The Minnesota Wild have been one of the biggest surprises in the National Hockey League (NHL) this season, running out to a 12-5-2 record in their first 19 games—good for second place in the ultra-competitive Central Division, where just nine points separates six of the seven teams in the standings. But sometime in the next week, the State of Hockey will have the NHL’s best hockey team.
Last season, the Minnesota Wild had a brutal start to the season simply due to scheduling. They played five of their first six games on the road, but worse yet, they didn’t play for five days between their second and third game—both of which were on the road. There were six days off between their fourth and fifth game, too. Despite limping out to a 2-2-2 start, the Wild managed to make the playoffs and lose in the first round, as usual.
This season the Wild started on the road at Colorado in a rivalry matchup, but played four of their next five games at home. They again spent five days off between their second and third game, and the results were the same: a 2-2-2 start. But playing three of their next four at Xcel Energy Center helped the Wild to a five-game winning streak, including wins over Tampa Bay and Colorado.
Now the Wild get a week of teams they should beat, and they kicked it off by kicking the crap out of a Canucks (10-9-2) squad finishing a grueling, six-game road trip. Next up for the Wild is a visit from a Buffalo Sabres team (10-6-2) coming off a game against the unruly Jets (they lead the league in penalty minutes per game) in Winnipeg the previous night. Then the Wild visit the lowly Blackhawks (7-8-4) before returning to St. Paul to host lowly Ottawa (8-8-3).
Meanwhile, the Western Conference leading Nashville Predators (13-5-1) just dropped a one-goal game to the surging Coyotes (9-8-1), but more importantly, will be without two of their best players for quite some time. Nashville lost its second-leading goal scorer in Viktor Arvidsson for six to eight weeks, and P.K. Subban was placed on injured reserve as well. They host the sinking Kings (5-11-1) desperate for a win, followed by a visit from the East’s best Tampa Bay Lightning (13-5-1).
The Lightning, meanwhile, are at Philadelphia (9-9-1) on Saturday before visiting Nashville on Monday. They host Florida (7-6-3) on Wednesday and Chicago on Friday, but will likely be without top goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who is out indefinitely with injury.
It takes some luck to score goals, stop goals and win hockey games. The Minnesota Wild have been relatively lucky when it comes to goal scoring, and they are going to need that luck to continue. They’re a team that scores ugly goals. They rely on deflections like this one Eric Staal scored against the Blues for his 400th goal. They rely on redirects like this one by Nino Neiderreiter scored against the Canucks on Thursday night. Basically, unless the opposing goalie is standing on his head, the Wild are going to win games if they get a lot of shots on goal, because their defense doesn’t allow a lot of clean shots on goal, and their goalie hasn’t allowed much to get past him.
Devan Dubnyk hasn’t been lucky. He’s simply been pretty good at stopping goals (.926 save percentage is 13th overall), and he’s been pretty good for a long time (tied for 15th overall in goals allowed per game since 2014-15 season). But the Wild haven’t had to go without their goalie like the Lightning will. Dubnyk’s 18 games played this season is eighth amongst goalies, and since the 2014-15 season, he’s eighth overall in games started by goalies. The Wild have been extremely luck in this regard.
The Wild beat the Canucks without 34-year-old Zach Parise on Thursday, who took ill prior to game time. He’s expected back for the Wild’s next game against the Sabres. But to give you a sense of just how lucky the Wild have been health-wise, take a look at the injury report for the entire season. Not one of the eight reports has been to place a player on injured reserve. Two reports were simply to activate players coming off IR.
With the Wild entering a three-game homestand over American Thanksgiving where they’re 6-1-2, it’s not inconceivable for them to be the NHL’s best hockey team in the near future. A three-game tour of Canada in the first week of December as part of a five-game stretch against strictly Canadian teams will test their resolve and let us truly know what to expect from the Wild. The best test of that stretch will come against the second-best team in the East, Toronto (13-6-0) on Dec. 1.
With the points the Wild have already amassed (27) and the way in which they’ve earned them (12 points won on the road) puts Minnesota in an enviable position. They don’t have to be great on the road given their success at home, so down the stretch they can lean on their home crowd to collect enough points to make the playoffs. Whether the Wild are hosting an opening round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs will depend on their health, and specifically, the health of Parise, whose PDO of 105.3 (his team’s shooting percentage plus save percentage with him on the ice) leads the team. Translation: with Parise on the ice, the Wild are at their best on both ends.
Elections feel more and more like sporting events every time they're held. There's more dirty play, more money spent, the officiating gets worse and worse, and there have been more people switching teams, from Republican to Democrat mostly, according to Twitter at least, than ever before. That doesn't make the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections easily understood, however.
Since sports is a language we all understand, I offer this as a means to comprehend the chaos that is contemporary U.S. politics by looking at the races like they're actual races, or any sporting event for that matter. This piece aims to inform you of the facts and stakes surrounding the biggest and closest races of the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections by comparing them to historic sporting events or sports rivalries.
The piece also offers some politics betting advice you can take or leave, but I assure you, politics betting is even more fun and addictive than sports betting. If you're disinterested in politics, politics betting makes politics suddenly interesting. I should warn you, however, that I and just about everyone else in America lost big time in 2016—in more than one way. This election we’ll start winning it back together. (Author's note: any winnings are reinvested into candidates’ campaigns the following election cycle.)
It might not be a perfect comparison to 1908's “Fight of the Century” between the first ever black heavyweight boxing champion, Jack Johnson, and Tommy Burns, but Democrat Stacey Abrams is trying to be to the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections what Jack Johnson was to boxing.
Abrams is running to become the country’s first ever black female elected governor of any state. Abrams’ opponent, Brian Kemp, is doing his damnedest as Georgia’s acting Secretary of State to make sure she doesn’t. It would be like Johnson’s fight against Burns, but if Burns had served as referee of the fight as well. Abrams isn’t likely to do a year in prison for dating a white woman like Johnson did, though.
A federal judge has already ruled against Kemp, who was using an “exact match” law to keep over 3,000 people—mostly minorities—from voting for things like misspellings and missing hyphens on their voter registration applications. But over 50,000 voters in Georgia have been flagged as ineligible because of the law, and despite that, Abrams trails in the polls by just one point, according to Real Clear Politics’ (RCP) average. She’s gotten the Oprah boost recently, too, so expect this one to come down to the wire.
I have $10 on Abrams to win on Predict It, an online marketplace for politics betting, basically. The difference being you can buy and sell shares right up until the election is called, so if Abrams holds a lead at some point on Election Day, I can sell my shares for her to win at a profit in case the late rounds go to Kemp. I won’t, however.
The basketball battle for the State of California between LeBron James and his Los Angeles Lakers and the reigning, back-to-back-champion Golden State Warriors is not unlike the battle for the Texas Senate seat. Ted Cruz is the reigning, Republican champion running for a second term, and Beto O’Rourke brings all the glitz and glam LeBron brought with him to the Lakers. O’Rourke doubled Cruz’s campaign contributions in the second quarter of 2018, raising more than $10.4 million despite taking no money from Political Action Committees (PACs). His ability to raise money has this shaping up to be the most expensive U.S. Senate race of all time.
Like the Lakers, O’Rourke will have to spend to contend. According to the latest Emerson poll, he trails Cruz by three points, but the RCP average has him even further behind in a state that hasn’t had a Democratic Senator since 1993. I have $5 on O’Rourke scoring an upset, but I’m really just hoping early tallies of metropolitan areas like Dallas-Fort Worth have O’Rourke far enough ahead early to sell at halftime before Cruz goes on a run, hitting shots from rural Texas in the third quarter like the Warriors do against seemingly everybody.
While Miamians will vote on a proposal for the purchase of real estate to house a billion-dollar Major League Soccer (MLS) complex, they'll also be voting to potentially restore the voting rights of more than 1.5 million former felons in the state (10 percent of all voters in the state). Florida is one of just three states (Iowa and Kentucky being the others) to automatically bar anyone convicted of a felony from voting. A grassroots campaign run by former felons is looking to change that, but needs 60 percent of Florida voters to vote "yes" on Amendment Four in order for it to pass.
Amendment Four would "automatically restore the right to vote for people with prior felony convictions, except those convicted of murder or a felony sexual offense, upon completion of their sentences, including prison, parole, and probation." And while Florida's ex-cons have an avenue to regaining their voting rights, it's a long street with obstacles abound like the last level of the arcade game, Paperboy, but with an old, pasty boss withholding payment until you get off the bike, walk up to the house, ring the doorbell, and place his newspaper ever so gently in his right hand before kissing the rings on his left.
Ari Berman explains in an article for Mother Jones that Florida felons can get their voting rights back but have to wait five to seven years to petition a Clemency Board headed by current governor, Rick Scott, who has denied 90 percent of applications—giving just 3,000 Florida felons the right to vote. Scott's predecessor, Charlie Crist, who left the Republicans for the Democrats in free agency, approved 155,000 applications. Even Republican Jeb Bush approved 75,000, and he's still on Scott's team. And that team is hard on crime because it's an easy stance to take and it pays well.
Florida's Rick Scott has received the most contributions from the private prison industry in 2018 ($70,600), and fellow Floridian Rebecca Negron is second ($29,850). Two other Florida Republican candidates make the top 20, accepting $10,000 each to funnel both prisoners and tax dollars to for-profit prisons. Texas "entrepreneurs" were turning old motels into migrant detention centers until they found out they could get away with putting up a few tents instead. Four Republicans and one Democrat from Texas also made the list.
These private prisons are literally banking on recidivism; they want prisoners to keep coming back. To them, convicts are cash cows; they're valued. But to the rest of the world, convicts are always convicts, regardless of rehabilitation. Convicts can find God but not a job. In Florida, they can get a law degree but not practice law. And in Florida, they can indulge in every pleasure imaginable except the pleasure that comes from voting. The second chance ex-cons are afforded, especially in Florida, comes with strings attached, takes five to seven years to earn, and doesn't have to be granted, and likely won't, even if the convict does everything asked of her. That doesn't mean they can't participate in democracy, though.
Even though a million-plus Florida ex-cons can't vote in the 2018 U.S. Midterm Elections, you can bet they're knocking doors and phone banking to get Democrats to the polls on Election Day so they can vote someday soon. Felons currently incarcerated in Florida jails and prisons are probably calling home to make sure their friends and family vote in this election so they too can vote someday. Left-leaning voters with friends and family convicted of felonies won't be sitting at home on Election Day, and that bodes well for Democratic candidates. Both Bill Nelson and Andrew Gillum were leading in the RCP average polls on the eve of the elections.
