October 23, 2008

What’s wrong with the NHL: Oct. ‘08.. 2

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

It didn’t even take a month of hockey for me to be forced into writing another What’s wrong with the NHL column. How sad it that? I’ve got two issues with the league right now and while, on the surface, one of them might actually turn out to be profitable, the underlying principle of it is dumb.

Firstly, the absolutely dumb one. There is no defending Toronto Maple Leafs winger/runaway train Ryan Hollweg. Because of an incident when he checked another player from behind, into the boards, he was suspended for three games. This was automatic since he had committed this infraction three times in the previous 41 games (half of a season). Then, in his first game back after the ban, he did it again. Did he not learn his lesson? How would he like to be rammed into the boards from behind by a player with little-to-no talent who is only on the team as an “energy guy?”

(Quick tangent: How come every team has a guy with the role “energy guy,” whose talent is to throw himself into as many players as possible like a pinball? Would it not make more sense to have a quick scoring type that can but the energy back in crowd by putting the puck in the net rather than putting your team down by taking a penalty and being a man down?)

So, Hollweg was suspended again, automatically, for a minimum of four games. The NHL had a chance to further the suspension and extend the ban but didn’t. Why the hell not? Again, the NHL has dropped the ball in regards to player safety. Next thing you know, that sort of Hollweg check will be legal.

Then there’s the latest report, from a paper that was probably just trying to get people to notice it actually has a sports section: The Globe And Mail. Apparently the NHL is interested in putting another team in Canada — specifically, the Toronto area.

This makes financial sense since Canadians are the true followers of the sport and crowds in any northern city are always going to support this game more than a team like Florida or Atlanta. Money can be made in the Toronto market since, realistically, the amount of people who hate the Maple Leafs is nearly equal to the amount of people that love them. The fair-weather fans can also go either direction in this scenario.

What I have a problem with is how they are proposing putting the team there: Expansion. The last thing the NHL needs is to further dilute their talent pool. With players being bought up by European teams now, why spread the amount of talent even thinner? There are plenty of teams currently in the NHL that need to move out of their poor markets, where the game will never draw a capacity crowd. Nashville, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Dallas and the California teams are in markets were they’re out of their element. How can they sell a product played on ice to people who have never seen snow in real life? Why not move some of these teams to more suitable locations like Southern Ontario, Winnipeg, even Kansas City. That would be a better solution than expanding.

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