Are you happy with the present NHL? If so, why? If not, what do you think should be changed to improve it?
Personally, and I know this is a touchy issue, I think the league should contract 6 to 8 teams, out of respect I won't say which. 30 teams might have obviously bought some new fans into the game who think hockey is some kind of fad, but hardcore fanatics have been driven away.
I think Bettman, who is a major factor of the current mess, needs to resign or be relieved.
I think the Wales and Campbell Conference need to return, it pissed me off when Bettman made up those vanilla name slike "Northwest Division" for newbies to the game. If they really want to love hockey and not treat it like a fad, why not learn about the history behind the names of the Conferences and Divisions?
Fine teams who play the trap. If they are repeat offenders, a stiff fine would be necessary.
the league has to go through some rebuilding stages, just like some certain teams. the talent pool is a bit diluted. some cities just dont care. i suggest they contract the penguins, panthers, Coyotes, hurricanes. It's unfair to these teams fans, but they simply dont have enough fans.
Hell no. Most of the games are boring to watch. They have no offence and lack intensity. At least 5 teams need to be contracted. I am slowly losing interest in the NHL and I am starting to follow the CHL more.
1) The salary is out of control regardless of whether the NHLPA wants to believe it or not.
2) The NHL has players which have the potential to put on a way more exciting brand of hockey. And we cannot blame it on a selective number of teams since a lot of teams are using the trap now, i think it is the responsible of the owner and GM to decide what to do to bring back more excitiment to the game, rather than lining up 5 players in the middle of the ice, and dump the puck it and wait for a mistake for a odd man rush.
With one season left before what could be a lengthy lockout / strike I would like to take a "dreamer's view" look at what I think is wrong with the National Hockey League. Ratings are non-existent, ticket prices are soaring, and the product is watered down to a point where the stars of the game simply are not allowed to show their skills on a nightly basis due to rampant obstruction. Below are some drastic and some minor changes that I feel would bring hockey back to the great game it was through the very early 1990s.
I. Relieve Gary Bettman of his duties as NHL Commissioner .
First and foremost! He has created the current day NHL and must be held accountable for what the product has become. Why a person with such limited knowledge of the sport was chosen as commissioner baffles me. Sure he did some good things for the NBA. The NBA and the NHL are very different entities with very different fans demographics. Hockey is a fringe sport and will never be as big as the NFL, MLB, or NBA. Bettman's biggest mistake was thinking he could change that by changing the game. The only way he grew the fan base was by adding teams, however, some of the moves he made has actually driven the hardcore, long time hockey fan away for what may be for good.
II. Contract the league .
An important step in bringing the NHL back to its days of glory would be to reduce the number of teams. Contraction is not an easy subject nor would it be fair to the cities that lose a team but with the lack of a major television deal and no salary cap or revenue sharing, NHL hockey simply cannot support a league of 30 teams. In markets like Nashville, Columbus, and Carolina, the fad will wear off and you will be left with franchises in the same financial trouble as Pittsburgh, Buffalo, & Ottawa.
Contraction would also help the NHL by decreasing the number of players in the league. There are players in the NHL right now who would not have been able to sniff the ice in the 80s. This would have a trickle down effect to the minor leagues as well making the North American hockey product better in not only the NHL, but also the AHL, ECHL, and other minor hockey leagues.
So where do you start? The popular notion is that hockey is a Canadian sport and should have more teams. I agree wholeheartedly. However, when you look at the original 6 NHL franchises, 4 of the 6 teams, 66%, were in the US. My contraction would begin with trimming the NHL to 24 teams, 8 of which will be in Canada, 16 in the US, brining the percentage back to what it was in the original 6 days, 66% US / 33% Canada.
Below is a list of teams and how the conferences / divisions would be aligned.
Patrick Division: New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals
Adams Division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Quebec Nordiques
Norris Division: Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars
Smythe Division: Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche, Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks
The current franchises eliminated would be Florida, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Nashville, Phoenix, Anaheim, Columbus, & Atlanta. Two of those franchises would be moved to Quebec to bring back the Nordiques and to Winnipeg to bring back the Jets.