The roughly 113,000 Florida votes that separated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in 2016 (1.2 percent) will surely narrow, because this grassroots movement of former felons has given Florida Democrats an inside track to victory through an issue that has further motivated an already motivated base. Major League Soccer's (MLS) success in Atlanta is indicative of what can be done when you offer people something of which they've been deprived.
Both Minnesota and Atlanta got MLS expansion franchises in 2017. Minneapolis and Atlanta share similar age demographics that make them ideal soccer cities. Residents aged 20 to 30 years make up the largest segment of their populations. Atlanta is obviously more diverse, but that doesn't explain why Atlanta United leads not only MLS, but the NFL, MLB, and NHL in attendance, averaging 46,318 tickets sold per game in its inaugural season. Minnesota United managed just over 20,000 per game in its inaugural season, in a stadium with more than 50,000 seats, which the Loons filled just once and marketed hard to do so.
Atlanta United set new attendance (and points) records in 2018, averaging over 53,000 fans per game. What gives? The Five Stripes were surprisingly good surprisingly fast, but they weren't the Vegas Golden Knights of MLS. The Five Stripes lost in the first round of the playoffs despite finishing the regular season fourth overall. The key to Atlanta's stunning MLS success isn't strictly due to the product's performance on the pitch. It's influenced by the availability of excess income and a lack of quality, sports/entertainment substitutes in the area demanding those dollars.
Atlanta is a business hub home to Home Depot, Coca-Cola, UPS, and Delta Air Lines, so while Atlanta has more impoverished individuals and families than both Minneapolis and St. Paul, a lot of Atlantans have a lot of money. There are more families in Atlanta earning more than $200,000 annually than in any other income level. More than a quarter of married families in Atlanta make more than $200,000 annually. Minneapolis and St. Paul combined have just 23.5 percent of married families making more than $200,000 annually. But what sporting events would Atlantans pay to see in 2017?
The MLB's Braves might have moved into a new, publicly funded stadium in 2017, but they weren't especially good (and neither was traffic or parking), finishing 72-90, 23rd in the standings and 13th in attendance. The Braves turned that record around and won their division in 2018, but still finished 11th in attendance. For reference, in 2011, the Minnesota Twins finished their second season at Target Field with a 63-99 record and managed to finish fourth in attendance. MLB as a whole saw average attendance drop to a 15-year low in 2018, but whether the Braves' struggle to fill seats is due to traffic, parking, the ire of taxpayers, or an overall disinterest in the game doesn't change the fact that their product fails to demand the entertainment dollars of affluent Atlantans.
The NBA's Hawks were even worse than the Braves in 2017-18. After losing out in the first round of the 2016-17 NBA Playoffs, they finished the following season tied for the third-worst record in basketball, ending a run of regular-season dominance culminating in early postseason exits. The Hawks are hoping a renovation of State Farm Arena, complete with golf simulator suites and an authentic, Atlanta barbershop, demand the dollars their product currently cannot.
The Hawks do, however, offer a relatively affordable and valuable season ticket package, which is another means to make a poor product more appealing. Price matters and must reflect not just the product's quality, but how accessibility affects demand for the product. Transportation and parking expenses must be considered when setting a price, and the Hawks have years of experience at their location to more accurately estimate those costs than the Braves did.
Still, the Hawks were dead last in attendance in 2017-18, managing to fill just 14,409 of their 21,000 seats per game (68.6 percent of capacity). Atlanta United originally intended to close the upper bowl of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to create a more intimate atmosphere, lowering capacity from 70,000 to 42,500. That's 109 percent of seats sold in year one, or 66.2 percent if you use the 70,000 figure. In year two, they bested the Hawks' seat-sold percentage by almost 10 percent using considering a capacity of 70,000.
With the NHL's Thrashers becoming the Winnipeg Jets in 2011, Atlanta's affluent population has been deprived of quality, sports entertainment since the Hawks' window of contention closed in early 2017. The wallets of affluent Atlantans were practically begging for a worthwhile entertainment alternative just as Florida ex-cons are actually pleading for an alternative to Rick Scott's Clemency Board when it comes to regaining their right to vote.
Florida Democrats could replicate The Five Stripes' stunning MLS success by simply expressing their support for legislation offering disenfranchised people an alternative to Scott's Clemency Hawks subjectively dictating the voting rights of Florida's former felons with no oversight whatsoever. But something tends to be better than nothing, and nothing is very close to what Rick Scott is offering Florida's 1.5 million former felons right now. Expect a blue wave in Florida across the board.
Heidi Heitkamp has a better chance to retain her North Dakota Senate seat (11/2, according to the Predict It market) than Conor McGregor had to beat Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match (11/1). But McGregor was incredibly overrated and idiotically over-wagered. Despite a marijuana legalization initiative appearing on North Dakotans’ ballot on Election Day, Heitkamp trails Republican challenger Kevin Cramer by nine points in the latest Fox News poll. With cannabis becoming more of a bipartisan issue, the initiative might bring close as many Republicans to the polls as Democrats, so it looks as though Heitkamp’s short reign as North Dakota’s Senator could be coming to an end.
Heitkamp’s stance against Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court appointment apparently hurt her chances, but she’s not stepping into a boxing ring with an undefeated, world champion having never boxed before. She has boxed, and Kevin Cramer is no Floyd Mayweather, except that he did say even if Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, is telling the truth, the recently confirmed Supreme Court Judge would have done “nothing” seriously wrong. Mayweather, you might remember, served two months in jail after being convicted of domestic battery. A 17-year-old Kavanaugh sexually assaulted a woman when he was drunk, allegedly.
I have $5 on Heitkamp overcoming the long odds because she will no doubt attract the most money from Democratic donors down the stretch, as they desperately try to become the majority in the Senate. As her deficit in the polls narrows, I’ll start shedding my 15-cent shares at a profit if I can. And even if Democrats see Heitkamp as a lost cause in the late rounds, the votes in Fargo and Bismarck-Mandan areas will undoubtedly be reported first, so she’ll look close enough early on to hopefully make some money on my shares. If not, a candidate is out $5 in the next election cycle. I don't think anyone will notice.
Democrats in Wisconsin probably feel like New York Islanders fans between 1996 and 2001: like there was just no chance of winning. With their arena crumbling around them, the New York Islanders were so undesirable to potential buyers, a fraud named John Spano misrepresented his net worth and took over the team for four months. It took another half decade for the Islanders franchise to be saved by Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, but even then, fans questioned moves made by the new front office, only to enjoy a franchise best start to the 2001-02 season (9-0-1-1) and a second-place finish in the Atlantic Division.
It’s been seven years since Wisconsin had a Democratic governor, and it might be time Democrats get their Islanders Season in the Sun. The Democrats already received their John Spano gut punch with a failed attempt in 2012 to recall Governor Scott Walker for limiting public workers’ rights to collectively bargain. They and Wisconsinites, like Islanders fans, suffered since, and seem to have suffered enough given Democratic challenger Tony Evers’ five-point lead in the latest Emerson poll. He’s the guy with experience as a teacher and principal whose education budget recommendations Walker was ignoring while Governor. Wisconsinites seem to think he has the experience to right Walker’s biggest wrongs.
It’s no secret Walker has undermined labor unions in Wisconsin, especially teachers’ unions, but Walker’s really failed Wisconsin’s youth when it comes to education, as Patrick Caldwell writes in Mother Jones. “Walker slashed funding for K-12 schools by $792 million over two years,” forcing local property tax hikes. It’s never a good look when a candidate preaching tax cuts is responsible for tax increases.
Desperation is a stinky cologne, and that’s exactly what Scott Walker is emitting. He suddenly wants to adopt a portion of Obamacare, protecting coverage guarantees for people suffering from pre-existing conditions. He’s hoping it will save his political life like a full Medicare expansion could have literally save the lives of his constituents. It won’t be enough, though. Walker’s just done Wisconsin wrong too many times—just like Islanders owners done Islanders fans.
Greg Gianforte managed to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives despite body-slamming Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs when he asked the candidate a question the day before the election. Gianforte's win might be due to the postponed release of his mugshot to the public and press despite being formally charged and arrested for assault. A court eventually ordered Gianforte’s mugshot released, but not before the election was held.
The mugshot might not have mattered, though. Gianforte reportedly raised more money the day after his assault of a reporter than on any other day. Now he’s a California-born, New Jersey-raised, Trump-loved Brock Lesnar defending his championship belt in Montana against a tiny, minority-defending female version of Eddie Guerrero.
Kathleen Williams’ strong candidacy, likely the strongest Montana Democrats have ever run, might not matter either. Gianforte’s folk-hero status with Conservative Montanans could be insurmountable, but she’s made the race close for the first time in a long time. Montana is deeply red when it comes to the House of Representatives, especially recently. A Republican has represented Montana in the U.S. House for over 20 years. The latest Gravis poll has Montana’s At-Large Seat all tied up though. If Williams gets a surprise spear from Goldberg (i.e. Oprah), she can win just like Guerrero did.
As you can see, I have no money down on Republicans in any races, but I did turnaround some shares I purchased for Republicans to retain the Senate. I also had shares of Democrats taking a majority in the House (they need to win 23 seats, and 25 Republicans are up for reelection in districts Hillary Clinton won in 2016). Both races were too close for my comfort, so I concentrated my funds on individual races I was most confident would either go Democrat or start to lean Democrat so I could sell my shares at a profit.
Basically, I made modest bets on longshots or long bets on what I perceive to be sure things. Use RCP and New York Times polling to guide your bets, and then, on Election Day, vote if you’re a registered voter, register to vote if you're not and you still can in your state, and then treat it like the holiday it ought to be. Watch Election coverage like it's Thanksgiving football. Turn it into a drinking game. Eat like an American, and win and lose your bets like an American—"cocky and arrogant, even when you're getting beat."
As a Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Twins season ticket holder, I have plenty of personal experience when it comes to overpaying for season ticket packages because of lofty playoff hopes. This year, though, it was the Twins and not the Timberwolves that put a paltry product on the field, even with Jimmy Butler inevitably being traded before the NBA Trade Deadline on February 7 at 3 p.m. EST.
The $539 I paid for a 10-game, flex season ticket package for the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 season was a relative steal compared to the $760 I paid for a 20-game, flex season ticket package with the Twins’ for the 2018 season. Neither is the cheapest season ticket package available that assures you playoff ticket priority, but sometimes the seats are the only thing that make a Twins game worth watching, whereas the Timberwolves have an ample amount of visiting teams with players and even coaches worth watching.
Picking the games I’ll attend each season is like a holiday. I determined which dozen games I wanted to see moments after the NBA schedule was released, and I chose most of my Twins games on the same day. But instead of cutting Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and the Oklahoma City Thunder along with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks from my 10-game package, I was choosing baseball games based on promotions like Dollar Dog Day (Wednesdays) and $5 Kids’ Meal Day (Sundays). Here are the games I chose (number of tickets in parentheses) to see during the Timberwolves’ 2018-19 impending dumpster fire sale of a season.
