Blog Entry

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

Posted on: May 15, 2009 12:19 am
Edited on: May 16, 2009 9:23 pm
 

Back in the early 1990s, the NHL was poised for a breakthrough into mainstream American sports.  Rappers wore hockey sweaters in their videos; the Rangers brought a lot of attention to the league by winning their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994; the league expanded into new markets (San Jose, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Florida, and Anaheim), and got the resulting revenue from merchandise sales for the new teams; after a short-sighted decision to abandon nationwide coverage on ESPN to go after a bigger-money contract with Sports Channel in the late 1980s, the league went back to ESPN, as well as showing a game of the week on FOX; and Sports Illustrated even ran a cover story in their June 20, 1994 issue, titled "Why the NHL's Hot and the NBA's Not".  That all came to a crashing halt by the fall of 1994.  The 1994-95 lockout was the league's second labor stoppage in two-and-a-half years, and cost the league half of its season.  Fifteen years later, the NHL still has not recovered.

Hockey is a great sport, and it can succeed as a major sport in America.  But changes have to be made for that to happen, both on-ice and off-ice.  Over the next few weeks, i'll post a series of blogs with my ideas on how to improve the NHL.  For now, here is an overview:

1.  Fire Gary Bettman

2.  Fix the problem franchises like Phoenix

3.  Get rid of the instigator and third-man in penalties to allow the players more leeway to police themselves, and accept that fighting allows them to do that

4.  Crack down on the cheap shots, head shots, and use of equipment as weapons

5.  Get the NHL back on ESPN

6.  Address the failures of the league's "Southern Strategy"

7.  Improve marketing of the game

8.  Start a Champions League format similar to what UEFA does in soccer featuring the top teams from the NHL, European leagues, and the KHL

9.  Develop alternate sources of revenue to ease the cost burden of fans attending the games

10.  Remove the salary cap and increase revenue-sharing

If i think of any other changes, i'll add them to the list.

Comments

Since: Oct 22, 2006
Posted on: May 19, 2009 3:59 pm
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

Shaggy - Well, we can agree on one other thing - I hate some of the s**t that goes on in boards, too. It's kind of ridiculous for me to claim I'm absolutely right and/or you're absolutely wrong. We're just throwing out ideas how to make a sport we love better. None of us KNOWS what will and won't work until it actually gets tried. So, yeah, I'm sick of name calling and trolls, too. As for any "Fire Bettman" article, you know I'll be there! The problem is the owners don't share the fans dislike of the man and they are still under the false impression that Bettman "saved" them with the lockout. Until the owners want him gone, no matter what the fans want, he'll be safe.



Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: May 18, 2009 10:20 pm
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

dweez, you make a pretty good argument, but you're right, we're gonna have to agree to disagree on this point...im just glad we can actually have a good discussion about it without resorting to some of the childish stuff ive seen elsewhere on these boards...hope you check in as i go into each one of my points in detail over the next few weeks...topic # 1 is something i KNOW we both agree on: Fire Gary Bettman...



Since: Oct 22, 2006
Posted on: May 18, 2009 4:31 pm
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

shaggy - You may be right. I cannot say beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am 100% correct. We'll have to agree to disagree, but I will try to address your points.

the stereotypical view of "hockey's too violent or too dangerous", that has been applied to a lot of sports over the years, including MMA, football, BMX, skateboarding, and pro wrestling

MMA IS fighting, so if you have no issue with bringing a small kid to a MMA, then, yes, hockey seems tame in comparison. I have been to a couple UFC events and I did not see any kids there at all. I suspect very few parents take eight year olds to MMA. While MMA is growing in popularity, it is certainly not considered a main stream sport - a classification that the NHL is trying to achieve. As for football, you can shatter a man's leg by tackling him, but you cannot punch him. You fight in the NFL and you're gone. Is it hypocritical to make that distinction? I believe so. But society in general accepts the violence in football and, technically, it is not fighting. I know nothing of BMX or skateboarding, but again, neither is a mainstream sport. As for pro wrestling, well, you yourself admitted that was not legit. In order for the NHL to REALLY grow and prosper it needs to be considered a mainstream, respectable sport so that it can make the kind of advertising money that a REAL professional sport league needs to make. I suggest you call ESPN and ask what it would cost to run a thirty second ad during BMX and what it would cost to run the same ad during Monday Night Football. Ad revenues drive the leagues. Without it, they cannot grow. And, since I have an advertising executive for a wife, I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are many S&P 500 companies that will not run ads during a NHL game until the fighting stops.


i've asked people who say that they don't watch hockey because of the fighting if they WOULD watch if fighting was banned, and all of them told me the same thing: no...

