Also, the debut of the league's next superstar may be put off. Eric Lindros, the No. 1 pick in the 1991 draft, apparently would prefer playing for the Canadian Olympic team to suiting up for the lowly Quebec Nordiques. Lindros may decide to return to the junior ranks, play for the Olympic team and then reenter the draft in June '93, taking a chance that the Nordiques will not have finished last again. If the Nordiques don't trade their rights to Lindros, the NHL might lose his stellar services for the next two seasons.
The NHL's plans for expansion—seven new teams by the year 2000—have been thrown off as well. While the San Jose Sharks will be ready to play this fall, the two franchises that are supposed to enter the league for the 1992-93 season are struggling. The Tampa Bay Lightning failed to meet a June deadline for a $22.5 million payment on its $50 million franchise fee. It seems that the Lightning's Japanese investors objected to some of the additional partners recruited by team president Phil Esposito. The Ottawa Senators made their payment, but their plans to construct an arena are threatened by a zoning dispute. As a result, the Senators are having trouble attracting investors.
The league's most pressing headache, though, is that the cable sports networks are turning off. The NHL's $17 million-a-year contract with SportsChannel America has expired after three seasons, and ESPN's reported offer of $4 million for a package of games for one season has disappointed the league.
NHL president John Ziegler insists that getting the league back on ESPN (the NHL had a contract with ESPN from 1985 to '88), a network that reaches 59.2 million homes, is not the league's highest priority. "Not in the sense that you would give the game away and devalue your product just to do it," says Ziegler.
But exposure, not dollars, should be the NHL's primary concern. Lucrative TV contracts just aren't available to the NHL. At least ESPN would make the NHL look like a major league. Why would a league with a commitment to expansion not want to expose itself to the broadest possible audience?
The brothers Mimbs could have hitters seeing double
Within five minutes on Feb. 13, 1969, Virginia Mimbs of Macon, Ga., provided the Los Angeles Dodgers with two of their best pitching prospects. Her sons, identical twins Michael and Mark, have put together nearly identical stats this season for two Dodger Class A farm clubs. At week's end, Michael had won 12 games, with a 2.47 ERA, for Vero Beach (Fla.), and his younger brother, Mark, had won 11, with a 2.29 ERA, for Bakersfield (Calif.).
Soon after selecting the Mimbses out of Mercer College in Macon in the 1990 draft, the Dodgers shipped the two lefties to different farm clubs. "They wanted to see how we could do apart from each other," says Michael. The Dodgers also wanted to avoid further confusion. The 6'2" 180-pounders throw the same assortment of pitches and have similar deliveries. In spring training, Dodger pitching coach Claude Osteen couldn't tell them apart. The only way coaches avoided constant correction was to refer to both Michael and Mark as "Mimbsie."
What the Mimbses are shooting for now is a reunion next year at Double A San Antonio. What the Dodgers are hoping for is a family reunion on a grander scale. With the three pitching Martinez brothers thriving in the Dodger organization (Ramon with Los Angeles, Pedro with San Antonio, and Jesus in rookie ball in the Dominican Republic), director of minor league operations Charlie Blaney says, "The Martinez and Mimbs families could be a complete starting rotation."