy for all the sacrifices hockey parents make and unless Jack is ready for a billet home and make hockey is dream, I don’t see Bucci making the move unless he feels it will be nothing but a positive for his family—especially one with a teenager. (His oldest, Brett, has graduated from Miami University of Ohio.)

And if you ever read his column he wrote for USA Hockey magazine in 2010, you’d understand he takes pride in being more than the hockey guy. (And don’t call him the hockey guy.):

You see, I have always viewed hockey as an equal part of the ENTIRE American sports family. As a child, I hummed the music of NFL Films in my head while playing football next to my house and dreaming of becoming an NFL running back. I shot my Nerf basketball in the house with the CBS basketball theme in my head (“You’ll see the best of basketball on CBS.”), and I played whiffle ball every day the weather permitted.

There’s a lot more to that column, and you should read every word.

—Pierre LeBrun. Another ESPN guy (kinda), he’s all on the digital side only at ESPN.com and otherwise puts his time in at TSN where he’s kind of in no-man’s land with the rest of the hockey guys.

He’s a great scribe and a great TV personality and is in the upper halos of hockey journalists with scoops and breaking news. Just be sure that the network has a one Pierre only rule and don’t let McGuire in.

—Bob McKenzie. This would have to be in a part-time to featured correspondent role unless he’s really ready for a change. Not only is his insider information well sought after for pro hockey, his junior hockey knowledge is just as incredible. Unless the U.S. NHL Network bleeds over to Canada with the same production, I don’t see McKenzie heading South of the Border full-time.

You could argue it’s like stealing a Canadian institution, but when your network doesn’t have NHL rights anymore, you have to keep your options open. And he’s done that so far with regular NBCSN appearances.

—James Duthie. He brings wit, knows how to balance being newsy and humorous and is more loose than Bucci on-air. He likes to free wheel and improv a bit, to the point where you’re not sure if that’s Duthie or Ed Helms.

—Daryl Reaugh. A gem in Dallas who wants to transition to play-by-play, he deserves the national spotlightRazor is the best at turning phrases on-air. To me, he is the best color commentator out there, especially his early work on NHL ’99.

—Randy Hahn. When the San Jose Sharks needed change in the organization, they should have toyed with the roster more. Instead the broadcasting partners decided not to re-up another video game voice. He’s doing Edmonton Oilers broadcasts, but this guy. Oh this guy is an honest one.

—Alan May. Alan May has been the strongest addition to CSN Washington’s revamped pre-game and post-game talent, even filling in as a man between the benches during broadcasts. He’s honest, he’s quick and has great analysis of how the game’s played. When GM George McPhee was fired from the Caps, May pretty much let the door hit his ass on the way out.[Scrub to 1:00]

—Rick DiPietro. DP made the wise choice to retire after his comeback bid wasn’t meant to be, and through his unlucky streak of injuries he kept his sense of humor. That served him well when he became a radio host on ESPN New York’s “Hahn & Humpty.” Hopefully the network’s internal censors aren’t too harsh and let him spin a yarn on air, like this doozie about Bill Guerin scolding him for pissing in a shower.

Bill Lindsay. When Fox Sports Florida brought back Denis Potvin, it displaced Bill Lindsay to a smaller role either in studio more or when they could, place him between the benches where he was more valuable than ever. Bill both thinks and speaks clearly—both in his choice of words and his sound. That voice of his can self project like no other.

Greg Wyshynski. There’s no way he would give up Puck Daddy on Yahoo for the NHL Network because you’d likely face more editorial restrictions. But as a contributor with a regular segment or his own 30-minute off-beat show would do wonders for the network. He can continue to promote his Yahoo role and give us a different flavor of hockey news without working entirely for “the man.” Hey, if DC 101’s Elliott Segal can tone it down for segments for Capitals Red Line, Wyshynski would have no problem. He’s been nowhere near the lovable absurdity of Elliott In The Morning, but for hockey’s vanilla atmosphere it’s edgy in those circles.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Chris Osgood
  • Ray Ferraro

If you notice, there’s a challenge in finding former star forwards not named Jeremy Roenick who want to work in TV for hockey. A lot of the dynamic personalities make their home with Sportsnet and CBC (Don Cherry, Glenn Healey) that could create great TV.

But this list building upon the existing NHL Network staff would at least be a good start.

Oshie to Caps: It’s a Great Day For America

I’m glad I reserved judgment of the Caps’ moves, or lack thereof, until Thursday.

In consecutive days, the Capitals signed Game Seven Hero Justin Williams and traded for All-American Hero T.J. Oshie. 

