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Notch Novelty

How to improve the nhl

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Just make travelling and fouling illegal again ok?

AMEN. Players take three steps on just about EVERY dunk, look at it. Watch ESPN Classic, they would never have gotten away with it then.

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The problem with seeing sports just like any other business is pretty simple. People have an emotional attachment to the brand of sports team/ sports they follow. No-one really cares about which toothpaste they use, everyone cares about the teams they follow. Asking some guys to boycott for instance a Cleveland Browns game would be unthinkable. True, owners and team management exploit that mercilessly but its the truth.

And no league will ever go out of business, a few teams might do but not the actual leagues. The running costs of the leagues are relatively low given the money they get from TV, sponsorship, playing rights etc etc. Its the teams who struggle when a sport goes into a 'recession', as they have long term financial commitments, such as wages, stadium costs etc. which can't be avoided.

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Hockey doesn't belong in California, Texas, or Florida. It's that simple.

Hockey belongs anywhere that it is supported.  And when I mean supported I mean a number of factors -- ownership committed to building and maintaining a competitive team, a sufficient fan base to fill seats on a consistent basis, a substantial core of season ticket holders that insist that their team be consistently competitive (rather than mortgaging the future to build a quasi-allstar team to make one run at the cup and then drop off the planet for 10 years) and a media base committed to affording the sport proper coverage and educating the fringe fan on the finer points of the game.  If these elements are present in Dallas, Miami, Tampa, Anaheim, San Jose, Nashville, Phoenix and Raleigh, then so be it -- they are entitled to NHL hockey.  However, if there are pieces of that pie missing anywhere, then perhaps another market that is able to supply those commitments deserves a shot.  I don't know of any market that has had all of those elements in place and still lost their team.  The problem is that not every NHL market has each one of those elements and that's why there's always a handful of teams in the relocation rumor mill.

I would love to see NHL hockey return to Quebec, Winnipeg and Hartford as well as Kansas City and I would like to see teams in Oklahoma City and Houston and perhaps if and when each of these cities can build the foundation out of the elements referenced above, they'll get their chance.  An enterprising owner and the NHL have the skills necessary to identify money-making opportunities and if there's legitimate money-making opportunities to be had from any of these markets moves will be made.

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I don't think that an uncompetive league is neccesarily an unpopular league. In most of the soccer leagues in Europe there are potentially at most 4 or 5 teams who could win the championship. (Yes thats right the rich ones!) Realistically  maybe 10 teams at the moment could win the Champions League, and that number is becoming smaller at the time. The reaction of Chelsea fans to being taking over by a Russian billionaire shows that most fans simply don't care aboput the good of the league etc. What they care about is there team, and is it winning or not.

And American sports are way more competetive than most European leagues, given the ability of the Leagues to impose wage limits, and the draft system, for instance, onto the clubs. It is imaginable that any franchise, well run and well financed in an American sport could become champions in say 5 years (well maybe except the Bengals!) I don't think that is true in Europe.

And want you say about everything being a business is not exactly true, in that say a church doesn't have to make an operating profit, in a strict business sense. It needs to make some money in order to pay wages, bills etc. But it does not need to make any extra above that for re-investment. The same is true for schools and (at least in everywhere else in the world that has state run healthcare, except the USa) hospitals, for example!

And, as I said, with the best will in the world, a fan boycott just  wouldn't work. That kind of collective will just never exists anywhere, anyhow. If you are serious about changing then some other kind of non-violent protest would be the way to go.  Petitions or rallys maybe!

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ANd anyone who boycotted would have to understand that they were doing it for the betterment of not only their team, but their league and their sport.....  But you could bring down the MLB with a month of no TV watching and no attending.  Cable and network TV ratings would flatline, advertisers wouldnt pay two cents to the networks for commercials during that slot and the networks would in turn change programming.

It's funny that the Expos fans are the only ones that did this, and got bitch-slapped for it, not only by MLB, but by other fans ready to pounce on their team.

