A popular debate in the sports world is what a person would do if they were made commissioner of their given sport for one day, one week, or just for an indefinite amount of time. Most of the time, these are innocent little tweaks designed to increase the enjoyment level of that particular fan, or they are ideas so far-fetched that even the most out of the box minds in the world think to themselves “that guy is either drunk or an idiot.”
This article hopefully won’t fit under either of these categories.
As I’m sure many of you have, I have my own delusions of grandeur when it comes to making the sports I love better. I always have moments where I think of an idea that I think would improve things for the league in question, and I try to be as reasonable as possible with my ideas.
However, out of the box thinking is also required to promote the NHL and make it a better league, and so, with a mix of conservative and liberal ideas, I would now like to promote my candidacy to be the next commissioner of the NHL.
Rule Changes I Would Like to Promote
1. Changing the Rules for Allocation of Points
As the current rules stand, a team gets a point simply for making it to overtime, and they get to keep that point even if they lose.
As my first act as commissioner, I would change this rule so that if a team gets beaten in the five minute overtime period, then they lose the point that they earned.
A lot of teams will play ultra-tight the final five minutes of the third period if the game is tied knowing that they will get a standings point simply by not allowing any more damage. So, in essence, they are playing for the tie instead of the win, which cheapens the quality of the hockey being played, and is boring for the fans who are at the arena and watching it on TV.
It would also have the added benefit of canceling out some of the extremely dangerous chances that teams take during the overtime frame, that often result in odd man rushes and breakaways at a rate that doesn’t happen during the normal game. The offensively minded rules in the overtime period would maintain the scoring chances that make the 4-on-4 the spectator friendly event that it is.
2. Changing the Rules Regarding Power Plays Extending Into Overtime
If I intend to keep the 4-on-4 overtime format, there has to be changes to the way power plays extend into the overtime frame.
As it stands now, if there is a 5-on-4 power play in regulation and there is still time left on it when regulation ends, then it becomes a 4-on-3 upon the resumption of play in the overtime. Often times, this leads to a quick score and a game over, which under my first rule change would mean zero points for a team on the losing end of things.
This effectively penalizes a team a second time, because as many hockey savants will tell you, a 4-on-3 power play is a lot better of a scoring opportunity than a 5-on-4 is.
What the rule will be is simple: a power play that extends beyond regulation will remain a 5-on-4. Once the power play is over, the sides will remain at 5-on-5 until the next stoppage in play, at which point it will convert to 4-on-4.
The rule regarding 5-on-3 power plays that extend beyond regulation will remain the same.
3. Install Replay Booths at Each Arena, Instead of Routing Decisions Through Toronto
In the NFL, when the clock is within the two minute warning in the second quarter and fourth quarter, all video reviews are handled by a replay official in the replay booth instead of by the official on the field.
In the NHL, all reviews are handled by officials in Toronto instead of officials on site, and the process is normally agonizingly long. Players get restless, fans get restless, and as evidenced by the cameras focused on them, even the referees get restless as well.
I propose that the NHL changes that rule, so that instead of a booth hundreds or thousands of miles away making decisions, officials who are at the games can look at the calls immediately and have the full assortment of views that the television networks can provide. This would give quicker answers to questions of vital importance to the game, and fans and players alike would be a lot happier with the speed of the results.
4. Treat Fighting Majors Like the NBA Treats Technical Fouls
There has been a lot of conversation in recent months about the NHL possibly banning fighting during games. This has been done due to an outpouring of concern about player safety, the supposedly “savage” nature of the game that outsiders spout off about, and a general desire for there to be more offense in the games to increase fan interest.
While I respect the wishes of those who want to keep players safer in the modern league, I have to insist that fighting plays a vital role in the game of hockey. There are plenty of savants who say that cheap shots are definitely kept to a minimum because of the fear of retaliation by an opponent’s enforcers, and that if the ability to police themselves is taken away, then a lot more Brashear-like incidents will take place. I happen to agree with these experts, and feel that fighting should stay.
I will, however, be willing to limit the number of fights that one player may get into during a season. In the NBA, a player is only allowed so many technical fouls before he has to sit out a game and lose his salary for that game. The NHL should adopt a similar tactic with fighting majors, and if a player reaches a certain amount, then a one game suspension should be automatically triggered.
This way, fighting can be kept in the game, but it has to be used judiciously. No more fights off of the opening face-off (sorry Adam Burish) and pre-meditated fights will also be limited.
Ideas to Help Promote the Growth of the League
1. Expand Opening Day of the NHL Season to Include All 30 Teams
The NHL has been opening its seasons in Europe for the past couple of years, but each season only four teams have to go through the hassle of traveling abroad and playing two games away from their home arenas and places they feel comfortable playing.
While I’m in favor of expanding the positive opinion of the league throughout Europe and the rest of the world (especially in the face of the KHL), I think that having only a couple of teams play abroad is akin to giving an unfair advantage to the other 26. Therefore, I am proposing that every year, all 30 teams should start their seasons in foreign markets to truly help globalize the game.
Basically, 15 cities will be selected throughout Europe, and a draft lottery style selection show two weeks before the season starts will determine which teams will play in which cities. It can be viewed as the first opportunity to truly give exposure to the league each season, and it will definitely generate buzz. Can you imagine if the Canadiens and Bruins were slotted to face-off in London? Or the Red Wings and Blackhawks in Stockholm?
Granted, there would be some opposition to this idea, especially if either of the previous two scenarios were to come to pass. So, to combat this problem, I also propose that the season be expanded by two games to 84, with the two games to be played on the weekend before the regular season is supposed to start. That way, the teams can get back home, acclimated to the time zone they are from, and then play an 82 game season like any other year. That way, routines aren’t thrown off too horribly, and the global profile of the game will be raised significantly.
2. Get the League Onto a Major Television Network
With the game becoming more popular in the years following the lockout, it is time for the league to considering moving the bulk of its national exposure from Versus. This network, while it has been great in getting the NHL back on its feet, still isn’t available in enough households to make it a truly viable tool to increase the exposure of the game, and to be frank, a lot of people still associate it with its hunting and fishing show roots.
So, to counter this, the NHL should pursue every avenue in getting another network to jump on board with broadcasts, in a similar fashion to what the NBA did by being televised on both TNT and ESPN. ESPN2 seems like a perfect fit for the NHL, and if the league wants to maximize potential, they can be featured on Thursday nights on ESPN2, and still be seen on Versus on Monday and Tuesday.
CBC can still keep its national broadcasts of games throughout Canada, but for the US audience, ESPN2 would be the go-to network for marquee hockey games on Thursday nights.
Well, those are only the first ideas that I have come up with for my campaign to be the new NHL commissioner. If you have any other thoughts you would like to see implemented, or tell me how pie in the sky unrealistic I sound, then please feel free to leave comments below. Thank you.
Paid for by Jim Neveau for NHL Commissioner
James started out for The Hockey Writers covering the Atlanta Thrashers in 2009, and has also covered the Chicago Blackhawks, served as NHL Correspondent, and is now a Managing Editor and the site’s NHL Central Blogger. He also writes for The Golf Writers.