Thursday, December 03, 2009

Fronts: Kingston mayor puts the 'gall' in Cha Gheill!

Like Kinger says, a good hockey town supports good hockey.

Someone needs to put that in a memo for Kingston mayor Harvey Rosen, even though it falls under the heading, "I didn't know it was possible not to know that."

It's funny. A quick Google News check reveals His Worship's hypocrisy on the local sports front over the past week. The first match for Rosen is a press release announcing the mayor will be one of the speakers at today's rally honouring the Vanier Cup champion Queen's Golden Gaels (woo-hoo!). The second is from last week where he questioned "why there aren't more bums in the seats" at Kingston Frontenacs games, adding, "Kingston likes to pride itself on being a hockey city. I wonder."

Some would wonder how the mayor in good conscience can attach himself to a winner while expecting fellow sports-likers to support an abject loser such as the Springer Frontenacs, where the bums are in the owner's suite. Frankly, that stinks worse than TSN missing almost the whole first quarter of the Vanier Cup.

The Frontenacs are honouring the Golden Gaels before their game on Friday, as well they should. Some would say it assures people of seeing a great Kingston team at the K-Rock Centre between now and the Junior A Voyageurs hosting the RBC Cup in 2012.

No doubt a few wags this week have made variations on the same joke. Now that the Vees (central Canadian Junior A champions) and Queen's have each won a major championship (woo-hoo!), the Springer Frontenacs had better hurry up and win something. It works on so many levels. It's funny 'cause it's true.

It's also tragic. Everyone knows the Fronts can never win as long as Rosen's little buddy Doug Springer and the Frontenacs owner's pet dinosaur, GM-for-life Larry Mavety, are both around. What are they, sixth in the OHL's Leastern Conference? Do they get a parade for that too, Mr. Mayor, even though anyone with a brain knows sixth place is a garden-variety feat?

Point being, it was all kinds of wrongheaded for Rosen to fault fans instead of turning to the real culprits. As Kinger said on Fronts Talk:
"To imply that the fault lies with the fans for not showing up shows not just a lack of understanding of the real situation, but a condescension towards and contempt for the hockey fans that made his downtown arena idea a possibility.

"How dare he impugn what I will always defend as one of the greatest hockey fan bases in the entire country.

"How dare he say anything but how honoured he is to preside over a city of such hockey intelligence; the birthplace of hockey and home of so many of its greatest historians and appreciators.

"How dare anyone bemoan the unwillingness of this city's working class to shell out money for inflated ticket prices and downright egregious concessions!

"It's not our fault, Mr. Mayor - it's the fault of the plutocrats who control this city, who try to foist never-ending mediocrity on a city that deserves much better, and expect the populace to be grateful that they're giving them time of day.

"People demand better than that because Kingston deserves better than mediocrity.

"It is the consumer's right to decide where his or her money is best spent.

"How can a man like Mr. Rosen, who made his mark as a savvy businessman, not understand the everlasting mantra that the customer is always right?

"You can't shame people into going to hockey games."
That feeling has been there for a long time, so don't be saying this is cynically timed with the Gaels' triumph. Saying so would be half-right, but not how you might think. It took this long since, as a Kingston expat, it seemed better to focus on Queen's playoff run, which embiggened the smallest man (I would know). However, eventually one's face needs a rest from smiling so much. So, you focus on the Fronts, who could make Giada De Laurentiis frown.

The whole truth is you could write this about the Springer Frontenacs pretty much whenever. That makes Rosen's remarks nuttier than a pecan log. How could someone who lives in Kingston be so tone-deaf as to why the populace has tuned out the Fronts? They have the same doofi in charge who got them into this mess. Small wonder only diehards come out to the sterile K-Rock Centre.

It was fair to give it a chance at the start of the season and steer clear of snap judgments. The Fronts also lost their best NHL draft-eligible defenceman, Erik Gudbranson, for an extended period. That bought them a mulligan.

However, the progress that was promised has not materialized. The above-linked Kingston Whig-Standard article, written by a good and honourable reporter who is not normally on the sports beat, says the team is "hovering around .500." In fact, the Frontenacs have only 11 regulation-time wins in 30 games, a paltry total in such a weak conference. (Two of their 13 total victories have come in 4-on-4 overtime, which is not a good assessment of a team's true talent).

Of course, Springer also wants to host the Memorial Cup next season because the Frontenacs are so competitive with those Western Conference teams. They only got outscored 29-12 during a five-game stretch vs. the West; each of the four losses was by at least three goals.

There are trace elements of Doug Gilmour's influence on the ice. For instance, the players actually seem to have a screw's clue about defensive positioning, which no Mavety-led team has been accused of since 1990.

