Nine Things the NHL Needs
The past week I have been trying to think about what to write on regarding the NHL. I could not think of anything that has not been already discussed, so I decided to write on a number of minor things. Why nine? Because I couldn’t think of ten. Enjoy.
1. The NHL needs the Washington/Pittsburgh series to be a best of 21. If hockey was on ESPN, this would be an ESPN Classic. There is no better situation that Gary Bettman could have asked for. Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin and Backstrom producing for their own teams, and the series has been non-stop entertainment because of it. Not only has there been scoring from the super stars, but also gritty playoff-type hockey. In the end, the goals are nice, but the fans appreciate a good hockey game and the hustle and grit that these players are showing are essential for an entertaining game.
2. The NHL needs to be on ESPN. Versus has done a great job with their NHL coverage since the lockout. Their courage to pick up NHL TV rights in the United States must be applauded. However, they are no ESPN. ESPN is the king of sports. They may focus too much on the Yankees, Red Sox and Mets, but a sport is not legitimized until they are regularly featured on ESPN. I believe that the NHL has gained the loyalty of enough Americans to be on ESPN. Since the lockout, the game was evolved to suit North America’s need for an uptempo, high(er) scoring game, which justifies the NHL ‘s right to be featured on the world’s greatest sports channel.
Heck, if Bull Riding, dog shows, and fishing can regularly get ESPN airtime, the NHL can too, right? The greater American public needs to be exposed to more of Barry Melrose’s mullet.
3. The NHL needs to re-think its scheduling for the playoffs. There is no reason why two playoff games should be on at the same time. If the NHL wants to promote their game, they need to expose it as much as possible. Many have not been able to pay attention to the Carolina/Boston series because they have been pre-occupied with the more publicized Washington/Pittsburgh series, which are in the same time slot on the same days. The Carolina/Boston series has been just as entertaining and it is a shame that fans are being denied the right to watch it because of foolish scheduling by the NHL. Come on, even a marketing major from the University of Western Ontario can figure out that the NHL’s playoff TV schedule does not make sense.
4. The NHL needs to keep fighting in the game. Sure, goals are great, but nothing gets attention than a good hockey fight. An entire arena simultaneously rises and cheers at the sight of a fight. If you do not think hockey fights are popular, log in to Youtube at any moment during the hockey season and the most watched videos are clips of the most rece tusstles, thanks to hockeyfights.com. Hockey fights are a part of the game. This statement can be argued by the greatest minds of the game and the end result will always be inconclusive. The fact is that fighting is what differentiates hockey from every other major North American sport, and is used by fans to justify whether or not they witnessed a good game or not.
The NHL can do its best to make fighting safer, but the reality is that the essence of a fight is its violence. Each player knows what they are getting into when they engage in a hockey battle, so they should be inherently responsible. The best thing about hockey fights are that they are impersonal and there is a mutual respect for combatants. As soon as the fight gets personal and the feud leaves the ice, is when its gets awkward and dangerous.
5. The NHL needs to keep Pierre McGuire behind the glass. Congratualtions to McGuire for officially making the shortlist to be the next General Manager for the Minnesota Wild. As entertaining as it would be to see McGuire running a real NHL club, Mcguire is already as entertaining as it gets behind the mic. Whether you hate him or HATE him, McGuire has a lot of good insight on in-game analysis and happenings around the league. These traits are what could make him a good General Manager, but an even better analyst.
Who could take McGuire’s place? Ray Ferraro? Peter Laviolette? Darren Deutschyen? As much as you would hate to admit it, watching an NHL game on TSN or NBC would not be the same if McGuire bolts for Minny.
6. The NHL needs to limit the number of death threats to players to 1 per season. Although the story of the seventeen year old Pittsburgh native threatening Alexander Ovechkin’s life was a black mark in a great series, it shows how passionate hockey fans are. There are no other fans like hockey fans. They do not go to games for the sake of going to games; they actually understand the game and allow themselves to escape in the game, which explains their passion. There are no suits or celebrities are your average hockey game. There are regular guys in jerseys with beers at hockey games.
However, they should seriously find other ways to show their passion for the game. Maybe like chirping the coach through the glass and getting him suspended.
7. The NHL needs another team in southern Ontario. Whether it be now or later, there is an untapped resource in the greater Toronto area that is begging the NHL to take their money. With the economy as bad as it is right now, the NHL will eventually find themselves in a bind trying to support the Coyotes, Predators, Thrashers, among other teams struggling for support in the US. If the Leafs, as bad as they are, can sell out every game, another team can surely sell out every game. People have been waiting for another team here for so long that the NHL can charge whatever price and fans will sell out any building. Hockey fans are crazy in Canada, why not exploit this fact and give Canadian fans (ie. me) a substitute to the Maple Leafs.
The NHL has the support of the Prime Minister and the support of 100,000 at makeitseven.com. Jim Balsillie has failed to acquire an NHL organization before using similar tactics. If he doesn’t get the Phoenix franchise, perhaps he should employ a quieter strategy next time. You know, one that doesn’t embarass the league too much. Just a thought.
8. The NHL needs John Tavares. Whether it be on the Island, in Tampa or in Leafland, the NHL needs to show-off their latest crop of young talent, led by Tavares. Like Crosby and Gretzky before him, Tavares has been highly regarded from a young age. He was touted as the next one and has not disappointed. The NHL needs to promote their latest prodigy as a progression of talent moving towards maintaining and improving the skill necessary to play in the NHL.
9. The NHL needs more cheerleaders. Carolina just scored and they panned to their cheerleaders. The NHL needs more cheerleaders/ice girls.