Saturday, May 28, 2011

Wisconsin Bars

The year was 2005.  It was my first trip to Vegas.  We were taking the red eye back that night so we pretty much just had a day to kill, with no place to stay. My brother, who lives there, is taking us around that week and decides this would be the best time to go to this place known as Rum Runner, (I call it Rum Runner's, not sure if that's cosher).  It's a few miles off the strip.  As omen to what entire day became, later on into the night my brother decides it would be a great idea to take us to an authentic mexican food cart type cuisine.  It was excellent but not the best idea to mix a uniquely spiced pulled pork and a half gallon of horchata before a 4 hour flight at midnight.  Not to get too far off topic, on the way to it he mentions it is a Wisconsin bar, I have no idea what this means but when we walk in we find out quickly. Packer and Badger banners plastered everywhere and memorabilia strewn about.  I even see signs of the Brewers and Bucks, maybe Marquette, my memory is fuzzy. There are few bars in Wisconsin that are decked out this much, but I guess when you have to convince guests of where they are, and what kind of bar it is, you over-do it.  There is not one thing that didn't remind me of a main street bar in Verona apart from the open space inside. My brother said the place is usually full with Packer fans on Sundays. Needless to say they have good specials before noon. It's a good thing when we move, we take our bars with us. 

The initial thought of this came this past weekend where I was down in Chicago. We watched the Badgers lose to Penn State in what is on out of about a half dozen Wisconsin bars I know of in the Chicago, just in the area we were staying. But when you think about it, where else is this the norm? I'm not aware of Chicago bars in Milwaukee or Madison, Detroit Bars in Columbus, or a Dodgers bar in Philli?  I suppose there are a few cases of this especially with major franchises like a Steeler bar in LA or a Red Sox bar in Seattle. But not to mention the idea of a big rivals bar in a downtown location give me a flashes of street mob justice.  With the Wisconsin ones there seems to be enough people in the area to support it for a long term though.

Where are some other Wisconsin bars located?  Is this common with other franchises, or does it add to the notion of how we travel with sports and spirits?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wisconsin Born NHL'ers

One of the statistics I was going to pull as a major case for professional hockey was the amount of players that Wisconsin has sent to the NHL. This was originally based on just the assumption that we produced dozens of them. However, when I looked it up and saw it was only 25, I was a tad disappointed considering that 39 players in the NBA were born here. I left it at that, but I failed to put it into context of the rest of the country, so here it is:
State # of Players
New Hamp.
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Rhode Island
So. Carolina
South Dakota
West Virginia

All these figures are from Hockey Reference (site). Obviously it doesn’t cover transplants.  If someone was born in Lithuania and moved to New York when they were 2 it wouldn't count for NY, which could work for either side.  It is also only NHL, and not one of the many semi-pro teams that one could play for. Some of these are just hard to believe for the 0 states: Kansas, Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, West Virginia, Tenessee, Nevada, really none of those states ever produced an NHL hockey player (ever?). The other aspect this points out is just how big of an international sport hockey really is, that in the history of the league less than 900 players were born in the US. 

Wisconsin ranks sixth, tied with Connecticut with 25. Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York are the only states ahead of us. Also 11 of the 25 were born after 1980, so it will be something on the rise since it wasn't until the late 1970's that highly organized hockey really came into fruition in our state. It was during these years that UW became a national college powerhouse, the Madison Capitol Jr team was formed, and high schools started adding teams as a varsity sport. I don't really see this as a big bragging point since just about every state around here can crap on us, but considering that we are one of the top states for NHL'ers lends to the notion of how much passion is brewing for the sport as kids grow up with it.

NHL Camera System

NHL camera
All the rage right now is the talk about the Phoenix Coyotes and everything Gary Bettman is trying to do to keep them there. Something about bonds expiring, lawsuits, I don't know. One of the big reasons for keeping them there is that the Phoenix/Glendale/Tempe/etc area is reportedly the 14th largest American TV market and you would be giving that up to move the team to Winnipeg which is the 8th largest in Canada (or 110th or something in America numbers). The problem is it doesn't matter how big something is, if it's not being used then it's pointless. According to this, LA and Anaheim are in the bottom 5 for TV ratings, but have one of the biggest markets in North America, maybe they get away with that by charging $100 a ticket. Hockey is one of the greatest sports to watch live but for some reason it hasn't translated well to watching at home.

