The National Hockey League is the most recognized and respected hockey league in the world. It is a extremely entertaining league, but it has many things that I would change. I watch hockey on a nightly basis, and think about it most of the day. I think that the NHL has a good thing going now, but there is a few things that I would change. I understand that the league will never be perfect, but here is the first ten things that I would change.
10 – White jerseys at Home – Go back to the white jerseys at home. This was part of the game for eighty plus seasons, and then in 2006 they decide to have teams were dark jerseys at home. Why? I was told it was a marketing idea to get fans to buy dark jerseys. Thats great but that was almost ten years ago. Switch back to white at home, or at least where dark at home the first half of the season and white at home for last half, and playoffs. It is a tradition that should not have ever been messed with.
9 - Hybrid Icing – How many players have to get injured before they change the icing format. The NCAA and US junior leagues have adopted this method already. The results have been successful. I have never heard anyone say “that was a good game, lots of good icing races”. It does not matter, lets save the players. This looks like it will be adopted and possibly as soon as next season.
8 - Hockey Televison Exposure – It is much better now, but the NHL must capitalize on the recent success and continue to promote the league by television. The new television contract with NBC has been good. The network has numerous games on the NBC Sports channel and now features a nightly highlight show called NHL Overtime. The real success has been the internet exposure and NHL Center Ice package, and the NHL Network. The great improvement of the Center Ice package is that is not just on television, but now can be received on notebooks and mobile devices. In recent years the NHL has been featured on HBO with the series called 24/7. It does not get any better than this. HBO does a top notch job of showing how life inside the NHL really is. It is a great series that must continue.
7 - Move Phoenix – The time has come. The league and Gary Bettman have done everything under the sun to keep this team in Glendale, Arizona, but nothing has worked. The league has owned the team for two season’s now, and rumors of numerous buyers (looking to keep the team in Arizona) have come and gone. The most critical aspect on this topic is that after all of this, the fans have still not shown up. Attendance is terrible, and showing no sign of improving. The Coyotes are a good team and the fans are not supporting this franchise.
6 - Fighting, Relax its part of the game – The NHL has went back and forth for years on how to handle fighting in the game. Many members of the media have ripped the league for allowing it, but it is part of the game. I hope it is always part of the game. It shows the intensity of the game, and it actually plays a very important role in the game of hockey. I am not really in favor of the staged fight, but there is nothing better than two players going at it in the heat of the moment. Lets face facts, people love fights. I have never seen anyone say they were leaving a game because of a fight. In fact, I would bet that if you polled active hockey fans, and players, ninety plus percent would state that fighting is part of the game, and they like it that way. The NHL now must just state that it is part of the game, and not going anywhere. Its okay, the fans like it.
5 - Suspend Dirty Hits, Not Legal ones – I am all for any step that will reduce the amount of injuries in the NHL. I want players to be fined, and suspended for hits that are dirty. I do not want players fined, and suspended for huge hits that are legal, just because the player got hurt. Hitting is part of the game, and often times happens because a player was skating with their head down. Punish the dirty elbow or the hit that targets the head. Leave the big hitters that hit legal alone.
4 - Overtime Format – I know shootouts are exciting. I hate that we award wins for a skills competition, but I will admit that they are exciting. I don’t leave or turn off the television when it happens. I also think that there is way to many points being given out for wins in a shootout. Too many games are being played conservatively so that the team gets a point, and then hopes to win in a shoot-out. The fans like them, but they have become way to common. The way to keep them in the game, but reduce the amount is to adopt a new overtime format. Overtime should consist of five minutes of 4 on 4 followed by five minutes of 3 on 3. It would be wild and exciting, and I bet 80% of the games would be settled with a goal. If not then you have the shootout to top the night off.
3 - Point System – The current NHL system does not work. The amount of games that end up being three point games is unbelievable. I see teams laying off and not taking chances just to get a point. The current system does not promote the run and gun hockey that the NHL wants. Here is the system that I feel would be great: 3 points for a win in regulation, 2 points for a win in overtime, 1 point for a shootout win, and 0 points for a loss. It makes sense, and would simplify things for the fans. Check out a recent article on this same topic at the HockeyBuzz. Eklund breaks down this system, and in detail shows how it would change this seasons standings.
2 - Constant Rule Changes – The NHL needs to relax and enjoy the great game that they have. I understand that you have to stay on top of the game, and make sure that it evolves correctly. I also understand that the NHL must adapt rules to protect players. I just think that the league changes rules way to frequently and quickly. This is a great game the way it is. Leave it alone, and enjoy it.
1 - Remember Heritage and History – The game of hockey has been around for hundreds of years. The history of the league and franchises is amazing. We need to respect this history, and promote the history of the league. Many professional sports leagues do not have this luxury. The sport of baseball has always promoted the heritage and history of the game. This is probably one of the few things that Major League Baseball has done correctly, but the National Hockey League should take notes. The history of the league is amazing, use it to promote, and remember the history when you want to change things all the time.