| League moves are
Better in the long
1/31/07 - By Paul Krill
year ago, I had an ongoing email correspondence with NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman about the league's bad schedule format. He defended the
intra-division-laden schedule but never convinced me. While the recent warring
among NHL owners over this issue vindicates me, I did gain respect for Bettman
for reaching out to a mere fan in the cheap seats 3,000 miles from his New York
City offices. This wasn't just a one-email-and-good-bye exchange. It went on
for a while.
But if we look at the schedule and several other moves by the NHL, they point
to a league in a bit of disarray. I don't blame the commissioner for this - he
has done things such as trying to make the league a bonanza for television and
attempting to sell the excitement of NHL hockey in non-traditional markets.
That, too, hasn't worked out tool well. Look at the Nashville Predators: great
team, great colors, great logo, great players - and lots and lots of empty
The league's recent decisions may be great fodder for writers - and plenty of
them are writing about all this stuff - but we do have to question the wisdom
of the owners and the league management in making some of these moves.
* The league's All Star game drew microscopic ratings on the obscure Versus
channel, being played in the middle of the week and going up against American
Idol in some markets. I wonder if Simon, Randy and Paula were sweating out this
ratings "war" with the NHL. Actually, it more was like a tricycle taking on a
Formula One race car. Oddly enough, the 12-9 score might have held the interest
of some non-fans who would otherwise never pay attention to a 2-1 NHL game. But
it appears almost no one was watching.
* Owners voted to keep the division-laden schedule as is, despite an
overwhelming consensus to change it. Apparently, the consensus was not as
overwhelming as it needed to be, with a few owners seeking to save a few bucks
on travel costs. So, fans in many cities still don't get to see some of the top
players and the top teams. And, if I am correct, the annual Hockey Day in
Canada event, where three Canadian-based teams play the other three on the same
day, goes by the wayside next year. The two divisions in question won't play
each other. But I'm sure fans in Calgary will savor that extra visit by the
Minnesota Wild instead.
* The league decided a few years ago to put home teams in dark colors,
overruling tradition. Now, fans only ever see two colors of uniforms: the home
team shade and the opponents' white outfits.
* The shootout and restrictions on goalie movement tossed aside how the game's
been played for decades. What's next? Larger nets? Oh wait - they're actually
considering that folly, from what I understand. Why not just put up soccer nets
and have the players chase a marble instead of a puck? That ought to boost
scoring to NBA levels.
Maybe it's time for the NHL to recognize itself as a boutique sport that is
never going to be the NFL in the United States but remains the passion of
Canada . Let's stop trying all these gimmicks that have so far failed to do
much to expand the fan base. If that means the players have to accept lower
salaries so the owners can be profitable, then so be it.
Hockey was OK enough for the fans already. How about the NHL hierarchy getting
with the program as well?
Want to see hockey at its best? Check out a video of the Sharks' third goal
against Edmonton last Friday. Patrick Marleau finds himself with the puck after
Edmonton misplays it. He uses his speed to race down the ice, halts, spins
around and passes the puck to Mike Grier, who shoots on the five-hole and
scores. It doesn't get any better
More than half the season has passed
and I have no idea if the Sharks can win the Stanley Cup or not. They have won
lots of games but have lost too many, in my opinion. They don't even lead their
division. I guess it will all depend on who gets hot in April. That could be
the Sharks or any one of 16 playoff teams
Contact Paul at at firstname.lastname@example.org
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