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Was hockey better in the 80s?

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11-11-2012, 03:30 PM
  #1
Passchendaele
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Was hockey better in the 80s?

Yes, scoring was much higher, but do you feel the game was more enjoyable? For those like me who weren't old enough to watch hockey in those days, you might have seen some classic hockey game sometime, NHL Network used to show some games from the 80s (maybe they still do, I don't have access to the channel anymore so I wouldn't know).

The common argument defending modern hockey is that more goals doesn't equal more scoring chances. I disagree.

From what I've seen there were always scoring opportunities and interesting plays, no useless puck dumping. The game looked much more exciting than it looks now.

Thoughts?

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11-11-2012, 04:34 PM
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Kloparren
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The players in the 90s were a lot more interesting to me. More stars, Lindros, Bure, Sakic, Sundin, Forsberg, Mogilny, Fleury, Jagr, Naslund, Alfredsson, Modano, and I could go on, these players were a bit more fun to watch for me and you still had Yzerman or Messier or Gretzky. I'd say the best hockey to watch is between 92 or 93 and around 97 and then it all went dead puck (thanks NJ). The talent pool was also more diluted in the 80s cos of expansion while Europeans coming over filled the gap in the 90s and more American players.

The one thing I liked from the 80s was no ads on the boards and for some reason the puck is just easier to track when you don't have ads on the boards (I don't hate advertisements but I just found it to be the case with that one thing).

I'd also say that a good game from now is better than the avg game from the 80s but it's just that now with teams playing like Phx or STL and the way NHL clals are going it's going balls up or it could be even better now.

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11-11-2012, 04:45 PM
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DaveG
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Have to agree. The 80s, while fun to watch for me, definitely seemed to lack what we had for about 5-6 years, until the mid-late 90s, for me once the Soviets and other European players really started getting established. The NHL overexpanded in too short a time from 1967 to 75, then adding the 4 WHA clubs in 79. As a result offense was quite easily able to showcase over defense, which had fantastic quality but lacked in depth, and goaltending which didn't have nearly as much in stellar quality as defense proportionally and had even worse depth. Tactically changes were starting to happen but it's not until the 90s that they really took strong prominence IMO. Combined with the generation of goalies that followed Roy, and the influx of quality players from around the globe (espeically on defense) I'd really have to say the 90s were the better decade until the dead puck era.

I will say one of the things that (at least to me) seemed to really hurt hockey in the late 90s is that for a solid generation it seemed like more emphasis down to the youth level was being put on size over skill in recruiting, drafting, and development. That really seemed to hurt the drafts from about 94 on until about 01, and as a result hurt the league itself from about 96 on until post-lockout. Obviously some of the rule changes post-lockout helped that too. Or I could be completely off base there.

But yeah, back to the point, I'd take the 90s up to the Dead Puck era any day over the 80s, lack of dynasties not withstanding.


Last edited by DaveG: 11-11-2012 at 04:57 PM.
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11-11-2012, 05:35 PM
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Big Phil
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I'll be hung for saying this but as the lockout goes on and on I think it's impossible to not dwell on, but I miss the days of Alan Eagleson at the helm. There, I said it. Yeah, yeah he was in bed with the owners, he was a crook and I don't argue he was a rotten man. But..............there was never a work stoppage under his watch. It happened right away under Goodenow - three times. Then Saskin snuck in illegally as the NHLPA head and they got rid of him only to hire Paul Kelly who is the only NHLPA leader I actually could look at without my stomach churning. Now they have Fehr who took 100 years of Baseball tradition and flushed it down the toilet and the players are nuts if they think he cares anymore about hockey. So yes.............OFF the ice the game of hockey was better in the 1980s. Much better for the fans.

On the ice?

Let's see. There are positives and there are negatives. You had Gretzky and the Oilers and before that the Islanders. Then Mario showed up. You can't ignore an NHL with a prime Mario and Gretzky. NHL was a blast then too. Political correctness hadn't crept into the game yet either. The skirts weren't as overbearing about taking fighting out of the game. Talent and the idea of outscoring the other team was more of a platform. It has been reveresed with the idea not to score goals as much as prevent them from the other team.

On the negative side, the game is faster today. Pucks are shot a bit harder. But the goaltending equipment has taken away more of the athletic saves we once saw. Fuhr, Vernon, etc. would make that kick save or that glove save with flair. They still do today, but I don't think anyone can say J-S Giguere had a "style" so to speak.

