Pressbox Hat Trick

Rants and commentaries on the latest hot topics in sport. Pressbox and hot dogs not included.

  • 2022 World Cup in Qatar – FIFA’s Overheated Decision-Making

    • Ever since Qatar received the World Cup, the World Cup in 2022, many controversies have surfaced. Photo Credit D@LY3D. No changes were made to this photo.

    For those who barely follow soccer or world politics, the tiny Middle Eastern country of Qatar may seem quite inoffensive—most probably haven’t even heard of it. However, for those who revolve around the soccer planet, the country has been a source of frustration and desperation for several years now.

    On December 2, 2010, it was announced that the 2022 FIFA World Cup would be played in Qatar. It was a shocking decision from the get-go. The location of Qatar makes it very difficult to host the tournament in its regular summer time slot. Temperatures in the summer months exceed 40 degrees Celsius and this would be a health issue for the players who have no choice but to run around the pitch for 90 minutes.

    It was only a few months ago that FIFA announced they’d found a solution for the unbearable heat—hosting the tournament in the winter (or fall).

    The exact months aren’t set in stone yet, but whether the World Cup is played in November or in January the consensus is loud and clear. This will screw up the world of football, especially where it works the most: Europe.

    FIFA’s decision begs the question: why would association soccer’s governing body even consider a country like Qatar in the first place?

    Ask this question in a pub in most countries around the world and the answer will probably be shouted at you in a split-second. Corruption. Money. Basically what you’d expect of a normal pub conversation on politics.

    But those people may not be all wrong.

    An 18-month investigation led by former New York district attorney Michael Garcia was started to look further into both the 2022 World Cup bid and the 2018 bid, won by Russia.

    In November of 2014, FIFA’s ethics committee decided that there was no sufficient evidence to take away the tournament from either Russia or Qatar.

    Less than a month after these actions, Michael Garcia resigned as FIFA’s investigative director. “As my public statement at the time explained,” Garcia told The Telegraph,” the [FIFA ethics committee] Decision contained ‘numerous materially incomplete and erroneous representations of facts and conclusions.’”

    Garcia was so fed up with FIFA’s activities and attempts at damage control that he preferred to leave.

    That’s only the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even looked at the treatment of workers that build the stadiums and accommodations for the tournament.

    The International Trade Union Confederation estimated that at least 4,000 migrant workers, mainly from Nepal, Sri Lanka and India, will be dead before the World Cup even starts.

    Workers in Qatar told The Guardian that they were forced to work in 50 degree heat, that their salaries were retained for several months, that their passports were taken from them to prevent them from leaving and that they were denied free water to drink.

    The Guardian also reported that Qatar recruited migrant workers from North Korea who work without daring to complain while Pyongyang pockets 90% or more of their earnings.

    Back to the 2021 Confederation’s Cup, which has been stripped from Qatar. FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke said that the event will be played in another Asian country. No one from FIFA has given a specific reason as to why they took the hosting rights of the Confederations Cup from Qatar.

    This whole situation has been detrimental to world football for the past four to five years. The outrage of last summer’s World Cup in Brazil was sad in every way, but it’s no match for what the Qatari are already getting, even with seven years left to go before 2022. Qatar should not have received the hosting rights to the 2022 World Cup; I don’t think that’s shocking to anyone.

    As for the Confederations Cup, the choice of country within the Asian Football Confederation seems simple: Australia, which was the easy favourite right out of the gate.

    The Australians have a country in which soccer is rapidly gaining ground and it would be great to see them host a major event. They hosted a very successful Asian Cup tournament that saw the host country running away with the title. Australia could also host soccer’s biggest event, as they were a bidding country for that same World Cup tournament.

    Another nation that could consider hosting the 2022 World Cup is the USA. They were finalists in the bidding process but lost to Qatar and many Americans are still bitter about it to this day.

    The Americans are used to hosting major events and have the stadiums to prove it. Next year, they will host the hundredth edition of the Copa America, the continental tournament of South America. The tournament will include cities from coast to coast.

    Hosting the World Cup on Australian or American soil would be a better option for FIFA, who are constantly in damage control mode—and don’t seem to be very good at it. There are a lot of things that still need to be uncovered about Qatar’s World Cup bid, but let’s simply acknowledge that the two reasons I mentioned are good enough to strip the coveted tournament from the tiny nation.

  • Pressbox Hat Trick: The Podcast EP4

    Julian, Tristan and Vince touch off on a LOT on this week’s episode. NHL Trade Deadline talks, with BREAKING TRADES, CIS talk on women’s hockey, the Montreal Impact, and way more. Featuring recurring guest Joshua Rosenbaum.

  • Pressbox Hat Trick: The Podcast EP3

    Episode 3 of Pressbox Hat Trick! Julian McKenzie, Tristan D’amours and Vince Morello talk NBA All-Star Weekend, Concordia and McGill hockey playoffs, and the Toronto Maple Leafs with special guest contributor Joshua Rosenbaum.

  • The Shootout Needs to Go

    • Graphic Sam Jones

    Having a win or loss decided on a glorified skills competition is not only unfair, but it also reduces the game of hockey to a one-on-one situation. To play 65 minutes of hockey, only for the game to be decided in a shootout with only one player and one goalie are on the ice, takes the elements of the team out of the game.

