October 9, 2008

What’s wrong with the NHL: Oct. ‘08

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

The NHL is on the outs with me. It’s really been a down-ward, slippery slope-style slide too. Several times in the past I’ve run little comments on how the NHL is going about things wrong. They’ve been entitled “What’s wrong with the NHL,” and honestly, if I cared enough about the sport of hockey, it could have been a weekly feature. So it may come to no surprise to you, my readers, that I’m not all that excited for the coming NHL season — sure you can say that it already started out in Europe with those four games last weekend, but let’s get real, those were glorified exhibitions.

Frankly, what has the league done to attract me? After going on strike a few years ago and skipped an entire season with the goal to curb spending, they’re basically back to where they started with teams spending and spending and spending to bring guys in and keep them for inordinate amounts of time. What’s the point of having a salary cap if they raise it so high that no one can touch it without making many bad moves?

On the ice, I will admit that the Stanley Cup finals in June were a success, pitting Sidney Crosby against the powerhouse Red Wings — who have a long history of greatness. But what can they do for an encore now? Sports illustrated just predicted that we’ll see a repeat of that finals and is that interesting? I’d rather see some different teams mix it up rather than have a dynasty take another drink from the Cup — let’s face it, Detroit will win again.

The league is still making efforts to increase scoring but continually neglect to shrink the massive goal-tender equipment. Having obese looking guys standing in net doesn’t make your league look reputable. It’s the same way that people will always make fun of the huge guys on the line in football — who have a tremendously important job by the way — but with goalies, these guys aren’t built like brick houses, they’re sometimes the smallest guys in the locker room.

Another quick way of making games more interesting? Either give teams three points for a win or take away the point for teams that lose in overtime. Putting more emphasis on winning will spur teams to take more risks, create more chances and that will put more numbers up on the score board. Nobody wants to watch two teams trap their way through the end of the third period to ensure they get a point.

Then there’s the fighting. I still don’t understand why the league continues to glorify such goonery when other leagues (especially the NFL, which is even more violent) are trying to make play safer for everyone. How many guys have broken hands, noses and even orbital bones in NHL fights? How many roster spots are chewed up by unskilled guys whose sole purposes are to scrap with the other team’s goon? It’s really ridiculous this still takes place. The NHL should man up and impose bigger penalties for guys who fight.

Now, I’m not saying eliminate fighting, it’s too entrenched in puck culture. I’m suggesting put a much greater of an emphasis on guys not fighting. How about a 10 minute penalty, or a game suspension for fighting twice in a game? Maybe employ a penalty system like soccer’s: two yellow cards and you’re out — and that goes for consecutive games too. If a guy fights one game and has to carry that yellow for the season, he’ll be a lot more picky about dropping the gloves with just anyone.

And finally, let’s kick that piece of crap Todd Bertuzzi out of the league. That would be the first step towards getting me back. Allowing him back — ever — is a travesty.

So, I may be the only Canadian who isn’t excited for hockey to start, but I’m fine with that. Keep your league, I’ll be fine watching European soccer in my free time. That’s a real game.

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