So there are two sides to it, but you know what we'll never be able to compare NHL hockey to the 1980s if the league ceases to exist as it stands now.

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11-11-2012, 05:50 PM
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^ Giggy doesn't but there are some pretty fun goalies to watch now like I enjoy Varlamov a lot more than Giguere and Quick's a fun goalie to watch. Even mediocre ones like Bobrovsky can make those amazing saves.

I agree that one of the good things with Eagelson was that he helped usher in this new age of high paid stars (and stole from them) but he did help make the NHL more prestigious especially to European players and in turn Europe.

One thing I like about the 90s is that the game visually started to look like what it has in the past decade around 93 or 94 if you watch a TV broadcast. Obviously things like equipment as well and none of that broadcast stuff relates to the on-ice product but it did create an improvement along with improved media coverage of the game.

Now in 2012 I think we have a new oppurtunity assuming the NHL gets some rules and marketing right and the on-ice product isn't bad because now you have social media obviously but you also have internet streaming. Streams were around 6-8 yrs ago too but not in the same quality and people didn't usually have the same internet speeds to view them. You also didn't have youtube till around '05 or 06 so people couldn't follow in game highlights or fights or hits in the same way or even historic vids.

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11-11-2012, 06:38 PM
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pappyline
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Eagleson did nothing for hockey except feather his own nest. It was the competition from the WHA that drove up salaries and Eagleson rode on that.

Back on topic, I didn't find the 80's all that exciting. Now the 50's & 60's, that was exciting.

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11-11-2012, 09:20 PM
  #7
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No idea if you could call it better, but it sure was fun to watch.

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11-12-2012, 01:57 PM
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Supreme King
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The NHL in the 1980's was much more fun to watch.

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11-12-2012, 02:09 PM
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Yes. The NHL was more creative and more entertaining up until the first lockout in my opinion.

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11-12-2012, 02:28 PM
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Gunnin54
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The game was more fun to watch. I wasn't alive to watch it but I watch 80s games. To me you had more generational talent. The goalies back then actually worked for there saves also.

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11-12-2012, 03:10 PM
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I think it was more exciting in the sense that you weren't sure what was going to happen on any given play. Nowadays, players are much more predictable because they make safer plays more often. You still have your Datsyuks and Malkins scoring highlight reel goals, but the further you go down the talent totem pole the more players seem to become generic.

As fas as talent goes, I think the NHL is far more ripe with it than it was in the 80's, given the advanced training methods, influx of Europeans and such. Unfortunately they seem very reluctant to make risky plays and would rather adhere to a system that is likely better at suffocating offense, risk and excitement that creating it. Over-coaching IMO, being the root of the problem.

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11-12-2012, 03:55 PM
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Indeed it was. There was much more offense. Better rivalries as well. Also no such thing as lockouts that have ruined the game we all know and love.

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11-12-2012, 06:42 PM
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Rhiessan71
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Much more entertaining to watch and teams/players played to win, they didn't play to not lose like they do today.

There was a lot more play in the middle of the ice, the puck wasn't getting dumped in half as much and there sure as hell wasn't the endless cycling going on.

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11-12-2012, 06:44 PM
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Dennis Bonvie
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I was a season ticket holder throughout the 80s so it was really a great time for me. Lots of scoring, fights, rivalries, emotions boiling over. Being in Connecticut I could see Bruins, Rangers and Islanders games on Cable when not at the Hartford Civic Center. In today's game (when its active) I'm not willing to pay top dollar for a regular season game that I may have a chance of falling asleep at. But I will buy the Center Ice package. Most nights there will be at least one good game on.

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11-12-2012, 07:12 PM
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The 80s were better because the good teams were the ones with lots of fans, thus creating many rivalries. Today, that just doesn't happen anymore. For example, the WCF last year between LA and Phoenix. They were both in the same division, yet they did not hate each other like how the Flames and Oilers did in the mid 80s.

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11-12-2012, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gunnin54 View Post
The game was more fun to watch. I wasn't alive to watch it but I watch 80s games. To me you had more generational talent. The goalies back then actually worked for there saves also.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhiessan71 View Post
Much more entertaining to watch and teams/players played to win, they didn't play to not lose like they do today.

