Thursday, April 29, 2010

When Hockey and Travel Collide...

It looks like the Red Wings will start their series with the San Jose Sharks on the wrong skate. According to an article in the San Jose Mercury News the Red Wings team charter violated the landing curfew at the San Jose International Airport by 49 minutes after arriving late from Phoenix. The fine will likely be $2,500...not a huge amount for an professional sports team but still raises an interesting principle.

The fine has been established to discourage takeoffs and landings so as to not disturb the local residents. According to the article the fine cannot be implemented if a flight is delayed due to weather or other issues beyond the pilot's control. Interestingly the San Jose Sharks charter company is allowed 15 passes a year for curfew violation.

The Hat Trick has two observations:
  1. Given the reason for the lateness of the Red Wings charter it seems the San Jose airport needs to wave this fine. All it does is make them look small and vindictive to allow it to go through. The Red Wings can pay that fine from the petty cash lets use our brains San Jose and actually think about why the plane landed 49 minutes past the curfew.
  2. Let's remind people that CHOOSE to live close to an airport that noise is a potential side-effect to your CHOICE. Much like living near the ocean could involve increased seagull activity or living near a sports facility can cause traffic jams you need to evaluate your CHOICE in where you live. An airport is a business and air travel is a 24 hour global business. A consequence of the Hat Trick living in the Washington, DC area is that I have to occasionally deal with closed streets due to the Presidential motorcade. Not always fun but it's part of living in the nation's capitol (and a great excuse to being late for a date!). Get over it and stop trying to legislate every problem away wonder nobody wants to do business in your state.

Okay, rant over. Let's Go Red Wings and let's get some reality San Jose airport!

United-Continental Deal Appears Close

News reports today are reporting that a United-Continental merger could be announced on Monday. Various news sources are stating that the new company will be called United, headquartered in Chicago (United's current headquarters) and Continental CEO Jeffrey Smisek will be the new CEO and current United CEO Glenn Tilton will be chairman. The combined carrier will be the largest airline in the world.

While this is a big improvement compared with merging with US Airways, it still concerns the Hat Trick that we will abolish another legacy carrier and decrease competition. But, like the merger mania of the mid 1980s we appear to again be in that same mindset. We'll see how this one plays our over Friday and the weekend.

Wings Win Series!

This is a bit tardy and will be short and sweet but the Detroit Red Wings won their series against the Phoenix Coyotes late Tuesday night! The Wings dominated the Coyotes from the start, rolling to a 6 - 1 victory and the privilege to play the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs semi-final round.

The Wings won with a combination of constant offense and domination in the net. The Hat Trick had his doubts about whether the Wings could win this one and I'm happy that I was wrong on that score!

Thursday night brings on the San Jose Sharks in Game 1. Should be a good one and a real test for the Wings. Enjoy it today have a tough series ahead of you!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Wings Routed By Coyotes, Game 7 Tuesday

The Wings were destroyed Sunday by the Phoenix Coyotes at the JLA, losing 5 - 2 and setting up a Game 7 in Phoenix on Tuesday night. The Wings blew a couple of golden opportunities on the power play, including several overlapping 5 on 3 scenarios. Goalie Jimmy Howard didn't exactly have his best performance but the lineup in front of him didn't exactly impress either. The less said about this game the better.

The bottom line comes down to this: A Game 7 in any series is generally a toss-up so instead of putting away the Coyotes on home ice they have to travel to Phoenix and hope they can pull it off on enemy ice. If they play like they did on Sunday then there will be no need to stay up late to watch the game.

Let's Go Red Wings but the Hat Trick has a bad feeling about this one.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

United and Continental in Merger Talks

The merger that has been predicted for long time appears to be closer than ever to fruition. It is being reported that Chicago-based United is in merger discussions with Continental Airlines, based in Houston, Texas. The surviving company would be called United and headquartered in Chicago. This has come about after merger discussions between United and US Airways recently fell apart, as discussed in this Hat Trick post.

This could be an interesting merger. Both Continental and United have attempted to distinguish themselves as premium global airlines, with Continental known for their good customer service. This would be a good combination compared with US Airways, a company not known for its stellar relationships with customers. Continental and United have also formed a close partnership since Continental joined the Star Alliance last fall including providing complimentary upgrades to elite status customers, an arrangement that Continental previously had with its Sky Team alliance partner Northwest (now Delta). While United and US Airways have been Star Alliance partners for several years they have never extended upgrade benefits to each other's elites.

The Hat Trick has some thoughts on this potential merger, both positive and negative, so let's take a look at this merger.


