* originally written in Feb. 2015
In terms of the “big 4” sports in the US, it’s no secret that the NHL lags far behind in 4th. The most recent estimates put the NHL’s revenue at $3.3 billion, just 36% as much as the NFL’s $9.9 billion. Unsurprisingly, the NHL’s TV deal is also by far the least lucrative at $600 million with NBC, $330 million less than the NBA.
It’s also no coincidence that the NHL is the only sport without an agreement with ESPN, and as a result, the smallest deal. However, hockey did strike a deal with ESPN to give them the broadcasting rights to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
The main complaints about the current product of today’s NHL is that scoring is too low, and as a result, lacks universal appeal. The go-to answers for solving this problem have been to reduce clutching-and-grabbing by cracking down on obstruction, making goaltending equipment smaller, and nets bigger.
A changing in officiating worked for a bit after the 2003-04 lockout, but it has quickly reverted back to its previous state. Additionally, goalies are receiving more attention and training than ever, and are better than they’ve ever been.
That is why I believe the NHL needs to take stronger measures to increase scoring, and as a result, popularity of the sport. Here are 15 changes they could make to improve their product:
1. Power Plays last a full two minutes, even if you score a goal.
This was the rule until the NHL changed it in 1956-57 to the current rule. More power play time=more goals.
2. No offsides on power plays.
3. Goals scored from behind the blue line count for two goals.
Imagine this one in conjunction with the first two. You’re down two goals late, and on the power play. You position Zdeno Chara or someone with a bomb of a shot just beyond the blue line, and fire away with traffic in front. You could potentially tie the game with one shot. Or, if you’re shooting on an empty net as a team in front, you can wrap the game up immediately.
4. Goalies cannot cover the puck outside of the crease.
5. No illegal stick curves, or limits on the length of a stick.
Willie Mitchell could use this 80″ stick if he really wanted to:
And Marty McSorley would be allowed to use whatever curve he wanted.
6. You can bat the puck into the net with any body part (but no kicking [safety reasons], you cannot pick it up with your glove, and the same high sticking rule).
7. Eliminate the shootout, and replace the 5 minute 4-on-4 overtime with 3-on-3 until someone scores. [making some progress on this one!]
8. Adopt IIHF point rules for the standings (regulation win=3 points, OT win=2 points, OT loss=1 point). I would also advocate elimination of the OT loss point.
Teams would no longer have an incentive to play conservatively to get to overtime and get at least a point.
9. Allow two goalies in the net at once.
This one is counter-intuitive to more scoring, but would provide a lot of entertainment value. I’ve checked, and the NHL rule book currently explicitly prohibits this.
10. A player’s skates have to both be off the ice before the player he is changing for can jump on.
When you think about it, too many men on the ice occurs in the NHL on almost every line change. This would create many more odd-man rushes.
11. You can get an assist on your own goal.
This doesn’t directly increase scoring, but would pad the totals of top players. Crooked point totals like those found in the 1980s gives an illusion of higher scoring, generating buzz and excitement. Besides, if you initiate a give-and-go then score, or score on your own rebound, you deserve the assist.
12. No line changes if you commit a hand pass, offsides, or high stick.
These are all infractions, just like icing. Icing has a penalty in that you can’t change lines. Why not punish these infractions?
13. A “free kick” for the non-offending team after a hand pass, offsides, or high stick.
The opposing team would have to back off by 5-10 feet and allow the other team to play the puck, guaranteeing them possession, and an advantage because they didn’t commit the foul.
14. After an icing call, the non-offending team decides what side the faceoff is on.
This is a subtle one, but it could set up your best center to be on his strong side, or set up your best pointman for an optimal one-timer.
15. You can have a 13th forward/7th defenseman in the locker room dressed to replace an injured player. But, if you bring them in, the injured player cannot return.
Could you see the NHL implementing any of these changes in the future? What else could they do to increase scoring? Let us know below.