There was a lot more play in the middle of the ice, the puck wasn't getting dumped in half as much and there sure as hell wasn't the endless cycling going on.
I agree that the product was probably more entertaining but disagree with most of the reasons given.

The sport was more ‘exciting’ in the 1980s because :

a) defensive systems were absolutely terrible relative to today
b) players took two-minute shifts for most of the early part of the decade – leading to more tired players moving more slowly when they didn’t have the puck.
c) there was a bigger gap between the best and the worst players, especially on defense
d) goalies absolutely stunk relative to today

I don’t buy that the players in the 1980s (Gretzky excepted) were more skilled, or more creative, or more daring, or that there were more ‘generational talents’ at that point.

There was just a perfect storm whereby talented players in that era had far more space and time to make plays and make the most of their talent relative to today. In 2012 every defending player is skating 100% for 45-second shifts, matchups are optimized, and players are trained on defensive systems pretty much from childhood. You need space and time to be creative, and star players today just don’t have much of either. Touch the puck, and you’re being hounded immediately.

Having said all that, there’s also quite a bit of nostalgia clouding perception of that time. When you actually watch games from 1985, the pace looks really slow compared to today, hitting is *way* down, and of course the goalies are terrible. Much of the inflated scoring and ‘excitement’ of fire-wagon hockey came from the fact that goalies were letting in so many routine shots. Normalize save percentages, and scoring probably wouldn’t be that much different from today.

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11-12-2012, 07:15 PM
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YYEEESSSS way better

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11-12-2012, 07:15 PM
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I wouldn't say it was better, but certainly more entertaining.

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11-12-2012, 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by pappyline View Post
Eagleson did nothing for hockey except feather his own nest. It was the competition from the WHA that drove up salaries and Eagleson rode on that.

Back on topic, I didn't find the 80's all that exciting. Now the 50's & 60's, that was exciting.
I agree and was actually embarrassed for Phil actually propping up the Eagle.

As to the OP the 80's were my teenaged years but I actually like watching any hockey games, although the clutch and grab era was pretty close to unbearable IMO.

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11-12-2012, 07:54 PM
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Hockey was more exciting back then.

The modern game is grinding out the entertainment value with too much defensive philosophy and too large goalie equipment. What are called scoring chances many times really aren't - most shots have no chance with the size of the goalie equipment.

In the 80s, there were more legitimate scoring chances and goalies had to have great reflexes to make saves. Today they are robots, letting the puck hit them much of the time.

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11-12-2012, 08:16 PM
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Mats86
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Originally Posted by Passchendaele View Post
Yes, scoring was much higher, but do you feel the game was more enjoyable? For those like me who weren't old enough to watch hockey in those days, you might have seen some classic hockey game sometime, NHL Network used to show some games from the 80s (maybe they still do, I don't have access to the channel anymore so I wouldn't know).

The common argument defending modern hockey is that more goals doesn't equal more scoring chances. I disagree.

From what I've seen there were always scoring opportunities and interesting plays, no useless puck dumping. The game looked much more exciting than it looks now.

Thoughts?
I liked hockey best late 60s-early 70s. I think no-helmets and many all-time greats playing at same time gave it the edge. With 4 of top 7-8 greatest playing at same time - Orr, Hull, Howe, Beliveau. Same with netminders - Hall, Sawchuk, Dryden, Plante. Hated the trap era of late '90s to '05. Boring hockey and no top greats in game then.

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11-12-2012, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Ogopogo View Post
Hockey was more exciting back then.

The modern game is grinding out the entertainment value with too much defensive philosophy and too large goalie equipment. What are called scoring chances many times really aren't - most shots have no chance with the size of the goalie equipment.

In the 80s, there were more legitimate scoring chances and goalies had to have great reflexes to make saves. Today they are robots, letting the puck hit them much of the time.
This is the anti sticky IMO, why don't teams just get 500lb 6'4" guys to play net then? There is alot more skill and science in goal tending going on today compared to the reflex 80's.

I do agree that the size of the equipment and over coaching has altered the game alot.

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11-12-2012, 08:26 PM
  #23
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Originally Posted by Hardyvan123 View Post
This is the anti sticky IMO, why don't teams just get 500lb 6'4" guys to play net then? There is alot more skill and science in goal tending going on today compared to the reflex 80's.

I do agree that the size of the equipment and over coaching has altered the game alot.
Haha.

