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10 Ways To Improve The NHL


cleckie

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The Anaheim Ducks could hoist the Stanley Cup as early as tonight which would shock not only Ottawa fans but about 300 million Americans who had no idea that hockey season was still under way.

Like the last two Finals between Canadian teams and teams from nontraditional U.S. markets, there have been great goals, terrific saves and punishing hits. And like those series, no one (relatively speaking) is watching.

On Saturday night when LeBron James led Cleveland into the NBA Finals, the NBA earned a 5.3 rating. That's not what the league used to get for conference finals, by any means. But it was far better than what NBC drew (1.5) for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Quick, before commissioner Gary Bettman renders this league extinct, here are 10 ways to fix the NHL and deliver an improved product to more viewers in 2008.

1: Put microphones on all coaches and captains for all games. One of the things that the millions of fans that flock to NASCAR races each year really enjoy is the ability to hear every word exchanged between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief, Tony Eury Jr.

The scanner technology is there to let every fan in the seats eavesdrop on what's being said. We don't want lame interviews conducted by bench reporters. We want to hear the real thing, and if we're paying $100 a ticket, we deserve it.

2: Start the season a month later. The Stanley Cup Finals should be starting when the NBA Finals are ending. For two weeks, you get the closest thing you're ever going to get to undivided attention.

Stars/NHL

The technology is good enough to make ice playable in late June. Starting the season a month before the NBA in the heart of college and pro football season does nothing for the NHL.

3: Convince the selfish Eastern Conference general managers to act in the best interests of the game and change the schedule. This was voted on and rejected a few months ago. But Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, moving into the prime of what's going to be a fantastic career, needs to play a game in Dallas and Los Angeles and Chicago every year. Not once every three years.

4: Kiss up to ESPN. Make amends. There's still enough room for programming at the world-wide leader to get your games back there. Versus gives the NHL no presence at all. The studio show has Bill Clement, a great analyst, in the misguided role of host.

Get back to ESPN ? even if it's ESPN2 ? and get your highlights back on SportsCenter.

5: Let the skaters in shootouts go without their helmets. In the Sixties and Seventies, we could easily identify Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, the flowing locks of Guy LaFleur.

Then safety reared its ugly head, and now we have no idea what these players look like. Most of the regular-season highlights we see of the NHL are from shootouts. Let's see the players. Women will like this one.

6: Eliminate the ability to ice the puck during penalty killing. You can't do it 5-on-5 but you can do it when you're being penalized? Montreal GM Bob Gainey never really thought that made sense and he's right.

If they ice it, bring back the puck back for the face-off and the penalty killers have to stay on the ice.

What that would do is increase scoring from the game's best players, make power plays more powerful and cut down on penalties which would increase the flow of the game. All of those are good things.

7: Adopt the 2-3-2 travel format for all series. Commissioner David Stern did it for the NBA Finals after the 1984 season to ease the travel for newspapers. Those Boston-to-Los Angeles-to-Boston-to Los Angeles-to Boston trips were hard on the budget, not to mention hangovers. Television ratings have fallen flat for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Do it for all series. Increase (even by a fraction) news media coverage of the playoffs. It can't hurt.

8: Adopt the shootout after 40 minutes of playoff overtime hockey. Once you get past that point, the hockey gets ugly. Fans need to know that if they stick around until a little after midnight, they are going to see a winner. Networks need to know that, too. They aren't making any money with those long ad-less overtimes.

I would keep unlimited overtime for any game that could decide the Cup Finals.

9: Move the U.S. league office to Atlanta. Being in New York, the NHL can at least pretend it's a big deal. Bettman and other league officials need to walk the streets of Atlanta or, I don't care, Raleigh or Nashville and learn that nobody knows who they are. It will help them figure out what they have done to the game.

10: Contract to 26 teams. Arrive at a formula based on revenue, attendance, won-lost record and local ratings. The two worst performing teams are dropped and their players are dispersed after next season. Two more go a year later.

Now you have fewer and better teams and you get to see the stars more often and you increase your chances of making the playoffs. Those are good things.

Someone should let Bettman know how his grand plan of "expanding the league's footprint" has really gone.

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I see his point with a couple of issues he has stated here, but I can't fully agree with a majority of the article

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I have a problem with #'s 6, 8, and 10.

