BOISE, Idaho — Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
Sun Valley’s Hilary Knight is the face of women’s hockey in the United States, and what she and her fellow players have undertaken will determine the future of the sport. It was last Thursday that more than 200 of the top female hockey players in the world announced they will not play professionally in North America next season, hoping it leads to a single, economically sustainable pro league. The Canadian Women's Hockey League abruptly folded last week, leaving the five-team, U.S.-based National Women's Hockey League as the only pro league in North America. And that may go by the wayside, too. “We may represent different teams, leagues and countries but collectively we stand as one,” Knight tweeted when the announcement was made.
The players are seeking a model similar to what the NBA does for the WNBA. Thing is, the WNBA is navigating a set of financial problems right now. NBA commissioner Adam Silver observed just a few weeks ago that not enough young women pay attention to the WNBA. “We’re not connecting with almost the same demographic that our players are,” Silver said. And the NHL has far less money to invest than the NBA. So the two-pronged question for Knight and her colleagues: will enough people go to the games—and will enough people watch them on TV (if there’s a TV contract) to create the revenue for decent player salaries? They may find themselves stuck in a supply-and-demand conundrum.
This issue shouldn’t overshadow Knight’s international season, much less her career. The U.S. beat Finland 2-1 in a shootout on April 14, giving Knight her eighth World Championship gold medal. That goes on the mantel next to a gold and two silvers from the Winter Olympics. Knight led the entire world tournament in scoring, tallying seven goals with four assists in seven games. In the semifinal matchup in Helsinki last month, she played her 51st game in the World Championships to set an American record. Knight turns 30 years old in July. There’s still a lot of blade left on those skates.
A GAME 7 THE STEELIES CAN WATCH
There’s nothing like a Game 7 in hockey. The Idaho Steelheads couldn’t get there over the weekend, but two Steelies alums are looking at one tonight in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. One of them plays, and the other is a goalie-in-waiting as the Dallas Stars visit St. Louis for a Round 2 finale. Justin Dowling played just 11 regular season games for the Stars but has appeared in all 12 Dallas playoff games, notching two assists. Dowling was a productive Steelhead six years ago, logging 13 goals and 33 assists in 34 games. Goalie Landon Bow played in just two regular season contests for the Stars, allowing one goal and making 19 saves. Needless to say, Bow has been idle during the postseason. He went 19-6-0 as a Steelheads netminder two seasons ago.
MODSTER PASSES THE FIRST TEST
Baltimore officially signed Sean Modster to a free agent contract last Friday, the first day of the Ravens’ rookie minicamp. Here’s the assessment from CBSSports.com: “Modster is a 5-foot-11, 183-pound pass catcher out of Boise State. The undrafted free agent is seen as a solid receiver with no notable strengths or weaknesses. He can play both slot or outside, but does not possess elite speed, hands, strength or agility. He will need to find a way to stand out during camp if he wants to be on the Ravens' roster in Week 1.” Not a lot to dispute there. Modster really excelled as a Bronco senior, though, with 68 receptions for 978 yards and eight touchdowns. Hopefully that means momentum going into the summer in Baltimore.
SAMARDZIJA WISELY DECIDED TO PITCH RATHER THAN CATCH
One of the more celebrated former Boise Hawks—at least in 2006—was pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who doubled as a Notre Dame wide receiver. Samardzija left Boise at the end of July to prepare for his senior season with the Fighting Irish, but he forsook football for baseball the following January to sign a five-year contract with the Cubs. Now a San Francisco Giant, Samardzija is in his 12th major league season. His career has been very average (73-91 with a 4.14 ERA). What happened to him Sunday was very Samardzija-esque, as he gave up home runs on three consecutive pitches in Cincinnati before the Giants came back to win 6-5. But he’s made an awful lot of money playing baseball. Safe to say Samardzija’s career in football wouldn’t have lasted nearly this long. He’s 34 years old now.
CIA MORE THAN AN AGENCY; LAX MORE THAN AN AIRPORT
According to John Rothstein, college basketball insider for CBS Sports, a “source” has Duke hosting Colorado State as part of its 2019-20 non-conference schedule at Cameron Indoor Arena (uh, there’s your “CIA”). Maybe the Boise State Broncos get to go there someday? Key words being “get to.” And lacrosse has taken the spotlight this week at College of Idaho, as the Coyotes are the No. 6 seed at the Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Division II National Championships in Salt Lake City. The Yotes opened Monday with an 18-11 win over Northern Arizona. C of I advances to face third-ranked Grand Valley State tonight. The 16-team tournament runs through Saturday.
This Day In Sports…May 7, 2009, 10 years ago today:
Each revelation in baseball is worse than the last, as Los Angeles Dodgers star Manny Ramirez is suspended for 50 games after testing positive for a female fertility drug. It was the latest black eye for a sport that had been rocked earlier in the year by the admission of steroid use by Alex Rodriguez, adding to a growing list of stars that included Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Ramirez would retire less than two years later rather than face a 100-game suspension for another positive drug test. Comeback attempts by Ramirez failed in 2012 and 2013.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)