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Improving the NHL can be done, but it would take quite a bit of pain to accomplish it. I won't give many opinions on rule changes - though I was a PA announcer for a minor league team once, I won't pretend to know the rules well enough to suggest how they should be changed. But I do have a number of suggestions on how the NHL can be a better overall product:

(1) Bite the bullet. Go ahead and lock out the players when the current CBA expires - but play on. Bring up kids from the minors, juniors, wherever, suit 'em up and let them play. You'll lose a boatload of money doing it owners, but you'll also - eventually - break the union. You'll also stave off the new WHA, which is a more serious threat than anyone gives them credit for in the event the NHL undergoes a prolonged work stoppage.

Anyone remember the NFL's last strike in 1987? The players and owners didn't agree on a new deal, so the owners locked 'em out and brought in "The Replacements." Within days players were crossing the lines and within 3 weeks the strike/lockout was over. In the NHLPA's case it wouldn't happen anywhere near that quickly, but eventually - it would happen.

Once Bettman's 'cost certainty' is in place, then...

(2) Weed out the financially weaker clubs. The strike/lockout might just take care of this anyway. I won't advocate specific teams to go, but unfortunately this would likely mean the elimination of my new hometown team, the Carolina Hurricanes. Relocation of franchises makes no sense right now, particularly when...

(3) The NHL needs to go to the television networks and say, "Look: we realize we'll never have the national ratings of the NBA or NFL. We're struggling financially as a league and need your help. What can we do to (a) keep total TV revenue at its current levels while we get our house back in order, and (B) promote game broadcasts better?"

With fewer teams gone via attrition, the same amount of money split between fewer teams equates to an increase in rights revenues. Plus the league would get help from the networks to jointly promote the NHL product. And speaking of promotion...

(4) Grim reality time: stop trying to promote the NHL as a national game in the U.S. I know this sounds counter to the norm, but the NHL isn't, and won't ever be, more than a regional league in areas where it has American franchises.

I love hockey; love to watch it at the amateur level, and even see an ECHL game when I get the chance. But the NHL has become too corporate, too antisceptic for its own good, and its effort to "go national" in the U.S. simply hasn't worked. Emphasize the regional ties to each franchise rather than the national ties to the league. I'll gladly frequent Sheely's Rustproofing because they support my team because they're local, but will I buy a Nextel phone because they do? Nope.

Canada is another story of course, but in the U.S., stop trying to promote the NHL as a national game - it just isn't, and it never will be.

(5) Make some rule changes that increase the game's speed and attractiveness, but not necessarily scoring. Not knowing the rules of hockey that well I can't speculate as to what they would be, but I suspect the 2-line pass would improve the game's pace a little, for example.

Bring in the (gasp!) shootout if there's no winner in OT. Granted its a bastardization, but if you're trying to appeal to more than the die-hard fan, this will help do it. My wife, a casual observer of sports in general, has gone with me to hundreds of sports events - Super Bowls, MLB games, you name it. The one thing she remembers most? A shootout in an ECHL game from 1991.

For standings, dump the point for an OT loss, but bump up the points for a win to 3. Give a bonus standings point if a team scores 5 or more goals in a game. These two moves will encourage hustle and scoring, making the NHL a more attractive product.

And if you really want to make a drastic change (and I know I'm gonna catch hell for this thought), go to four, 15-minute periods, with 8 minute intermissions between the 1st-2nd and 3rd-4th periods, and a 16 minute halftime. Games will go more quickly, suiting television and in the fan's minds increasing the game's speed.

...and finally...

(6) Lower the number of teams that qualify for the playoffs from 16 to 12 (assuming the strike doesn't wipe out some teams) or less. One thing I hear frequently is "too many teams make the playoffs." I can't say I argue with them. I realize 16 has been the NHL's magic number for a long time, and that it would cost the league revenue, but a reduction in the number of playoff qualifiers enhances the value of regular season play - increasing regular season attendance for playoff-competitive clubs to a point where it makes up for the loss in playoff-based ticket revenue.

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I agree with giving up on pretending hockey is a national game in the US. It clearly isn't and it just makes a laughing stock of the league when they give an expansion franchise to say Tampa Bay and allow teams to move out of places like Winnipeg and Hartford, surely natural hockey country!

The problem with a 12 team playoff is that the best teams would automatically get a couple of weeks off for the first round. This doesn't necesarily sound bad, except that it is always a good thing as teams lose momentum, 'game' fitness, etc. I say keep it at 16 for now, or if you want a reduction go to 8.

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