Old Times in SM/SMR

Recently, I came across in my notes the forgotten URL to a website that I had forgotten about: Trex Mercenaries of Space Merchant (TMSM) . Originally, the TMSM was part and parcel of the larger Trex Mercenaries multi-game clan. Then in the fall of 2000, the founder-leader of the TM, DarkFlare, for reasons that have never been properly explained decided to shut the TM down and the TMSM wound up becoming part of the House Forsaken Browser-Based Gaming Realm.

Originally, the TMSM was going to retain the TM name only for the duration of the particular round of
Space Merchant
after which it was to adopt the HF name. Those plans were changed when Warlock, the leader of a chump alliance in SM called The Forsaken, accused us of attempting to steal the Forsaken name from his outfit. To this day, that is still the weirdest thing that I have ever enountered in online gaming, especially since the name Forsaken is such a common name among online gaming clans.

Way back in December, 2000 I started working on a TMSM recruitment website at Fortune City. However, it was cut short after only a week or 2 of work was done on it when 2 TM members, Waffenhaendler & quickfinger offered to create one of their own. As it happened their website was far better than anything I could have ever created. Unfortunately theirs doesn’t exist anymore, though.

After the old SM died, I got the idea of changing it into a kind of memorial site for the old TM of the old SM, but never really got into it. However, through this weblog, I will periodically give in to pangs of nostalgia and post some memories of the great days of both the original SM and its successor game Space Merchant Realms as well other games.

Rockford Lightning Defense Improves, Defeat Gary Steelheads

The Rockford Lightning did a much better job defensively than they did in recent contests and defeated their hated rivals Gary Steelheads 107-104 before a home crowd of over 3,500. Ronnie Fields poured in 26 points for the now 2-2 Lightning.

In other team news, minor league veteran Carson Cunningham signed on with the Lightning and is widely expected to provide a major boost to the team.

Finally, the Albany Patroons are returning to the Continental Basketball Association starting with the 2005-2006 season. The team where Phil Jackson cut his coaching teeth is making a comeback with a strong management team.

Tom Brokaw’s Bad Advice

Retiring NBC Nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw has some
bad advice
for his successor Brian Williams:

Put your head down and do the work, and don’t read the many media critics who will be out there with commentary and criticism in the beginning. Your compact is not with them but with the audience.

What Brokaw clearly does not understand is that the viewers are often critics as well and have their own ideas. Even if a person only offers his critiques of what he/she sees on the news to their friends and family, that person is a “media critic” and as such an informed consumer of the news.

Attitudes like Brokaw’s are one big reason why network news ratings decline every year. If Williams wants to reverse this decline, then he should ignore Brokaw and listen to the audience.

A Brief Review of Oliver Stone’s Alexander

Here’s Donald Sensing’s
“very brief review”
of Alexander:

Nephew said the movie was “incredibly bad.” How bad? This bad:

With about 15 minutes left to go, the projection system broke. The screen went blank and the sound quit. After a few seconds, when the audience realized that it wasn’t just a sudden gap between reels or the like, they clapped and cheered. (Emphasis in the original)

Interesting to see if Stone ever eats again in Hollywood………

Latter Day Pulp

Ever wish that the pulp magazines of old were still with us? Well then, Thrilling Detective was created for folks just like you. Thus far, the contents of this webzine have been limited to nonfiction and comics, although the editor has promised that original fiction will be added to the mix. TD also includes one of the absolute best collections of mystery type links to be found anywhere on the Internet.

Web Film Critics Caustic Commentaries Concerning Oliver Stone’s “Alexander”

Film critics whose work is run on websites instead of published in daily newspapers have a generally low opinion of Oliver Stone’s Alexander.

Sean O’Connell
gave the flick a mere 1 out of 5 rating, stating that:

Alexander’s humanitarian efforts (connect the lands to benefit the people) are lost in Stone’s portrayal of ruler-as-rock star. Which, of course, make Farrell a great choice to play the lead. The actor’s own ego-fueled swagger actually helps his Alexander. We believe he’s passionate enough to inspire an army, and he’s a natural when it comes to enjoying the spoils of victory. Stone’s costume designer eventually lets Farrell down, though, as Alexander evolves into a drunken Jeff Spicoli in India, then morphs into a feather-coifed Sebastian Bach from Skid Row by the time he returns to Babylon.

