Friday, March 30, 2007

No Brainer?

Upon arrival for the Blues game at the Scottrade Center Thursday, I was aware that there would be a press conference at 6 o’clock introducing a new minority owner. What I wasn’t privy to was that it was a double-barreled newser with a second announcement that would be more impactful on Blues fandom.

Tom Stillman, who owns a Miller beer distributorship in Earth City, was intro’d as the new minority partner. Some are making a big deal of the fact that the guy sells Miller in a town known for A-B products. I don’t think the new Blues ownership would bring in a minority owner, no matter how much money he is willing to throw on the table, if it would jeopardize the relationship the team has with “The Big Eagle”. You just don’t do anything around here without the explicit approval of the folks down on Pestalozzi. I’m sure Dave Checketts, Peter McLoughlin (a former A-B man himself) and company, have done their homework on this one.

The second announcement, that Blues games will be aired on KMOX in a multi-year agreement starting in the fall, is of more interest to Blues fans. It’s also of more significance to the re-building of the team itself.

I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say that KMOX’s image as a sports radio station…particularly the “Sports Voice of America”, as it once billed itself… has come crashing down with a gigantic splat over the last few years. Tim Dorsey and company at KTRS accomplished their mission of stripping the boys on Memorial Drive of their prized sports properties. The occasional Mizzou football and basketball game on 1120 isn’t going to impress many that your station is a leader in anything. Having said that, the enormous, clear-channel signal of “the MOX” hasn’t changed at all. And those call letters still have a fair amount of magic associated with them…even if you have to be 35 or older to remember the real glory days of the station.

As the current radio rights agreement with 550 was nearing an end, there was apparently a fair amount of competition among the broadcasting companies in town to land the Blues next deal. On the face of it, this was a slam-dunk, mail-it-in, no-thinking-required, call for Blues ownership and management. To have a station with the reputation of KMOX as your exclusive playground should be too good to pass up. If you were wanting to expose your sport and market it to people in this part of the country would you rather be on a station that has a whopper of a daytime signal…but struggles for nighttime coverage (when most of your games are played)? Or would you rather be on a station that can be heard, with a few exceptions, in most of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains? Right. Some of the other stations in town were also given a chance to make a pitch…but they likely had the same problem arguing against that big night-time signal.

What’s interesting here…and what I will be curious to watch…will be the form that the new Blues/KMOX relationship takes. Why? Because the Blues are buying the time and will be selling and producing the broadcasts themselves…as I understand it. Brokering out the time to the Blues puts KMOX in a less passionate business position than if they had bought rights and stood to profit based on their own sales and promotional efforts.

So, just how excited will KMOX be to promote the games? Will the sports shows focus on hockey? Or will the station fall into the trap of talking about baseball (which is King.. right now anyway…in St. Louis) and football which is currently more popular too, to the detriment and exclusion of the Blues? Promises have been made to do a Friday night hockey show...a Sunday morning segment...and a drive-time segment. That's all fine. But there also needs to be a "hockey mentality" at the station. Simply fulfilling those promises won't require much in the way of commitment to the hockey fans of St. Louis.

One doesn’t have to strain to imagine a very difficult relationship ahead for Blues management with its new broadcast partner unless KMOX GM Dave Ervin demands his staff “play nice” with their new hockey friends. How much time will Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase get on 1120 aside from the Friday night show? Anywhere close to what they got when KTRS had only hockey? Will there be any mention of hockey during the day by show hosts? Will morning drive and afternoon drive sports reports lead with Blues hockey, or Cardinals baseball, when there are stories about both? Will there be call-in shows devoted strictly to hockey when a big trade is made...or some other significant story breaks? Even in the off-season? In my mind, these are all things to keep an eye on.

Not having to be bumped for baseball is a good thing for Blues fans. Having that big signal to rely on, no matter where you might be in the region, is also a good thing. Being able to market your new, young-and-improving team to mid-America on a signal like that can only mean good things for attendance. As long as the Blues are not treated like “the other pro team in town” by KMOX, this will be a great move all-around.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Lucid? You decide.