  1. Overall Network: Both airlines have a global network, including solid coverage in both Europe and Asia. Continental is stronger in Europe, United stronger in Asia.
  2. Domestic Network/Hubs: United and Continental both have strong domestic networks with coverage on the West Coast, Midwest, South and the East Coast. United has hubs at Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Denver (DEN) and Washington Dulles (IAD) as well as focus cities at Los Angeles International (LAX) and San Francisco International (SFO). Continental has hubs at Newark Liberty International (EWR), Houston Intercontinental (IAH), Cleveland Hopkins International (CLE) and Guam (GUM) where Continental Micronesia is headquartered.
  3. Newark Hub: The Newark hub has a strong hold on the New York City market and a strong gateway to Europe.
  4. Product: Continental has a strong in-flight product and United's is not terribly far behind Continental's.


  1. Competition: it's never great when you lose a competitor. Airlines always make the case that consolidation is consumer-friendly but it generally works the other way. Cities in the Midwest and some cities in the West could see higher fares as a result of a combined United-Continental.
  2. Labor Issues: United hasn't exactly had the best labor relations whereas Continental has pretty good labor relations with its workforce over the years.
  3. Fleet Commonality: United has designated the Airbus 319 and 320 as its primary domestic workhorse after retiring the 737-300/500 fleet last year (as well as assigning a lot of this flying to their regional affiliates). Continental is all Boeing, all the time. Their only crossover aircraft is the 757-200/777-200 but I believe they operate different engines on these jets and I believe Continental has more ETOPS jets.
  4. Cleveland Hub: If you live in or travel to Cleveland Hopkins like the Hat Trick (my mother lives in the Cleveland area) then you can expect to lose your hub status. This would be a blow for the city even though Cleveland has experienced a serious decrease in Continental flying over the past few years, particularly with the loss of mainline flying.

These are just some initial thoughts on this potential merger. We'll see where it goes and what type of response, if any, you will see from both companies' competitors, notably American. Could be some interesting times ahead!

Wings Win Game 5!

The Detroit Red Wings beat the Phoenix Coyotes solidly last night in Arizona to take a 3 - 2 series lead. The Wings can win the series Sunday in Detroit and go on to the next round.

Offensively the Wings didn't come alive until the third period but goalie Jimmy Howard kept them in the game until the offense took off. An impressive empty netter at the end of the game sealed it for the Wings. Goals by Tomas Holmstrom, Henrick Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk took care of business. Both Howard and Zetterbert are having a very impressive series and are a big reason why the wings can clinch the series on Sunday.

Don't let up now Wings...victory is in site! (Thanks to Getty Images for the victory photo)

United-US Airways Deal is Off...Thank God!

On Thursday media outlets reported that the merger discussions between United Airlines, based in Chicago, Illinois and US Airways, based in Tempe, Arizona, have ground to a halt. Apparently labor issues were a problem as well as who would run the airline...according to various news reports the merged airline would have been called United and headquartered in Chicago. US Airways CEO Doug Parker would not have been at the helm of the merged carrier (yeah!).

This is good news from the Hat Trick's perspective. I've never been a fan of the "customer service" (or lack of) that I've experienced from the new US Airways (really America West Airlines in US Airways colors...see this post for a further explanation) so I'm glad to see United not get caught up with these jokers.

We'll see where this leaves both companies. It looks like United is refocusing on its first choice in merger partners (and fellow Star Alliance partner), Continental Airlines (see this post). For US Airways it looks like they will be left out for now. Aviation/airline blogger Marshall Jackson over at Boarding Area (a great site for airline and aviation geeks like the Hat Trick!) makes a compelling argument for an American/US Airways combination. The Hat Trick is less sure of this combination given fleet commonality issues (American is entirely Boeing and former McDonnell Douglas aircraft, US Airways almost entirely Airbus) plus some very different views on customer service. Still, crazier things have happened in this industry so it's possible...the Hat Trick never really thought Delta-Northwest would ever happen!

Regardless, the US Airways invasion of United appears to be off for now. Yeah!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wings Crush Coyotes

The Detroit Red Wings came back big-time from a lousy Game 3 performance by crushing the Phoenix Coyotes at the JLA 3 - 0. Goalie Jimmy Howard came back mentally and stopped all 29 shots and two goals by star Henrick Zetterberg and a goal by Pavel Datsyuk sealed the win.

Nice job Red Wings!

The Wings really needed to come back and play better in this game and they accomplished that goal. It was good to see that Jimmy Howard could also respond and put a bad playoff performance behind him...having backup goalie (and former starter) Chris Osgood help him with this was key.

The series now returns to Phoenix for Game 5 and it is a tied series once again. It's looking very likely that this could be a seven game series. Let's Go Red Wings!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wings Lose Game 3

The Wings lost 4 - 2 after a not-so-great third period in the goal tending department. To quote my Detroit cousin's Facebook post: "Stupid Coyotes"

While I'm not usually a big fan of some of the NBC announcers and generally ignore their "advice" they did note that the Wings seemed to be playing "businesslike" when they needed to be playing passionately. I'll agree with that one...they had some good scoring chances but it was incomplete at times.