I was afraid general manager Brian MacLellan would fall back in a conservative mode like his predecessor and former boss, George McPhee, and be reticent to make major offseason trades, so the young players would replenish the stock with the core.

MacLellan is definitely bold but let’s see what the results are before we proclaim victory.

My concern about the lack of big movement wasn’t solely motivated by what Pittsburgh did bringing in Phil Kessel. But instead looking at what the Tampa Bay Lightning and others did to rectify postseason failure in a hurry.

It’s scary to see how machine-like Yzerman moved through last summer to get rid of deadweight and use the return, even if it was just draft picks, to identify the exact type of player he needed in free agency and trades. The deft hand got the Bolts within two wins of the Stanley Cup.

What helped Yzerman was that the Bolts were swept out of the first round the previous season. Despite the close games on the scoresheet, it was clear what he needed and went out and got it. (Except a healthy goalie all the time when Ben Bishop’s groin broke down at the worst time.)

For whatever reason, the Caps convinced no matter what, they were only just one or two players away.

Smart general managers know they can’t buy their way into the Stanley Cup via free agency. They need to draft, develop and have smart trades. Sure, a couple free agents help in the process.

For whatever reason, changing the core with the Caps has taken longer.

At the same time, we all wish that giddy feeling when in 2009 Sergei Fedorov scored the GWG in a Game 7 against the Rangers would last forever, especially into the next round against the Penguins.

The last time the Caps were swept out of the playoffs, by the Lightning no less in the second round, was in 2011.

Here’s what McPhee did:

  • Traded for Troy Brouwer
  • Signed prospect Mattias Sjogren, who didn’t pan out and didn’t want to play in the AHL to get to the Caps
  • Signed Jeff Halpern after being away from the club for years
  • Traded Varlamov for picks, which one of them ended up being Filip Forsberg
  • Signed Joel Ward
  • Signed Roman Hamrlik
  • Signed Tomas Vokoun
  • Traded Eric Fehr to Winnipeg for prospects who haven’t panned out
  • Acquired depth defenseman Tomas Kundratek, who was useful for a season.

So that year after bringing in Marco Sturm, Scott Hannan, Dennis Wideman and Jason Arnott—all veterans needed on a young team—it didn’t cut it.

McPhee went out and got a young player with a Cup ring for the young core to relate to, a faceoff specialist for the bottom six, a clutch playoff performer, a stay-at home defenseman to counter having Green and Carlson and another veteran goaltender to continue the carousel.

All of those types of players were what the Caps needed but it’s clear that McPhee didn’t go out and be aggressive enough to get the best players available that fit that mold. You’d think by that time his reputation with player agents and some GMs caused issues with acquiring players either via trade, even if they had to waive a NMC, or by free agency.

This all would lead to Bruce Boudreau being fired the following season and by then, there should have been turnover of the core, core and not the outer fringe of the core.

Alex Semin, Mathieu Perreault, Mike Green and Michal Neuvirth would all eventually part and all without any significant return. Two of those players lost to free agency. Perreault let go for a minor leaguer and a pick and Neuvy brought back a shaky Jaroslav Halak, who didn’t even get the Caps to the playoffs.

After Hunter got the Caps into the playoffs for two rounds, Adam Oates came in and salvaged a poor start to get the Caps into another seven-game defeat with Mike Ribeiro, Wojtek Wolski, Aaron Volpatti, Steven Olesky…and Martin Erat for the ride. Sigh.

In came Mikhail Grabovski, who was pretty good for the Caps, then deadline acquisitions Halak and Dustin Penner and an Oates disciple in Alex Urbom…who definitely er… bombed. That all exploded the careers of Oates and McPhee.

MacLellan has so far, made moves getting the Caps back to the right direction. He can’t do everything as GM and certainly can’t undo everything in his first season. It look awhile for Yzerman to undo his previous regime’s mess, but that included having to stockpile picks. Once he had those picks he could wheel and deal hard.

MacLellan’s moves to get the Caps at least back in the playoffs brought both Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen at a steep price but absolutely the right players. Taking Justin Peters as a back-up was a sacrificial lamb having to pick someone who was OK to not play so Holtby can get his game on track. It worked. Worked so well that Philip Grubauer had to spell Holtby in the playoffs because it was ages since Peters played any game.

As for Tim Gleason and Curtis Glencross…I’d give a B for Gleason and a D for Glencross.

GMBM: Year Two

Now what we’re looking at is Year Two GMBM Retool.

