When a blog gets recruited

It’s not Danny DeKeyser to the Red Wings, but I’m happy to announce I’ve accepted an offer to join the Western College Hockey Blog’s staff of writers.

From now on, the content you would normally read here will be posted there.

WCHB is widely read and respected by people in and around college hockey. It’s professional and polished.

I know, I know. Why would they want me?

Who knows, but a big thanks to WCHB editor Chris Dilks for this opportunity.

I look forward to missing deadlines and starting riots under his site’s banner this fall.

And thanks for reading.

I hope you’ll visit us over at the new spot.

Is Rossetti the design architect of new WMU hockey arena?

Compton Family Ice Arena, Notre Dame.

Rossetti is an architectural design and planning firm based in Southfield, Mich.

It has designed or helped re-design, among others, Van Andel Arena, Ford Field, The Palace of Auburn Hills and the Edmonton Oilers’ new $480 million facility that will break ground in early 2014 (see Rossetti’s full list of projects here).

Might a new hockey arena for Western Michigan University be one of the latest projects in Rossetti’s portfolio?

The firm has some range: in addition to sports venues large and small, it also designed WMU’s engineering campus. So there’s a business connection already. Rossetti also planned the new Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame — widely considered to be a college hockey gem — and mapped out the renovation at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. So there’s a college hockey connection, too.

The Yost renovation price tag was $16 million. Any new arena at WMU would obviously cost well beyond that and, admittedly, this blog wouldn’t have had to dig too much to figure out the original $16 million rumor was a mistake (so our bad on that).

But digging has confirmed: there are plans for digging on WMU’s campus.

Rossetti or otherwise.

WMU to build new hockey arena on campus

Western Michigan University has plans to build a new hockey arena, multiple sources have confirmed.

Details are still emerging, but it’s estimated the price tag will be well north of the $16 million that was rumored two weeks ago. It’s also believed construction could begin as early as 2014.

The new building will connect to Lawson Arena and be constructed along its southeast side in what is currently a parking lot the school’s marching band uses for practice. Lawson Arena will remain in use for community hockey and skating events.

It’s unclear when WMU plans to officially announce the project – a school official denied the recent report of a new $16 million arena – but it’s believed head coach Andy Murray is already using the arena plans as a selling point to potential players during recruiting visits.

Rumors also suggest the building will be similar in style to Notre Dame’s Compton Family Ice Arena, though the project’s architect remains unknown.

We also don’t know:

  • Who is paying for the project
  • If all the funds have been raised
  • The seating capacity
  • What the building will be named
  • If this project replaces plans for a new downtown arena
  • If other WMU teams and the Kalamazoo Wings will play in the arena

But we do know:

This would be another major step forward for a program that has risen to prominence since 2010. It would reinforce – majorly – the school’s commitment to hockey and position WMU among the nation’s elite, particularly in terms of facilities.

Also, the NCAA recently (and smartly) lowered its seating capacity requirement for regional tournament sites. One would imagine the new arena could give WMU a legitimate shot at hosting an NCAA regional.

More as it’s available…

Would London really be best fit for McCarron? Plus, new arena talk (again)

Michael McCarron

With the 25th pick of Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens made Michael McCarron the highest pick ever to play at Western Michigan.

That is, if he actually reports to Kalamazoo.

The would-be freshman is apparently deciding this week between WMU and the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

Which, when you think about it, maybe isn’t that tough a decision after all.

The argument for the OHL is that players play more games (80 instead of 40 in college), which better prepares them for the pros. It’s a valid point. But what players don’t get by going the junior route is extensive practice, video and white board time, and workouts led by full-time strength and conditioning coaches. When you’re 6-5, 227, 18 years-old and not a dead-lock for an NHL roster right away, these things matter. Especially when the coach leading the chalk talk and on-ice drills is Andy Murray.

If he goes to London, he plays a lot… and that’s about it. The Knights are a successful franchise — he’d learn how to win, which is valuable — but what would he accomplish in London that he didn’t with the U.S. National Development team?  Usually, 18 year-old first-round picks have used the OHL to get drafted. McCarron used the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor. Now, it’s about skill and strength development.

It also wouldn’t be in McCarron’s best interest (other than financially) to sign with the Habs and report to their AHL club in Hamilton (experts don’t expect he’ll actually make the Canadiens this season). He’d collect a signing bonus, make $80,000 a season and play 80-plus games… but wouldn’t receive the type or amount of individual development that he would at Western. And word on the street is he could use a little of it, particularly in the weight room.

Sure, McCarron might play in Kalamazoo for only a year or two.

If he’s unsure about that, perhaps he can ask Danny DeKeyser how it worked for him.

