Wednesday, February 16, 2005



Hockey is in trouble in the US. Not because of the lockout. Not because of the canceled season. These are just symptoms. Hockey is in trouble because it is run by the stupidest people in sports. Men who have consistently ignored the wishes of the game's fans. We told them we wanted a more wide open game. We told them we wanted more scoring. That we wanted the rules enforced. So what did we get? Three Stanley Cups for the clutching, grabbing, neutral zone trapping, couldn't outscore a midget team at Score-O, boring to the point of tears New Jersey Devils.

That's right, NHL hockey has become boring. There are basically three teams that play an exciting form of hockey. Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Colorado. Calgary is semi-exciting. The rest of the teams in the NHL have one thing in common...BORING!

Now the owner's seem to think that we will come in droves to watch replacement players this fall. Guess again, dumbasses!
The vast majority of hockey fans live within an easy drive of several minor league and/or college teams. For example, I live within an easy drive of 2 AHL teams, 2 UHL teams, and 10 blocks from a CCHA team. What in the world makes Gary Bettman and Bill Wirtz think I am gonna pay major league prices to watch minor league players? When it is more convenient for me to go pay minor league price's for the same quality.

The most unfortunate thing about the coming salary cap is that it guarantees we will lose many of the games biggest stars. Many of the elite Russian and Swedish teams already are reported have bigger payrolls than the 42 million dollar proposed cap. A couple of years ago, the Red Wings lost defenseman Dmitri Bykov to a Russian team willing to double his 1.5 million dollar salary. You can now be almost certain that young stars like Pavel Datsuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and established ones like Nicklas Lidstrom will play in Europe for more money. And many established American and Canadian players may well opt for the bigger money offered by the European elite teams. Sidney Crosby playing for Moscow Dynamo? Stranger things have happened.

So here's hoping the North American elite teams, those with big enough fan bases to support big league hockey, withdraw their franchises from the moribund NHL and form a new league of their own. A league with exciting big name players. A wide open game that showcases them. Referees that protect the stars by enforcing the rules. Sixteen teams MAX. The cities with large enough fan bases:


It is time to resuscitate North American hockey. Hopefully, the leagues two most powerful franchises (fan base wise}, Detroit and Toronto, will lead the way. Where the Wings and Leafs go, others will surely follow! And oh yeah...

Gary Bettman, EAT MY SHORTS!

things i think would make NHL hockey better, and to bring in new fans when the NHL does return:
1. eliminate the center red line, which will, in turn do away with the 2-line pass
2. move the goals back 3 feet closer to the end walls.
3. reduction in size of goalie pads and equipment.
4. Allow goalies to be treated like skaters when they come out to play the puck.
5. no-touch icing.

1-5 will surely mean more scoring, which means more ESPN highlights, which means a possibility of more interest from casual fans.

I've said it before, and I don't mind saying it again. Gary Bettman did some really good work when he was David Stern's boy over in the NBA. But that's all under the bridge now, and he has this big mess. I don't care what the anylists say... I blame Bettman for failing to get somtething worked out. He should be able to MAKE the Players Association agree to revenue sharing. Way back in the day when Pete Rozelle was commissioner of the NFL, he landed an enormous TV deal (something else that hasn't happened for the NHL on Bettman's watch), which he cleverly used as leverage for making the NFLPA agree to revenue sharing.
I'm just sayin' that Bettman needs to be more authoritative. Locking the players out doesn't hurt the players as much as it hurts the fans. Sooner or later he's also gonna have to realize that the fans are in real pain.
My husband is a huge NFL fan, I mean HUGE, and he believes that the NHL should be similarly run, with revenue sharing for one thing. He and I both agree on one thing though that no one seems to talk about: with the size of the league right now, the talent pool is very diluted. I don't think it has anything to do with goalie pads at all; I just don't think there are as many talented players out there anymore because there are so many teams trying to fill their rosters. There are only so many 40+ goal scorers in this world, and in ratio to the number of teams there are in the league right now, the numbers don't work out.

A 16 team league would be great. The talent/team ratio would be higher, and it would also make the season shorter. I can't stand the length of the current hockey season. I don't want to be watching hockey in June - Flames or no! It's ridiculous.

I also like the rules of international hockey much more, and those games are far more entertaining to watch. Even a small thing like the icing rule in international hockey makes for a much quicker game, not to mention the fact that they only allow a few seconds before having another face-off after a stoppage in play. Advertisers wouldn't like that, I know, but I like it a lot.

That's my humble opinion on the hockey thing.
With the exception of moving the nets back, I agree with virtually everything both of you have said. I have been advocating for eliminating the center red line on the offside pass as long as I can remember.

The only reason I don't like the thought of moving the nets back is that I really enjoy seeing what a talented center can do from back there. In the recent past, Gretzky and Denis Savard were masters of creating offense from behind the net. Later it was Igor Larionov and Steve Yzerman. Currently Pavel Datsuk is the best practitioner.

A really talented center is a treat to watch behind the net. If you sit back passively and give him room, he will patiently wait till someone finds an open spot and dish to them.

If you chase in aggressively after him, he will put a move on you, making you look foolish. and break for the front of the net. At this point, one of two things happens, both bad if you are on defense.

1. Somebody will leave their man to pick him up, whereupon he threads a pass to the open man for a scoring opportunity.

2. Everybody maintains discipline and stays with their man, leaving the center to walk out in front, put a move on the helpless goalie, and and put the puck in the net.

I fear moving the nets back would penalize talented centermen. But I am with you both on all the other items.
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