It all comes back to Springer retaining Mavety, the general mangler. How can Rosen be so willfully blind? Well, he did gave Springer a sweetheart deal on use of the K-Rock Centre. He did sign off on revenue projections most people knew would be unreachable so long as Springer refuses to get the crayon dislodged from his brain, which would give him the 30 missing IQ points he needs to realize his hockey operation is 30 years out-of-date.

You might remember coach "The Trades That Were Made, I Did" Gilmour had to hold out his knuckles to be rapped when the Frontenacs were called before city council last winter over their mediocre record marketing plan. The party line was that it was Gilmour's team with his hand-picked players.

Then their draft looked suspiciously like a Mavety draft. (It's an open secret in OHL circles the Frontenacs are so clueless they actually ask 67's GM Brian Kilrea in Ottawa to make recommendations for their picks.) Then they traded for middling veterans to try to squeeze out a playoff spot in a league that only lets 80% of its teams into the dance. They failed to convince a local talent, Kingston Voyageurs centre Brock Higgs, to cast his lot with them (can't imagine why). Higgs has only been selected for the Canadian Junior Hockey League all-star game and accepted a scholarship to Rensselaer, which is as good at it gets when it comes to getting a Lexus education while playing U.S. college hockey. Remember, he's there for the degree.

(Anonymous apologists will claim Higgs could not help the Frontenacs. This stunning bit of logic ignores he is a comparable player with former Voyageur Mike Farrell, who seems to be helping the Frontenacs.)

It is ugly. Mavety has finger on the button and this man's touch is like iodine on a potato, forever blackening. As Mayor Rosen would say, you wonder if Gilmour is going to stay on once they don't get the Memorial Cup in 2011 (again). You wonder if about the team's commitment after it got waxed 4-1 at home two Sundays ago by a Plymouth team playing its third road game in 2½ games. (The Whalers went from being so weary they couldn't complete a 20-foot pass in the first period to winning easily.)

One would sense it if there was a change of culture around the hockey club. It's not there. As TVCogeco's Mark Potter said last winter, if Larry Mavety survives in Kingston, the OHL will not.

Even more ironically, while Rosen had the gall to call out long-suffering fans, Mavety has been thumbing through The Big Book of Bad Hockey for the right act of ass coverage. His usual move this time of season involves trading a quote-unquote unhappy or underperforming player (whose agent and potential future NHL team want him somewhere where there is actual interest in professional development), on the premise a talent dump will make the team better. This year, that favourite from the playbook is called "The Taylor Doherty."

Last season, it was "The Josh Brittain." Next season, it might be "the Ethan Werek." It doesn't actually stop the franchise from spinning its wheels. It works like a charm in terms of self-preservation and brain-baffling BS.

All that, and Harvey Rosen expects people to show up. Presumably, in the spirit of the late, great Max Jackson's sign-off ("if you can't play a sport, be one!"), Rosen will realize he was way out of bounds to criticize fans. He's a bright enough man to see the difference between the teams in Kingston.

Rosen was at the Vanier Cup. He must have heard people who would know say the Golden Gaels' success flows from their cerebral and classy coaches and permeates the entire program. The spirit emanates from the king. The Frontenacs are stuck with an owner who is a rare combination of arrogant and wrong and a GM who has outlasted his usefulness.

It has been 772 days since Doug Springer promised he would do whatever it takes to bring a winner to Kingston. Who knew Harvey Rosen has needed someone to toss him a clue line for at least that long? C'est la vie, and Cha Gheill!


MisterDB said...

A really great piece, mainstream media in Kingston won't/can't come close to this as they sugar coat and bury their heads in the sand. The mayor is in panic mode as the K-Rock Centre is projecting a loss of profit to the tune of $500,000 or more and now the reserve funds are going to take another hit. He stated taxes won't be raised for this but we the tax payer are paying through the reserve funds.

As I posted on Frontstalk

"The issue of lower fan attendance is smoke and mirrors to deflect away from the KRC issues.

Why? Because the city gets $1.50 per seat from their tax. How much are we talking here. The business plan seating requirement was reduced to 3500 last year so they are coming up short by about 700 per game which means a total shortfall for the season of $35,700 a drop in the bucket compared to the shortfall.

Yes there is some lost revenue at the concessions without these people but the concessions are not generating as much as expected in all the events because of price and quality. This loss cannot be blamed on the Frontenacs this is a city and Arcturus SMG issue.

Mr Rosen should channel his energies toward SMG as these are the people who are charged with revenue generating responsibilities at the KRC and these are the people that are not getting it done."

Jordie Dwyer said...

Actually, if you watched it on TSN2 on tape would have seen the Dinos perfectly executed fake field goal, the touchdown that followed as well as Queen's lengthy march down the field to answer with their own major.
Oh wait, I'm on shoddy kibble direct, not robbers...sorry, I forgot about you poor Ontario people.

sager said...

Kingston is Cogeco; my parents have Bell and missed it too.