There’s enough turnover here saying goodbye to Joel Ward, Eric Fehr and Mike Green combined with the other players the Caps parted ways with from the former Young Guns Gang where he has to see what he has now.

He upgraded in the Playoff Clutch Scorer Category.

In Oshie, he’s great in the shootout but that doesn’t count in the playoffs. Can this finally be the winger we’ve always wanted? Can he reach that ceiling that everyone expected him to hit?

Evgeny Kuznetsov, drafted by McPhee, is finally on the team full-time and showed in the playoffs he can be a No. 2 center. Can that be sustained?

Can Burakovsky be a dominant Top Six forward that can finesse? It looks like it.

Can Tom Wilson be a Top Six Forward—the next Milan Lucic? He’s got until the trade deadline to figure it out. Right now he’s the Caps’ Brett Connolly.

Can Brooks Laich finally not put so much pressure on himself and perform? Hopefully, because we need him to be healthy enough to trade him. I don’t expect a good return on him, but at least a pick to help clear space for a bigger move.

Is Braden Holtby the franchise goalie for the Capitals? Will the Capitals be good enough for him to not play 70 games so he can rest for the playoffs?

Is Justin Williams going to be a better Mike Knuble and sustain production beyond his first season here?

Here’s what I see shaking out in the season ahead:

  • Tom Wilson is traded for a veteran bottom-six winger who has more offensive upside.
  • Justin Peters is waived before the start of the season and is either claimed or buried in the minors
  • Brooks Laich is traded to Anaheim or Los Angeles for a pick or prospect since he won’t command more thanks to his health and declining production
  • Justin Chimera will have a rebound season and be kept in Washington for his seventh season here.

Back to Brouwer, Brooks

When McPhee brought on Brouwer, everyone was excited because the team was getting a young player from the Stanley Cup champ Blackhawks. I was pumped, too, because sending a first-round pick must have meant there was a high ceiling for a player who was drafted in the sixth round.

Brouwer played well, setting career highs in Washington, but everyone thought he’d get more than 43 points. Nobody thought he’d be so healthy as to play all but one eligible game for the Caps in his four seasons.

But he became duplicative with Brooks Laich, who came up with the Bears and was still part of that core. Didn’t matter he started with the Ottawa Senators—he barely got a sniff with them before we traded Peter Bondra for him. (Funny because Blues GM Doug Armstrong said Oshie duplicated other players on his roster.)

You’d think Brooks Laich would be the better one to trade with a higher cap hit, declining results and diminishing returns in the post season. You’re not going to get good value for that in return if you want to compete, and interested teams would be wary of Laich’s rash of injuries over the last few seasons.

Instead, you load up and give up the player who makes less, plays all 82 games, contributes much more than Laich on the PP over the last few seasons.

And how can you not forget the beauty of a goal Brouwer scored in the Winter Classic this year?

If we’re comparing the past, well, Oshie isn’t all that much different on straight stats and advanced stats. Biggest difference is Oshie gets more shots to the net, unblocked, and Brouwer is better on the PK. Even that is slight.

Here, the expectations of the guy coming in are even higher. Oshie never played with guys with skill of Backstrom, Ovechkin, Kuznetzov and Burakovsky. The only player coming close to that group is Vladamir Tarasenko, who Oshie hardly played with.

Pheonix Copley shouldn’t be lost in this, but he’s expendable after the Caps selected the best available goalie in the draft. He surprised a lot of people when had to be relied on in Hershey making him wanted in St. Louis where they’re still searching for a franchise goalie.

 

For what it’s worth

After the Lightning was bounced out of the first round in 2014—after not making the post-season the year before—here’s what Yzerman did last summer:

  • Acquired Jason Garrison and rights to prospect Jeff Costello for picks
  • Traded Teddy Purcell to Edmonton for Sam Gagner, flipped Gagne for a sixth-round pick while shipping out B.J. Crombeen to clear salary and contract counts
  • Traded Nate Thompson to Anaheim for fourth- and seventh-round picks in another salary dump and to clear contracts to do the following:
  • Signed Brian Boyle, Anton Stralman,Brenden Morrow and Evgeni Nabokov—the last two to one-year deals
  • Bought out Ryan Malone following his cocaine arrest and trial

Then to round-out the team:

  • Waived Richard Panik following opening night
  • Traded Eric Brewer for a pick
  • Traded once heralded prospect Brett Connelly to Boston for picks
  • Traded promising defenseman Radko Gudas for Brayden Coburn
  • Forced Nabokov into retirement

That’s how you shake up your core, shed salary and use prospects and young stars wisely thanks to a well-stocked system of even younger players waiting for a roster spot. And all of that was after saying goodbye to Marty St. Louis and previously, Vincent Lecavalier.