Stone’s supporting cast, though, desperately tries to match the director’s vast vision with bombastic bouts of overacting. Kilmer, with his eye sealed shut, channels the late Jim Morrison as if he were still playing the Lizard King on the set of Stone’s The Doors. Jolie goes so far beyond vamp that she reaches vampire, soaking every line with a Transylvanian accent. It’s laughable. A friend asked me on the way out to name Stone’s last good film. I couldn’t. If Alexander signals the end for the once-maverick filmmaker, at least he went out with a bang.

Fellow web film critic
Andrea Chase
also gave this flick a 1 out of 5 rating and had similar concerns:

Farrell spends his screen time looking either wild-eyed, confused, or sometimes both. It makes for an interesting study in physiognomy, and yet, one that doesn’t quite jibe with the idea of someone who conquered the world by the time he was 32. Then again, the motive Stone gives him for achieving that is a burning desire to get as far away from his mother, the snake-wrapped Olympias, as he can. Undoubtedly a formidable woman in real life, Angelina Jolie’s overwrought histrionics never manage to make her more than a vicious nudge with a peculiar accent that seems to have a stranglehold on her larynx. As for Alexander’s father, King Phillip of Macedonia, Val Kilmer reprises his role as Jim Morrison as played in his earlier collaboration with Stone in THE DOORSof Alexander’s preference for his general and life-long friend, Hephaistion (a wan and fragile-looking Jared Leto), and men in general.

Chase’s ultimate conclusion is devastating:

Despite the fact that arrows fly, camels charge, and blood flows with reckless abandon, it all comes across as a particularly dry history text. ALEXANDER takes as its subject one of the most colorful, larger-than-life people to have ever walked the planet and turned him into a petulant child with shockingly pedestrian family issues and a bad haircut.

And finally,
Marty Mapes
dares to ask just why the Hell did Stone make this flick in the first place:

The trouble with Alexander is that it’s boring. It’s aimless. It drifts from scene to scene without ever building to something bigger. It shows us Alexander, but it doesn’t give us a point of view. Why does he inspire loyalty? Why does he fail? Why was director Oliver Stone compelled to make this movie? A movie that answered any of these questions would be moving and thought-provoking. This film is neither.

Hopefully the fact that this flick is headed in the general direction of becoming a total disaster at the box office will guarantee that future historical epics will be made with greater care than what Stone made this movie with.

Susan Granger

In a previous post that gave some film critics caustic commentaries about Oliver Stone’s Alexander albatross, Susan Granger was identified as being an “Usenet film critic.” This was because the Movie Review Query Engine (MRQE) linked to a Usenet posting of her Alexander review. Turns out that Granger has also posted that review to her own website . And not just any old website, but a pretty spiffy place that’s well worth a look.

Eve Online’s Exodus Patch Draws Rave Reviews

The popular space MMORPG EVE Online has a new patch called “Exodus.” This patch has received widespread praise from gamers including
this weblogger at GamesInfo.net

Exodus has arrived! And I finally get to play after the Thanksgiving holiday. So far, I’m still pretty low level to notice a lot of the add-ons, such as player owned stations, but the UI updates are fantastic. FINALLY, you can check prices on the market while out in space, although you can’t trade from there without skills. There are numerous interface updates that seem to really make the experience a lot better. Everything seems less cluttered and a lot closer to your fingertips.

This is pretty interesting considering that on most MMO games, the patches are poorly tested before being run and often cause as many problems as they fix. Many a MMO game has died from such poor practices. Perhaps this is a sign that the online gaming industry has learned from past mistakes.

One Reason Why Indy Baseball is Booming

Originally posted at
Independent Thinking

One big reason for the boom in indy baseball since the founding of both the Frontier and Northern leagues in 1993 is the fact that MLB and MLB teams have more and more been failing to provide the fans with consistent quality baseball.