 On that note, I can't figure out why NFL is so watchable. On paper it should be horrendous. Commercials every few minutes, most snaps go absolutely nowhere, constant replays, annoying banter but there I am for 9 hours a Sunday watching it even when I am getting updates on my laptop for fantasy. Part of it can be attributed to that circus I discussed used to surround each play, which the NHL should look at adopted but to a much lesser extent. There are a million things people could be doing at any given moment, give them a good reason to stay tuned in, or else why am I wasting my 2 hours watching this. 

Aficionados will tell you it is selling out the sport to try to cater to TV audiences (aka casual fans). Look what Fox did with the joke that is the glowing puck to try to ramp up viewers and help them keep track of what was going on.
Glowing Puck
(would this make George Lucas cream in his pants?)
It was at least something to help though. If the sport is to prosper in this day and age it needs to hit that virtual audience, and when your best market is Pittsburgh at 105,000 homes that's saying it needs another "glowing puck" type jump start but this time maybe think of something successful, and not just for the advantage of a new idea but incorporating things that actually work in the real world. 

One simple way to do this is change the camera angle setup. Something relatively small that even the purists could approve that would revolutionize the way it is watched from home. Right now you have a fixed camera at mid point panning back and forth with a couple quick cuts every once in awhile in one of the corners. The cuts do nothing for me but disorient since they only last a split second, and the fixed position keeps the viewer removed from the action in other areas. Have you ever seen an exciting hockey movie where it was just filmed from one spot the entire time? 

Well how does this differ from actually being there in that spot where the camera is if it is so good to watch live? The biggest difference is field of view controlled by you. Not only do you have a wider field actually being there but you are drawn to things that get your attention: Line changes, off puck hits, coaches yelling, women, score board shenanigans, Boston music blaring, etc, so you are constantly entertained by at least something in your chosen field of view. Right now watching from home is like having so-so tickets, wearing a dog cone on your head and having someone control your neck for you. It tries to emulate what basketball does, but the problem with that is the players and puck are in constant motion around a much larger area of play. 

Why not put a camera right above the ice. Invest in that zip line technology the NFL uses on kickoffs and sometimes replays, or have it follow a track from the ceiling/scoreboard. Make it reminiscent of one of the greatest hockey video games ever.
NHL 94
I know I could watch that game for hours and sometimes had to if there were 3 of us playing with time at full length periods. But think about every virtual hockey experience you have enjoyed, hasn't it always been from an angle right above the action looking vertically? You have bubble hockey, that magnet hockey game, and console hockey. Horizontal games like Ice Hockey and Blades of Steel still were looking at it from above but they still pale in comparison to NHL 94 and 95. 

Why hasn't the NHL at least tried something like this, the idea, the setup as been around for 20 years? You get to see the puck, you get to see all the movements by the goalie, and you get to see plays developing. Create an experience for the fan at home that you wouldn't get in the arena, shouldn't that be the goal?
Football/Basketball/Soccer, et al, get a pass on this since they move at slower paces, with larger tools of scoring so it's a little easier to film it from the side. But with something as fast as hockey you need a system that can focus on where the puck is with good contrast but also keep you in tuned to what else is going on.
You could even just stick a camera on a guy suspended from the rafters, that might be additional entertainment. See how it looks in a couple extended cut shots mixed in with what you are already doing. If people don't like it stop it, it wouldn't cost that much to do. It's just an idea. Maybe the complete whiteness of ice wouldn't look good on TV, would it be good for 3D? 

I could also be pulling this for this because my parents season tickets for UW hockey when I was growing up were right at one end of the coliseum, the very top row, so that is how I had to always watch the game. But it always made it entertaining.