I don’t think anyone can mirror the Blackhawks no matter how hard they try. It takes a lot of luck with loaded contracts panning out into championships paired with incredibly smart amateur and pro scouting.

It’s been Kane, Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Seabrook, Keith and anyone else along for the ride for at least two of the three Cups.

Final Thought

When we’re talking teams in the Stanley Cup Finals—win or lose—are we ready to say this group of defenseman, without Mike Green now, is better? Or is worthy of a Stanley Cup Finals appearance?

Right now it’s floating somewhere in between the 2012 New Jersey Devils, 2011 Vancouver Canucks, 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins and 2013 Boston Bruins. The Flyers, Rangers and Lightning all had better bluelines that still lost out.

Without any changes you have Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, hopefully a health Dimitri Orlov and Taylor Chorney with Connor Carrick and Sean Collins filling in when necessary. Hell, we may even have a Christian Djoos sighting.

A healthy Orlov could have made Green expendable earlier in his career. Now, I don’t even remember how the guy plays and don’t know if he still has it. I sure hope Orlov does.

At least in that Top 4, do you equate them with Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Doughty, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Zdeno Chara and yes, even Andrew Ference who’s had three SCF appearances?

Not until they get to the finals.

 

See you soon Tampa

If my flight doesn’t get delayed anymore, I’ll probably be in a St. Pete watering hole catching the conclusion of Game 6.

I’m going to be glued to my iPad on the plane watching the Lightning preventing an early end to the season so I can be part of something special: Game 7 in Tampa for the Stanley Cup.

I don’t want a touchdown at PIE to lead to a letdown when I hit the road to find the nearest TV. Hell, that just mean going over to the Clearwater Ice Arena just to see the end of the game. 

Tampa Bay doesn’t deserve disappointment on the national stage. The city and region, frankly have been resilient over the last six years, watching home values finally climb back after a nasty housing collapse. Seeing hope being built from Channelside, north to a new ice rink complex in Wesley Chapel, bustling retail and amateur sports boom in Sarasota to the south and craft beer breweries bubbling up in every neighborhood in between. 

Tampa didn’t arrive in 2004. Metaphorically, that championship crowned a race to the top by everyone chasing the dollar before the party came crashing down hard. It’s appropriate that the lockout wiped away the following season. And it only got worse in terms of diminishing results for the Lightning to a point where new ownership came in to make it seemed like Florida Man was running the team’s news ticker.

Now, you have everything in place that makes Tampa an exciting hockey market, place to live and work with hopefully a fully realized arena district.

I owe it to the Lightning for making hockey exciting for me again. When I moved away from Maryland, my frustration with the Caps were at an all-time high. I watched a Lightning team in transition that reminded me a lot of the Caps when Glen Hanlon was writing his own pink slip as George McPhee stocked the organization with enough talent to win two Calder Cups in Hershey in short time thanks to an up-and-coming coach who could coach goals to pour out of his roster. 
Guy Boucher was in a similar position with a defensive system that also grew old and in came Calder Cup prospects and eventually Jon Cooper. The key difference is that Cooper quickly learned he needed defensive adjustments and having a veteran of an associate coach like Rick Bowness sped up that learning curve as well as having guys from Andreychuck to  Yzerman supporting the organization.

I don’t have tickets for Game 7, nor could I afford them. Would I do anything to get in Amalie Arena for free? Of course but being in the streets of Tampa to celebrate, to be in the moment is all I’m asking for. 

Thats all we should ever want, too: 

Be in the moment. Be in the clouds.

Be the thunder.

Comcast shuts out Caps, Wizards fans for CSN+ games in Western Maryland

This is what Allegany County Comcast Xfinity viewers saw on their guide Tuesday but were unable to watch the Washington Capitals game because instead of NBCSN carrying the game as shown, it was carried on CSN+. Comcast in Allegany County does not carry CSN+.

This is what Allegany County Comcast Xfinity viewers saw on their guide Monday but were unable to watch the Washington Capitals game because instead of NBCSN carrying the game as shown, it was carried on CSN+. Comcast in Allegany County does not carry CSN+.

Update: A marketing representative from Comcast SportsNet MidAtlantic reached out to me Monday to investigate the issue.

Early indicators show that this is some sort of delivery issue.

The representative explained that CSN+ should be The Comcast Network in my area and ought to be Channel 6 in Frostburg.