One such team is the KC Royals which has had 100 loss seasons in 2002 and 2004 with no relief in sight. The plight of Royals fans is captured in this revealing post in the

KC’s Royal Fans Zone

Sunday, October 10, 2004
Jose Lima pitched a complete game masterpiece last nite holding the mighty Cardinal lineup to a mere five hits and no runs. His catcher was Brent Mayne another former Royal. Both players wished to stay in KC this year. Mayne worked well with the pitcher staff last year. Baird went for offense obtaining Santiago via free agency in the offseason. He was lousy defensively and not knowing the pitchers cost the Royals big time. Then he went and got hurt. Mayne handing off the catching reigns to John Buck would have been the perfect move. Another blunder by Baird was letting Lima go for the likes of Anderson and May. Lima posted a 13-5 record with 4.07 Era for the Dodgers this year. That is 1.5 points less than either May or Anderson’s 5.6 ERA. Carlos Beltran and Johnny Damon are both enjoying themselves in the post season while the fans in KC dream about what could have been. In a perfect world the Royals lineup would feature an outfield of Damon, Beltran and Jermaine Dye. Dye is playing for the A’s and did not reach the playoffs this year.That would be be one of the premier outfields in the game both offensively and defensively. Because of the Royals penny-pinching ways we now have to search for a corner outfielder with some punch. The only outfield position guaranteed for 2005 is David DeJesus in centerfield. Meanwhile Damon, Beltran Dye and Lima are all fan favorites in there there respective cities and all have enjoyed postseason appearances after leaving the hapless Royals. Until the Royals start spending some dough we can expect more players like DeJesus and John Buck leaving the first chance they get. I for one will not blame them one bit.

Curiously unmentioned in this post was the fact that the Northern League has a winning team in KC called the T-Bones. This is part of a larger trend of indy leagues increasingly placing teams to directly compete with established MLB operations. A recent move in this direction is the Golden League’s decision to place one of its inaugural teams in San Diego.

Another aspect of how indy league baseball is challenging the old order is the fact that when Jose Lima undertook the turning around of his career, he did it not with a MLB organization, but with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.

All in all, Independent League Baseball is increasingly in a position to eventually challenge MLB for the hearts and minds of baseball fans everywhere.

Specters Alliance Still Going Strong

Online Gaming clans come and go. However, there are a hardy few that stay in existence for the long haul. One such clan is the Specters Alliance or SA. The SA is different from most clans in that it dates back to 1998 and that it is also a multi-game club. Another, crucial, difference is summed up by
the most recent News post to the SA website

StarWars Galaxies Division Shutting Down
Specters Alliance tries to maintain active gaming divisions as our supported games. It is my intent that each game that warrants supported status be played by at least 30 to 40% of the membership.

On that note, I am officially shutting down our support for StarWars Galaxies. While we once had a thriving population within that game, leading up to several months of great PVP action and character interaction, those times are far behind us. With only a small handful of members still maintaining active accounts we can no longer list SWG as a supported game. This doesn’t preclude members from playing it or enjoying it, we simply will not devote supported status to a dying game.

It was real….and it was fun. It’s just not real fun any more. JumpToLightspeed was hoped to have been the saving grace for the game – this in fact has only worsened the aspects of the game that make it more cumbersome than it is worth. With Fall upon us let us hope that another game stands up and merits our full support.

The SA policy of maintaining Official Divisions for only those games that “at least 30% to 40% of the membership” is what keeps the SA a strong force in online gaming. Otherwise, when a clan keeps supporting games that do not have much interest by the membership, what happens is that the clan becomes overextended and weak in too many games. One result is that the weak gaming support divisions become nothing more than “forum clans” with the really active gamers eventually leaving the clan as a whole. Eventually, the overall clan becomes nothing more than a forum clan even though the leaders may still engage in big talk about how the clan is the model for all other clans and how they are so highly respected and the like. Certainly, this is what happened at one multi-game clan that I used to be a member of.

As long as the SA holds to that guiding principle of active gaming, it should have no problem enduring for many more years to come.

P.S.: Another aspect of the SA is its creation of Game Club Central where the clan is promoted, but not in a heavy-handed way. This helps to provide the SA with additional exposure.

Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” Sinking Fast

Oliver Stone’s recent huge budget ($155 Mil.) flick Alexander is dying on the vine. Its initial box office is a pathetic $3.8 Mil. Even worse are the reviews that thus far have been pretty negative. Following is a round up of choice reviews about this latest Hollywood debacle:

According to Usenet film critic
Susan Granger
, the film’s performances leaves much to be desired:

In the title role, Colin Farrell never quite wraps around his emotionally
conflicted character. Both his blond wig and his lilting Irish accent prove
disconcerting, as though the lad wandered in en route home from the pub. As his
calculating, snake-fondling mother, Angelina Jolie is bizarre, affecting a
Russian tone; most of her scenes border on ludicrous. Alexander’s bride Rosario
Dawson’s intonations are almost indecipherable, as is Crateros’ Rory McCann’s
thick Scottish burr.

Internet critic
Frank Swietek
is hardly any more charitable writing that:

“Alexander” is pretty much a mess, an alternately turgid and florid movie that feels like a drugged-out version of a Cecil B. DeMille epic.

Finally we come to
Chris Hewitt
film critic of the St. Paul Pioneer Press . Hewitt is unsparing of Stone when he writes that:

Alexander is meant to be like Michael Corleone in the “Godfather” films, a hero who’s sympathetic even if he makes bad choices and is deeply flawed. But, unlike “The Godfather,” “Alexander” fails to shed light on the difficult choices that shape its hero as he conquers most of the ancient world. Stone skips past Al’s formative youth, pausing for a scene in which Christopher Plummer gives the movie’s most involving performance as Alexander’s teacher, Aristotle. Then, it’s straight into chaotic battles and one inane scene after another in which Angelina Jolie (as Alexander’s mom) yammers to herself like a maniac. Or, more accurately, like an actress delighted to be playing a maniac.

Hewitt closed his review by writing that, “the result makes Alexander something of a first: It boasts a cast of thousands and an interest level of zero.”

Book Review: Simple Justice by Richard Kluger

The 1954 Supreme Court Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education decision was, according to Richard Kluger in Simple Justice, one of the high court’s single most important rulings. This decision invalidated the ruling in the 1896 Plessy vs. Ferguson case that held that segregated facilities were acceptable as long they were “separate but equal.” The court also overruled a lower court ruling that the Topeka schools were substantially equal and hence constitutional.

In reaching its decision the court found that it was inconclusive if the original framers of the 14th Amendment intended to outlaw segregation in educational facilities. Actually, it is clear from the historical record that the authors of the 14th Amendment did not intend banning such segregation. The court also took the attitude that social circumstances had changed regarding the role of public education since 1896 so much that the court simply could not be held by the Plessy ruling any more. The court also took the position that segregation was inherently harmful to minority groups.

Another related case to Brown was the Bolling case regarding school segregation in the District of Columbia. In this case, the court held that the 5th Amendment applied to racial segregation. In the Brown and Bolling decisions, the court held that referees should be appointed by the lower courts to supervise the end of segregation.

The court decisions in the Brown and Bolling cases were written in very brief texts. They failed to convincingly explain to a skeptical public just why it was that segregation was unconstitutional. They also did not quote the lone dissenter in the Plessy decision, John Marshall Harlan, on just why segregation was inherently unconstitutional.

The content of the actual court rulings reveal that the justices failed to properly understand the evility of segregation. This showed a basic ignorance of the justices of the effects of racism upon minorities. The record also shows that Chief Justice Earl Warren prized public relations over doing his duty. Additionally, in an effort for an unanimous decision, the actual ruling in Brown was severely watered down. By doing so, the court inadvertently signaled the segregationists that it really was not serious about enforcing equality in the land. The end result was that a decade later, there was little real progress made towards racial integration in the Deep South.

As the above shows, Kluger’s volume about Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education contains plenty of sharp opinions about the Brown case and its true role in the history of American race relations.
Kluger’s book is also an invaluable source of information about the folks who actually filed the historic lawsuits in the first place.

