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Fans react to Team Canada's first goal during the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver February 28, 2010 at the 2010 Olympics. (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)
Fans react to Team Canada's first goal during the gold medal hockey game in Vancouver February 28, 2010 at the 2010 Olympics. (JOHN LEHMANN/The Globe and Mail)

Daily Grind

Dowbiggin: Egos threaten to derail NHL negotiations, the Sochi edition Add to ...

From the people who brought you The NHL Lockout, get ready for another zany romp, The 2014 Olympic Negotiations.

Those who think getting NHLers to the Sochi Games will be as simple as reaching across the Atlantic to pluck low-hanging fruit got a rude comeuppance on the weekend.

Rene Fasel, president of the International Ice Hockey Federation, told CBC’s Scott Russell that “egos” are threatening the process of making a deal with the NHL on Sochi participation.

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By egos, could Fasel be suggesting members of the NHL’s happy gang who delayed the start of this NHL season till January? Does Don Cherry like a starched collar? The intimation is that the NHL is a greedy band of mercenaries demanding a king’s ransom from the sacred amateurs of the IOC.

Fasel should talk. In case you haven’t noticed, the IIHF and Olympics don’t play well in the financial sandbox. It’s their way or the autobahn.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s strength has been in protecting the NHL brand over the years, allowing it to grow at a steady, unspectacular pace for his owners. The work of COO John Collins has only added to that brand enhancement.

To get a toehold in the global game before this CBA, the NHL was willing to lend its prestige and players to the IIHF and Olympics for little monetary gain. But with its financial future tightening, it’s time for a return on that investment.

Growing the game globally

The NHL lockout was about the past, rearranging the mistakes of the league’s expansion era in futile hope that pumpkins may yet be turned into carriages. This dearly won CBA binds the hands of its most successful markets and perpetuates poorly run operations and lousy markets.

While there might be some five-hour energy shots from expansion fees and revenue re-distribution in North America, a global strategy is the best hope for a breakaway in the crowded business of pro sports properties. Standing in the way is Fasel and his pals at the IOC.

So negotiations on the 2014 Games in Sochi and a bundle of other future World Cups and world championships will be (to borrow a Brian Burekism) truculent. They will require vision and flexibility in showcasing the world’s best players.

As we saw in the lockout, no one is confusing Mr. Bettman with Gumby on the flexibility scale. The good news is he won’t be facing Don Fehr this time.

Boom goes the dynamite

Faced with disappointing ratings, TSN Radio 1050 has blown up its schedule. The station announced Friday that former Globe & Mail writer Dave Naylor is taking over the afternoon drive from James Cybulski. Cybulski’s show was lively, but doomed against the juggernaut of Bob McCown on Sportsnet Radio The Fan 590.

Why TSN thinks Naylor’s journalistic approach will find a niche where Cybulski did not is unclear. Naylor’s traditional approach doesn’t sound like counter-programming (Jay Onrait anyone?). Naylor doesn’t bring a ready-made audience outside of his CFL following. Curious.

In other moves, Cybulski’s co-host Bob Mackowycz takes over the 9 A.M.-noon slot formerly occupied by The Dan Patrick Show. Scott MacArthur becomes the Blue Jays correspondent for TSN and TSN Radio.

The other news is that both Mike Richards’ and Naylor’s shows are bring televised as of February 18 on TSN2. Richards tell The Grind that they have been taping for a month already on his 6-9 A.M. . “I’m at times not easy to impress,” he told us. “But it has blown me away. The biggest delay is how to shoot my ‘weird’ show. The way they have done the ‘phone calls’ is nothing short of brilliant!”

Perhaps the TV addition will give Richards a chance at closing the lucrative 25-54 male demographic gap at the FAN 590. Greg Brady and Jim Lang, who have a decisive lead on Richards, do not have their show televised as yet.

Don’t bark if you can’t bite

The epicurean moment between Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski and Montreal’s Max Pacioretty reminds us once again of the time-honoured, ‘Do as the Maple Leafs say, not as they do.’

@DamoSpin “Grab a smaller opponent – already being punched by another player – from behind, rake my forearm across his mouth/teeth, I’m taking a chance.”

Apparently it’s not the same if you’re a Vancouver Canuck, however. “Alex Burrows lowered the bar with his chomp on the peaceful Patrice Bergeron in Game 1,” wrote Cox in 2011, “made worse by the league’s decision not to do anything about it and Lapierre’s mocking of that decision in Game 2.”

The entire bi-coastal/bicuspid episode reminds us of football great Jim Brown’s comment when asked if he ever bit anyone. “The way I see it,” Brown told Richard Pryor. “what’s outside the helmet is his, and what’s inside the helmet is mine.”

Good to know, thanks Grapes

This just in on the streaking heroes of Toronto hockey from Don Cherry on Saturday’s Coach’s Corner: The Leafs may not beat you, but they won’t be pushed around anymore. Well, that’s a relief.

dowbboy@shaw.ca / @dowbboy

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