After some searching, I found The Comcast Network but it’s on Channel 125 and it gets weirder. The game still didn’t air that night in Frostburg on The Comcast Network. When the Comcast Xfinity agent was trying to resolve the issue, he reactivated my box t make sure I’m getting the right channels.

I saw The Comcast Network flip on but on the channel CSN should be on.  After the system fully adjusted itself, it went back to the way it was. The Comcast Network ended up airing a MMA fight that night.

I haven’t heard back from the representative since I gave her this additional information but it sounds like the wrong feed of The Comcast Network is being sent here. The next opportunity to find out is April 4 when the Washington Wizards’ game is suppose to air.

I’ll post any updates if I receive them.

Original post: Not a lot of people crave to see the Caps play the lowly Buffalo Sabres this year on TV, but with points on the board for Washington’s playoff race, every game matters.

Somewhere in the mess, it didn’t matter to someone at Comcast or its partners for awhile.

Monday’s game between the Caps and the Sabres aired nationally on NBCSN except in the Baltimore/Washington market where the game aired on Comcast Sports Net Mid-Atlantic Plus, or CSN+.

CSN+ was used thanks in part for CSN broadcasting the Washington Wizards and Portland TrailBlazers NBA game.

I realize this is more than the Caps. The Wizards are on CSN+ for 12 games this season. Ted Leonsis, you might want to give Ed Snider a call about this and get it fixed because you’re missing eyeballs you ought to be entitled to.

In Allegany and Garrett counties, here in far Western Maryland, you couldn’t watch that Caps game on TV. The same goes for the other eight games CSN+ aired this year because Comcast in this area does not carry the overflow channel, CSN+. Yes, the normal CSN MidAtlantic is carried.

Why Comcast doesn’t carry an overflow channel within its own company, I just don’t understand. I couldn’t get an answer either. I’ll get more into that later.

Allegany and Garrett counties are in a weird area that has blackout exceptions for the NHL. Comcast carries both CSN and Root here so both Caps and Pittsburgh Penguins games can be aired. I know how much that violates some of you. I do kind of feel dirty watching the Pens when nothing else is on. (Of late, I can watch both of the Caps and Pens on the NHL GameCenter app without blackout restriction either, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s the end of the season, similar to what the NHL did during the first month.)

On the TV guide menu, the game said it was being aired on NBCSN here. I tuned in and it was Barclays Premier League soccer. CSN+ was nowhere to be found and I tried even punching in channel numbers that it could be without any help. The only way I could watch last night’s game was the livestream on NBCSN’s website, which interrupts live action with commercials.

I went online and talked to a Comcast agent just to be sure. The transcript is attached and you’ll see the guy did as much as he could to figure this out, even reactivating my box. After all of this and as much as I could explain to someone about blackouts and such, he determined that Comcast doesn’t carry CSN+ here regardless of package. Visit CSN’s channel finder and you’ll find the same thing. Try typing in 21532, the Frostburg ZIP code and you’ll only see DirecTV—a competitor of Comcast.

I wrote emails to Comcast, CSN Mid-Atlantic and the Washington Capitals last night imploring them to get Comcast to carry CSN+. Frostburg, especially, is a host to at least a few thousands students and professionals from the Baltimore and D.C. area during the hockey season thanks to the chief enrollment figures from my employer, Frostburg State University. Actually, more than 91 percent of students are from the Capitals’ broadcast territory. [Note: This blog is a personal project and is no way endorsed by FSU nor do the opinions reflect employees or students of the university.]

If I knew where in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia other students are from, the figure would be higher. Of note, Comcast subscribers in Franklin County, Pa., have CSN+, and were able to watch Monday’s Capitals games.

The audience is here. Cellular carriers AT&T, Verizon and TMobile have acknowledged how many people with their plans are up this way and have made or are in the middle of upgrading towers to serve its customers in a new area. I hope the same thing can be said for Comcast and CSN+, especially in a territory where Penguins games are also available on TV.

I’d switch TV providers but the rural area here is bound to limited choices. Comcast is the only cable provider. Satellite is available with DirecTV and Dish Network, but if you want high-speed Internet that’s faster than DSL, Comcast is your only option. And Comcast, much like other companies, won’t allow you only to subscribe to Internet service at certain speeds (like 25Mbs) that would make it easy to cut cable completely.

I know this is a small potatoes blog. I don’t update much, but when it comes to hockey and access, I’m all words.

Here’s the transcript: Xfinity-Chat-Transcript-Caps-Sabres