Oct. 29, Lakers (1)
Nov. 14, New Orleans (1)
Dec. 1, Boston (1)
Jan. 6, Lakers (1)
Jan. 18, San Antonio (1)
Feb. 13, Houston (2)
March 29, Golden State (1)
March 30, Philadelphia (1)
April 1, Portland (1)
April 9, Toronto (1)
The NBA has so much to offer in opposing teams that choosing to attend 10 of 41 home games (24.4 percent) is easier than finding a similar percentage (24.7 percent) of baseball home games worth watching. Seeing LeBron James twice is a no-brainer, as is Anthony Davis once. The Brad Stephens-coached Boston Celtics are absolutely worth the price of admission regardless of whom they’re playing, as are Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio Spurs. James Harden and Chris Paul visiting in a rematch of last season’s playoff matchup I had to see at least once. Golden State as a whole is another no-brainer. That roster could feature five All-Stars if DeMarcus Cousins returns to form. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are worth watching, as is Kawhi Leonard, regardless of whom they’re playing. Portland is very well-coached, Damian Lillard is fun to watch, and an April 1 matchup could have playoff implications. Even if the Jimmy Butler-less Wolves aren’t in the playoff picture, they could play spoilers down the stretch. I even got a free ticket to the home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which thanks to Jimmy Butler drama, was a must-see game.
There aren’t as many premium games in baseball. In 2018, I saw just about every premium game the Twins played, including every game they played at home against the eventual champions, the Boston Red Sox (3). I saw every game they played at home against the American League runners-up, the New York Yankees (3). I also saw six (6) of the seven games the AL Central Champion Cleveland Indians played at Target Field (two Twins home games were played in Puerto Rico). Add a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels and baseball’s best player, Mike Trout, and I still have eight games left to choose. (I had tickets to all three games against Houston at Target Field, but that was through a separate ticket deal for April games.)
My hypothesis is that the NBA offers fans of its worst teams the best value when it comes to their cheapest season ticket package because of the vast array of entertaining and exceptional teams, players, and coaches visiting. But let’s do the research and find out the best value for the cheapest season ticket packages for sports’ worst teams.
The Senators were the second-worst NHL team in the 2017-18 season, and at $60 per seat per game, their cheapest season ticket package leaves a lot to be desired. This might simply be due to the Ottawa market, which is no doubt more interested in the sport of hockey than that of the worst team in the NHL last season, the Buffalo Sabres. While Ottawa doesn’t have an NFL team to compete with the Senators, neither does Buffalo, really.
This is a smoking hot deal to see five premium games you can customize. I chose late season matchups against Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Toronto, and Washington. Those are fantastic matchups featuring the best offensive players in hockey: Steven Stamkos, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews (who should be healthy by March 20), and the Stanley Cup Champion Alexander Ovechkin.
The Sabres also offer the smallest percentage of games (12.2 percent) you can purchase to qualify for playoff ticket priority. Buffalo’s other awful pro sports team isn’t nearly as friendly to your pocketbook and won’t even sell you a season ticket package if you live outside Western New York.
In a live chat with Buffalo Bills season ticket representative Sarah Beth, I was told the cheapest season ticket package was $400 for this season, but they are no longer selling them. I could purchase single game tickets, but not a season ticket package for next season.
As of Wednesday, October 31 at 5:30 p.m. EST, you could see MVP candidate Patrick Mahomes and the equally electrifying Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt along with the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs running Andy Reid’s schemes for $50. Then you could catch Julio Jones making Matt Ryan look better than he is for $50. Then Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey visit Cleveland, and the final game of your four-game, season ticket package ensuring playoff ticket priority is capped by another wide receiver making his quarterback look better than he is. A.J. Green and Andy Dalton come to town.
Even though most of the games won’t be close, you could argue that four of the most entertaining players playing professional football right now (Mahomes, Newton, Jones, and Green) could all be seen for $200. The Cavaliers couldn’t do better than that simply because they’re a worse team than their crosstown, gridiron counterparts.
The Cavs aren’t selling season ticket packages anymore, and the sales rep couldn’t look back at prices from games already played. But if you want to know how much it would cost to see LeBron visit with his Lakers from the cheapest seats in Quicken Loans Arena, it’s $460 to $500. And that wouldn't even qualify you for playoff ticket priority.
For the 10 best games on the Hawks’ schedule, including the Golden State Warriors and LeBron’s Lakers, plus one more for free at a total under $450, Atlanta offers its fans immense value. For $91 less than I paid to see the same opposing teams visit the newly renovated Target Center, Hawks’ fans can secure their playoff ticket priority, but more importantly, member access to the soon-to-be-renovated State Farm Arena, featuring suites with golf simulators and a barbershop where you can get a shave and a haircut while watching the game.
The Orioles’ Sunday season ticket package featured a game against Boston, the Yankees, Astros, Indians, and Angels, but also featured games against Texas, Tampa Bay (2), Miami, and Minnesota. There’s value in allowing fans to pick the games they want to see, but paying less than $18 per game is relatively affordable. The Twins’ “Pick 10” package runs $220 and features just three premium games. Baltimore’s Sunday package features four premium games for $8 more.
The Marlins’ “Variety,” “Saturday,” and “Sunday” plans run at least $130, but I could only find a single seat in the cheapest section for the weekend plans. The variety plan, which most likely provides admission to the best games, was not available in any of the cheaper sections of Marlins Park. If we assume, however, that Miami’s Sunday package offers a similar percentage of premium games as Baltimore’s 13-game package and Minnesota’s 10-game, flex plan, then we can expect to see three premium matchups out of the 10. At $13 per seat per game, it doesn’t get any cheaper to secure playoff ticket priority in any league, but you have to watch the Marlins. At least they got rid of that hideous home run sculpture, though.
The price per game might not be as low as baseball or basketball can offer, but the freedom to choose your own games ensuring every one of them is a premium matchup makes Buffalo a go-to town for hockey. My editor in Toronto, Dan Szczepanek, said trips to Buffalo are a Toronto tradition. “It was always cheaper to drive two hours to Buffalo to watch the Leafs and Sabres, get a hotel, and spend a few days than it was to see the Leafs in Toronto.” The fact that you can establish playoff ticket priority for a measly $183 makes me want to buy a Buffalo Sabres season ticket package, and both of my teams are in the Western Conference.
Again, the percentage of premium games offered in the Hawks’ cheapest season ticket package make up for the higher price point per seat. Even if the Hawks operate the same way the Timberwolves do and make your free game the home opener, that was against Dallas and third overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Luka Doncic, whom Atlanta traded for Trae Young at fifth overall and a future first-rounder. If you haven’t seen Doncic play, I assure you, he and Deandre Jordan make for premium entertainment.
It’s not all bad in Cleveland. Even with LeBron leaving and both the Browns and Cavs firing their head coaches in a 24-hour time period, you can still get premium entertainment from the teams and players visiting FirstEnergy Stadium at an affordable price. Even while Buffalo was in town, it would have cost twice as much for the same seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ottawa is the last of our worst teams to provide incredible value when it comes to choosing the quality of opposing teams in their season ticket package. At $60 per game, it’s a bit pricey per seat, but the assurance of seeing the best opposing players in the NHL makes $60 worth every penny.
While just 30 percent of your games are against playoff-caliber competition, you’re paying $13 to see a baseball game. You can’t get a beer and a hot dog at a ballgame for $13.
While the Orioles’ cheapest season ticket package has a marginally higher percentage of premium games than Miami’s, the $17.54 price point per seat is more than it ought to be given their .290 winning percentage last season. The beauty of Camden Yards can’t compensate for the collosal incompetence of baseball played by Orioles at Oriole Park.
Since preseason games can’t be considered premium games, and the Bills are so bad the best game on their schedule annually is a visit by Tom Brady and the Patriots, there’s really nothing to like about being a Bills season ticket holder. The Jaguars were the other “premium” game on the Bills’ schedule this season, and we’ve seen how far they’ve fallen.
Seems my hypothesis was wrong. The NHL, not the NBA, provides the best value to fans of its worst teams when it comes to their season ticket offerings. The NBA is a close second, however, and the Cleveland Browns coming in third was a pleasant surprise. Baseball and the Buffalo Bills, however, have a long way to go to make their cheapest season ticket packages more appealing to fans of the sports’ worst teams.
Back in 2013, ESPN senior writer Steve Wulf published a rundown of all the costs incurred over the course of his daughter’s decade’s-worth of days playing youth hockey. With travel, club/registration dues, and instruction, the grand total came in just under $50,000, and the sport has only gotten more expensive, especially when it comes to reserving ice time, which is generally covered by league registration fees.
Registration fees for the 2018-19 youth hockey season with the Edina Hockey Association (EHA) in Edina, Minnesota, arguably the epicenter of youth hockey in the United States, range from $149 to $1,430. And that doesn’t even include the mandatory EHA registration fee of $200 for all players besides Termites (seven- to 10-year-olds) and a rostering fee of $150 for players on teams in certain leagues. While scholarships can lower those costs for underprivileged families of exceptional youth hockey players, the cost for parents of children playing their first year is at least $150, and not one piece of equipment (except maybe a pelvic protector) is provided. Online equipment outlets and resellers of used gear aren’t making the price to play the sport of hockey less prohibitive either.
You don’t need demographic research to prove that the prohibitive costs of youth hockey are dictating the faces playing the sport. National Hockey League (NHL) teams generally have just one non-white face on the ice if that, and that’s not because non-white kids prefer to play basketball, baseball, or football. It’s because basketball, baseball, and football are made more accessible to underprivileged youth.
High school football’s popularity is what provides the safety pads necessary to play. And while hockey is more popular than football in the Twin Cities area, the similarly expensive safety equipment necessary to play the sport is seldom provided. That's why Gordon Bombay's Mighty Ducks first practiced in football helmets, and it's why the face of hockey is as white as the ice upon which the game is played.
Lacrosse, the only sport with equipment costs comparable to hockey (and only slightly more expensive according to Time Magazine), sees 56 percent of its youth participants come from families making more than $100,000 annually. Just four percent of the sport’s participants come from families making less than $25,000, and it’s not simply because underprivileged kids don’t want to play lacrosse. I’m sure plenty would like to but their parents can’t afford it, and I’m sure youth hockey consists of players from similar economic advantages. I didn't find that research, but what I did find was an estimate of youth hockey equipment costs by Moms Team of $595—$30 more than the cost of lacrosse equipment. Whether hockey or lacrosse equipment is more expensive is irrelevant because the costs associated with off-ice training expected of youth hockey players, like dry-land training and spring hockey, make it the most expensive youth sport to play, and certainly the least accessible given the required playing surface.
