August 01, 2005


The debate over hockey rule changes is beginning to sound like the one going on over global warming.

The water level is the lowest it's been in seventy years! They want to reduce the size of goalie equipment by 15%!

Yep, just like it was when your grandfather was your age.

The size and shape of the lines on the ice, the goalie restriction rules, over-expansion, and so on and on and on.

All sports change over time. Baseball raises and lowers the pitcher's mound every decade or two, trying to restore balance between offense and defense. The sun didn't supernova over the designated hitter rule, and God didn't smite the unbelievers over wild-card playoff teams (although I've heard it was a near thing. Luckily, they've got a team called the "Angels". Jersey Devils? The NHL might be in for a righteous smiting.)

At one time, goalies weren't allowed to leave their feet. That's right, flop on the ice and it was a penalty and an automatic goal against. So for those who're bitching about rules changes, let's go back all the way and play the original game. Anything that changes the purity of the game is sacrilege, right?

Finally, the talk about over-expansion. The NHL has thousands of new fans in places that had never heard of hockey before expansion, and right now hockey needs every friend it can get. Shutting down franchises just because they're not in traditional hockey areas strikes me as spectacularly stupid. Last year (or was it the year before?) Ottawa was bankrupt and missed payroll a few times. Yet nobody wanted to shut them down. Welcome to NHL Business Math 101. Running a club like a business, with decisions based on financial reality, is optional if you're a Canadian team or in one of the traditional hockey cities (like Calgary and Edmonton, who've both been teetering on the edge of solvency for years now). I'm not saying to shut them down, I'm saying let's quit playing geographical favorites based on arbitrary rules. Shut down the San Jose Sharks! Why? Well, they're Californian. Never mind that they've been a solid hockey club that's gone deep into the playoffs several years in a row. Forget that they routinely sell out their arena for home games. Ignore that they've turned a profit and are near the top of all sports teams in terms of merchandising sold. They're from California, dammit! We don't want them in the NHL!

Hockey has some serious problems. The fan base was shrinking, costs were out of control, the game was boring to the casual fan and difficult for the uninitiated to understand. To Joe Football, a hockey game could be distilled down to about one minute of highlights: goals, great saves, fights. Everything else is filler.

So now they've gotten a handle on the cost issue. Yeah, the players paid, but don't forget that the owners also lost a season's worth of revenue, not to mention the myriad people who depend on the NHL for their living. Now to make the game more fan-friendly. How is it bad for hockey if more people come see the games?

For the purists in the eco-movement, the only sure way to save the Spotted Owl is to completely ban logging forever. Those who refuse to see that hockey has no choice but to adapt might as well move to New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, or Montreal. If hockey falls back into oblivion - and it's on the precipice, wildly waving its arms as it tries not to go over the edge - those cities may be the only place you can see hockey. And it won't be on television, you'll be lucky if your local paper carries the box scores. Kids who play youth hockey now will be doing Junior NASCAR or Cadet Poker Leagues (stressing the statistical and mathematical basis of the game and downplaying the gambling part - hey look, it's math!).

Hockey has to do *something*, and they finally are. Now we get to see if it's too little too late.

Posted by Ted at August 1, 2005 11:53 AM | TrackBack
Category: Balls and Ice

something SHOULD'VE blown up over the designated hitter thing...I hate that.

eh...You and I, we just disagree on this.

Still, you're alright.

Posted by: Derek at August 1, 2005 06:59 PM

Pah, so they've sold out their home hockey games, but what have the Sharks done for their away games?

Not that I'm angry about the Sharks going deep in the playoffs several times, but I do remember a certain incident one year where I had a business presentation on the night of game 7 of the first round, so of course I changed clothes in the bathroom immediately following the presentation and broke speed limits to get to Kiel Center just after the first period started, only to leave in the second after Owen Nolan's desperation buzzer shot from the middle of the ice skipped past Roman Turek.....

Who cares about the parity? CONSOLIDATE THE SHARKS! Or move them to a more hockey-friendly climate, like Mexico City.

Posted by: Brian J. at August 1, 2005 10:51 PM

Ah yes, we Sharks and Blues fans have vivid memories of each other in the short time we've been rivals. Some good, some not so...

Posted by: Ted at August 2, 2005 06:10 AM
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