Kluger’s book also contains masterful character sketches of the leading figures behind the historic Supreme Court decisions. One of these heroes was the flawed Earl Warren who had earlier supported the mass detainment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

The principal hero in Kluger’s mind, is Thurgood Marshall. Marshall was a tireless crusader for civil rights. Marshall had been the head of the NAACP’s legal division since 1938. Initially, Marshall refrained from contronting the Plessy decision head on because he realized that doing so would be counter productive. That being the case, Marshall endeavored to win victories for minorities within the separate but equal guidelines. This strategy resulted in a string of victories that encouraged Marshall to challenge the Plessy ruling.

Unlike most other authors of books about the history of civil rights, Kluger does not laud Marshall for being a latter day saint. Kluger’s portrait of Marshall is both fair and balanced and takes note of Marshall’s flaws.

Simple Justice is a classic work about civil rights history and as such should be required reading in American History classes.

Reviewers: Oliver Stone’s Alexander Flick a Colossal Bomb

According to the nation’s film critics, Oliver Stone’s attempt to make a movie about one of the greatest heroes of all time, Alexander the Great, is an unmitigated disaster.

John Podhoretz’s

Oliver Stone’s Alexander, which opens today, isn’t just bad. It’s Springtime for Hitler bad. I haven’t guffawed this hard since I saw Airplane for the first time 24 years ago. This is one of the colossal catastrophes of all time. At a screening on Monday night, during the death scene of Alexander’s lover Hephaiston, people were screaming with laughter as Alexander made a big speech while, behind him in soft focus, Hephaiston went into a conniption fit and croaked. Plus, Angelina Jolie plays Alexander’s mother like she was Natasha from the Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons. It’s almost worth seeing, but don’t, because if you’re like me and want to see Oliver Stone utterly destroyed for his artistic and political crimes, you will make sure not to contribute to the box-office coffers of what is sure to go down in the annals of moviedom as Heaven’s Gate with rampaging evil elephants (no, I’m not kidding).

Over at Slate, David Edelstein
is deliriously happy that one of his all time least favorite film makers has served up such a turkey:

With Alexander (Warner Bros.), Oliver Stone has done what I never thought possible: He has made me feel pity for him. The movie is a sprawling mess, a lox, a three-hour non-starter. But it’s not an affront, like Stone’s other bombastic, amphetamine-paced essays in megalomania. This one, large-scaled as it is, seems too puny and fragmented for its mighty subject; it feels as if Stone, for the first time in his career, simply ran out of hot air.

Please understand the source of my vitriol: I consider Stone’s Natural Born Killers to be, hands down, the worst movie ever made—and not the worst in the manner of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. I mean the worst in its combination of aesthetic and moral ugliness, in the way it bombards you into accepting the idea that a pair of serial mass murderers could be enlightened hipsters. (The original script, by Quentin Tarantino, was a heavy-handed but amusing satire of sensationalistic media; by the time Stone had gotten through with it, the serial killers had evolved into existential heroes.)

Roger Ebert
who is often the most charitable film critic around, did not like Stone’s Alexander flick:

I have always admired Oliver Stone’s courage in taking on big, challenging films, and his gift for marrying action and ideas. “Alexander” is not a success, but it is ambitious and risky, and incapable of the inanities of “Troy.” Fascinated by his subject, he has things he urgently wants to say about Alexander, but his urgency outraces his narrative; he gives us provocative notes and sketches but not a final draft. The film doesn’t feel at ease with itself. It says too much, and yet leaves too much unsaid.

Hopefully, if this flick is a box office disaster, we won’t have to put up with Oliver Stone’s dreck polluting the movie theaters/popular culture any more.

We can only hope.

Rickey Henderson’s Great Season

A decent post from Independent Thinking :

Although he did not get to play with a MLB team this season, future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson still had a great season. That’s because he played with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League .

Henderson finished among the league leaders in two areas. Henderson was 3rd in Stolen Bases with 37 and 2nd in On Base Percentage with .462.

Henderson’s stats in other areas were also outstanding. He hit safely 85 times in 303 at bats for a .281 avg. He hit 16 doubles, 2 triples and 9 home runs. He lead his team with 96 walks and had a SLG of .436. He was caught stealing only twice.