I would have loved to play youth hockey, but there wasn’t even an outdoor ice rink maintained in my hometown let alone a youth hockey league. I wanted to play rec soccer, too, but my parents couldn't afford to pay registration fees for both baseball in the summer and soccer in the fall (youth football didn’t start until sixth grade in my hometown). I also played youth football until I broke my ankle in my second season, and despite the high equipment costs associated with that sport, my parents paid next to nothing for me to play it. Even my cleats were hand-me-downs. Basketball was easily the cheapest sport I played in my youth. I got my first basketball for Christmas one year, and there were basketball goals within walking distance of my house had my father not scored a used one he installed on the roof of our garage. Even my days running track in middle school cost my family nothing. All our gear was provided by the school—even my running spikes. Nothing is provided to youth hockey players except pucks.
Minnesota Nice Skates will work to lower the economic barrier to entry into youth hockey by leasing youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area. To do so at an affordable yet sustainable rate, however, a thorough understanding of upfront equipment costs and lifetime equipment costs is necessary. Since Wulf’s report on the costs of youth hockey is five years old, and Cindy Pom’s Canadian version is lacking in detail, I set out to discover the absolute minimum costs of equipping your youth hockey player in his or her first year and over a lifetime (10 years), for both used or new gear, and considering the resale value of each piece of equipment.
The best deal for used, youth hockey skates is going to be on Craigslist, especially in the Minneapolis area. If you don’t live in the Twin Cities, or don’t know someone in the area who can complete the transaction for you and ship it, Mercari had a pair of used, youth hockey skates for less than $30 including shipping. Frankly, in your son or daughter’s first year of skating, you’re better off buying a new pair of hockey skates for beginners. You child is less likely to enjoy hockey if her skates aren’t comfortable, and new skates will form to your child’s feet rather than come preformed to someone else’s.
In year one of your child’s youth hockey career, you can expect to pay as little as $30 and $50 on average for a new pair of youth hockey skates. Junior hockey skates, if your child is starting early, tend to be more than $50. The nice thing about buying your child new skates the first time around is that they’ll grow out of them rather quickly, so the skates should retain their resale value when you sell them used. Still, getting less than half your investment back leaves you with an year-one expense of $15 at minimum and $25 on average. But that doesn't include sharpening the blades.
If you’re youth hockey player is practicing daily, their skates will likely need sharpening weekly. At $5 a pop, that amounts to another $60 in sunk skate costs over the course of a three-month season. If your youth hockey player is playing on traveling teams, that amount can balloon to over $100 quickly. You shouldn’t have to worry about replacing your rookie's new blades, though.
If your child plays youth hockey from age eight to 18, you can expect to pay at least $600 and up to $1,250 just to maintain the blades of her skates. This doesn’t include replacing broken shoelaces or lost blade covers, or repairing the shoe of the skate if it explodes upon puck impact. Both are likely to occur, costing another $100 or so.
You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of five pairs of skates or more, and they only get more expensive as your child’s feet get bigger and their skating better. While you can get your child onto the ice in $40 skates in year one, their next new pair of skates is going to be double that. The third pair will cost between $100 and $150. A fourth pair will cost between $160 and $200, and your child’s fifth pair of youth hockey skates will range from $200 to $240.
Assuming you can recoup half the purchase price on your child’s used skates, you’re looking at costs of $15 to $25 on pair one, $40 to $60 on pair two, $50 to $75 on pair three, $80 to $100 on pair four, and $100 to $120 on pair five. Pair six, hopefully, your son or daughter will be purchasing and replacing with their own revenue stream.
The sooner your child grows into a senior-sized pair of skates the better. While senior skates for advanced skaters sell for more than $400, they should be the last pair you have to buy. The estimate above is based on a pair of skates listed at $420.
Buying used doesn’t save you considerably more money than buying new and reselling. Sure, you can find a used pair of skates in any size and have them delivered to your door for half the price of a new pair, but your child is going to be less comfortable on the ice. You can buy insoles to remedy the situation, but then you’re spending another $50 every time you buy a used pair of skates. Even so, considering you find a deal on a used pair of youth or junior hockey skates for $25 in year one, the next pair of used skates is going to be at least $40. A third pair of used skates could be found for $50 or $60. A fourth pair could cost $80, and a fifth $100, with your sixth costing between $140 and $200. In the end, you’re spending less but won’t likely be able to ever resell the skates.
Buying all used skates throughout a decade of youth hockey is going to cost you more than $1,000 and up to $2,000 including maintenance.
Buying all new skates for your child over 10 years of youth hockey is going to cost more than $1,500 at minimum and up to $2,500 or more. If you’re able to resell your child’s youth hockey skates, you’re still spending close to $1,400 and up to $2,100 over a decade. And we haven’t even put a helmet on your child yet.
Craigslist again provided the best deal, and a used youth hockey helmet in year one is perfectly acceptable as long as there isn’t any obvious damage to the helmet that will worsen with hits to the head. They must have a full cage as well.
The cheapest youth helmet with a full cage can be purchased new for $50. Helmets aren’t equipment easily resold, however, as sweat smells them up something fierce. If your child does outgrow their first helmet quickly, though, you can maybe make back $20 on the purchasing price.
Wulf said his daughter went through four helmets in 10 years. If your child does the same, you can expect to pay more for each helmet you purchase bigger than the last. If your child’s first helmet was purchased used for $20, the next will be $30 to $40, then $40 to $50, then $50 to $60. When your child’s head stops growing (test this with fitted hats), the last helmet you buy them should probably be new, but that’s not included in this estimate.
You can spend as much as you like here, and it’s not a bad place to focus your funds. Wulf said he spent $1,250 on the five helmets he bought his daughter, which is insane to think about, but he spent $250 per helmet. Protecting your child’s brain is worth every penny, but helmets can be had for much less than Wulf paid. If your child’s first helmet is $50, the next will be closer to $60, then $80, and then $100 or more, so the cheapest cost of protecting your child’s cranium with new helmets is $300. It is recommended that the last helmet you purchase your youth hockey player when fully grown spares no expense.
One of the most prohibitive expenses associated with playing hockey is hockey sticks. You can’t play without them, and they eventually break. This estimate assumes your youth hockey player makes it through the season on one stick, but it’s recommended you buy them at least two so they have a replacement if they break one mid-game. We had two tennis rackets in case we broke strings, or in my case, broke the frame bashing it into the ground in anger. It's the only record I hold at my high school, and it became an expensive habit at over $100 per racket. Sticks are similarly expensive once your youth hockey player gets good at hockey.
Your child’s first hockey sticks should be made of wood. There’s absolutely no reason to put a carbon composite hockey stick in the hands of your eight-year-old unless you get one for free. She’s going to outgrow that first stick in what seems like a heartbeat, or break it just as quickly. You shouldn’t be in a hurry to spend a bunch of money on hockey sticks. You’ll have plenty of time to do so.
After your child’s first hockey stick breaks or is outgrown, you should resist purchasing used hockey sticks; they’re just going to break sooner than a new one would. As your youth hockey player gets better, they’ll want their equipment to be better so they can do more on the ice. Not unlike a youth tennis player graduating from a Kmart racket to her first Prince or Head racket, a youth hockey player should likewise graduate to nicer and nicer hockey sticks as their body and skills grow. I learned how to serve with a wooden tennis racket from the '70s. That said, over the course of a decade, you’ll likely go from paying $20 for your child’s first hockey stick to more than $200 for their last.
So, if you buy two hockey sticks in year one at $20 ($40), two more in year two at $30 ($60), two more at $40 ($80), and so on until the $150 sticks you buy in year 10, you will have spent $1,380 on hockey sticks alone. Wulf estimates he spent $1,750 just to keep a stick in his daughter’s hands. Hockey sticks are also an equipment item you’ll be unable to resell, but not the most likely piece of equipment you'll be unable to resell. That would be hockey gloves.
Used, youth hockey gloves are $120 a dozen on Craigslist in Minneapolis-St. Paul, but outside of hockey hubs $20 was the lowest rate on Ebay. Beware: gloves tend to be the stinkiest of all hockey equipment. Wulf said he spent $55 on Febreeze spray and special hockey detergent mostly due to smelly gloves.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a pair of new, youth hockey gloves for $25 online. Bundled with a five-piece set they’re marginally cheaper.
If you buy gloves new, which is recommended, don’t expect to resell them or to resell them for much. In fact, while you might end up paying $100 or more for a pair of gloves your kid will outgrow, that pair of gloves isn’t going to retain a resale value comparable to skates. If you sell skates at 50 percent of the retail cost, you’ll probably end up selling gloves at a quarter or a third of their retail cost. If your youth hockey player outgrows four pairs of gloves in 10 years, and you spend $25 on the first pair, $40 on the next pair, $60 on the next, and $80 on the last, you might get $75 back on your $205 investment. Wulf spent $400 and probably didn’t resell a single pair.
Here’s another item you won’t often find available for resale and probably shouldn’t buy used.
Whether you need a traditional jockstrap and cup for your son or a “Jill” for your daughter, you can expect to buy about five different sizes over the course of a decade at around $20 each.
You aren’t likely to find used neck guards except for in lost-and-founds at hockey arenas or in the bottom of some equipment bag in the back of some equipment closet at a coach’s house. It’s something your child needs but isn’t prohibitively expensive.
Ten bucks is a bargain when it comes to protecting your child’s windpipe from being crushed by a flying puck.
Wulf said his daughter went through seven neck guards over the course of a decade.
Craigslist, again, served up the best deal on used, youth hockey shin guards in the Twin Cities area, but used shin guards can be found on Ebay or Mercari at similar prices. Used shin guards are perfectly adequate for protecting your child, but the protective padding in them eventually flattens as they take repeated impacts from the ice or from pucks. The last pair of shin guards you buy once your child stops growing should be new.
Shin guards are an item you can resell, but you’d still be better off buying used even if you can’t resell the used shin guards.
Wulf’s daughter grew out of three pairs of shin guards over 10 years of youth hockey.
If you bought the cheapest, new pair of youth hockey shin guards every year your child needed a new size, you’d likely be out $100. After reselling the shin guards your youth hockey player outgrew, the lifetime expense of youth hockey shin guards would likely be around $60. Wulf climbed the price ladder a bit when it came to shin guards because his daughter blocked a puck with one of them and limped off the ice despite the shin guard’s protection.
Like shin guards, junior and youth elbow pads can generally be found used at affordable prices. While the Twin Cities Craigslist page provided plenty of options, Ebay and Mercari offered options that were just a bit more expensive. You might want to search arena lost-and-found bins to score a pair for free.