#6) It will create more goals, but it's been a rule forever and as a former player and often a penalty killer I'd say you're eliminating a very exciting part of the game. When the home team on the PK shoots the puck down the ice, it excites the fans. It's as much a part of the game as the Blue line.

#8) It is rare in this NHL that there is more than two overtimes. It doesn't happen often enough anymore for it to be a problem, and when you do get one, it is incredibly exciting.

#10) Contraction to 26 teams will only mean that 4 fewer markets are covering hockey which doesn't help anything. Simply move the four franchises to markets that will better support them.

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Please tell me he doesn't represent the majority

I sure as H E double hockey sticks hope not... ESPN deal... Yes... Icing on PK's maybe, big maybe... Travel issues... Ok...other than that, he's pretty much out of his mind

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If you want penalties to be reduced, make the offending player serve the entire length, no matter how many times the power-play unit scores.

Agreed... I don't have a problem with doing full 2 minutes + icings called against shorthanded team, that'll really lower them in a hurry

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1: Put microphones on all coaches and captains for all games. One of the things that the millions of fans that flock to NASCAR races each year really enjoy is the ability to hear every word exchanged between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief, Tony Eury Jr.

The scanner technology is there to let every fan in the seats eavesdrop on what's being said. We don't want lame interviews conducted by bench reporters. We want to hear the real thing, and if we're paying $100 a ticket, we deserve it.

We already have this to a limited extent in games. All we hear is "Woohoo!"

2: Start the season a month later. The Stanley Cup Finals should be starting when the NBA Finals are ending. For two weeks, you get the closest thing you're ever going to get to undivided attention.

Stars/NHL

The technology is good enough to make ice playable in late June. Starting the season a month before the NBA in the heart of college and pro football season does nothing for the NHL.

Yes, nothing says St. Jean Baptiste Day like the Stanley Cup playoffs!

3: Convince the selfish Eastern Conference general managers to act in the best interests of the game and change the schedule. This was voted on and rejected a few months ago. But Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, moving into the prime of what's going to be a fantastic career, needs to play a game in Dallas and Los Angeles and Chicago every year. Not once every three years.

Er, that was shot down by the narrowest of margins, with nay votes by GMs from both conferences.

4: Kiss up to ESPN. Make amends. There's still enough room for programming at the world-wide leader to get your games back there. Versus gives the NHL no presence at all. The studio show has Bill Clement, a great analyst, in the misguided role of host.

Get back to ESPN ? even if it's ESPN2 ? and get your highlights back on SportsCenter.

By the end of the 2003-04 season, NHL on E*PN ratings were only slightly above what it is on Versus... and E*PN is on over twice the number of households.

5: Let the skaters in shootouts go without their helmets. In the Sixties and Seventies, we could easily identify Bobby Hull, Jean Beliveau, the flowing locks of Guy LaFleur.

Then safety reared its ugly head, and now we have no idea what these players look like. Most of the regular-season highlights we see of the NHL are from shootouts. Let's see the players. Women will like this one.

Does Tim Cowlishaw know what Peyton Manning looks like? He wears a helmet during games too.

6: Eliminate the ability to ice the puck during penalty killing. You can't do it 5-on-5 but you can do it when you're being penalized? Montreal GM Bob Gainey never really thought that made sense and he's right.

If they ice it, bring back the puck back for the face-off and the penalty killers have to stay on the ice.

What that would do is increase scoring from the game's best players, make power plays more powerful and cut down on penalties which would increase the flow of the game. All of those are good things.

Because nothing brings in fans like a team with an 80% power play percentage!

7: Adopt the 2-3-2 travel format for all series. Commissioner David Stern did it for the NBA Finals after the 1984 season to ease the travel for newspapers. Those Boston-to-Los Angeles-to-Boston-to Los Angeles-to Boston trips were hard on the budget, not to mention hangovers. Television ratings have fallen flat for the Stanley Cup Finals.

Do it for all series. Increase (even by a fraction) news media coverage of the playoffs. It can't hurt.

And while we're at it, let's adopt the rest of the NBA playoffs' scheduling quirks, that way the playoffs can last from April to September.

