We had Alan Hahn on Christmas Eve Eve (December 23rd). As usual, he was both informative and funny.

Here is a “transcript”:

--He got a kick out of my 2 suggested holiday marketing campaigns for his book Birth Of A Dynasty: The 1980 New York Islanders—“Keep Hahn in Chanukah” and “Celebrate the birth of one dynasty with the birth of another….” We also learned that he went to 12 years of Catholic school. His high school was St. Anthony’s.

--When we reminded him of his 10% rollback prediction actually being 24%, he joked, “How wrong was I????”

--The January 14th date should be “written in pencil. No one ever gives their final proposal until it’s time to give their final proposal. The players’ offer was a significant offer, but purposefully had holes for the league to counter. The league decided to reject it, and come up with its own unbelievably restrictive proposal. It’s the closest thing to communism that I have ever seen (Patchy’s note: in the world of sports)—‘you work for the league, we control you, no arbitration, rollback of qualifying offers.’ I was amazed that they had the ‘pucks’ to put it on the table.”

He thinks that both sides “still have something left.”

“In principle, they are not that far away with a 2% difference. All the other stuff is logistics. The principle is cap vs. no cap. Behind the curtain, they are not that far apart.”

When I brought up the league’s proposal not to roll back the younger players’ salaries as being an obvious attempt at union busting, Alan asked “Isn’t that incredible? Well, wasn’t it the Mike Commodore’s of the league who were making the noise in October? The journeymen and lower level players tend to get hurt the most in something like this.”

When I told him that the fans were frustrated, Alan said, “Aren’t you???? Other shows that I’ve appeared on have asked me ‘Who’s wrong?’ The answer is that everybody is wrong!”

When I brought up the fact that hockey writers get accused these days of being union shills or owner’s lackeys, he told us the following:

“Stan Kasten loves to debate and he gets all excited about it. He told me ‘You side with the players, I can tell already.’ Bill Daly told me, “You always side with the players. Yet, when I talk to players, they tell me ‘you sound like a league guy.’ You can’t please anybody.”

“No one is ever on the fan’s side, you’re the customer. With sports becoming such a big business, you’re just a spectator. They know you’ll come back. This is the 1 sport where the core fan base is as loyal as any fan base. Loyal, fanatical—which I think is great.”

“I love it when the fans kill me because it’s passion. I would rather have that than nothing at all.”

I asked if there would be another “Ask Alan” coming up on Newsday.com. He said, “I don’t know. I don’t think there are enough questions out there.” I said, “I’ll get you the questions!” He then seemed excited and wanted to answer all questions, rapid-fire style (I only asked what I had).

“Hockey has such a loyal fan base, and they go through so much. Look at the Islanders’ fan base. Look at the Rangers’ fan base and how long they went and those people kept on coming back. As much as Islander season tickets and crowds dwindle, those people are just waiting for a reason to come back. It’s the same throughout hockey—the fans WILL come back and the League knows it.”

“The problem is the peripheral fans who will watch because it’s interesting and there’s something going on. You lose them, and getting them back is not easy.”

“Where the League has gone wrong over the last 10 years is that they didn’t get your little brother or his friend. In marketing, you have to make it a tradition—from generation to generation, from dad to son to son. They didn’t get my son’s best friend, so that best friend’s father will never watch hockey, unlike how it could have become an obsession.”

“They had it in the early 90’s—it was starting to become an obsession again, and it fell apart because of the Lockout. They were too busy trying to do everything else that they forgot about their core fans—their biggest supporters serving as their billboard, wearing the jerseys, talking about it. The more activity you have around something creates a BUZZ.”

On possible rule changes:
“I can see the regular season shootout being adopted. When you leave the building after a shootout, you’re jumping. After an overtime tie, it’s anti-climactic.”

“It’s over quick, and you’re standing the whole time. ‘Oh my God, they missed that last shot!’ Or, you can be euphoric. Everybody loves to see mano-a-mano.”

“That is a an element missing from the league. It could energize, particularly during the January-February months”

“Some of the other rule changes, I’m not sure about. There are so many little things that could tamper with the game.”

“Think of how the roster could be affected by a shootout. You may save a final spot for a guy who might be awful, but be a great finisher.”

“Hockey needs teams in the big markets—Kings, Leafs, Rangers—in important markets to be good. This would be like the Yankees after the Strike, and the Home Run race with Sosa and McGwire. Chicago should be a stronger market than it is; Pittsburgh needs to come back. The shootout would be like a pseudo-Home Run Derby.”

“If those shootout goals count, you can have a guy with 60 or 70 goals.”

(To the League) “Don’t apologize for spicing up the game, just do it.”

Regarding his Smithhaven Mall Book Signing
“It was a pretty good signing. It’s fun to meet fans. I was hoping to talk hockey with some fans, but they weren’t in the mood. I mentioned ‘Lockout,” and heard ‘I don’t wanna hear it.’”

“Neither the Islanders nor the Rangers have made any cuts to their staff. The Isles’ PR manager and PR assistant are both working and both getting paid.”