I was as surprised as you probably will be to learn something as simple as elbow pads could cost more than $100. Your mite doesn’t need $100 elbow pads, though, and this is a minimalist look into equipping youth hockey players with the necessary safety equipment.
Wulf said his daughter went through three pairs of elbow pads in 10 years of youth hockey.
Wulf spent an average of $50 per pair of elbow pads over the course of his daughter’s 10 years playing youth hockey. But he probably could have gotten $20 to $25 on each pair of elbow pads back by reselling them.
Junior and youth shoulder pads tend to be as plentiful as elbow pads and shin guards, so they can be found on Craigslist for the same price as both. You aren’t likely to find a set in the lost and found, however.
If you choose to buy junior or youth hockey hockey shoulder pads new and resell them, you’re looking at a similar albeit slightly more expensive option.
Your child will grow into three sizes of shoulder pads in 10 years, and depending on what you’re willing or feel you need to spend (maybe your child delivers or receives hard checks), protecting your youth hockey player’s shoulders will run you at least $60 and up to $270, according to Wulf’s budget.
Used junior and youth hockey pants in good condition are harder to find than used shoulder pads and elbow pads. The cheapest option in the Twin Cities as of this writing was $15, and most listings on Craigslist were around $30, which is what you can expect to pay at minimum online.
Buying new hockey pants for your child will be slightly more expensive than buying used, but you’ll have the comfort of knowing no other child has sweated into those pants. They can get pretty stinky from absorbing the water from the ice as well.
You’re child will likely go through four pairs of pants over 10 years of youth hockey. Wulf spent $240 in total. You can certainly outfit your youth hockey player in used pants throughout the decade. You’ll likely spend at least $30 per pair, or $120 in total.
Unless you do laundry everyday, your child will need multiple pairs of hockey socks as well as undersocks, which can simply be non-cotton, dress socks. They should be thin as to maximize your child’s control over her skates (unless her skates run big, which means you have to fill them up). Hockey socks, however, aren’t as easily substituted. Luckily, they’re pretty easy to find. In the Twin Cities there was a listing on Craigslist advertising free socks with the purchase of any of their items. You can even mix and match lost socks you find. If you aren’t in a hockey hotbed, Ebay’s cheapest listing for a new pair was around $8 with shipping.
At a retailer like Dick’s Sporting Goods, you can expect to pay $15 to $20 per pair of youth hockey socks. That’s outrageous given your child will outgrow them every few years and that a cap full of bleach can pretty much clean anything, including used, youth hockey socks.
Wulf estimated that he spent $150 just on socks for his daughter to play 10 years of youth hockey. You can get away with paying nothing in places like Minnesota, Maine, or Canada, but that’s not likely the case in Las Vegas. Since socks are being given away, don’t expect any recouping of costs via resale.
You can’t practice without practice jerseys, and you’re child will probably want more than one. You might find these in the lost and found at your local arena or for cheap on Craigslist or Ebay. Otherwise, an oversized shirt will work, preferably something breathable like Under Armour or Nike Dri-FIT material. A football jersey is fine if you can find a long-sleeved, non-cotton shirt to go under it.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has a youth hockey jersey for less than $15, which is on par with the prices you’ll find on Ebay for new practice jerseys.
Wulf spent around $100 just on practice jerseys throughout his daughter’s 10 years of youth hockey. You can expect your youth hockey player to grow out of at least three if not four sizes, so unless you can get your hands on hand-me-downs, expect to spend at least $45 on practice jerseys over 10 years...and that’s if you only provide your player with one.
It might not seem essential, but before you know it your youth hockey player will demand to have tape so she doesn’t have to borrow from teammates. It’s recommended you buy black, white, and clear tape in bulk, which saves you a dollar on each roll. Over 10 years, Wulf estimates he spent $550 on tape alone.
Your youth hockey player can’t carry all that expensive gear in a garbage bag, and while you can find cheap or even free gym bags to work as substitutes, when your son or daughter stops growing, you might consider buying a nice hockey bag for the final set of gear you’ll be buying for them.
Again, you can find hand-me-down workout gear but eventually you’re youth hockey player will want their own undershirts or even tights to wear under their gear.
Those non-cotton, dress socks will work for as long as you can find them for free or cheaply, but you will eventually need to invest in a couple pairs of undersocks for your full-grown, youth hockey player. They run about $10 per pair.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment in the Twin Cities area and will be more for those living in places that aren’t youth hockey hubs.
This estimate is based on the availability of used, youth hockey equipment for sale online.
This range is based on the availability and costs of used, youth hockey equipment available online.
This estimate is based on the availability and costs of new, youth hockey equipment available online.
So, if your child plays one season of youth hockey, on equipment alone, you’re out at least $285 in year one, unless you can find practice jerseys, hockey socks and undersocks, neck guards and elbow pads for free. That would save you $50, but when is anything free? You still have to go somewhere to get it.
Minnesota Nice Skates comes to you and properly sizes your child for gear. If your child outgrows any piece of equipment or something breaks at no fault of their own (including sticks), Minnesota Nice Skates replaces it. And there’s no need to bring back the equipment if it still fits at the end of the lease. Just keep the gear that fits and replace the gear that doesn’t. It’s that simple. The annual lease for equipment automatically vests if gear isn’t returned within a year.
A $250 annual lease with Minnesota Nice Skates will save parents between $465 and $3,930 over 10 years of youth hockey. More importantly, it lowers the cost of entry into the sport by allowing underprivileged families to pick and choose which gear they want to lease and which gear they want to try to find for free. If you only want to try and find elbow pads, neck guards, practice jerseys, socks and undersocks for free, do it. It’ll only cost you $200 to get your child the necessary equipment to play youth hockey. The most important thing is that more kids play youth hockey so better athletes end up hockey players instead of football players, growing the popularity of the sport.
With cannabis now legal in Canada, I thought I’d help sports fans prepare for the circus that is the first day of cannabis legalization. If you’re going to be playing sports or watching them live or on TV, this comprehensive guide provides the perfect pot strains for enhancing your sports experiences.
Pot strains don’t just get you high in varying degrees. Some strains are relaxing and help relieve pain, inflammation, even depression—perfect for postgame pain and blues after a loss. Some strains are uplifting, energetic, and facilitate creativity, which might be nice prior to your recreational flag football game. Now that you can legally purchase cannabis in Canada (some places), our readers in Canada might find this insight helpful in pairing pot with their favorite sports.
I’ve done the first day of legal cannabis sales before. I was there in Denver, Colorado covering the first legal purchase of recreational marijuana in the United States in 75 years for The Leaf Online. Before the dispensary opened its doors to the public, members of the press packed the pot shop to capacity to witness and report history. Coloradans and out-of-state visitors to whom I spoke happily braved the cold New Year’s Day morning in 2014, forming a line that spanned the length of the street. One older couple said they were “hippies from Indiana and just had to be here.” I was surprised to find anyone who drove further than me just to be there. That couple eventually bought something, though. By the time the press conference was over the line wrapped around the block, and I had a deadline to meet, so I drove 1,400 miles round-trip to spend 36 hours in Denver in the first days of legal weed sales and not get high.
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in line if you plan to make a purchase on Opening Day, so it’s best to have an idea of what you want before you get to the pot shop as to not hold up the line for other cannasseurs. Most stores will have their menu of goodies available on their website, so check that out before choosing a retailer. Just give it a quick look to see if they have what you want. You’ll have plenty of time to investigate further while standing in line.
So what do you want, and who am I to tell you? Well, my cannabis credentials have been earned over 12 years of regular consumption for both medical and recreational purposes. I had a medical cannabis prescription for two years in Montana, during which I used indica strains to alleviate back pain resulting from degenerative disc disease and used sativa strains to get my indica’d ass off the couch and take advantage of the moments I was pain free.
I wrote two bills to legalize and tax cannabis in Montana, familiarizing myself with the medical cannabis industry and its regulatory structure in so doing. My work obviously connected me to like-minded people throughout the state who smoked me up and introduced me to countless strains. If it’s a strain grown in Montana, I’ve probably smoked it at some point. I’ve also made recreational, or as we advocates now call it, “adult-use” purchases in Colorado, Washington, and Nevada.
Since I love to cook and bake, I experimented with multiple cannabis recipes because eating it was so much more effective on my back pain. My friends and I made Mint Cheeba Chocolate Chip Ice Cream, Literal Laughy Taffy, cakes, cookies, and, of course, brownies. I still love to eat edibles on an off day, but when I was introduced to waxes, sugars, and shatters, I knew I’d seldom smoke again.
Smoking anything, cannabis included, is bad for your lungs. While there’s no rat poison in joints (yet), simply burning the cannabis flower will result in you inhaling tars, and if you have a back problem like me, a seemingly insignificant cough can aggravate that nerve pain and kill your buzz. That’s why I mostly vaporize concentrates.
Concentrates are concentrated Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the psychoactive substance in cannabis, in resin form. I’ve seen shatter that’s 98 percent THC, which means you could work on the same gram of shatter for weeks and hardly make a dent. Concentrates are for veteran tokers, though, so when I recommend them, it’s with the assumption that you have run the gauntlet yourself and have graduated to a more healthy and effective means of cannabis consumption.
Now that you know that I know what I’m talking about, here are the perfect pot pairings for playing and watching sports live and on TV. If I haven’t tried a strain, you’ll find a link to Leafly to learn more about it.
Snoop Dogg’s Tangerine Man is a strain I’d love to try before a flag football game. It supposedly “pairs wonderfully with daytime physical activity.” Of course, I’d probably eat it to preserve my lung capacity. Maybe at halftime I’d pile on a Trainwreck taffy or two, a hybrid that provides an uplifting, energetic boost while also treating pain. Postgame pain is best treated with Purple Urkle, which will relax every muscle in your body and eventually bring satisfying sleep.
My first Minnesota Vikings game at U.S. Bank Stadium was an overwhelming experience. My buzz from vaping some sativa pregame had mostly worn off by the time the Vikings took the field, which nearly made me weep tears of joy. I think my next game I’ll eat some Lemon Jack. “Like a strong cup of coffee, Lemon Jack is a daytime strain,” and it apparently makes you talkative, which is an important part of being a good football fan. You need to make noise when the opponent’s on offense.
At halftime I’d keep the energy and stress management going with Light of Jah, which I’ve actually smoked but never eaten. It’s a long-lasting high, so eating it should get you through the second half no problem. Postgame I’d smoke or vape Grape Ape to relax and manage any stress resulting from a poor performance by my boys in purple.
I wouldn’t stray too far from the pot pairings for watching football live except instead of eating cannabis I’d probably vape it simply because I can. Lemon Jack to start with Jock Horror at halftime to enhance your halftime appetite and Grape Ape postgame seems reasonable. If you’ve got things to do besides watching football after the game, substitute Jack Herer, Green Crack, Durban Poison, or Super Lemon Haze for Grape Ape.