8: Adopt the shootout after 40 minutes of playoff overtime hockey. Once you get past that point, the hockey gets ugly. Fans need to know that if they stick around until a little after midnight, they are going to see a winner. Networks need to know that, too. They aren't making any money with those long ad-less overtimes.

I would keep unlimited overtime for any game that could decide the Cup Finals.

Someone revoke his license to breate.

9: Move the U.S. league office to Atlanta. Being in New York, the NHL can at least pretend it's a big deal. Bettman and other league officials need to walk the streets of Atlanta or, I don't care, Raleigh or Nashville and learn that nobody knows who they are. It will help them figure out what they have done to the game.

No one from Minnesota complains that NASCAR has a corporate office in a town with a population of 6,000.

10: Contract to 26 teams. Arrive at a formula based on revenue, attendance, won-lost record and local ratings. The two worst performing teams are dropped and their players are dispersed after next season. Two more go a year later.

Now you have fewer and better teams and you get to see the stars more often and you increase your chances of making the playoffs. Those are good things.

Someone should let Bettman know how his grand plan of "expanding the league's footprint" has really gone.

Bye bye Blackhawks, Islanders and perhaps the Devils!

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I said this before the lockout and I say this again rule changes will not increase popularity. Most non-hockey fans will not know anything about the rule changes and just see that it is hockey and not watch. The game is great as is and doesn't need to be whored out because it won't do anything. Sure there could be few tweaks to make it better but nothing drastic. Personally I would like a little more bad blood and more physical games. To me those are the best games, not the ones with the high scores.

And please no shootouts in the playoffs. A 4ot game goes about the same length as a 10 or 11 inning American League playoff game. The games that go to 3 in the morning in the east are the west coast games and that is because of time difference. Unless the earth changes the way it rotates there is nothing anyone can do about that. As for no commercial in OT I never understood why the networks don't do what is done for soccer in OT and put a sponsors logo on the score bar. NBC and Versus did it for Power Plays this year why couldn't they do it for OT?

Also if I hear one more person on the ESPN payroll say the league should go back to ESPN I'm going to get pissed. The exposure that ESPN can give does nothing if ESPN essentially tells it's viewers to not watch like they did pre-lockout on shows that Tim Calishaw should be very familiar with. The ratings this year on Versus were about the same as there were on ESPN pre-lockout.

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And I wonder why he gets muted all the damn time of ATH when he starts talking about hockey: He has no damn clue what he's talking about.

Now, I have some ideas myself to fix the game.

First off, the schedule needs an overhaul. I know divisional rivalries are good and all, but what about the fans? What I would propose is this:

-30 games against the teams in the other conference (home and home). This way, the people in Eastern cities can see the best players from the West and the people in Western cities can finally see Crosby and Ovechkin every year.

-32 games within the division (eight games against the other four teams within your division)

-20 games against the teams from the other two divisions (home and home with those teams)

This may look a little unbalanced, but this allows the same ideal of division rivalries being the meat of the schedule, yet allows the fans to see the best players and the best game possible.

Another idea is a better TV deal. Forget ESPN, because they threw the NHL under the bus after the strike. Versus has done a decent job with the league, but it doesn't help when less then half of the people have this network to begin with. I suggest to keep NBC, but add their networks into the mix. USA could broadcast a Game of the Week that every team would be at least once during the season (To ensure fairness to fans of, say, the Blue Jackets or the Predators). NBC would have it's Game of the Week as well, but it would be a Sunday game and it would be more or less a showcase game for the league, for example, the network would show Red Wings vs. Avalanche because of the history. When the playoffs begin, NBC and USA would do double duty, each network would have an early game and a late game.

Whew... What a mouthful.

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Start the season later?! Idiotic. Simply idiotic. I'm the biggest hockey fan around and I think it's stupid that the Stanley Cup isn't awarded by Memorial Day. I can hardly believe I'm watching hockey when it's June in Minnesota and the weather's beautiful outside.

I'd cut down on games or compress the schedule and get things wrapped up in May.

That and get the damn schedule fixed. There's no way each team shouldn't visit every team once a year. NO WAY. As a partial season ticket holder, I think the schedule is a horrid value for my money.

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Start the season later?! Idiotic. Simply idiotic. I'm the biggest hockey fan around and I think it's stupid that the Stanley Cup isn't awarded by Memorial Day. I can hardly believe I'm watching hockey when it's June in Minnesota and the weather's beautiful outside.