Henderson has shown that he still has what it takes to play at the MLB level. If there is any justice in this cruel world, then Henderson will be reunited with MLB fans in the 2005 season.

Spreading the Word About Independent Pro Baseball

An interesting post from
Independent Thinking

One major hurdle that independent leagues and teams have to face is getting the word out about the experience that their efforts offer to the pro baseball fan who can’t afford the high ticket/hot dog prices charged by MLB teams nowadays. This is especially true of trying to get their teams covered by the news media.

There are many press outlets such as local TV and big city newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times that hardly cover local independent baseball beyond the page that carries league schedules and standings. It is left to middle and lower circulation newspapers such as the Rockford Register Star that provide generous coverage of local independent baseball. Surprisingly, “alternative” publications such as the Chicago Sports Review often do not cover independent baseball at all.

In light of all this, it is surprising that independent league baseball is flourishing as
it is at present. Then, again, due to the fact that Americans are more and more
turning to the Internet for their news, perhaps it is not so surprising. Practically every independent league and team has a website and there are an increasing number of fansites as well.

In any event, the development of independent league pro baseball is a phenomenon that the major news media has failed to notice, let alone give it its due. And journalists wonder why the American people are increasingly spurning their publications and broadcasts…………….

The Jose Lima Story

Here’s a decent post from the files of
Independent Thinking

One of the best aspects of the independent leagues is that they allow a former major leaguer a chance to get a new start at a career in pro ball.
One success story in this regard is Jose Lima.

During 1998 and 1999, Lima was one of the hottest stories in major league baseball. He won a total of 37 games and ate up 470 innings for the Houston Astros. He pitched an inning in the 1999 All-Star Game in which he gave up 1 hit but no runs.

Lima was also popular with the fans. His fans proclaimed that whenever he took the mound, it was “Lima Time.” One Astros fansite has written that:

“Jose Lima was a lot of fun to watch and to follow; wearing his glove on his head, banging bats against trash cans in the dugout in order to spark some kind of half-imagined rally, the gyrations on the mound after a strikeout or a DP: the man was having a blast, and was a blast to watch.”

As a result of both his record and his popularity, Lima’s future in baseball seemed assured. However, in 2000, it all came crashing down. He went 7-16 for Houston and his career went downhill fast. By the end of the 2002 season, he was not able to get a contract with any team. It appeared that his career was over and done with.

However, there was the independent league option for Lima and he took full advantage of it. He signed up with the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League and under manager Bill Madlock, his pitching improved.

Following is from an interview in the May 9, 2004 Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“Q: What did you learn from a guy like Bill Madlock, who was your manager in Newark?

A: He helped me a lot. He was in Detroit when I was in Detroit. We became good friends. We still keep in touch. He always calls me to give me advice. ‘Keep the ball down. Throw inside.’ Stuff like that. He helped to bring my confidence back. When you see people that still believe in you, that still cheer for you, it’s great.”

At Newark, Lima went 6-1 and attracted the attention of the Kansas City Royals who purchased his contract from the Bears and signed him on as a starting pitcher. With KC, Lima went 8-3 with a 4.91 ERA.

After the 2003 season, Lima was unable to get a satisfactory contract offer from the Royals and he eventually signed up with the Lost Angeles Dodgers. Thus far, he has pitched 47 innings and racked up a 4-2 record with a 4.02 ERA with the Dodgers. He has also sung the Star Bangled Banner at Dodger Stadium. As of the moment, Lima’s success on the major league level seems assured and his comeback likely never would have occurred if it were not for the independent league option.

Columbus Cottonmouths Radio

Here’s an interesting post that I did recently for
Little Big Sticks

What’s a minor league hockey team to do if it can’t get a radio station to broadcast the games? Well, if you’re the Columbus Cottonmouths , what you do is
create your own internet radio setup on Live 365
. This way, Cottonmouth fans worldwide can listen to their favorite team. Also, it boosts the team’s Internet presence and gives the team an opportunity to expand its fan base to the point where its big enough that a local radio station will pay to pick the team up.