My co-ed softball team in college was named Bozeman Toast because most of us were toasted for every game. It did not enhance our performance, but it made the game more fun, especially playing in rain and then sleet and then snow in the mountains of Western Montana.
We always smoked sativas before a game. I remember Super Silver Haze and Sour Diesel both being employed often in those days. They are energetic strains that foster creativity and will have you smiling even if you misplay a ball in right center that you try to undo with a dive into a puddle that leaves you soaked and clears the bases.
The best game we played that season was when we came across some Green Crack. We scored 16 runs and lost. It was the rain/sleet/snow game, during which I saw our center fielder make the best catch I’ve seen while on the field of play. It was on a sinking line drive she got a great jump on and dove for at the last possible moment. Green Crack, as you can imagine, is an ultra-uplifting, energetic strain that facilitates focus rather than creativity. You might not have as much fun playing the game as you would with Super Silver Haze or Sour Diesel, but you’ll be alert out there and light on your feet.
No pregame pot party is going to get you through a baseball game, which is where edibles come into play. The high from eating cannabis lasts much longer than smoking or vaping it. I remember having a bunch of Strawberry Lemonade shake that I used to make butter for cookies and ate a couple before a Minnesota Twins game that made for a most euphoric evening. Strawberry Lemonade is a sativa/hybrid mix, so it’s both uplifting and relaxing. Eating it, though, provides an hours-long body high that makes your cold, plastic chair feel like your favorite recliner at home.
I also enjoyed some sativa-dominant cookies I bought before a game at Safeco Field in Seattle, and we had some five-milligram lozenges to stimulate the buzz for hour three of the game. It was a quick one, as Felix Hernandez barely bested Phil Hughes in a pitching duel. I believe that was the year Hughes set the MLB record for strikeout-to-walk ratio, but King Felix put up a zero to his one. We got so sick of the King’s Corner chanting “K” on every two-strike count (there were a ton), we started screaming at no one in particular, asking what all these Spanish-speakers wanted. “¿Que hora es? Is it the time you want? What?”
We had fun despite the loss, but we didn’t realize that the five-milligram lozenges we were eating were actually two, five-milligram lozenges stuck together, so my buddy, who’s a pot novice, got sick after the game from mixing too much booze with too much cannabis. Don’t do that. In fact, don’t drink any alcohol while using cannabis. Frankly, it’s a waste of booze.
If you’re eating edibles for the first time, go slow to start. Then, if you feel like your buzz could be better and you can handle it, eat a bit more. Like alcohol, your weight, activity, and whether or not you’ve eaten or drank alcohol recently effects your body’s absorption of THC.
If I could consume any cannabis I wanted before a baseball game, I’d try eating Cracker Jack. It’s an intense sativa combining two of my favorite strains: Green Crack and Jack Herer. Around the fifth inning, I’d sneak into the bathroom and take a few vapor puffs of any sativa. Baseball stadiums are more bag-friendly than other arenas, so I generally always have my vaporizer with me in it’s little, book-like case. After the seventh inning stretch I’ll take another trip to the bathroom for another sativa boost. Sativa, sativa, sativa…got it?
The beauty of watching baseball on TV in a place with legal pot sales is when you get to the third inning and feel like taking a nap until the seventh inning stretch, you can reach for an indica and set an alarm for an hour. Don’t be the guy who falls asleep at the ballpark. Baseball doesn’t need you advertising the lack of activity in the game. There are plenty of strikeouts already doing so.
I enjoy an indica-dominant hybrid when watching baseball at home, but usually start the game with a sativa. Durban’ Poison has been one of my favorite sativa strains since I first discovered it a few years ago during a vacation in Colorado. The sugar crumble concentrate keeps my body and mind uplifted even if the Twins do not. If they fall behind early by a lot, I’d reach for Northern Lights or Blue Cheese and get comfortable. If I fall asleep and miss something, I can always rewind. Sometimes I sleep right through until they air the replay, which is even better because I don’t know the score or outcome.
I wouldn’t recommend smoking or even vaping anything prior to playing basketball. You’ll be hacking up a lung within minutes. Instead, eat some high-energy sativa like Durban Poison, Jack Herer, or Green Crack pregame. At halftime, pile on an indica-infused edible to help manage cramps, inflammation, and muscle spasms. While I’ve never tried it, Kelly Hill Gold seems to be the perfect pot strain for playing the second half of a basketball game. Not only does it help manage pain, stress, cramps, inflammation, and muscle spasms, it’s an energetic indica, which is rare (it’s the only one I found). A postgame puff of Girl Scout Cookies (now known as GSC) will have you feeling fantastic (it really does taste great), and it’s half-sister Cookies Kush seems to be great for pain before bed. Use CBD oil on any specific pain.
It doesn’t take much to get up for a basketball game. Besides hockey, it’s probably the most entertaining sport I watch live on a regular basis. I think it’s the energy of the crowd and speed of the action that gets me. Basketball was my first love, so it’s easy for me to enjoy. I ride my bike to Target Center for around a dozen Timberwolves games every season, and before I hit the pavement I like to vape a calming hybrid like White Widow or Pineapple Express. If all I have is sativas, Lemon Haze and Sour Diesel are adequate alternatives.
I like to calm my nerves pregame because by halftime I know I’ll be incensed. I usually just grab a Coca-Cola and munch on the trail mix I brought with me and let my buzz dissipate at halftime. The crowd is my intoxicant in the second half, but postgame I’m either subsidizing my euphoria with Durban Poison if we win or treating my minor depression with Bubba Kush or Northern Lights if we lose. Chocolope is the perfect pot strain after a loss in a day game because it’s energetic, uplifting, and helps you handle stress and depression.
Watching basketball makes me hungry as hell, so when I’m watching at home I stuff my face. I don’t feel so guilty when I’m watching Duke University men’s basketball because I’m usually pacing the entire game. I seldom sit down and am usually bouncing with the Cameron Crazies during a Duke game. It’s sad really, but not much could make you sad with a bit of Jock Horror. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve tried just about all of its parents, and apparently it’s most notable side effects are maximum munchies, dry eyes, and dry mouth. Since you’re in the comfort of your home with the fridge and Clear Eyes just steps away, side effects be damned.
At halftime I’d switch to a hybrid like OG Kush just to make sure I’m still able to sleep well after the game. An indica like God’s Gift or LA Confidential will help with fourth-quarter stress and assure you sleep like you just played a basketball game instead of watching one on TV.
Playing hockey hurts. Most of us aren’t playing full-contact football, so hockey is about as hard and painful a recreational sport you can play. That’s why we’re breaking out the high-THC strains. A Jack the Ripper cookie prior to puck drop will keep you energized and focused while treating your pain throughout the first period and into the second. It’s generally more than 20 percent THC, so be careful not to overeat it or you could end up “disoriented and paranoid.”
About midway through the second period a Dragon’s Breath edible will help you manage your fatigue and provide a lift for the third period. Postgame vaping of Harlequin is the ultimate pain reliever with a CBD/THC combination that won’t put you to sleep or over intoxicate you.
I can’t remember what specific strain or if it was even advertised on the bag of cookies my buds and I ate before watching the Minnesota Wild take on the Avalanche in Colorado, but I know it was a sativa that made us very focused on the game. And I never knew the strain of the shake I used to make Cocoa Canna Butterscotch Chip Cookies for when the Avs visited Minnesota, but I know it made us giggly as schoolgirls at a slumber party. It was fantastic, and the fact the Wild won in a shootout made it that much more fantastic.
So before puck drop I’d recommend eating some Super Green Crack or The Cough. Both have had me crying laughing, and hockey can be one of the funniest sports. People falling down is always funny. Eventually, though, you’ll want to come back down to Earth. Some Silver Haze edibles midway through the game will actually clear the haze while maintaining the euphoria. My postgame pot of choice after a hockey loss would be Headband for its ability to combat elevated stress levels and depression, even headaches, which can result from screaming at referees and cheap-shotting opponents. After a win, or anytime in my personal experience, Bruce Banner hits the spot.
Hockey’s probably my favorite sport to watch on TV. It demands my attention, so I oblige by vaping Durban Poison or Green Crack or Super Lemon Haze or Jack Herer or Chocolope or Harlequin. Whatever sativa I have on hand tends to be one that retains most of my focus faculties.
If it’s a day game and I want to accomplish things afterward, some Pineapple Express is perfect for the third period. It leaves you ready to take on a creative project. The third period of night games are best accompanied by Cinderella 99, a dreamy, euphoric, stress-reliever. My preferred pot postgame would be Aliens OG, but it’s not to be taken lightly. It’s one of the most potent strains of weed out there at up to 28 percent THC. MK Ultra would be second, and G13 would be a distant third. For you beginners out there, try some Cheese and forget to call me in the morning.
Before the National Basketball Association (NBA) season began, almost anyone with any awareness of the NBA’s existence felt they knew which teams would be playing in each of the Conference Finals. Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics would meet LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant of the Golden State Warriors would play the Houston Rockets’ James Harden and Chris Paul in the Western Conference Finals.
That’s exactly how it turned out, minus Irving, who barring injury, would be suiting up against his former teammate in a Conference Final I’d actually watch. Now, I’ll wait to see if Houston can force a Game 7 against Golden State before tuning into the NBA Conference Finals, and it took me betting on Houston to win it all to even have an interest in that series. Basketball’s predictability is the very reason I prefer the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Giant men wearing armor and wielding weapons in their hands and on their feet skate at immense speeds on an ever-changing playing surface chucking a rubber saucer at speeds even faster than their feet can carry them or baseballs are thrown while their opponents do all they can to get in front of that unpredictable projectile. Hockey is a most unpredictable sport, and that’s what holds my interest. The fact it hardly has any stoppages for commercial breaks, provides coaches with just one timeout, and requires live substitutions are all just big bonuses for the sport with the best postseason -- a postseason that can still be improved.
The NBA is also looking to improve its postseason, thankfully. Commissioner Adam Silver floated the idea of eliminating the conferences for the postseason and simply seeding the top 16 teams based on record. This would result in less chance of a lopsided NBA Finals series. For instance, the series most of us believe to be the actual championship series between Houston and Golden State would actually be played for the championship. Houston and Golden State would be the first- and second-ranked NBA playoff teams, respectively, and would only meet in the NBA Finals under the proposed postseason alteration.
While travel concerns and the fact that the seeding of Eastern Conference teams would be skewed based on them playing half as many games against the more dominant, deeper Western Conference might thwart the NBA’s efforts to improve the postseason. But they shouldn’t. As long as there are no back-to-back games scheduled in the NBA Playoffs, travel shouldn’t be a concern. And the seeding of teams from different conferences could be based on their play against similar opponents. For instance, if an Eastern Conference team finished the regular season with a better record than a Western Conference team but lost both games to that Western Conference team, the Eastern Conference team could be seeded behind the Western Conference team based on its performance in head-to-head matchups.