I'd cut down on games or compress the schedule and get things wrapped up in May.

That and get the damn schedule fixed. There's no way each team shouldn't visit every team once a year. NO WAY. As a partial season ticket holder, I think the schedule is a horrid value for my money.

Yeah, let's be playing Ice hockey into July. Great idea.

How about starting earlier so that we're done by the time that we break out the shorts and sandals, or just have fewer games?

Some of these ideas are right up there with making the puck glow on television

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Another problem with going back to ESPN/ESPN2 at this point (even assuming they would take the NHL back) is that the NHL would have to get in line behind the NFL, MLB, the NBA, Arena Football, college football, college basketball, horse racing, boxing, and the World Series of Poker (did I miss anyone?) in the scheduling pecking order. Maybe, just maybe, they could manage to get their games higher scheduling priority than Major League Soccer and/or Major League Lacrosse.

On Versus, the NHL is basically king of the hill, even if it is just an anthill at this point.

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I am not a hockey fan, but I do love the sport. Things that should happen to make me respect it:

1) Remove teams from:

Florida

Atlanta

Nashville

Anaheim

North Carolina

San Jose

2) Put teams in:

Quebec City (Nordiques)

Winnipeg (Jets)

Hamilton (Tigers)

Montreal (second team as Redbands)

Anchorage (Moose)

3) Make helmets optional again

4) Screw ESPN. ESPN ruined sports with SportsCenter. Every athlete aspires to be on SportsCenter for a highlight, regardless of whether they win or lose.

5) Bring back ties

6) Ban luxury boxes

7) Create a purse like the XFL. Stanley Cup champs get $1 million apiece. Teams that do not make playoffs forfeit half of pay to players on playoff clubs

8) Ban Nike and Reebok from hockey

9) Play by Olympic rules.

10) Make sub .500 teams lower ticket prices to 50% less of league-determined fair price. If the owner puts a loser out there, the fans should not have to pay.

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I am not a hockey fan, but I do love the sport. Things that should happen to make me respect it:

You obviously want the NHL to be about 3 rungs lower than amateur snooker, don't you.

1) Remove teams from:

Florida

Atlanta

Nashville

Anaheim

North Carolina

San Jose

2) Put teams in:

Quebec City (Nordiques)

Winnipeg (Jets)

Hamilton (Tigers)

Montreal (second team as Redbands)

Anchorage (Moose)

Let's see, we'll remove a rapidly stabilizing fan base, one of the best fan bases in the NHL, and the last 2 Stanley Cup champions, and 2 middling franchises and put them in 3 Canadian cities that would provide 0% better financial situation, a 4th Canadian city that is not proven to be able to support a second franchise, and an American city that has trouble supporting an ECHL team. Smart.

3) Make helmets optional again

For what reason exactly? Other than to split someone's head open, I guess.

4) Screw ESPN. ESPN ruined sports with SportsCenter. Every athlete aspires to be on SportsCenter for a highlight, regardless of whether they win or lose.

Er, the NHL's seemed to have done that already.

5) Bring back ties

Why?

6) Ban luxury boxes

Nothing says improving a league like removing one of the best (and surest) forms of income.

7) Create a purse like the XFL. Stanley Cup champs get $1 million apiece. Teams that do not make playoffs forfeit half of pay to players on playoff clubs

Yes, let's split $1 million 22 ways to players who already make millions per year, and lay off about 60% of your work force on a yearly basis. The NHLPA is licking their lips as we speak.

8) Ban Nike and Reebok from hockey

That way they can wear equipment made by Tackla and Winnwood, right?

9) Play by Olympic rules.

...which would cost tens of millions to renovate their arenas for franchises who are already broke because of your brainless economic schemes.

10) Make sub .500 teams lower ticket prices to 50% less of league-determined fair price. If the owner puts a loser out there, the fans should not have to pay.

See above. You sir make Gary Bettman look like an economic wizard. Well played. <_<

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I agree with the fact that the schedule needs an overhaul. Rather than the schedule already proposed, I would propose an extension of the season to 86 games, in which one plays against conference foes four times and non-conference foes twice. The divisional setup would be abandoned, and the top eight teams in each conference makes the playoffs.

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