NHL Blues

Here’s an article that I wrote for the
Chicago Sports Review
for which I never received a byline:

Success is a nice thing to have. However, in order to stay successful it is best to understand just why your endeavor does as well as it does and learn to avoid the temptation to tinker with that success. After all, tinkering could lead to the same end result that killing the goose that lays the golden eggs does: disaster.

Such is the case with the National Hockey League. About a decade ago, the NHL was a tremendously successful operation with jam-packed arenas. Now, however, teams play in arenas that are often no better than half-full.

According to a recent report by a former official in the Clinton Administration, Arthur Levitt, the league had a combined loss of $272.6 million last season, with only 11 out of 30 teams making a profit. In the report, six unnamed teams lost over $20 million each with one losing nearly $41 million.

According to the report, excessive player’s salaries is the main culprit. During the 2002-2003 season, the NHL collectively had $2 billion in revenue of which 75 percent went for player’s salaries. In Levitt’s estimation, purchasing a NHL team would be a “dumb investment.”

Even before the release of the Levitt report, it was already clear that player’s salaries had reached an absurd state. The average NHL player makes $1.6 million a year, $500,000 more than the average NFL player. However, the broadcasting revenue received by the NHL and its teams is dwarfed in comparison to the NFL. In fact, at least one NHL team, the Chicago Blackhawks, has to purchase the radio time to broadcast its games.

The end result of all this is that the NHL is becoming too expensive for families and the more casual sports fan. Most non-hockey obsessed folks cannot pay the huge sums for tickets, food and alcoholic beverages that NHL teams now charge.

This loss of popularity has also spilled over to the broadcasting front, as shown by the fact that the TV ratings for regular season Arena Football League games on NBC was 17 percent higher than the rating for the NHL All-Star Game on ABC.

However, salaries are not the only reason for the NHL’s current predicament. The league has over-expanded from 21 teams in the early 1980s to 30 today. This has led to a dilution of the overall quality of talent in the NHL. Additionally, the hard-core hockey fans are also becoming disenchanted by what they perceive as a league that’s been tampering with the game that they love and ruining the experience that they’ve come to crave.

One example of this is the officiating. Originally, there was only one official on the ice during a game and these referees got so skilled that they hardly ever interfered with the play. Now, there are two referees who are randomly assigned to each game. And since they don’t work together on a regular basis, there are often communication problems between them, not to mention the fact that many of them are getting in the way of the puck-carrier.

Another example is the death of rivalries in the NHL. Up until a decade ago, there were four divisions with teams playing each other eight times a season and for the first two rounds of the playoffs. That was the recipe for heated rivalries and intense games, and it led to high fan interest and bad blood between both players and fans.

Now, with the league split into six divisions, teams in the same division only play each other at most six times a year, and with only a few exceptions, such as Chicago/Detroit, these rivalries have gone by the wayside.

Perhaps the best example is fighting. Hard-core hockey fans appreciate the fact that fighting is an integral part of the game. At the same time, casual sports fans don’t like it, which is way the NHL, in an attempt to expand the pro hockey audience, has been trying to downgrade violence.

For instance, up until the last agreement between the league and the players union, there was a 19th roster spot, which for most teams was filled by a second enforcer. With that second enforcer, who was a less-skilled player and on the bench until unleashed to wreak havoc at an appropriate time, games were often wild affairs that attracted tremendous interest from fans. Hockey games today have considerably less violence today than they did a decade ago.

All of the NHL’s non-salary woes spring from a common source. During the past decade, the league with Commissioner Gary Bettman at the helm has been endeavoring to break out of the perception that hockey is a regional sport appealing mainly to audiences in Canada and the northern United States. To that end, the league has expanded to traditionally non-hockey places such as Carolina and Florida.

Judging from the recent general manager meetings, which called for several changes in the game – and the fact that the league has proposed on cutting the roster sizes from 18 to 16, which would likely eliminate the remaining enforcer spot – it’s clear that the league is still trying to catch the attention of the casual fan at the expense of the traditional hard-core hockey fans.

That being the case, even if the league succeeds in exacting major concessions from the player’s union, pro hockey will remain in an economic morass until it recognizes its mistakes and returns to its origins.