At first glance you may say, "Why are you eliminating currently successful teams like Columbus & Nashville and leaving failing teams like Pittsburgh & Buffalo? You are also brining back franchises like Winnipeg & Quebec who had failed before!" The answer to that question is that most of the cities listed in my realigned NHL above have a rich hockey heritage and I feel, under a financially sane NHL, they could thrive as they had in the past. The franchises I eliminated do not have this heritage and, in my opinion, are not going to support a fan base when times are tough. Heck, the Atlanta Braves can't even sell out playoff baseball. I have also left teams that are relatively new to hockey, Dallas & San Jose, yet have strong ownership and have successful, competitive teams.
When Gary Bettman announced that the division and conference names would be changed so that the average fan could understand them I was outraged. If you want to be a fan of the sport, why not learn about its history? I felt it was a slap in the face to the greats of hockey to change these names to bland vanilla names like the Atlantic Division, the Southeast Division, & The Pacific Division. This was a terrible move by a commissioner who did not take the time to learn about the great history of this sport.
So that is the new NHL under my rule, I know it leaves some quality NHL fans out in the cold, but if they are true fans of the sport, they will understand why and hopefully pick up support for another team.
III. Length of the Regular Season .
Another hot topic has always been the length of the regular season. I would look to leave the regular season at 82 games and shorten the pre-season down to just a couple of weeks with 3 or 4 games. Players are in better shape now than they have ever been and this should not hurt the quality of play early in the season.
The schedule would include 8 games each vs. the teams in your division (40 games), 3 games each vs. the opposing division in your conference (18 games), and 2 games each vs. the opposing conference teams (24 games). This would build up rivalries within the divisions that have unfortunately died off over the years. The home and home series against teams in your division would be frequent. There is no better way to build up competition between teams than to play them more often.
This schedule also gives the fans of every team a chance to see every star in the NHL at least once a year.
IV. Playoff Scheduling
As far as the playoffs are concerned I was a bit torn. I like taking the top 8 teams from each conference but also liked when the top 4 from each division made the playoffs. In an effort to drive the competition within the divisions I have decided to go back to a divisional playoff system.
The top 4 teams in each division will make the playoffs. 1 will play against 4, 2 against 3. The winners would then meet in the Divisional Finals. The winners of the Divisional Finals would then meet in the Conference Final with home ice advantage going to the team with the better regular season record. The winners of the Conference Final would then meet in the Stanley Cup Finals with home ice advantage going to the Conference that won the All-Star game that year. This leads me to touch briefly on the All Star game itself.
V. The All Star Game
The NHL All Star game has become a non-event in the eyes of most hockey fans that I have interacted with over the last few years. What better way to make it a competitive game than to attach a valuable award to the outcome? The coach of the team in each conference with the best record on December 31st will coach their respective conference in the game. If they have a shot to make the cup, you would think they would want to ice a team that could have a shot to win. The coaches of the teams with the 2nd and 3rd best records in the conference would be the assistant coaches. Again, since they have a somewhat legitimate shot to play for the cup, there will be incentive for them to try and win.
Fans will continue to select the starters for the game and coaches will round out the rest of the team. Each team must have one representative in the game as they have in the past. A shoot-out will not determine the winner of a tied game. Sudden Death overtime will be played until there is a winner.
VI. Regular Season Standings / Overtime Changes
I can understand the reason for wanting to find a way to decide more games that go into overtime. I can also almost understand moving to 4 on 4 hockey to try and decide winners in more of the games. What I cannot understand is awarding a point to a team that loses. The overtime loss point will go away.
The overtime loss point had a major impact on the standings in this year's playoffs and negatively impacted some teams who weren't lucky enough to lose more games in overtime.
Take the Northwest Division for example. The Colorado Avalanche finished one point ahead of the Vancouver Canucks to win the division. Vancouver had three more wins than Colorado and three less TOTAL losses. 8 of Colorado's losses just happened to come in OT where as only 1 of Vancouver's did. The team with more wins and less losses somehow finished 2nd in Gary Bettman's new NHL. The overtime loss point put New Jersey ahead of Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division and also put St. Louis ahead of Minnesota in the playoff standings in the Western Conference.