The dominance and depth of the NBA’s Western Conference is forcing Silver to find a way to remedy the lack of intrigue in his sport’s predictable playoffs. A lack of competitiveness results in a loss of fans, which is exactly what has happened with elections due to partisan gerrymandering. Because elections have become so uncompetitive, fewer people vote, thinking their vote doesn’t matter, which, of course, is the intent of partisan gerrymandering.
The same is true of American capitalism. “Free” markets work for the consumer when there’s competition. But businesses want markets working for them. It’s why six companies own the majority of media in America or the means to deliver media messages. Hollywood called this “vertical integration” until the Supreme Court eventually forced movie studios to divest their interest in theaters.
But it’s happening again, and on a much more massive scale. Not only do media moguls own the media produced but the means of distribution. Comcast owns the “movies” it makes and the “theaters” that distribute them. The theaters are the cable, internet and mobile data arms of Comcast, so not only are they pulling revenue from ad sales of their shows, but they’re making two trips to the bank on just about every customer by being either one of two or the sole provider of cable, internet or wireless data in that customer’s area.
The increasingly deregulated capitalistic markets reward monopolistic businesses at the expense of the consumer. Mergers are great for big business, but they aren’t good for consumers. Sprint merging with T-Mobile would result in one less competitor in the mobile data and mobile phone markets, and with each fallen competitor the price for those services increases.
If you live in rural America you’re probably familiar with the price gouging that occurs because of a lack of competition, especially in the cable, satellite, internet service and mobile data industries. Verizon actually kicked Eastern Montana customers off their data plans because they used too much data. Many of those customers don’t have access to internet otherwise, so Verizon knows they’ll have to come back, and will pay more to do so.
So I don’t watch the NBA Playoffs for the same reason I despise American capitalism: a lack of competitiveness that results from monopolistic mergers, like Durant going to Golden State. Maybe when my Timberwolves actually win a playoff series I’ll give the NBA Playoffs my divided attention. But even with my Minnesota Wild eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I have and will continue to watch the NHL postseason, because there’s no telling what could happen.
The Minnesota Wild parted ways with general manager Chuck Fletcher on Monday after a nine-season tenure that saw the Wild reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs for six consecutive seasons, but fail to get out of the second round.
Joe Bouley over at Hockey Wilderness tabs Toronto’s Kyle Dubas, Tampa’s Julien Briesbois, Nashville’s Paul Fenton and Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin as potential replacements. Regardless of who takes the Wild reigns, they’ll inherit quite the mess from Fletcher.
According to Sportrac, the Wild have just over $10 million in cap space to work with next season. Jason Zucker, Matt Dumba, Nick Seeler and Ryan Murphy are all restricted free agents. Zucker made $2 million in 2017-18 and will demand a considerable raise. He was third on his team in relative Fenwick at even strength and fourth on his team in relative Corsi at even strength. Dumba made $2.55 million and will also demand a raise, setting career highs in just about every category. He even matched his career-high plus-minus of 15 set last season.
The new Wild general manager won’t likely let Zucker or Dumba go, and Murphy and Seeler were both positive contributors in 2017-18, too. Murphy’s relative Fenwick at even strength of 1.4 was a career high, and Seeler’s relative Fenwick of .9 was respectable in his first season. Murphy earned $700,000 in 2017-18, and Seeler made $717,500.
So if Fletcher’s replacement signs all four of the Wild’s restricted free agents to contracts, there won’t likely be money to spend on unrestricted free agents, which means trades will have to be made in order for the Wild to improve the roster. Luckily, the Wild have a whole bunch of picks in the 2018 NHL Draft and some trade chips worth something.
The Wild have a first-round pick, three third-round picks, two fifth-round picks, and a sixth- and seventh-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft. Whether the incoming general manager is of the opinion that it’s time for the Wild to blow it up and rebuild or just a few pieces away from contending for a championship will determine how the Wild’s ammo will be utilized. But it’s hard to blow up a team that’s paying more than $15 million annually to two players who can’t be traded (Ryan Suter and Zach Parise).
The Wild might have the most valuable trade chip on the table, though, in center Eric Staal. Staal, at 33, finished fourth in goals scored and 26th in the league in points, and he’s owed just $3.5 million next season -- the final year of his deal with the Wild. Staal has said he and his family are comfortable in Minnesota, but a long-term extension is unlikely this offseason given the Wild’s lack of salary cap flexibility. Stall might have to be traded just to remedy the situation.
One of Fletcher’s most recent offseason acquisitions just didn’t pan out. The Wild needed a guy who could deliver hits, sure, but his average time on ice dropped more than four minutes, resulting in 34 percent fewer hits than his monster season last year when he delivered 279 hits for Buffalo. And while his possession metrics were the best they’ve been since 2012-13, left wing has become a position of depth for the Wild with the addition of Jordan Greenway and Parise recovering from back surgery (only to enter another offseason with an injury).
The Columbus Blue Jackets need a third-line left wing with Matt Calvert’s contract coming off the books, and Marcus’s older brother Nick is already the center on the Blue Jackets’ third line. Dumping the $2.875 million the Wild owe Foligno each of the next three seasons would be a good place for the new Wild GM to start cleaning up Fletcher’s salary cap mess. The Wild could always sign free agents Patrick Maroon (+1, 4.2 relative Corsi, 4.1 relative Fenwick) or Jussi Jokinen (+7, 0.8 Corsi, 0.8 Fenwick) to fill the left wing position on the third or fourth lines.
The Blue Jackets have one draft pick in each of the first, second, third, sixth and seventh rounds, but packaging Foligno with, say, Mikko Koivu, could really go far in clearing the cap space necessary to extend Staal.
The Blue Jackets have roughly $17 million in cap space for next season, with only third-line defenseman Ryan Murray a restricted free agent worthy of a contract offer. The Blue Jackets’ fourth-line center Mark Letestu will also be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Acquiring Koivu would allow the Folignos to move down to the fourth line and second-line center Alexander Wennberg, 23, to skate third-line minutes. The move would transfer $8,375,000 from the Wild’s books to the Blue Jackets’ for the next two years, and Koivu’s $5.5 million in 2019-20 as well.
Coming back to the Wild could be Columbus’s third-line right wing Josh Anderson, controlled through 2019-20 at the modest price of $1.85 million annually. Currently, the Wild have just two healthy right wings on the roster in Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. Rookie Kyle Rau was playing on the third line with Parise hurt in the playoffs. Anderson, 23, logged an impressive 3.3 relative Corsi and 3.2 relative Fenwick during 986.9 minutes at even strength, and would be a considerable upgrade to unrestricted free agent Daniel Winnik, who posted a relative Corsi and relative Fenwick of -3.1 as the Wild’s fourth-line right winger.
The Wild should also get a high-round draft pick from Columbus in exchange for Koivu, but probably not the first-rounder. The Wild adding a second-round selection in a draft expected to be deep with talent would be an exceptional return for their captain, Koivu. The trade would leave the Wild with $6.525 million in cap space to extend Staal or do something else if they choose to trade Staal.
Staal is coming off his best offensive season in a decade, so he’s going to demand Parise and Suter money to make up for the measly $3.5 million annual salary he was paid this year and last. But at 33, he might be signing his last contract, so much of his salary could be backloaded to give the Wild some salary cap flexibility in these years they are cleaning up Fletcher’s mess and transitioning to a new general manager.
The smart move would be to hold off on trading or extending Staal this offseason and hope he comes back strong in the first half of 2018-19, attracting interest from contending teams prior to the trade deadline. This would give the new Wild general manager at least a little time to evaluate 20-year-old center Luke Kunin, who will likely miss the start of the 2018-19 season recovering from an ACL tear in his left knee.
Even if Kunin shows the potential to be a top-line center right away, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to retain Staal as a mentor. The Wild could still sign Staal as an unrestricted free agent next offseason even after trading him for something at the deadline. Or the Wild could simply retain Staal, work Kunin into the lineup and make the playoffs again. It’s a nice problem to have, and one of the two moves of the Fletcher era that worked to perfection (the other being goalie Devan Dubnyk).
Regardless, the Minnesota Wild general manager job might not be that attractive to potential candidates, but whoever takes over the Wild not only inherits a mess, but an opportunity to contend immediately or the means to blow it all up and rebuild.
The best days of the Minnesota sports year are here, and I’m not just saying that because Target Field opens its gates for baseball on Thursday. The Minnesota Twins are, as of this writing, playing their home opener against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon.
Even if the foot of snow the Twin Cities received Tuesday doesn’t melt by game time or more rain and snow moves into the area forcing a postponement, at least Minnesota sports fans will have two more games to watch later that night. Both the Minnesota Wild and Minnesota Timberwolves play games that could affect the postseason, and both play at the same time, which is frustrating and frankly, should be illegal.
Thursday is going to be the best day of the Minnesota sports season. That is until Saturday, April 14, when four professional sports teams in Minnesota could all play on the same day for the first time ever. We know the Twins and Minnesota United FC (MNUFC or Loons for short) will be in action. But with the NBA Playoffs set to begin that same day, and the Stanley Cup Playoffs also underway, Minnesota sports fans could watch their home teams for up to 11 consecutive hours on April 14. The Twins host the Chicago White Sox at 1:10 p.m. CDT and MNUFC’s match in Portland kicks off at 9:30 p.m. That leaves plenty of room in the television schedule for both the Wolves and Wild.
These really are the best days of the Minnesota sports year, and they’ll continue for as long as the Wild and Timberwolves allow. Here’s the potential schedule for the best days of the Minnesota sports year. You’ll notice this is not a complete schedule of upcoming sporting events featuring a team from Minnesota. Days during which just one Minnesota sports team plays a game are not included. Each day listed has the potential for at least two games to be played by a team from Minnesota. All times are Central. Asterisks indicate a potential game not yet scheduled. Check back for updates.
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As we enter the stretch run of the National Hockey League season, more games are being broadcasted nationally and many of them are being played in playoff atmospheres due to their playoff implications. That’s especially the case for the NHL’s Western Conference, where the fourth-ranked Minnesota Wild and 11th-ranked Colorado Avalanche are separated by just eight points.
Just one point separates the fourth-ranked San Jose Sharks and fifth-ranked Dallas Stars. Just one point separates the Stars and sixth-ranked Los Angeles Kings. Just one point separates the Kings from the the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have a one-point edge on the Calgary Flames for the final Wild Card spot in the West, and the Flames have a one-point advantage on the St. Louis Blues, who have one point on Colorado. Almost every game played in the West the rest of the season will have playoff implications, and you’ll probably want to tune into the last month or so of the regular season to see how it all shakes out.