The science is this: have huge equipment then, fall to your knees and cover the bottom of the net with your freakishly big pads and stretch your torso out to cover as much of the top as you can. Let the puck hit you and cover it.

Brilliant science. It is all crap without the freakishly big equipment. Remember a thing called the 5-hole? Doesn't exist anymore with the ridiculous pads.

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11-12-2012, 11:05 PM
  #24
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I agree that the product was probably more entertaining but disagree with most of the reasons given.

The sport was more ‘exciting’ in the 1980s because :

a) defensive systems were absolutely terrible relative to today
Too much overlap for this to be a reason. Plenty of coaches coached successfully in the 80s, 90s, even 2000s.

I think the emphasis changed but not the ability of the best coaches so much.

You'll have a hard time convincing me that Scotty Bowman was a better defensive coach in 2002 than he was in 1992 or whatever. But coaches have to work with what they have and in the environment they are in too.

I do agree that today teams are practically all defense first now, and coaches are much more strict enforcing it, which results in a lot of boring chippy hockey, though.

Quote:
b) players took two-minute shifts for most of the early part of the decade – leading to more tired players moving more slowly when they didn’t have the puck.
True player shifts were longer primarily in the early 80s. They shortened quite a bit by the later 80s so again.. so I am not sure how this is a good reason.

Quote:
c) there was a bigger gap between the best and the worst players, especially on defense
I think this is primarily a change in how teams are assembled now.

In the 80s teams often had scoring depth. Now they have players who can skate and check and not much else.

Secondly I don't think the drop off is especially on defense. I think it is just more noticeable in a defenseman.

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d) goalies absolutely stunk relative to today
I take a real issue with this.. goalies didn't stink. They just played a reactive style with much smaller and heavier equipment.

Goalies today have to master a technique that gives them a big edge over the goalies of the past in that they can often just let the puck hit them with little chance of a shooter beating them.

I give them full credit for playing the odds (lets face it, its smart and effective!) but I do believe that equipment advances helped a lot of that change.


Quote:
I don’t buy that the players in the 1980s (Gretzky excepted) were more skilled, or more creative, or more daring, or that there were more ‘generational talents’ at that point.
You're going to have a hard time convincing me that 80s Gretzky, Lemieux, Bourque and Coffey for an example aren't better than any player similar player playing today.

Quote:
There was just a perfect storm whereby talented players in that era had far more space and time to make plays and make the most of their talent relative to today.
I agree but I think that it has to do with how players developed in that generation.

They had more access to ice. More free time and less distractions.

Quote:
In 2012 every defending player is skating 100% for 45-second shifts, matchups are optimized, and players are trained on defensive systems pretty much from childhood. You need space and time to be creative, and star players today just don’t have much of either. Touch the puck, and you’re being hounded immediately.
That training on defensive systems pretty much from childhood is a big factor in many of us believing that players today are generally less creative.

Back when we had to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school, people played hockey for fun. You tend to play a lot more when it is fun, and that ends up being an awful lot of creative practice.

Quote:
Having said all that, there’s also quite a bit of nostalgia clouding perception of that time. When you actually watch games from 1985, the pace looks really slow compared to today, hitting is *way* down, and of course the goalies are terrible. Much of the inflated scoring and ‘excitement’ of fire-wagon hockey came from the fact that goalies were letting in so many routine shots. Normalize save percentages, and scoring probably wouldn’t be that much different from today.
The pace may look slower but that is because there is actually flow to the game at times instead of broken plays and chip outs and chip ins.

Top players from 1985 could skate with the top players from today quite easily. Particularly with lighter and better equipment.

I disagree again that the goalies were terrible. They were just different. You get in net with the pads they had in 1985 and stand in front of a few Al MacInnis slapshots and then come back here and tell me how terrible they were.

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Old
11-12-2012, 11:11 PM
  #25
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I wasn't crazy about 80's hockey at the time but in retrospect it was more entertaining than the "dead puck" era, as others have mentioned.

It's easy for me to be nostalgic about:

- no ads on boards or ice
- some players still helmetless
- goalies not wearing mega-equipment yet and goalies still playing standup style
- jerseys and uniforms still look more "traditional" without third jerseys, black-tinted colors and garish designs
- the lack of concussions
- easier to follow the game and be a fan of the entire league with fewer teams than today

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