I haven’t done a stream-of-consciousness post for a while. Let’s give it a whirl.

-Well, all of that concentration on what to name the new NHL team in Kansas City will apparently have to be put on hold. Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania leaders have stepped up and the Penguins will be staying. Rumor has it that Nashville, Florida, Atlanta and Tampa Bay are all more than mildly interested in the KC situation.

-I wish I was more confident about SIU’s chances in the NCAA tourney. I have them going to the Elite 8. But I think that's out of wishful thinking more than anything. I’m still wondering when Randal Falker will be the player he was in the regular season after a disastrous MVC tournament performance. They need him to dominate to go deep in the bracket.

-An Illinois, SIU match-up this weekend would be sweet…but I think it’s unlikely. Virginia Tech is too good for the Illini.

-Recently attended a meeting at which Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert and Police Chief Bill Clay both spoke. Eckert continues his energetic leadership of the city…and it’s easy to see why he wanted Clay to run the department…very impressive.

-The Blues are pointed in the right direction. No doubt about it. Young stars are beginning to become obvious. Now we all have to support the team and, at the same time, be patient while the youth movement takes hold.

-It was fun seeing a full house at Scottrade again. 19-thousand plus for the Montreal Canadiens last Saturday.

-I read an interesting op-ed piece the other day…can’t even remember who wrote it…but it struck a nerve nonetheless. The gist…we in the baby-boom generation have only a short time left to make a significant mark on the world in which we live. The leading edge of the boom is now in its sixties and will only be in a position to wield influence (political, monetary, etc.) for so much longer. What have we done to improve the world? What can we still do? As young people we promised the world we’d be different, and better. The clock is ticking.

-I still haven’t had the opportunity to meet Andy Murray. But I couldn’t be more impressed with the job he has done. I intend to introduce myself soon and hope some of what he brings to the Blues rubs off.

-I wonder how close O.J. is to catching the “real killer”.

-Is it me? Or is there something to the weather being more severe lately? Seems like when there’s a storm system these days …it’s really a dandy. Is Al Gore onto something besides doughnuts?

-My favorite movie of the last month-- Little Miss Sunshine. Finally rented it.

-I am one of the many who is not nearly as interested in American Idol as I was last season. Not sure why. But the lack of overall talent this season is obvious. I was either glued to the TV or recorded every episode last year. This year…not so much. I can’t even name more than two of the finalists. Maybe I’m getting my life back.

Speaking of Idol… last year’s “shoulda won guy”…Chris Daughtry is doing OK isn’t he?

The Cardinals should be at least as good as they were last season…and will be much better if their starting pitching holds up. Obviously, it’s doing fine in spring training. What seemed like a strength…relief pitching…is struggling though. I’d like to see Izzy pitch well for a month or two before we declare him back to “dominant closer” status.

I see the St. Louis Zoo has had to deal with an issue that Barb and I are starting to discuss. “When do you put down a beloved animal?” The zoo euthanized Clara, the matriarch of it’s Asian elephant heard today because her arthritis had become too much for her. Our beloved Springer Spaniel Fergie is beginning to decline rapidly. Accidents in the house, arthritic hips, deaf, vision , are all beginning to cause us worry. It’s so hard to know when the time is right.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kansas City Penguins?

During the warm-up skate at the Blues-Flames game, I engaged in some interesting banter with some of my friends who regularly watch “the boys” from up close. We were trying to decide if the Penguins should remain the Penguins if they indeed complete a franchise re-location to western Missouri. Mario Lemieux, and the Pens ownership group, declared an impasse with the powers that be in Pittsburgh on Monday over the lack of a new arena deal. The Penguins lease at Mellon Arena is up at the end of June. And, all indications are that shortly they will announce a move to Kansas City if the Pennsylvania power-brokers don’t step up in a significant way.