In the new NHL, overtime will be 4 on 4 for a full 20-minute period of hockey. The increased length of the period, along with rule changes I will lay out later, will certainly cause many more games to be decided. Shoot-outs, while great fun to watch, will never be used to decide the outcome of a game. That is the equivalent to playing 3 extra innings in a tie baseball game and then deciding it with a home run derby.
VII. Eliminate / Neutralize the trap, left wing lock, etc.
Due to the over expanding of the league, the trap has been used to keep lesser talented teams competing with the more talented ones. I admire that a coach would have the ability to develop a system that would allow them to compete on a nightly basis, but is it good for the sport? I think the answer to that question is a clear and resounding NO!
So how do you get rid of it? My suggestion above of contracting the league would be a great start. If you have 6 less teams, you are in all actuality eliminating roughly 132 players from the game. This spreads more talented players across the remaining 24 teams allowing all teams to, at some level, have the ability to compete without using the trap.
While I would love to implement an "illegal defense" penalty for a team using the trap, I really don't think that it is a viable option. The trap in and of itself is not the real problem. It is the interference, clutching, holding, and grabbing that goes along with the trap that is the real problem. If you can play a positional defense that will not allow the opposition to skate into your zone by positioning and intercepting passes, go for it. If you have to grab and tackle a player or stand in the way of their path to block them you will be penalized.
Any obstruction / interference penalties called will be charged as follows.
First offense - 2 minute minor
Second offense - 4 minute minor
Third offense - 5 minute major
Fourth offense - Penalty Shot
This goes for the team as a whole and not the individual player. Therefore if your TEAM is called for 4 obstruction / interference penalties you will award the opposition with a penalty shot.
The removal of these tactics will in turn severely decrease the effectiveness of the trap or any of the variations that have been developed. This will only work though if the referees adhere to the rules, which is next on the agenda.
VIII. Overhaul the Referee System .
One of the major problems that I have found that casual hockey fans have with the game is that they can't clearly understand how the game is officiated. Something that is called a penalty on one shift may not be called during the next and certainly will not be called in the late stages of a game or overtime. That needs to change. If it is a penalty 3 minutes into the 1st period it will be a penalty with 1:35 left to go in a one-goal game, bottom line. If the referees can't get it right, they will be reprimanded. There is an immediate rebuttal to this that says there is merit to letting the players decide the outcome of a game and I agree! I don't agree that they should be able to break the rules to decide that outcome though. This leads to my next area of change, the rulebook.
IX. Overhaul the Rule Book for Penalties .
The NHL Rule Book as it stands currently leaves way too much room for judgment calls by the official. That needs to change in order to open the game back up and allow the players to play and decide the outcome of the game.
Calls such as obstruction / interference, hooking, tripping, high-sticking, cross-checking, slashing, etc. will be called no matter when they occur. You break a rule you sit. The more judgmental calls designed to limit the physical contact in the game will be thrown out. Specifically calls like charging and boarding. These calls are typically made based on the severity of injury the play results in, that can?t happen. I also feel that these rules were designed to limit the physical contact in the game. Fans love a great check. I have been to hundreds of hockey games around North America and I am still waiting for a fan to boo a great body check. I have a feeling I will be waiting a long time.
Rules to limit the fighting in hockey will also be reduced. Along with a good hit, I have never seen a fight get booed during a hockey game. It has a place in the sport and allows the players to police the game.
The instigation penalty is a goner. What sense does it make? If an opposing player is being challenged to fight, just don't fight! If the challenging player fights you anyway he will still get the 5-minute major and you just earned your team a 5-minute power play.
The automatic suspension rule for leaving the bench will also be tossed. I do not advocate bench-clearing brawls at all as much as I enjoy them. But do you think players would be as free to use their stick, low bridge, or lead with a blatant knee to knee hit on the opposition if they had to worry about the enforcer of the opposing team leaving the bench for revenge? I do not. Do you think that it is a coincidence that the number of cheap shots has gone up and up since the leaving the bench rule has been put into place?
The enforcer position has a history in the NHL and shame on Gary Bettman for trying to remove that aspect of the game.
X. Other Rule Changes.
-Two-Line Pass: The two-line pass will be eliminated to open up the neutral zone. (This is one of the few ideas Bettman's regime has come up with that will work; yet they haven't used.)
