Interview: Bruce Dowbiggin, Author of the Book “Cap In Hand”

If there are two things that Bruce Dowbiggin loves, it is sports and business – or more specifically, the intersection between the two. He is a former sportscaster for the Canadian Broadcast Company (CBC) and writer for The Globe and Mail. Dowbiggin was a part of the investigation that put Alan Eagleson, the corrupt former head of the NHL Players’ Association, in prison.

He has also written numerous books about sports and business. His latest work, entitled “Cap in Hand,” explains how parity and the salary cap are ruining professional sports in North America. Dowbiggin recently spoke with Sports Collectors Digest about his new book, why pro sports must change, and how soccer gets it right.

Sal Barry: Why would someone want to read “Cap in Hand”?

Bruce Dowbiggin: If you’re like a lot of sports fans, who wonder why it is that every season starts with eight to 10 teams that basically say “we’re not going to try and compete,” then I think you’re going to want to read this book. This is a book about how we got to where sports are today, to the point where it is that teams don’t care about winning, that teams are tanking. It’s all in the service of parity for the major league sports in North America. I make the argument that the usefulness of parity is over. We want a new sports economy, and it’s time that the people that run the leagues understood that.

SB: So, why write a book about the salary cap?

BD: I wanted to write a book about the 10 or 12 most-significant player contracts in history. I wanted to show the evolution from Babe Ruth to current contracts today. My publisher suggested that I put it in a bigger context. So, that’s where the idea came in, about how salary caps have done more harm to pro sports in North America than they have to help.

SB: Why is the salary cap the main culprit?

BD: As you know, in baseball, football, basketball and hockey, we’ve lost seasons or half-seasons. We’ve lost considerable amounts of time where leagues have locked out its players to get salary caps. Was it worth it? No, it wasn’t. Whenever there is a labor lockout, the owners and their commissioner are always talking about that somehow this is going to keep ticket prices restrained. That doesn’t happen at all.

Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Six New Members Inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame

A Look at Each Inductee and Their Rookie Cards

The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted perhaps its most diverse group of honorees on November 12. Consider Martin St. Louis, who at 5 feet 8 inches was passed over in the NHL Draft because he was thought to be too small, and yet ended up being a leading scorer even at the twilight of his career. Then there is hulking, 6-foot-3-inch Aleksander Yakushev, who never played in the NHL but dominated during international play for the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Jayna Hefford was a mainstay for Canada’s international women’s team for 17 seasons, winning 12 gold medals, as well as becoming the all-time leading scorer in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League. Headlining the players’ category was Martin Brodeur, who is the all-time leader for NHL goalies in wins, shutouts and games played.

Inducted in the builders’ category was Willie O’Ree, who broke hockey’s color barrier 60 years ago as a player with the Boston Bruins, and then helped others follow in his footsteps for the past 20 years. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was also inducted as a builder for the growth the league has enjoyed over the past quarter century.

“He Will Take a Hit to Make a Play”

The first to the podium that night was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. He is the longest-serving active commissioner of any pro sports league, and the only active pro sports commissioner to be inducted into a Hall of Fame.

“To imagine myself as a permanent part of this magical place is overwhelming,” Bettman said, “and I am thrilled to be enshrined in this Hall with this group of exceptional honorees.”

Bettman was the only 2018 inductee who never played hockey, but still took a humorous look at what kind of player he would have been: “The hockey scouting report on me would be something like this: lousy skater, not much of a shooter, you’re not going to outwork him, he’ll be strong in the corners and in front of the net, and he will take a hit to make a play.”

When Bettman took over as NHL Commissioner in February 1993, the league was a mess. Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Lafleur! The Guy Lafleur Disco Album

Hey, guys I found another puck that was squashed and turned into a record. This time it’s the 1979 classic of legendary Hab-Dude Guy Lafleur, a.k.a. The Flower, teaching us how to hockey…to French-Canadian Disco! In the late 70’s there was nothing hotter that a dance beat and Les Habitants hockey in the bleu, blanc et rouge. Why not smoosh them together?

