Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

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Kraft and Jacobs: From one extreme to the other

On Friday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Patriots owner Robert Kraft dedicated a permanently empty black seat to the memory of this nations service men and women who have been prisoners of war or have gone missing in action.  It was a touching tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price for the preservation of the American way of life and just another example why the Krafts are widely regarded as the gold standard for owners in the realm of professional sports franchises.

On Friday in New York, Boston Bruins owner and Chairman of the NHL Board of Governors Jeremy Jacobs was doing his best to make sure that every seat at the TD Garden remains empty for the rest of this hockey season.  

Has there ever been a larger dichotomy between a towns team owners in the history of professional sports?  

On one hand you have Robert Kraft, who is almost universally loved.  A rocky relationship with NFL coach-and-prostitute extraordinaire Bill Parcels, and a aborted move to Connecticut, are distant memories for fans who now adore the Krafts and their loving stewardship of New Englands NFL franchise. Their hard work and personal capital have built a new stadium and instilled a championship tradition into a franchise that used to be a laughingstock. The days of the superflush gave way to three Super Bowls and more than a decade of championship contention and relevance.

And on the other hand you have the Jacobs family.  Since 1975 Jeremy and company have taken a successful and beloved franchise, rich with history and tradition, with undoubtedly the most loyal following in town, and done everything in their power to turn the fan base against them.  The Jacobs legacy, as far as Bruins fans are concerned, is composed of miserly spending, invisible leadership and years of profitable mediocrity.  This resulted in over 30 years of promise ending in failure and disappointment.  The ledger being in the black was always more import than the Bruins being in contention.   Forget one seat; Jacobs had to color half the seats in the then Fleet Center black so the vast number of MIA fans would be less evident to TV telecasts.  

You would think that these two couldnt be in any more diametrical opposition than the above examples, but the gulf between the two only widens when you compare the roles Kraft and Jacobs have played in their leagues respective labor disputes.  

Robert Kraft is widely credited as the man who instigated the deal between the NFL owners and the Players association during the 2011 NFL Lockout.  In-between caring for his wife Myra as she battled terminal cancer, Robert Kraft worked to bridge the gap between the players and owners.  Nobody who saw it will ever forget the announcement that ended the lockout where a haggard and drained Kraft was embraced by player rep Jeff Saturday and thanked personally for his role in bringing about labor peace. Football fans all over the country found out on that day what fans in New England already knew: That Robert Kraft loved the sport of football and was there for it and its fans when the sport needed him the most.

Jeremy Jacobs? He is widely regarded as the driving force behind not one but two crippling NHL work stoppages.  

In 2004, JJs years of frugality at the expense of contention came to fruition as Jacobs and the rest of the owners finally got the salary cap he lusted for.  No Bruins fan will ever forget Jacobs willfully killing off a season in exchange for his precious cap.   Nor will they forget that in the process, the best Bruins squad in a decade was gutted during the lockout and it left the team woefully ill-equipped to contend afterwards.  But in Jeremy Jacobss world, cost certainty made it all worth it.  Bruins fans would beg to differ.  

The Bruins suffered through a rebuilding process that included front office turnover, roster churning, and a period of fan apathy like no other.  But after years of rebuilding, Jacobs had a sport experiencing record growth, a Stanley Cup and a new chance to rewrite his hockey legacy.

Once again labor related turmoil is threatening the NHL.  With the blood feud to establish a hard salary cap behind them, the opportunity for compromise between the players and owners seemed attainable.  The chance to mediate a settlement and complete his legacy rehabilitation was there to be had for Jacobs. But unfortunately, there was also a chance at more money.  

Instead of stepping to the forefront to broker an agreement and save hockey from another cataclysmic event, Jeremy Jacobs is once again the leader of a cabal of hardline owners determined to line their pockets at the expense of the NHL and its fans.  According to some reports, Jacobss mere presence at Fridays meetings may have derailed any recent progress. 

Jacobs never was and never will be a caretaker of the game like Kraft.  Hes never really been a fan, just a guy out to make a buck.  In order to make more money Jacobs is again willing to risk the future of a contending team and a fragile niche sport.  In his never-ending quest for a better deal, Jeremy Jacobs is more than willing to spit in the faces of the players the fans.  When this mess gets sorted out there wont be a photo op of Sidney Crosby thanking Jacobs with a impromptu embrace, and if  Sid the Kid did hug J.J. hed  be wise to check for his wallet afterward.

On Friday in Foxboro, Robert Kraft once again proved that he and his family are worthy caretakers of the Patriots.  A bust in Canton will bare his likeness because, like the POWMIA slogan, Robert Kraft has never forgotten his role as the caretaker his the team, the sport and the fans he serves.  