For those who haven’t been following this drama, Kansas City is building a new state-of-the-art arena…Sprint Center…that has already sold out all of its luxury boxes for major events, including hockey. This dramatic display of community and corporate support for the NHL can be compared to the St. Louis effort of the 90’s to lure the NFL back to town. The grass-roots civic organization in KC that has been working on getting an NHL team there…NHL21…has pretty much guaranteed any ownership group that chooses to operate in their new digs a windfall for the foreseeable future. The building will be operated by Anschutz Entertainment Group, an investor in the arena. The company, led by Philip Anschutz, also owns the Los Angeles Kings, so there is a link to the inner circle of the NHL.

Paul McGannon…who I’ve become friends with through doing the p-a for Blues pre-season games staged at Kemper Arena in recent years…leads NHL21 (stands for the goal of getting KC hockey in the 21st century) and has some one hundred Kansas City business leaders involved. They have waged a concerted and energetic campaign to lure an NHL team to town for a number of years. With Lemieux and company struggling to make it in western Pennsylvania, or at least not being in a position to overlook such a pot at the end of the rainbow, we might expect a new look to hockey in the Show-Me State soon.

If the Pens leave the Steel City, the debate over whether the nickname goes with them will rage as in the Cleveland Browns/Baltimore Ravens situation. If the NHL intends for Pittsburgh to be one of its markets again soon, Commissioner Gary Bettman may try to persuade the team owners to abandon the Penguins name for a re-start in Pittsburgh when, and if, they are able to situate another team there in the future. Given that possibility, what would you name the new team in KC?

The long-ago team in Kansas City was known as the Scouts. They left for Denver after the ’75-’76 season to become the Colorado Rockies. That didn’t work out, and they headed for New Jersey to become the current Devils. Going back to the name Scouts might have some appeal. But I would think a fresh start with a new nickname would be more likely. The current minor-league team in KC is known as the Blades. I would think that’s out too. You wouldn’t want the small-time implication on the new club.

So, let’s come up with a new name for this bunch of pro skaters. Here are my suggestions—

-Kansas City Pioneers… (fits the American frontier geography/history)
-Kansas City Cowboys or Wranglers… (cattle market of the past etc.)
-Kansas City Commanches…(oops! Better not go there..but they do have the Chiefs)
-Kansas City Monarchs (Tribute to Negro league baseball team…and fits regal theme of Royals baseball)
-Kansas City Cougars..(grrrrrrr)
-Kansas City Bears… (what the hell..use a polar bear in the logo. Makes as much sense as penguins)
-Kansas City Huskies… (Mush!!)

I’m not a fan of the not-specific-to-humans and animals nicknames like Avalanche…or Lightning... but if you want to go down that road, how about-
-Kansas City Blizzard… (cold like ice, prairie weather etc.)
-Kansas City Comets… (good illiteration).
-Kansas City Crunch.. (I don’t even like that one)
-Kansas City Sparks …(like the glint off a skate blade)

My head is starting to hurt. You can add your thoughts in the comments link at the bottom.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Another Star-in-the-Making

A few weeks back I took some space here to brag on the theatrical talents of our youngest son. In the interest of equal time, and equal love, I dedicate the following paragraphs to first-born son Ian, who informs us he has also chosen to pursue a life of performing. It must be in our genes.

Ian Robert Calhoun was born on a sweltering day in July of 1980. Those with a good mind for history might remember it as the year that Mount St. Helens blew its lid. That summer’s drought caused the place where Ian was born, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, to conserve water by serving patients food on paper plates and forbidding them to bathe or shower for days at a time. It was an awful source of discomfort to Barb while recovering from childbirth. But the person we got out of it was worth it.

For the last year-and-a-half, Ian has been part of the ski-resort culture of Colorado. He’s been a personal trainer and all-purpose employee at the Allegria Spa at the Park Hyatt hotel at Beaver Creek. He possesses a degree in marketing from SIU-Carbondale. But, like many with a formal education, he hasn’t quite found his niche in the field of his training. He now believes his true calling to be music.

