Monday, February 12, 2007

Hi. I love the NHL - Well, most of it

So, rather than keep this in the comments section, I thought I'd write an actual post (that seems to happen a lot with this when we get on our individual soapboxes). When the NHL started up last season, there were many who referred to the call to stop the clutching and grabbing as a "rule change" where in actuality, it was just an enforcement of rules already in existence. The way hockey should be called is to allow free flowing of the game and physical play. That should include legal open ice hits, hits against the boards (but not boarding), and battling for position. Without this things, then hockey becomes the boring, lifeless game that the NHL had become (the same NHL that made fans like Chris not care when it left).

As I stated before, the mandate to call the game tightly has helped significantly as you could see by the rise in scoring and familiar names at the top of the standings. Players like Crosby, Ovechkin, Jagr, Kovalchuk, and others have been allowed freedom to work their magic and have brought me back to the days of the early nineties. But, there are many differences between the games today and those of the 80's that many seem to think were the heyday of the NHL.

Defenses and goaltenders are far more advanced than they were before. Players are bigger and faster and stronger. They come to training camp ready to play rather than playing into shape. So there still need to be some changes if the league really wants to open up scoring. Some of these radical ideas include increasing goal size, making all play 4 on 4 skaters, Olympic-style wider rinks, and removing restrictions on stick curves.

To be honest, I'm in favor of all but removing a player for all time. With wider rinks, a slightly bigger goal and bigger curves on sticks, there would be more chances for scoring. Remember, in the 80's, the average goaltender was a 5'6" guy who couldn't skate very well so he was made a goalie at an early age. Today, he is 6'0" and is better conditioned than most of the players on the team. Wider rinks won't happen because arenas would lose seats. And today, when revenue is at such a premium from seats, owners won't take that risk. In my opinion, this is something that should have happened during the lockout. Then, when the game came back, the rinks would have all been changed, and the attendance fall off would have been absorbed by expecting the drop off when it came back. Curves were limited to protect goalies. The goalies are better protected today than SWAT team members. Get rid of the rule.

My biggest pet peeve with the NHL today is scheduling. I'd like to see two major changes. First, I'd like to see the number of games reduced. The NHL season shouldn't be more than 70 games long. Ideally, I'd like to see it about 65-70. But, because of revenue, this will certainly never happen. Owners wouldn't want to lose 6-9 games of ticket revenue. Second, and this should happen soon, is to fix the schedule. I know they idea with more in-division games was to create rivalries, but rivalries happen because teams have a general dislike for each other. Boston-Montreal, Detroit-Colorado. These are true rivalries that cross over seasons. The contrite method of scheduling we have now, only serves to keep some players from getting to play for all teams. I won't get to see Sidney Crosby in person for a couple years probably. The biggest joke in this is Detroit-Toronto. This used to be a huge rivalry of original six franchises. Now, they only meet once a year (despite being less than three hours away from each other - I know, I've driven it). This is one thing the owners - who elected not to change this next year - have missed the boat on.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Agree with all your preferences for changes, as well as your reasons why most of them will never happen. For example, it's unfortunate that the owners are too shortsighted to lose some revenue in the short term with fewer seats and a larger rink in order to improve their game and increase their fan base, and revenue, in the long run.