    When a game reaches four-on-four overtime, games tend to open up with all the extra space, leading to scoring chances for both teams, and it’s exciting hockey for the fans. However, when overtime ends, the shootout becomes a dud, the scoring chances and buzz of overtime end.

    Another issue with the shootout is how it sometimes drags for too long. When a shootout has to go past five shooters per team, I am already tired of it, and just want the game to finish.

    Are there solutions? Of course there are. Obviously I am not advocating for the NHL to go back to the era of ties; there’s another all-too-obvious option for the NHL.

    In the GM meetings of 2012, Ken Holland, the General Manager for the Detroit Red Wings, suggested adding another five-minute period of three-on-three hockey before going to shootout. It was turned down quickly; however, it eventually gained enough traction for it to be tested with mixed results in 2010 and 2011.

    Despite the results of the NHL tests, its minor affiliate, the American Hockey League, decided to adopt a new rule. Instead of the standard five minutes of four-on-four overtime and then a shootout, they opted for a seven-minute overtime period. The first three minutes would be played four on four, then the latter part would be played three against three.

    The CIS also adopted the new overtime rule. Instead of being seven minutes, CIS teams play a five-minute period of four against four, then another five-minute period of three on three. If the game is still unresolved after ten minutes, it goes to a shootout.

    While some people are in favour of the three-on-three, it also has its critics as well.

    “I’m not a fan of the three-on-three, I voted against it when it came up,” said Stingers head coach Kevin Figsby. “If you’re going to play an extra ten minutes of the game, it’s not about the fans, it’s about the players. It should of five on five until the end. The shootouts for the fans. I don’t think you need to bring in a sideshow like three on three.”

    Since implementing the rule change, the AHL has dramatically reduced the number of games ending in a shootout.

    Since the beginning of the season and all the way through Dec. 16, 75.3 per cent of games that needed extra time ended in overtime, compared to last season when only 35.3 per cent of games ended in overtime, with the rest resulting in a shootout.

    While it is a small sample size, the extra period of three-on-three hockey shows that it can end the game before it goes to a shootout. Having the extra period would essentially get rid of the sideshow skills competition and end games quicklier while actually playing hockey.

  • NHL Salary Cap and Canadian Dollar Love Affair

    • Graphic Sam Jones

    Prior the beginning of the 2014-15 season, with the Canadian dollar trading at $0.88 USD, the salary cap was expected to go up from 69 to 73 million. However, with the recent free-fall of the loonie, trading currently at $0.80 USD, projections have been significantly lower, resulting in a potential disaster for certain clubs.

    The cap consists of different restrictions that teams must follow. Each year, based on the projected revenues for the upcoming season, the NHL determines its maximum and minimum values.

    The Canadian dollar has a major impact on how the league evaluates this. 76% of all revenues generated by the league come from only six teams. Three out of those six teams are Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. This means their revenue decreases in value as the dollar drops.

    On average, a one-cent drop in the loonie removes $690,000 USD from a Canadian franchise’s net earnings.

    Each player in the league is paid in USD. Canadian teams, who generate the majority of their income in CAD, have to take a loss on money exchange. Not to mention that most of teams in the US need to pay for hotel costs, and flights all in USD.

    The Collective Bargaining Agreement is the contract that the NHL and the NHL Players Association signed during the 2004-2005-lockout season, integrating the aspect of the salary cap. At the next lockout in 2012-2013, the CBA was revised and new additions were added.

    From the negotiations, the NHL added a component called revenue sharing. This is where the top ten most financially successful teams pool money, so other teams that need help can use it. This is how the entire league is affected. Since three of the top six highest-earning teams are Canadian, the value of money they put into the “revenue sharing pot” is worth less.

    The first cap was set during the 2005-2006 season at 39 million, and as of 2014-2015, it’s at 69 million. That‘s a 77% increase over the span of 10 years.

    Most clubs’ earlier speculations believed the cap would increase well above $75 million for the 2015-2016 seasons. A major reason was the $5.2 billion dollar Rogers TV deal the NHL signed, along with the increasing popularity of the sport across the US.

    Now what does this mean for the Habs?

    Well honestly, Marc Bergevin is probably one of the smartest GMs out there. He clearly understood the ramifications of the falling Canadian dollar and acted quickly. The Canadiens have big internal signings that need to be taken care of this summer, trying to retain restricted free agent Alex Galchenyuk.

    Galchenyuk is currently in his third season and on pace to tally somewhere around 55 points. If we compare this to Evander Kane’s third season, where he got 57 points. What followed was a six-year 31.5 million dollar contract.

    Bergevin, realizing the possibility of having to sign key players with little cap increase, traded Rene Bourque to the Anaheim Ducks and Travis Moen to the Dallas Stars. In exchange he got two players with expiring contracts, enabling him to leave room to add or resign players.

    Regardless of what happens, teams now know that they have an extra dimension to consider when handling the management of their teams.

    NHL commissioner Gary Bettman doesn’t seem too worried about the issue, saying, “I assure you, even with the decline in the Canadian dollar, the salary cap does not fall off a cliff.”