This doesn’t come as a surprise. Ian amazed us a number of years ago when he stopped tooting the horns of his grade and high-school days and picked up a guitar and taught himself to play. Not just play… but REALLY make it sing. He demonstrated right there the instinct, patience, and talent to be a professional musician and songwriter. Now, his rock music love affair has caused him to pull some friends together to form a band. Ian will be a singer/guitarist. He’s got a friend who also writes and plays guitar. Another is lined up as drummer. They’ll need to add a few more pieces to the puzzle, but that’s already in the works.

Ian comes by his musical inclination and proclivity naturally. The musical genes on his mother’s side run deep. Grandpa Bob is an excellent singer with the St. Peter’s Cathedral men’s choir. Given the right opportunity, I’m convinced he could have become a famous classical tenor. Barb’s late grandfather, “Prof” Miller, was the organist and music director at “the Cathedral” for many years. He was said to have been a wonderfully talented man as well. On my side, well nothing quite so renowned, but I played a mean accordion and was a pretty fair singer in the high school and college choirs in my day. My parents were musically inclined as well.

Ian and favorite Colorado tree--->

Ian has now decided to abandon the mountains and head for the big city after this ski season. What big city? Right now it looks like either Chicago or New York…but I’m guessing that could change depending on how opportunity presents itself. Our young rocker has impressed the pros enough in the past to be invited on stage to sing a tune or two with bands performing in Carbondale. Now he’s written enough music, and feels confident enough as a performer, to go for the brass ring professionally.

When you see the way some people in music become instant stars…and then flame-out to obscurity…it’s not terribly easy to watch your offspring walk into that environment with great expectations. Music “stars” seem to come and go with the seasons. But your child’s dream is what’s important. If Ian has settled on what his life is about, who are his parents to question it? Just as with his brother Stewart, we can only say “go for it with all you have” and be as supportive as we can. The life, the dream, the talent and the time are all his to do with as he pleases. I’ll let you know here when the first CD comes out.

One thing is for sure, there's no dad anywhere that could be any prouder of his sons than this one.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


The John Davidson/Larry Pleau team did a pretty fantastic job with their trade deadline transactions. I saw JD in the hallway at Tuesday night’s game after his press conference and congratulated him. You could see that he had gotten little sleep in the previous few days. But, I would say, and I'm sure he would say, it was worth it.

I know what this is going to sound like. It’s going to sound like I’m a shill for the organization. But, I don’t care. What you’re reading here is how I really feel. And if that sounds like shilling, so be it. I’m still a Blues fan, even though I work for the team on game nights. And I get excited when exciting things happen. After all, we Blues fans haven’t had much to get cranked about for three or four years.

Of course, we'll never know what other deals were offered, or what JD and company might have turned down, but the packages for Tkachuk and Guerin. The re-signings. The Wideman-Boyes trade with Boston. Outwardly, I can’t imagine anyone handling the situation much better than they did. While the draft picks will take a while to reap dividends, having that many high draft picks for the next couple of drafts will put the team in prime trading position…and/or prime drafting position. Either way, great things almost have to come from it.

Getting a player like Boyes for Dennis Wideman, one of the expendables considering the number of quality players the team currently has working the blueline, was icing on the cake. Brad Boyes is the kind of player that should be able to thrive under Andy Murray. He apparently got demoted to some degree in Boston because they needed to give quality ice time to other higher profile kids. So, naturally his production was a little down this year. You just get the feeling that the kid has the skill (26 goals last year) to do great things in a top-six forward role here. He’s already had one star-quality season.

I think most non-insiders have the wrong opinion of Jamal Mayers. I might have been one of those people in the past. I, like many, have been frustrated with Jammer's inability to finish, and his lack of play-making prowess. But, the Blues, and apparently many other teams in the league, think very highly of the rest of his game. His ability to put in quality ice-time in just about every other way made him a valuable commodity on deadline day. So much so that the Blues decided to resign him to, what appears to be, a reasonable three-year deal. The other thing about Mayers is his obvious passion about wearing the Blue Note. He truly does bleed blue, and doesn't mind shedding some of it for the good of the team.

With Jarmo Kekalainen running things on draft day, and JD/LP ready to move up or turn picks into players, draft day ’07 will take on a significance rarely seen in Arch-town. I, for one, can’t wait.