An Argument for Janesville

nhl in wisconsin screenshot
I have to admit I was slightly askew in my original recommendation of Wausau as the #1 host city. Although it would be great to have one there, from a business stand point it probably wouldn't be the best place in Wisconsin if we want it to have the best chance to succeed. Even though it is looking less and less likely, a part of me would still like to see it in a smaller metro area to give something new to the NHL. The best of those types of cities may be Janesville (Let us know what you think in our Forum

Janesville has fallen on extremely hard times recently. GM closed a plant there which left a significant vacuum in employment. Could a team be a way to rejuvenate their economy? It certainly would bring jobs back, and boost sales at hotels/restaurants/bars with extra tourism dollars. 

Other Points -
Immediate City/Population: Janesville has a population of about 60,000 people. They have an ice arena, obviously without NHL capacity but could it be remodeled? There is easy access to major cities like Rockford, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. 

Surrounding Area Population: I was somewhat suprised to find out that within a 50 mile radius of Janesville (above picture) is a population of roughly 1 million people (not including the city itself). It is nowhere near the top of metropolitan areas of the NHL but at the same time nothing to look down on either. Here is a list of some of the major ones and their distance by driving. Most are based off 2000 census.
City Pop. Mileage
Rockford, IL
Belvidere, IL
New Berlin
Crystal Lake, IL
Sun Prairie

IL Residents: Look at cities like Rockford, Crystal Lake, and Elgin. You would get a pretty signficant influx of fans from those cities and other Chicago suburbs, especially people that don't feel like driving down through Chicago to get to a Blackhawks game. 

Proximity to Other NHL Cities: Not only are you about as close to Chicago as Milwaukee, but St. Paul (293 miles) and St. Louis (323 miles) are still somewhat accessible for road games. 

Hockey Base is Growing: In 2009 Janesville became home to the North American Hockey League team the Jets. It could be a nice litmus test to see how they succeed. They also have a solid youth program, with decent high school teams in Parker/Craig and Beloit Memorial.

Is Yahoo Kidding With Their College Hockey Site

nhl in wisconsin screenshot
(Check it out for yourself) When I first started up this site I was looking around for some quick access hockey pages to get up to the minute stories, interesting fluff pieces, and scores. Yahoo was one of the first I looked to since I frequent there often. Sure they have many faults, and uneven/redundent/slow reporting, but I don't see how you couldn't be happy with the amount of topics they cover over a wide variety of sports. Given that, there really is no excuse for how poor their college hockey coverage is. 

If you can make out that story above it is about the annual Beanpot tourney in Boston. Which would be great story to have on the front page, if it didn't happen a few days ago...and wasn't written by the AP instead of a staff writer. There are never any scores up, no standings to speak of, and above all else you can't get to it unless you google it. I get it is college hockey.  With only around 58 D1 teams it pales in comparison to college football and basketball.  However, it is 58 top tier, big school teams that you are missing out on. Is it too much to put an intern up to the task, a bottom of the ladder lackey trying to make a name for themself, trying to get experience? Yahoo could say that the reason they don't support it is because there isn't enough nationwide support for it. i say that's a chicken and egg thing, it's not popular so you don't put much time towards it, maybe if you put time towards it you could make it popular. 

It's time to write a formal letter...

The Unfortunate Case of the Madison Ice Muskies

nhl in wisconsin equalizer
This article does an excellent job of summarizing what happened to this doomed from the start franchise. It was written by Adam Hoge, who was also a broadcaster for the team and had a first hand account of the behind the scenes management, or lack thereof of the team. 

I'm not sure what it is about minor league hockey and Madison. You had the Capitols, the Monsters, the Kodiaks, and now the Ice Muskies all folding or moving, each one quicker than the previous. The Madison Capitols, although amateur, had relative success running for around 11 years during the 80's and 90's and producing NHL players like Brian Rafalski and Derek Plante. I remember going to a couple of Monster games, they seem to sell a decent amount of tickets and had some loyal fans. Maybe it was the cost of the facilities playing at the Coliseum, but they moved to Knoxville becoming the Speed. The Madison Kodiaks moved to Kalamazoo after 1 season of playing here in 2000. The Ice Muskies seem to be a different animal altogether though. Father and son "owners", Gene and John Rudolph from Chicago (go figure) somehow got $150,000 to start the team back in 2009.  It seems no one knows where this money went or if it even existed. None of the players got paid, the coach Rod Davidson was never paid and only got reimbursed for some expenses, and Hoge had a his checks bounce whenever he was able to get a hold of them and request them. Hoge and Davidson ended up taking on multiple positions to try and keep the team afloat, along with several people volunteering their time but the owners abandoned everyone and within its first season the team folded. The players were evicted from their apartments at the Regent when their promised rent checks from the Rudolphs stopped coming in. 