-Offside: Eliminate the free out for the defense. Once the forwards clear the zone they can go right back in to fore-check. This prevents the defense from just sitting in their own zone with the puck, looking for an out, to only have the referee blow the play offside when they realize there is no clear out. Also, once the defense does clear the zone, if they decide to take the puck back across their own blue line and an opposing player is still in the zone, no offside will be called. This should promote forward puck movement by the defense and limit the amount of dumping the puck back into the defensive zone. You can still dump it back, but if the opposing player is still in the zone. They could attempt to play the puck.
-Icing: Touch up for icing will still remain. Two players rushing up ice after the puck is something I enjoy as a fan. If the forward cancels out the icing it often leads to a quality scoring chance.
-Contact With Goaltender: If the goaltender leaves the crease AND is playing the puck, they are fair game for contact within the rules for obstruction / interference. If the goaltender wants to be able to play the puck he should be able to be checked.
-Goalie Equipment: There has to be a limit set on the size of goalie equipment. The goalies have gotten bigger, the equipment has gotten much bigger and much lighter, but the net has stayed the same size. Change the size of the goal changes to me devalues the scoring records of the past.
Also eliminated is the rule that moves a face off out of the offensive zone when the defensemen join a scrum deep in the offensive zone. Typically a defensive zone scrum occurs as the result of sustained pressure by the attacking team after the goaltender freezes the puck or after a penalty is called. By not allowing the attacking defensemen to join the scrum you are basically giving the defensive zone team the right to have a 5 on 3 shoving match against the offensive zone team. How does this make sense? You are not allowing teammates to come to the aid of each other, as they do not want to lose the offensive zone draw.
XI. Salary Cap / Revenue Sharing
As much as the NHLPA is against it currently, the NHL would benefit tremendously by some sort of salary cap and revenue sharing. I am not going to propose how this happens as I am not a "money" person. I would like to see, however, some form of soft cap that allows teams to pay more to their homegrown talent to keep it. That is an aspect of the NBA salary cap that seems to work well. Revenue Sharing would allow for the cap to increase year to year as it does in the NFL. The level playing field does promote parity but it also puts an emphasis on having strong front office personnel to draft and trade well.
So those are the changes. As I had stated, some are drastic some are not. I have been a fan of the NHL now for 20+ years and I must say I am very concerned about the path the league is going down over the last ten. Skyrocketing salaries for marginal talent and boring play have taken over.
In thinking about this article, I thought maybe I might be alone in my opinions that the game is need of an overhaul. I decided to take my ideas to the true fans of the league to see what the opinions of others were. I put a poll up on several NHL team message boards with a simple question, Are you happy with the current state of the NHL? The results are below.
Please keep in mind that this was a very small number of respondents but also, from the comments I collected, a very passionate and knowledgeable group as well. A group that like myself is very concerned about the state of the sport we love. For a more thorough survey of how fans in general feel about the state of NHL Hockey, please visit www.nhlfa.com. This site runs an annual survey for its members, with thousands of respondents, touching on many different issues within the NHL.
While I certainly don't expect to see these types of mass changes in the NHL, I have to wonder what exactly will be done by league management to save what is a slowly dying sport in the minds of many long time fans. Don't agree, just check the television ratings for the NHL's crown jewel, The Stanley Cup Finals for all the proof you need.
there are alot of areas that need to be addressed to make the product better but 2 big ones to start off with would be the officiating and not enough scoring. IMO, if the league could make those 2 things better the product would improve 10 fold.
The NHL could be greatly improved. Do I love hockey? Hell yes. Do I watch whenever it's on? You better believe it. Could it be improved? Definitely. The NHL's unwillingness to change anything about the game has put them on a path to 1-0 games every night. While they were unwilling to change rules for the betterment of the game, the equipment and players were growing stronger and bigger, but they are being contained by the parameters that the NHL is unwilling to tinker with. Things like taking out the red line, bringing back tough-up offsides, or even something drastic like expanding the nets (which I am not in favor of either). Something needs to be done. It doesn't have to be like the 80s where every game was 5-4, but 1-0 finals should not become a common occurence. In order to get fans, you need excitement. In order to creat more excitement, you need to find ways to open up the offensive game. Until the NHL is willing to stray from their archaic mindsets, things won't get better.