That may be true. But there's also a chance that when they hear from those that DO watch about the speed, skill, and beauty of the game that they may give it another chance. I do maintain that the additional advertising revenues will make up for the neccessary "adjustment period" hockey will have to go through.

you brought up international competitions and college hockey not having fighting, and saying it hasnt hurt them, but seriously, what's to hurt?

The European and Russian Leagues are doing quite well for themselves. In fact, I suspect the NHL will see fewer and fewer Russian players due to the large amounts of money flowing through Russia from their oil reserves. My point, which I made poorly, is banning fighting has not harmed these leagues at all.

i understand the point you were trying to make when you brought up the Miracle on Ice being the greatest hockey game a lot of older Americans have ever seen, but the fact that there was no fighting in the game had absolutuely NOTHING to do with that...that was WAY more than just a hockey game for Americans

True, there was way more at stake. But given that the US put what was a bunch of essentially teenagers on the ice against grown men, do you think the US would have won if the Soviets could have started fights? If fighting was allowed the Soviets would have taught a couple of heavyweight boxers to skate and put them on the bench just in case. It wasn't like the Soviets were famous for playing by the rules. Send the three worse Soviet players on the ice to fight the three best Americans and I think you could make a strong case that the US would have lost both the fights and the game. It was a beautiful, exciting game - which hockey can be when it's not being "gooned" up.


i like the rest of your ideas, i just really disagree with you on this...

That's fine. I could be wrong. The main point is we both love the game and we want it to succeed. I think we can both agree that the NHL needs to do SOMETHING soon or it could become a "niche" sport like BMX and skateboarding. Clearly, Bettman either has to go or has to dramatically change his approach. With a $6 million a year salary, he needs to do much, much better. 



Since: Sep 13, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2009 4:33 pm
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

HDTV should the catalyst the NHL needs to move into the 21st century. The NHL should be working with engineers to cater HDTV to hockey. The biggest complaint I hear from people is that they can't keep up with the game. Less expensive flat screens with less expensive high def technology would be huge for the sport.
I have a quick fix, and some will rip it, but I stand by it. Obama needs to come out on Monday and say "What a great first game between the Dead Things and Blackhawks."
Whether you love him or hate him, and let's NOT take this opportunity to let everyone know, it would mean a boost for the next gane. You've got to admit that.
So, I'll start with those two.
Go 'Hawks!
Commit to the Indian!




Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: May 17, 2009 1:41 pm
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

sorry dweez, while the other points you made in your original post are really good, i disagree with you about the fighting...while there are ignorant poeple (including the aforementioned mothers) out there who have the stereotypical view of "hockey's too violent or too dangerous", that has been applied to a lot of sports over the years, including MMA, football, BMX, skateboarding, and pro wrestling to name a few (i'm not call wrestling a legit sport, i'm just taking the violent angle of it to help illustrate my point)...football can actually be considered to be MORE violent now since you have bigger, stronger, faster players on the same size field...but these sports have all managed to maintain that edge and still grow in popularity, despite overprotective mothers...

i've asked people who say that they don't watch hockey because of the fighting if they WOULD watch if fighting was banned, and all of them told me the same thing: no...so why would you want to ruin the game by changing it to try to attract people who won't watch it anyway?  the league has done that repeatedly over the last 15 years (Southern expansion, changing the division and conference names, tightening the fighting rules, etc), and it's gotten them NOWHERE...

you brought up international competitions and college hockey not having fighting, and saying it hasnt hurt them, but seriously, what's to hurt?  outside of New England and the Upper Midwest, there's pretty much zero interest in college hockey...and international competitions?  besides the Olympics every 4 years (and the hardcore fans like me who follow the World Cup when they actually stage it), there's zero interest...i understand the point you were trying to make when you brought up the Miracle on Ice being the greatest hockey game a lot of older Americans have ever seen, but the fact that there was no fighting in the game had absolutuely NOTHING to do with that...that was WAY more than just a hockey game for Americans...i'd also wonder how many people who say that's the greatest hockey game they've ever seen have actually seen any other games besdies that...

i like the rest of your ideas, i just really disagree with you on this...



Since: Oct 22, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2009 11:30 am
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

you brought up the mom argument, but it doesnt really apply, as fighting is banned in kids' leagues...