It's easy to focus on this apparent scam these owners were running if they really did have the money and the complete lack of professionalism on their part, but the most interesting aspect is without any real marketing to speak of people still went to the games. It may have been only a few hundred at the time, but if you would have had management with a brain what could have happened with the team? I, like a lot of other citizens in Madison, had no idea the team existed. There are people that are still trying to get the team running again, passionate fans who want to see another form of hockey in Madison. I haven't heard of any results this season, or if they were successful.  Even though it was the players that were hurt the most out of this, they still played the game with the dedication a lot of athletes say they would, but they proved that they would play for free. 

I hope those players find a way to continue to play the sport professionally and good luck to them in the future. Maybe someday semi pro hockey can be brought back to Madison with a decent management plan to give players like these a chance to reach the IHL or NHL.

Our State as Mileage Equilizer

nhl in wisconsin equalizer
One more reason to get a team into Wisconsin is how it impacts traveling on a team's budget. It may seem like a silly thing to use in a debate but you have to account for every kind of variable when considering this and travel adds up very quickly, with little stability. There are 41 away games in a NHL season, what could shaving a few hundred miles off the average trip save to a team's budget/energy? It may mean tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of hours, which could give you an extra a fan giveaway or two, an extra exmployee, better facilities.
AVG Distance to NHL City
Location Miles
Wisconsin 1050
Phoenix 1825
That's 41 times you'll be traveling that extra amount. Granted you will play a majority of those games within a closer radius for your division and conference, but you could also take into account that LA is about 350 miles from Phoenix, similar for us going to St. Louis, and that's their closest. I did a hypothetical center of the state since there is only speculation where it could be taking into account where it is favored along with major interstate access. But even if we altered it for Milwaukee, it would reduce our figure above of 1050 miles. At today's gas and jet prices, not to mention the all important time, being closer would allow a little more wiggle room in budgets.  It also ensures that the teams that play us travel fewer miles and therefore their budgets would decrease too. It has gotten to that point where it is a noticeable factor. There were stories about how Green Bay Packers loses money on road trips relatively speaking.