“The Flyers’ broadcast team’s contracts were up at the end of last season. The Flyers said, ‘We’ll call you when the season is over.’ They’re not getting paid.”

“Chris King and John Wiedeman were also up for contract. Both signed 3-year deals before the Lockout, and they’re getting paid. Charles Wang did not have to do that, as he’s losing money. But, that’s the right way to do it.”

“The Isles did lay off some people who were going to be laid off anyway. They held positions where there is no need to fill right now.”

“These people (working) admit to me that they’re not doing anything, but they’re getting paid. This would generally be prime business time, but it’s not. But, they’re not getting furloughed or laid off.”

“The Dragons will be starting up and they’ll have some things to do, but it’s a credit to a guy like Charles Wang.”

The Newsday job classified is a sign that “they expect it to end eventually, and they’re gonna need a pretty big staff.”

--The Steve Webb toner selling story was stumbled upon by Alan. “I called him to say ‘How’s it going?’ He said, “I started a business.’” “He was doing all of this before I called, he wasn’t looking for Pub.” “Here’s a guy who wants to do something for his life both after his career and during it. I like him because he ‘gets it.’ He knows how lucky he is, and where he came from—and that he can easily be right back there.”

--“This is funny. In the last 7 days, I have covered the Knicks, Giants, Nets, Mets, Yankees and the Jets today. These are all the teams playing in New York right now. Message to Gary Bettman who is listening right now, I’m sure—I can’t take it anymore!”

(Tongue-in-cheek) Regarding Chad Pennington:
“Yes, it’s a privilege to cover him, and I made sure to genuflect to him—but I was not part of any group hug….”

“It’s been real quiet on the new arena front. I don’t know when we’ll hear more about it. There’s not much they can do right now, anyway. We had been told that it would be quiet for a long time. They have to satisfy complaints and red tape, secure the money and the new budget does not kick in until after the New Year. We’ll hear more in the Spring, with the hope of a shovel in the ground in ’06.”

When I told him that our avid listener Bob from Hastings (aka “MrProspects”) was headed to North Dakota for the World Junior Championships:
“I wish I was going with him.”

This was Alan’s scouting report BEFORE the WJC:

Said Alan: “I don’t know their exact numbers, because I’m still trying to read up on Carl Pavano!”

Petteri Nokelainen:
“A little bit like Bergenheim, maybe a little bit better. We won’t know how good he’ll be until he’s in the NHL.”

Robert Nilsson:
“Doing very well. Looks to have turned it around from last year. Because of this turnaround, they feel a lot better about him than they did last year.” “Nilsson is anxious to get over here and prove what he can do with all eyes on him.”

Jeremy Colliton:
“Fierce, stronger, bigger than Bergenheim. Unbelievable competitor. He’s the kind of player that the Islanders want to start bringing in—the kind of player who can show up one year and be a monster. I don’t know if he’ll be a big-time scorer, but he’ll be one of those guys that you know about.” “To be honest with you, he’s been a bit of a surprise. Usually, you have to wait on guys from Canada (and even North America, in general). They leave the Junior Leagues where they play with friends and then they fall back a little.”

“I begged and pleaded to go to the WJC’s, but there is so much to do in NY sports, and not enough pages.”

I asked him if he would ordinarily go to the WJC’s, and he said “No.”

I asked him if there are differences between the hockey players he covers and the other athletes that he now covers. He said, he’s now realizing that “they’re really all the same.”

I asked him if he has to introduce himself to all of these new athletes and he joked, “Oh, they know who I am!” Then, he added, “Nobody knows who I am.”

When I told him that Adam Rubin from the Daily News had done an in-studio with us, he joked that the Daily News must rate because he never got invited down. I told him that I dealt with Adam directly and that I have to go through “Alan’s people” to get him. We joked that we thought that Alan was “too big.”

I informed him that in order to take listeners’ calls, he has to be in-studio as we only have 1 line in. When he asked why we can’t get another line, we told him that like the Coliseum, we are owned by Nassau County. He then said, “Say no more!” We then added that there will be a new arena before we have a 2nd phone line.

Alan will be in-studio (along with Grossman and Botte) for the Islanders Roundtable—and taking your calls!—sometime in February. His only demand is “Subway and a soda.”

Later that night, I was co-hosting a “Very 80’s Christmas.” (which follows a Springsteen show that comes on after our show, and of which Evan Grossman is a big fan). So, I brought up the fact that Bruce Springsteen’s 2 Christmas songs actually parallel Alan’s life. “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” was recorded at CW Post (Alan’s alma mater) and “Merry Christmas Baby” was recorded at Nassau Coliseum (usually Alan’s home away from home).

Alan mentioned that Mapletoft, Bergenheim and Papineau all were scratched the previous night, so he had to make a call after our show.

We joked that hockey HAS to come back, as Peter Botte was reduced to writing an article on Pedro Martinez’s little friend that very day.

Alan said that he’ll probably be doing a Islanders-run booksigning in conjunction with the Alumni celebrating the anniversary of winning the Cup. He added that he will be “the most ignored guy there….”