ALONG THE RAIL …

  • Ineligible: Defenseman Garrett Haar will miss at least the first half of the 2013-14 season because he’s academically ineligible. This is a big blow for a team that lived and died by its defense last season, and that was counting on Haar to pick up whatever slack he could after the departures of Danny DeKeyser and Luke Witkowski.
  • From the We’ll Believe It When We See Shovels In The Ground Department: A source, citing a “heavy hitter” in the community, said there could be an announcement coming from WMU in the next month about a new $16 million arena that will — get this — connect to Lawson Arena. This rumor is on the heels of last season’s report that Andy Murray engineered an idea to build a new arena where the school’s track currently sits, not to mention the never-ending downtown arena drama. But let’s imagine this $16 million idea is true for a minute… where do they build it? Behind the existing arena? In the band’s practice parking lot to the southeast? Add a second story, ala Madison Square Garden? Pull off an imminent domain permit to build it partially on Stadium Drive?
  • Confirmed: Lawson will feature a new scoreboard and video boards this season. Here’s hoping the scoreboard is nothing like the semi-trailer hanging at Wings Stadium.

DeKeyser to Detroit: Soooo… what took so long?

Hockey super agent Don Meehan

Newport Sports is the top hockey player agency in the world, and its office in Mississauga, Ontario, has been the scene of many FBI-like free agent standoffs in recent years.

Brad Richards ran negotiations out of Newport’s office two summers ago.

Last summer, reporters crowded the sidewalk as GMs and other executives filed in to woo Zach Parise.

This week, it was Danny DeKeyser’s turn to bunker down and let his agents work over some of the most esteemed men in hockey and, in the process, commence a week of foreplay that climaxed Friday with the announcement that DeKeyser – as everyone expected – has signed a two-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings.

Which begs many questions:

- Why let the Maple Leafs wine and dine him at the Air Canada Centre earlier this week?
- Why force Nashville head coach Barry Trotz to skip practice with 15 games left and his team struggling for a playoff berth to fly north with Predators brass?
- Why take the calls from Edmonton’s owner, head coach and brightest young defenseman?
- Why allow Flyers owner Ed Snider and his closest hockey advisors to charter a jet to Ontario for a face-to-face meeting?
- Why do any of that if, all along, DeKeyser knew he wanted to be a Red Wing?

Trades and free agent deals are like live coverage of murders the way they play out in the media these days. There’s the initial call or hint something is up. There’s the confirmation that something has happened or is in the works. Then the people who are actually involved shut up while the media stands outside and swirls rumors and analysis while it waits for the blinds to raise and the player to walk out the front door, new contract in pocket.

It’s kind of comical, really.

Still, what took DeKeyser so long?

Like these crime sprees, we likely won’t find out the blow-by-blow recap for a while, if ever. Agents and GMs and players will only talk so much, even after a deal is consummated. After all, they’re always working with the next deal in mind.

Which, to me, probably explains why this took so long.

Don Meehan and Ed Ward and the entire Newport team works for Danny DeKeyser. But they also work for Zach Parise. And dozens of other hockey players at varying stages of their careers and in various contract situations.

There wasn’t much they could negotiate for DeKeyser – the money was the same wherever he signed. And while they could likely negotiate for other things (spot on the roster, depth in the organization, playing time, perhaps even other intangibles), it’s likely DeKeyser’s agents used their fresh faced client for the air time it got them with Ken Holland and Kevin Lowe and Doug Armstrong and a slew of other big fish execs.

“Hey, Doug, while I have you … about that other deal…”

This is not to imply that Meehan or Ward or any other Newport reps acted without integrity. That’s how this business works. And, sure, it’s possible an entirely different reason held this up.

Maybe DeKeyser really wasn’t sure about Detroit. Maybe the nice guy in him wanted to give each of these teams a fair shot. Maybe the fear in him warned to slow down and be cautious with every offer, regardless of how airtight it seemed.

Maybe.

But you can bet this entire thing was orchestrated and played out exactly as the men who represent DeKeyser wanted it. Like a real estate deal or any other negotiation, silence, due diligence and a little gamesmanship – for sport – trump time.

Even if it drives the Twittersphere nuts.

In motion

The sleek, sterile chairs of a corporate Toronto office.

Men in tailored suits flanking a boy in his, the collar loose.

Across the table, Sharks and Predators.

Wings and Hawks.

With promises of brightest tomorrow, they stalk.

KO’d: Broncos go bust in CCHA quarterfinals

Welcome to this blog’s first ever video post.

So many story lines came to mind following the Wolverines’ weekend waylay that a regular post would’ve taken forever to write (and read).

Thus… this.

(Yes, I’m wearing sweat shorts with the dress shirt. It’s Sunday.)