First and foremost, the packaging of this flattened biscuit is worth the price of admission alone. Continue reading “Lafleur! The Guy Lafleur Disco Album”

The George H.W. Bush Hockey Card

1991-92 Upper Deck #47: White House Welcome

George Bush & Mario Lemieux

George H.W. Bush, who was the 41st President of the United States, passed away Friday night. He was 94 years old. Prior to his term as President (1989-1993), Bush was, among other things, a pilot for the navy during World War II, the head of the CIA for a year and the U.S. Vice President for eight years. During his Presidency, Bush welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to the White House to congratulate their 1991 Stanley Cup Championship, as commemorated on this 1991-92 Upper Deck hockey card. 

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Book Review: Bernie Federko: My Blues Note

Nearly 29 years after he skated his last shift, former St. Louis Blues center, honored Hockey Hall of Fame member and current Blues color commentator Bernie Federko finally penned an autobiography. Entitled “Bernie Federko: My Blues Note,” and co-authored with Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the former superstar recounts his 14-year NHL career and what came afterward. Federko — perhaps because of his subsequent career as a broadcaster — has no shortage of interesting things to say, good or bad, about those he played for, with or against. 

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The Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame: Class of 2018

Last year, I started The Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame as a way to immortalize the very worst hockey cards ever made. Yes, cards like Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr rookie cards will always be a cherished part of the hobby — but so should cards that feature bad photographs or of even worse ideas. 

Thus, The Puck Junk Bad Hockey Card Hall of Fame Class of 2018 is an exciting mix of the bad, the ugly and the awful. These are all cards that you can’t un-see, yet they still make hockey card collecting an enjoyable hobby in their own weird kind of way. 

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The Five Best Hockey Books of 2017-18

With the NHL hockey season back in full swing, we take a look at five hockey books from the 2017-18 season that are well worth the read. And if you aren’t a hockey fan, don’t worry; these books will still appeal to anyone who loves reading about sports. 

“Gratoony the Loony” 
   by Gilles Gratton and Greg Oliver

Gilles Gratton had a short, tumultuous career in the National Hockey League and World Hockey Association during the 1970s – but not because he lacked talent. The oddball goalie, best known for his lion mask, was sometimes said to be better than Ken Dryden when it came to his ability to stop pucks. The problem was, Gratton hated playing hockey.

“Gratoony the Loony: The Wild, Unpredictable Life of Gilles Gratton,” explores the life and times of one of hockey’s most colorful characters. Despite having the talent to garner a six-figure contract – great money for a pro hockey player in the 1970s – and representing Canada in international tournaments, Gratton sought interesting and absurd excuses to get out of playing hockey. Some nights, he couldn’t play because of a bad horoscope. Other nights, Gratton’s war wounds – incurred during his “past life” as a soldier in the Spanish Inquisition – made it too painful for him to play. The list goes on.

Read the full article at Sports Collectors Digest

Follow Sal Barry on Twitter @PuckJunk

Is the Hockey Hall of Fame Haunted?

For most fans of sports, the only ghosts that concern them are the ones that haunt their teams, causing last-second losses or blown championships. But the Hockey Hall of Fame is not immune to its own ghostly apparitions.

By 1986 the Hockey Hall of Fame was running out of room. Sharing a space with Canadian Sports Hall of Fame was no longer viable. The Hall finally left its rigid confines in 1993, taking over the former Bank of Montreal within the newly developed BCE Place complex, but what they didn’t realize was the space was already occupied.

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John Ziegler Did More Harm Than Good for Hockey

Former National Hockey League President John Ziegler Jr. passed away last Thursday. The NHL and two teams that Ziegler worked for — the Detroit Red Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks — all issued whitewashed statements about how great Ziegler was for the NHL during his 15-year tenure as president. Various media outlets also issued brief stories, regurgitating what NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in his statement. All of these articles made a half-hearted attempt to puff up Ziegler’s accomplishments, but none really said that Ziegler did more harm than good during his run as NHL president. So I will. 

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