On Friday in New York, Jeremy Jacobs proved he is once again willing to put his sport at risk for money.  The Jacobs name will live in infamy and be forever synonymous with unquenchable greed.  Jeremy Jacobs willfully and repeatedly damaged the NHL and the sport of hockey. For this he will never be forgotten or forgiven.

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

Knicks' Noah suspended 20 games by NBA for drug policy violation

NEW YORK - Joakim Noah of the New York Knicks has been suspended 20 games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

The NBA announced the suspension Saturday, saying Noah tested positive for Selective Androgen Receptor Modulator LGD-4033 – something that can be found in over-the-counter supplements.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports first reported the suspension.

Noah has not played since Feb. 4 and was likely to miss the Knicks’ final 10 games this season because of a knee injury. The NBA said Noah’s suspension will begin with the ”first NBA regular season or playoff game for which he is eligible and physically able to play.”

Noah is in the first year of a four-year, $72 million contract. He and the Knicks (27-45) have been a disappointment this season. He averaged 5.0 points and 8.7 rebounds in 46 games this season, and has been limited to 75 games over the past two seasons.

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

Haggerty: Legacies on the line at edge of another Bruins collapse

BRIGHTON, Mass – Let’s start with the straight fact that it’s asinine, apologist drivel to let the Bruins off the hook, and perpetuate an off-the-mark myth there isn’t enough talent on the B's roster to be a playoff hockey team.

They are middle-of-the-road in the talent department to be sure, and the roster depth clearly isn’t what it was in their elite years, as the Bruins balance an aging core group with an influx of youthful talent from the next generation. But this is also a proud, talented group with one of the best all-around centers in the NHL in Patrice Bergeron, a former Norris Trophy winner and future Hall of Fame defenseman in Zdeno Chara, a legitimate Hart Trophy candidate and in-his-prime All-Star left winger in Brad Marchand, an emerging 20-year-old offensive superstar in David Pastrnak and a former Vezina Trophy winning goaltender still in his prime in Tuukka Rask.

That doesn’t even mention high-end players David Krejci, David Backes and Torey Krug that are game-changing talents in their own right.

Combine that with the other players on the Bruins roster and this is a team interspersed with proud Stanley Cup winning players and enough talent to still take care of business in the final eight games and punch their playoff ticket. Winning a Cup in 2011 can never be taken away from Chara, Krejci, Bergeron, Marchand, Rask and Adam McQuaid, and neither can the seven straight seasons in the playoffs under Claude Julien.

But there’s a danger now of some late-in-the-game tarnish on Black and Gold legacies for some of those distinguished, proud players if they once again collapse down the stretch this season and miss the playoffs for the third year in a row with a late-season nosedive. Four consecutive regulation losses have cast doubt into everything for the Bruins and roused all the same old uncomfortable questions from the past three years.

Bergeron and Marchand need to find their best games and dominate the way elite players do in big-game situations like Saturday night vs. the Isles. Pastrnak, Brandon Carlo and Frank Vatrano need to show they're ready for the playoffs.Rask needs to finally show he's ready to shine as a No. 1 goalie and lead his team to victory in a big game rather than buckle under weighty pressure. 

“This is their legacy, those guys. They are Stanley Cup champions and they missed last year. Each year we talk about writing our own story, and I believe that because guys come and go,” said coach Bruce Cassidy. “But generally there is a core group of guys and it’s their legacy. I’m sure they want to reach the playoffs and get back to being a Stanley Cup contender every year.

“That’s what they want and to a man I’m sure they would tell you that. I do believe that they believe it’s different [this season]. Until you change the course of your results, those questions are going to come. We have to change the results to make then go away. One week of not getting results that we want doesn’t mean we’re panicking, but we do understand what’s at stake. We want to be playing in April and May.”

If the Bruins can’t pull out a win on Saturday night against the Islanders, who just pushed even with them at 82 points on the season, then their playoff lives will no longer be under their own control anymore. It will become another late-season choke job by a team that will have its character and courage questioned. The highs of six years ago will be matched by the bitter lows of the past three seasons.

People won’t talk about a scrappy, little underdog Bruins team that just couldn’t get over the hump once again. Instead, they’ll lament a formerly proud, tough-minded group of hockey players that somehow turned into NHL tomato cans all too willing to play the victim once the going got tough late in the regular season.

That’s no way to go out if you’ve ever had your name etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup, and the Bruins that know better should be taking that to heart right now.