Just last night NBC Sports Network aired a doubleheader that featured a wild divisional game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues that saw the Wild assert their dominance at home in an 8-3 win on the back of a hat trick by Eric Staal. Immediately after, the Los Angeles Kings won their second game in as many nights against the Western Conference leaders, the Vegas Golden Knights, in a preview of a possible first-round, playoff matchup. Today’s NBCSN Rivalry Night game between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues is almost a must-win game for St. Louis as a result.
If you don’t have cable or satellite television service, watching these games and the Stanley Cup Playoffs might require you to leave the comforts of home for a nearby sports bar. While it’s not all bad to catch a game with fellow fans, visiting a sports bar two or three nights per week will take a toll on your pocketbook. Even if you drink club soda you still have to get yourself there.
The National Hockey League isn’t as popular as “the big three” sports, so basic cable networks -- the ones with the most money -- don’t tend to buy the rights to broadcast many hockey games. And even though the NBC network of channels owns the rights to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s evident that NBC wants you to pay to watch hockey. It was especially evident during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unless you had cable, satellite or a live streaming service, you couldn’t watch Olympic hockey in the State of Hockey. Not one Olympic, hockey game -- men’s or women’s -- was broadcasted on my local NBC channel in Minneapolis.
The same mostly goes for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You might catch a game here and there on NBC using your digital antenna, but just four of the six Stanley Cup Finals games were broadcasted on basic cable last season, and just 18 of the 87 Stanley Cup Playoff games were broadcasted on NBC last year. The rest of the games were on either NBC Sports Network, CNBC or USA -- all of which require either cable, satellite or a live streaming service to view. So here are the cheapest options for cable cutters to watch playoff hockey. Hint: purchasing cable or satellite television service is not one of them.
The first knock against Xfinity’s live streaming service is that it’s only available to Xfinity customers. The second is that their 30-day, free trial is only on its basic channel lineup of 10+ channels, so NBCSN, CNBC and USA are not even included. They do waive the $10 fee for the basic package during your first month, though.
Xfinity’s customer service is as bad or worse than any other Internet service or cable providers. I actually had a customer representative sign me up for the wrong package because she did not understand that NBCSN and CNBC were different channels than NBC. I specifically stated the only channels I cared about were NBC Sports Network and CNBC, and she still signed me up for the basic package that includes neither.
Now if you’re contract is expiring with your current Internet service provider or mobile data service provider, you might consider switching to Xfinity to take advantage of a low, introductory rate on Internet or their always affordable Xfinity Mobile data plan that’s just $12 per month for one gigabyte of data. I’ve used Xfinity Mobile for three months now and have never gone over the one-gigabyte allowance because my phone connects to all the public Xfinity Wifi signals automatically. Purchasing either would give you access to Xfinity Instant TV, but there are better deals out there.
If all you want is NBC Sports Network, USA and CNBC to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting April 11, Hulu is not the best answer. But it is better than paying for Xfinity’s streaming service or two years of cable or satellite service. While Hulu offers shows on demand, if the only show you intend to watch is live hockey, you can do much better than $39.99 per month. Even if you intend to watch other shows, there are cheaper options available to cable cutters.
YouTube TV is the newest streaming service on the market making waves, and at $35 per month for more than 50 channels, it’s a reasonable deal. Maybe after Google has acquired a share of the live streaming market, it will buy fewer ads and be able to lower the price. Until then, cable cutting hockey fans have cheaper options available.
Sling TV isn’t comparable to Hulu when it comes to on demand options, and it’s DVR service is an extra $10. It too offers just a seven-day, free trial, but hockey fans can save almost $15 per month going with Sling to stream NBCSN, USA and CNBC during the playoffs. You’d need to purchase the Sling Blue package of channels, which is $5 more expensive than Sling’s basic package, but you can cancel as soon as your team is eliminated. This is the best option for cable cutters who don’t have friends with cable or satellite television service on whom they can piggyback.
The cheapest option for cable cutters to watch playoff hockey is to piggyback on the cable and satellite subscriptions of family and friends. Ask for their login information and save it somewhere. As long as you’re logged in with their credentials and declare their service provider as your own, you should be able to live stream whatever channels they get that are made available to stream live by the provider.
The Minnesota Wild have already weathered multiple storms in their 2017-18 National Hockey League season, and NHL teams should be afraid -- very afraid -- because the Wild are finally healthy.
Minnesota opened the season playing a schedule that didn’t allow players to get their legs under them. Playing once every four or five days to start the season not only stunted the Wild’s collective rhythm on both sides of the puck, but likely contributed to injuries.
Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Marcus Foligno all sustained injuries on Oct. 12 in Chicago. Minnesota came into its third game of the season on four days of rest, so it wasn’t as if the Wild were in rhythm or comfortable on their skates or in their schemes. The Blackhawks didn’t seem to be either, as the Wild found a way to get five goals past Corey Crawford for their first win of the year. But Minnesota lost Foligno for a game, Niederreiter for six and Coyle for 16. The Wild went on to win eight of those 16 games and earned a point in another -- weathering the storm.
Minnesota managed to survive another storm when its workhorse goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, was shut down for six games with a lower body injury sustained on Dec. 12. But backup netminder Alex Stalock preserved the Wild win over Calgary that day, making 17 saves and allowing just one goal. Stalock played well enough for the Wild to win half of their games in Dubnyk’s absence -- again, weathering the storm.
The Wild managed to remain in the Western Conference playoff picture despite losing Jared Spurgeon for nine games and Niederreiter for another five -- a testament to the improved depth of this season’s club. Both Ryan Murphy and Joel Eriksson Ek showed improvement upon last season’s performances to fill the big skates left by Spurgeon and Niederreiter.
Ek’s relative Corsi and relative Fenwick were -12 and -11.3 last season. He’s posted a relative Corsi of -1.3 and relative Fenwick of .6 thus far this season. He still struggles in the faceoff circle, but that seems to be the case for many of the Wild players. The new faceoff rule changes saw Wild players booted from the circles regularly for the first few months of the season, but it’s occurring less and less. Minnesota is 15th in the league with a 50.4 faceoff win percentage but were sixth last season, winning 51.9 percent of faceoffs. Those faceoff numbers should improve as the season progresses, though.
Murphy was and remains an under-the-radar free agent signing. While he’s played just nine games with the NHL club, he’s lifted his 2016-17 relative Corsi from -5.3 to 3.3 and his relative Fenwick from -6 to 5.8. So far, his roughly 18 minutes of ice time per game has been much better than fellow defenseman Marco Scandella’s 18-minute average ice time last season. Scandella’s 2016-17 relative Corsi and relative Fenwick were -1.1 and -2.1, respectively.
And finally, Matt Dumba is starting to look like a keeper. Dumba’s strong slapshot is finding the net more often, and he’s been especially effective in overtime. Dumba’s just four goals shy of his total from last year because he’s taking more shots in the 2:24 of increased ice time he’s averaging this season.
Dumba’s shooting percentage is 10.6 this season -- 2.2 points higher than last year and a career high for Dumba. “Put the puck on net and good things will happen” is how the hockey cliché goes, and it’s especially true for powerful slapshots like Dumba’s. A 100-mile-an-hour puck is hard for goalies to see let alone catch, so most of Dumba’s shots are going to result in fat rebounds. That’s likely why he’s tied for third on the team with fellow defenseman Ryan Suter in point shares at 3.9. And while he still leads the team with 23 giveaways on the season, his relative Corsi is up to .3 after posting a -1.4 last year, and his relative Fenwick is also up from -2.7 to -.9.
On Thursday, in the Wild’s 41st game of the 2017-18 season, head coach Bruce Boudreau had his entire roster available for the first time all season. With half the season in the books, the Wild are finally healthy and managed to stay in contention for a playoff spot. They currently hold the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference and trail Dallas by two points in the standings, but have played one less game and already beat the Stars at home this season. So the Wild’s ability to weather the storm of injuries that has held the team back in the first half of the season takes a lot of pressure off Zach Parise.
Boudreau knew he’d be without Parise to start the season but could only speculate as to how long it would take him to recover from back surgery and what kind of player he’d be post-surgery. But Parise might be one of the hardest working skaters you’ll see. He’s not the fastest, the biggest or the strongest, and his shot isn’t elite, so he skates with a chip on his shoulder. When he’s healthy (and even when he’s not), he looks like the hardest working player on the ice every second he’s out there. Tuesday was the first time I’ve seen him take it easy, and understandably so.
Parise skated on 20 shifts totalling 13:35 in ice time and put three shots on goal against the Florida Panthers in front of his home crowd. Despite Parise pacing himself, he wasn’t a liability on the ice. His 7.3 relative Corsi was sixth on the team, and his 72.7 offensive zone start percentage was second to only Chris Stewart’s 77.8 percent, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much given the sample size. He looked like a capable, third-line forward on Tuesday without exerting maximum effort, but he showed signs of his old self on Thursday.
Parise got into the scoring barrage against Buffalo after kicking a loose puck to his stick behind the Sabres’ net. He faked right, stopped on a dime and accelerated left to create separation from a defender. Then the best part of Parise’s game -- the part injuries and age can’t take from him -- displayed why the NHL should be very afraid of the Wild.
Parise knew his defender followed him behind the net, leaving the back side wide open for Coyle. Parise pushed a backhanded, wrap-around right through the blue paint and onto Coyle’s stick, who buried it in the wide open net to give Parise his first point of the season and the Wild a 6-0 lead just before the end of the second period.
The Wild still trailed the Sabres in shots on goal despite dominating puck possession and zone time, but the quality of their chances far exceeded that of the Sabres. Minnesota picked apart the league’s third-worst defense as measured by goals allowed like a playoff team should, and they didn’t let Buffalo back in the game like the last time the two played..
The Wild were up 3-1 after one period in Buffalo on Nov. 22 but let the Sabres make a game of it despite scoring twice more in the second period. It was 5-3 entering the third, and the Wild ended up playing the final 16 minutes with just a one-goal lead. Coach Boudreau has been hoping to see his team play a full 60 minutes, and the Wild are finally doing so and should be able to continue doing so now that everyone's healthy.
The Wild have an immediate opportunity to improve their playoff chances with a nationally televised game at Chicago on Wednesday, followed by a home game against the Winnipeg Jets, the second seed in the Western Conference as of this writing. After hosting Vancouver the following day, the NHL’s best visit Xcel Energy Center on Jan. 20, as Minnesota will seek revenge against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wild were minutes away from earning a point in Tampa Bay with backup goalie Stalock in net before falling in regulation.
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