The game of baseball is the big winner this week. Major League Baseball and its players association turned a bearish and increasingly acrimonious lockout — one that could have cost weeks if not months of the 162-game regular schedule this year — into a bull market on Thursday.
There was significant relief as the two sides signed off on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, one that clears the way for Opening Day, now officially set for April 7. Among the highlights of the new CBA is a US $700,000 minimum salary for entry-level players, a 12-team playoff (up from 10) and, beginning in 2023, a schedule that will feature more inter-league play than ever before.
While the 53-13 Phoenix Suns and 44-23 Miami Heat continue to lead their respective conferences in the NBA, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks are now knocking on the door on a six-game winning streak and are just two games back of first place. In the NHL, there’s a traffic jam at the top of the league standings between the Colorado Avalanche, Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers, with just two points separating the three teams.
It was also a good week for Aaron Rodgers, the National Football League MVP quarterback who will return to Green Bay for at least another year to call signals for the Packers as part of a reported four-year, US $200-million contract that includes US $153 million in guaranteed cash. Ditto for the Denver Broncos, who became solid contenders in the stacked AFC West after the acquisition of former Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl-winning QB Russell Wilson.
Another big winner in the business of sport this week was ticket number CL-1483899. That was the winning ticket at the Vancouver Canucks 50/50 draw during the team’s 5-3 win over the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night at Rogers Arena. The $1,503,225 jackpot delivers $751,612.50 to the lucky winner and another $751,612.50 through the Canucks for Kids fund to the Red Cross in Ukraine. It defined the term “win-win” given the humanitarian cause and the size of the prize, one that reaffirms Vancouver’s status as being right up there with Edmonton as the leading 50/50 hotbeds in Canada.
Shoutout as well to Czech hockey legend Jaromir Jagr, now 50 years old, for organizing a hockey game fundraiser that contributed more than US $160,000 to Ukrainian refugees in Czechia. That included a US$68,000 donation from the NHL in honor of Jagr’s number 68, which in turn remembers the Soviet-led invasion of the then-Czechoslovakia in August 1968.
bears of the week
Numerology this week connects Jagr to 36-year-old Russian star Alex Ovechkin, No. 8 of the Washington Capitals, who has a chance to catch Wayne Gretzky on the all-time NHL goals list.
Ovechkin is 128 goals behind Gretzky’s 894 going into Friday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after tying Jagr for third on the all-time list with his 766th Tuesday against the Calgary Flames. The next target is the 801 career NHL goals scored by the late Gordie Howe.
Yet as others have pointed out, the scoring chase has become increasingly awkward over the past two weeks, coinciding with Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. While Ovechkin himself is in a compromised position given his long-standing support for Russia President Vladimir Putin, his pursuit of the Gretzky milestone is threatening to become a dark cloud over the NHL. It is an awkward and unfortunate sideshow that will become harder to manage as long as Putin’s forces continue to ravage Ukraine and its civilians.
Marketing communications executive and sport business commentator Tom Mayenknecht is a principal in Emblematica Brand Builders and the host of The Sport Market on BNN Bloomberg Radio 1410 and TSN Radio nationally. Follow Mayenknecht at: twitter.com/TheSportMarket
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