True, it is banned. However, every mom with a brain cell knows where it can lead. Also, my point which, obviously, wasn't clear is the moms letting the kids go to see the games in the NHL. I own a partial season ticket plan for the CBJ. My wife gives me grief when I bring the kid. I can live with that. But, and I'm not kidding, several of my son's friends were not allowed to go to the CBJ games when I offered to bring them along. The mothers wouldn't allow it. Now, these are kids I have brought to Crew games (MLS) and Ohio State football games!! One mom asked me why don't I just bring her son to see a UFC fight! That's the rep and the stigma that the NHL has to eliminate to grow. Whether it's fair or not, it's out there and it's affecting attendance and TV viewership.



Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2009 10:30 am
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

Are you kidding me. You want the NHL to not allow players to block shots in front of the net, and you don't want them to sacrifice their bodies by blocking a shot via diving on the ice (which by the way can hurt a lot since often the shot will hit in an area like the chest protector where there is less padding than the shin pads.) You must not be a true fan of hockey if you want to make those great plays  illegal 



Since: Jun 8, 2008
Posted on: May 17, 2009 10:03 am
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

great posts guys, a lot of good ideas being kicked around...just a couple of thoughts on the responses:

--i agree, freeing up the puck is a great idea...an automatic penalty shot is a little severe, but maybe a restricted zone is a doable idea
--i know that one reason people dont follow hockey on TV is that it's hard to follow the puck...i mean, if it's within like 5-10 feet of the near boards, you're not going to see it from the main camera...tony t is right about the extra cameras, and the cameras that have been brought in over the past 15 years or so (in goal, overhead, etc) have done a lot to make watching the game better (much like all the extra cameras in and on cars and around the track in NASCAR make that a little more interesting to watch...one thing i've learned to do over the years is not to follow the puck, but follow the players instead, as they tend to converge on the puck
--as far as fighting goes, i say it's a necessary (and good) thing, as it does help control the game (i'll get into that in a future post)...you brought up the mom argument, but it doesnt really apply, as fighting is banned in kids' leagues...



Since: Dec 26, 2008
Posted on: May 17, 2009 8:37 am
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

Its all about END Cameras , If you have Cameras at each end of the rink like the NFL end zone Cameras it give you a whole defferent perspective watching the players comming at you would enhance the fans experience. Each Rink would have 3 overhead guide lines with cameras ,One at center ice and the other two on each of the boards , over head is the way to go. Other changes would be to not allow the traps in the area between the two blue lines Make it a delay of game when the team without the puck has more then 4 men in that area. It would stop the dump ins and make more of a wide open game , we would see more scoreing and add to the game as it was played 20 years ago.



Since: Oct 22, 2006
Posted on: May 17, 2009 12:09 am
 

How to fix the NHL: An Overview

I'm going to get ripped to shreds for this but the NHL won't ever go mainstream until the fighting stops. Kids are the future of every sport. If kids don't get interested in the sport, the sport begins to die. You need kids to be involved so the pool of future players becomes larger and more talented. But even the kids that don't make it to the majors, need to develop a passion for the sport early on or they just aren't very likely to love it as adults. Of course, there are exceptions so please don't tell me how you are the biggest hockey fan in America and you didn't see your first game until you were thirty. So where does fighting come in? Moms. It may sound crazy to you but the vast majority of moms don't want their kids watching grown men punching each other in the face. As violent as the NFL is, fighting is not tolerated. Same with MLB and NBA. It does happen, but it's rare and the players involved all get suspended. The NHL has to be "mom tolerated" so that they can build the fan base of today and of the future with kids. No fighting hasn't hurt college hockey or international competitions. Ask most forty plus Americans what was the greatest hockey game they ever saw and they will tell you the US beating the then Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympics. No fights  - still a great game. Second, open up the ice. With the speed and talent of today's players a bigger rink would mean a lighting fast game with more scoring. Third, make the goalies wear smaller pads. Let's go back to when you had to phenomenal talent to post a shut out - not just be a really big guy wearing really big pads. I think we can all agree that Bettman is a disaster. Finally, situations like Phoenix and the Islanders can't happen. The NHL needs to do a full financial review of everyone who has a piece of the team and needs to sit down with the mayors of potential new franchises and get written guarantees that the city will stand behind their team. The Phoenix situation could have been avoided and no matter who owns the Islanders they will still have the worse lease for an arena in professional sports. A little due diligence beforehand goes a long way.


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