The Hat Trick knew this was going to be a series and not a cakewalk for the Wings. Detroit could even get knocked out in the first round which hasn't happened in a long time. However, Jimmy Howard is getting the one thing lacking in his consummate skills sets as an NHL goaltender: playoff experience. This will last him a long time and benefit, and the Red Wings, in the future.

Now, the Hat Trick isn't throwing in the towel just yet...but being realistic. We'll see what happens in Game 4.

Game 3, Second Intermission

The Coyotes scored a late period goal to go ahead with a 2 - 1 lead. Still plenty of hockey to be played in the third period...hope the Wings generate some more offense and get ahead. They definitely have had their chances but just need to get one in the net and not Bryzgalov's glove!

The third period is set to start shortly...pot roast is still simmering.

Watching Game 3 Now

The Hat Trick is spending Sunday afternoon watching Game 3 between the Red Wings and the Coyotes on the wide screen in HD. Cold beer is in hand and the youngest member of the East Coast Wing clan (my eight month old daughter) is trying to master crawling and actually taking a slight interest in what is going on with the game. The family dog is in her typical position...asleep on the couch. The weather is a bit cool, almost fall-like and a pot roast is simmering in the kitchen so it's a great Sunday at that!

The game has been good with a lot of physical play and good scoring opportunities. The score is 1 - 1 with about 8:00 minutes left in the second period. Goalie Jimmy Howard has been solid with 14 saves to this point. Lets go Red Wings!!!

Wings Split Games in Phoenix, Game 3 Today

The Detroit Red Wings did what they needed to do and split the first two games in Phoenix, losing Game 1 but winning decisively in Game 2 by a score of 7 - 4. Henrick Zetterberg delivered with a hat trick to help give the Wings the victory. Game 3 is today (Sunday) at 3:00 P.M. EDT at the JLA (Joe Louis Arena), Detroit, Michigan. The Wings can go up to a 2 - 1 series lead with a win on home ice. This game will be broadcast nationally on NBC.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red Wings Make 19th Straight Playoff Appearence

It was looking bleak two months ago but the Red Wings surged in the last third of the season and now are making their 19th straight playoff appearance. While they are not seeded as high as they usually are with the number five seed they look solid going in. Goalie Jimmy Howard is playing very well and the Wings have returned several key players from the injury list.

The Wings will take on the fourth seeded Phoenix Coyotes in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs beginning tonight at 10:00 P.M. EDT on Versus (did you know the Phoenix Coyotes used to be the Winnipeg Jets?) This will definitely be an interesting series as both teams are coming off a strong finish to the end of the regular season. Add in the fact that the Coyotes are no longer a cellar dweller NHL team but a well-coached, offensive minded club that will not be easy to beat, especially given they have home-ice advantage in this series. Still, the Hat Trick likes the Wings chances given the relative health of the team and the strong play of Goalie Jimmy Howard.

I'll say the Wings win the series in six games...not surprising given this blog is all about the Wings! Still, the Hat Trick does think that playoff experience and good goaltending will bring the Wings victory in the end.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

United-US Airways Merger Talks Continue

From the Hat Trick's perspective this is not great news but better compared with my post on this subject yesterday. According to an article in The Street published last night merger talks between United and US Airways have become "very serious" and are at a "very sensitive stage" at this juncture. The deal could still fall apart, particularly given the opposition to the merger from the pilots and flight attendant unions, but could also very easily go forward given the strong interest in consolidation by both airline CEOs. The United States Department of Justice may also have some concerns given that US Airways has a large mini-hub at Washington Reagan National Airport and United's East Coast hub is located at Washington Dulles International Airport. A combined carrier would have a real choke-hold on this particular market and that might give pause to Justice. Remember when United tried to merge with US Airways in 2000? It eventually was shutdown after serious anti-trust concerns in were raised in 2001 by the Bush Administration's Justice Department...and a Republican department at that!

One positive note in the article is that it appears that United would be the surviving carrier in this merger. This is good news from the Hat Trick's perspective but I still have concerns. Mergers always seem to look good on paper but in actual implementation can be exceptionally tricky and have long lasting effects on the newly merged company and consumers. Recent history illustrates this quite well when America West Airlines merged with US Airways to become the new US Airways in 2005. Five years later the company is still dealing with significant labor and customer service issues. Other examples from the annals of airline history include (surviving carrier/name is listed first) the following:
  1. American-TWA
  2. Northwest Orient-Republic (Northwest)
  3. US Air-Piedmont
  4. Continental-Frontier (first incarnation)/New York Air/PEOPLExpress.
Even the recent merger of Northwest into Delta had its moments. Another serious concern for the Hat Trick is also the reduction in competition that takes place in any airline merger. Not every airport in the country can benefit from having a Southwest/Air Tran/jet Blue serve the city and at least some competition by major carries creates competition and keeps them honest.