What's the Story with the Bradley Center

nhl in wisconsin bradley center
A lot of the comments coming to us are all pointing the franchise towards Milwaukee.  That would even seem unlikely due to the current condition the Bradley Center is in, meaning if a team were to be started Milwaukee needs a new place to skate on. I guess the idea of just needing a slab of ice wouldn't fly. A little background on this arena:
  • Home to the Milwaukee Bucks, Admirals, Marquette Men's Bball, Iron (AFL), the occasional NCAA hockey or basketball tourney and dozens of concerts every year
  • Construction begin in 1986
  • Initial costs of building were about $90 million
  • It was opened in 1988 but is already one of the oldest NBA arenas, behind only MSG and the Oracle in Oakland, 2 others were finished in 88
  • Often finds its way onto top 10 worst arena/stadiums in sports
  • Built with money from Jane Bradley Pettit and Hary Lynde Bradley
  • Later given as a gift to the city, and thereby state, minimizing major costs for the franchises that use it
  • Originally built with the notion of getting an NHL team in Milwaukee
  • Ironically the first event was an NHL game between the Blackhawks and Flames
  • Needs roughly $20+ million in renovations for modernizing
Personally I've never had a great experience with the Bradley Center. I've been there about a dozen times, only 2 Bucks games and 1 hockey tournament. It was never bad for me, just average. It could have been the product I was watching though. All the seating feels awkward, steep stairs, narrow walk ways, bad angles, you name it. Although I was very excited for my first Bucks game, they were playing the Pacers and it was my first chance to see Ray Allen and Reggie Miller. If an NHL team did start in Milwaukee a new arena would be the way to go. You wouldn't have to put it downtown necessarily maybe in an area by Poto and Miller Park. Having an NHL team as well as the Bucks could help get that done. But how many arenas does a city need?
nhl in wisconsin milwaukee iron
You know what, this doesn't make any sense. The arena is 22 years old and we are already calling for a replacement, for modernizing?  What is it with this notion that there needs to be all these new arenas and new stadiums. When is Miller Park going to be redeemed too run down, 7 years? Sure the Kohl Center and Miller Park have that initial fanaticism with newness but can you really replace County Stadium and the Field House in the hearts of a Brewers and Badgers fan. There is a reason they left that smaller field standing in the exact same spot in the parking lot in Milwaukee. My favorite coffee table is a solid wood one my dad made 30 years ago, I'll probably have it until the day I die. I could go to IKEA and spend $200 on some new smelling plastic but it would probably last 5 years, I'd hate it, and have to get a new one every few years. Maybe that's the problem with the Bradley Center, it hasn't achieved that kitsch, it doesn't have those great memories (yet), that sentimentality, that cult of personality that places like the Field House and Lambeau Field embody. Maybe it's because too many organizations call it home, or its original purpose has never been fulfilled, would feelings about it change if a Stanley Cup was won there? Why should a team have to be defined by its house, it should be the other way around. As with my first Bucks game, you create a great product on the floor fans for the most part will look passed little imperfections of where they are sitting and how they got there.
nhl in wisconsin bradley center
What will this modernizing entail? A jumbo, HD screen no doubt. But these do nothing more than tarnish the sport. I'm weary of the new cowboy stadium for that reason. I paid $200/ticket to have the live event be overshadowed by a screen almost as big as the field. What's the point of going anymore? The Brewers new screen will reportedly cost between $9 and $12 million. It's not my team but would that money be put to better use building up the farm system, bringing in extra players/personel? If they decide to go through with their updates, I wish they would use it to make better seating, maybe eliminating some to make it more spacious, opening up more parking options downtown, update locker room facilities, and make a state of the art training facility.
nhl in wisconsin bradley center
"The Future?" (as proposed by Lauth Property Group) 

That or they could take over the US Cellular Arena, revert back to the name MECCA, it also has its charm. If there will be scheduling problems with the Admirals move them to the MECCA. Considering they are an IHL team playing in an NHL arena. It might create that intimate atmosphere that people want when they go to semi-pro games. Even when the Admirals draw great numbers (5000-6000), it doesn't seem as great when the space is more than half empty.

What do others think of the Bradley Center?

Maybe there is more to the reason why Milwaukee has never gotten that team that they were initially striving for, maybe we need to look south for that answer...

PS I wish they would have kept County Stadium.

Introducing the Milwaukee Bocks

nhl in wisconsin Muraro
Last spring Puckdrawn had a competition where participants designed hockey uniforms for 6 cities in a fictional NHL expansion. The 6 cities were Hamilton, Halifax, Seattle, Milwaukee, Las Vegas, and Winnipeg which are probably the most likely cities to get a team next. 

Ryan Muraro (site) won in the final round of voting against the Hamilton Steelcats of Canada with his design of the Milwaukee Bocks and rightly so. Everything about this design works, not too mention a mascot as a goat would rub in that "curse" a little more for a neighbors to the south. For those that don't know (and myself) Bocks are sometimes represented by goats because Bavarians from Munich pronounced the town of Einbeck, where it was developed, as "ein Bock" or Billy Goat, probably was an insult as well.
All the Milwaukee designs can be found here

I almost lost it when I saw the Bavarians.  Tell me that these don’t get you excited for some hockey in Wisconsin.  I want to go out and buy those jersey and watch those teams right now.  Kind of puts my Pioneer logo to shame, maybe I should leave it to the professionals.  I liked the Milwaukee Railers.  Forget the political connotations for a second, picture a dude holding up a sign to the opposing goalie saying "we railed your mom".  Could be you…
nhl in wisconsin  railers
Also we have unveiled our new look. A couple of the bigger changes, our email is now contact@nhlinwisconsin. We have gotten rid of the petition/info/design ones, since we have the forum and facebook, we also put most of the Plans into the forum so they can be discussed easier among everyone since that was the original intention of them. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions, and comments.
Ideas? Thoughts? Questions? We want to make this with as much fan participation as possible, so please contact us by emailing