Early in this season, the NHL has already had plenty of excitement. Teams like Dallas and Washington have emerged as potential contenders, the Central division has playoff-quality hockey on a nightly basis and a coaching job has already been lost prompting the return of always entertaining John Tortorella.
Nonetheless, the group of out of touch suits in Toronto and New York, led by Gary Bettman and always looking to shake things up, have bemoaned a statistical lack of scoring. With typical disregard for tradition and the die-hard fan base that makes the game so unique, there are a host of awful ideas for the annual changes that alter record books and alienate those of us who have grown up watching and loving the sport as it is currently played.
With scoring in the cross-hairs yet again there are no two line passes to eliminate or trapezoids to add, two surprisingly nice additions from the last war for scoring. Instead, asinine ideas such as making the goals bigger, the goalie pads smaller or attempting to increase power plays have been among the rumored suggestions.
Where to start? First and foremost, these alterations will lead to an unwanted and unnecessary adjustment period along with changes in playing style stemming from changes in the pads and goals that many players have been using since mite, novice or hockey 3 and 4 depending on where they grew up. The impact on goalies will quite obviously be the most severe and many fans enjoyed watching Hasek, Brodeur and Roy excel a decade ago and are equally impressed and mystified watching Lundqvist, Price and Quick. Some of their saves are so spectacular that ESPN begrudgingly features them in the Top 10.
As far as increased penalties it is both unrealistic and suspect to expect referees to suddenly make more calls. If you look at the frustration over handcuffing of NFL defenses you can see what a forced penalty increase would look like. Fans want players deciding outcomes not zebras. Furthermore, one of hockey’s most appealing attributes is the fluid nature of the sport and with whistles sounding more regularly that will likely be lost.
This latest round of buzz seems like another piece of the Bettman doctrine which has pursued the mythical new fan who lives in the south and didn’t grow up watching hockey but is somehow going to become a die hard Coyotes fan because of more scoring. The problem with that thinking is not the industrious spirit of wanting to grow the game but the neglect for the existing passionate puck heads who give the sport its beautiful cult following.
Certain well thought out changes are necessary in all modes of business but in the last decade we have seen three different forms of overtime, changes in goalie pads, the removal of two line passes and the crease rule as well as the addition of the trapezoid among other things.
For devil’s advocate, I think to the MLB and their reluctance to add instant replay. Sure, it was fairly obvious the game would benefit and is a nice addition but there is something to be admired in the league office’s resolute commitment to tradition and the sanctity of the game.
We all want to see hockey improve and it is always good for the league to see more profits and new fan bases. However, the existing fans should take precedent and as of late, under Bettman, they seem to be taken for granted.
My name is Jason Bisnoff and I am a native New Yorker and currently work for the International New York Times. I have been published in the New York Daily News, Albany Times-Union, Metroland, The Nabe, Florence Magazine, 219 Magazine and previously did hockey writing for Hockey This Week.