So we will continue to monitor this story and see what happens...and at least be thankful that it appears the current US Airways management will not be running the merged carrier if this all goes through.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Week in Review

It's been a busy week in several of the areas that the Hat Trick blogs about so I thought I would try and pull it together in one post...which might not work out if I start pontificating!
  • The Detroit Red Wings: The Detroit Red Wings continue to solidify their playoff position with two wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets this week. The Wings are firmly in the fifth playoff position with 100 points and one game left on Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Wings cannot catch the fourth seeded Phoenix Coyotes who are at 106 points as of this morning or the Blackhawks who lead the Central Division with 111 points. The Los Angeles Kings can pass the Wings if they win their last two games but the Nashville Predators cannot pass the Wings (both teams are at 98 points) as they only have one game left. A first round match-up of the Phoenix Coyotes and Detroit Red Wings looks like a real possibility at this point.

  • United-US Airways Possible Merger: News reports surfaced this week that United Airlines and US Airways (which is really the former America West Airlines) are in merger talks. The talks are at an early stage but the Hat Trick remains concerned because both company's CEOs are supporters of airline consolidation. We'll see where this goes but the Hat Trick remains concerned that US Airways will be the surviving company even if they take the United name. US Airways right now is the "Greyhound of the skies" for a major network carrier and their lows in customer service have included removing large amounts of their business class cabins, charging for beverages including water (this policy has since been discontinued) and removing everything from ticket folders to pillows to glasses in first class. In his travel days the Hat Trick was a big United flyer and to see the possibility of this company going the way of US Airways is very depressing.

  • Congressional Approval Rating: New polling released this week shows Congress with a 19% approval rating. Since both the House of Representatives and the Senate are controlled by the Democrats this is not good news. Adding this into the President's approval rating, which is below 50%, and you possibly have a situation similar to 1994 in the upcoming midterm elections when the Republicans regained control of both chambers. There still is a lot of time left before election day but this clearly is a problem for Democrats and this latest polling is a result of the Democrats jamming through a flawed health care reform bill that a majority of Americans did not support. How this plays out will be very interesting.

Needless to say, it's been a busy week in the worlds of aviation, hockey and politics. I'm sure I'll have more for my readers as the NHL regular season wraps up on Sunday and we see where the Red Wings end up in the playoff sequence.

Road Trip to New Jersey

The Hat Tricks were up in the South New Jersey area this past week. Mrs. Hat Trick had an interview with a company int the area and they encouraged the whole family to come up and check out the housing situation in case an offer comes. It's a little hard for the Hat Trick to imagine living in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area but stranger things have happened and at least there is a rich hockey history with the Philadelphia Flyers to enjoy!

We stayed for two nights at the Mt. Laurel Marriott. The property was an average Marriott full service hotel; not bad but not overwhelming. The public spaces have been modernized but the rooms appeared a bit dated. The housekeeping left a bit to be desired (did they really bother cleaning the toilet?) which is a sore point with the Hat Trick. However, the front desk staff and the restaurant staff were exceptionally friendly, helpful and responsive. This was particularly helpful when traveling with the Little Hat Tricks...the Hat Trick himself even survived breakfast alone with them and the help of the nice restaurant staff!

All in all not a bad stay and I would probably stay at the property again given the great attitude of the employees. An improvement in the housekeeping would definitely make me return!

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. Driving I-95 between the DC area and the Philadelphia area is underwhelming except for the "highway" robbery (ha ha) with tolls in Delaware and Maryland. Mrs. Hat Trick thought the interview went well so we'll see where this puts us. Even if the job doesn't work out for Mrs. East Coast Wing it was nice to get out of DC for a few days.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Wings Continue to Improve Playoff Position

The Red Wings continue to look strong with 95 points and sitting in the sixth playoff spot. They are one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings (94 points) and behind the Nashville Predators who sit in the fifth playoff spot with 96 points. Conceivably the Red Wings could pull into the fifth playoff spot with a win against the Predators today (Saturday, April 3) at 2:00 P.M. EDT. Even though the Wings are on a seven game winning streak it seems the best they can hope for in the playoff lineup is the fifth spot as it is unlikely they can catch the division-leading Chicago Blackhawks who have 103 points as of now. Regardless, the Wings have done a fantastic job of putting together a series of wins that puts them in great contention to compete in the playoffs.

Let's Go Red Wings!