Thursday, May 14, 2009

Saving the NHL

The following is written by David Kamoe, a life-long sports fan whose sister is a close friend. David is an avid A's fan, wen to to high school with Drew Gooden and can't believe that Giants commentator Mike Krukow used to refer to the right-centerfield expanse at Pac Bell Park as "Finley Alley," referring to Steve Finley who remarkably wore a Giants uniform for a season. David will likely be stopping by these parts a few times a month, so treat him right. And no sister jokes.

Okay, maybe “saving” is a strong word -- look at it as helping to get the NHL back on ESPN. I mean, John Saunders loves the hockey talk just as much as Barry Melrose’s cream pinstripe suit in HD does.

What follows then is a quick and dirty plan to contract and/or move teams in the NHL to take it from a thirty team league down to twenty-two teams. This is brought on by the chatter around the Phoenix Coyotes nee Winnipeg Jets filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Most people -- including interested buyer Jim Balsillie, chairman of Blackberry/Research in Motion Ltd. -- want to move the Coyotes to Hamilton, ON. As a hockey novice, but a history intermediate and a slight sports purist, I have other ideas.

Firstly, the Coyotes should be returned to the place of their birth: Winnipeg, Manitoba. The next several moves are all entirely too easy as all the following teams would be contracted: Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Atlanta Thrashers, Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and Minnesota Wild. I understand that the Kings were in the first wave of expansion in 1967, I don’t care. If it weren’t for Gretzky, nobody in L.A. would ever have cared about hockey.

To salve the wound of ripping the Wild from Minnesota, the Northstars will be returned and the Dallas Stars shall cease to exist. The general rule of thumb with NHL expansion should be this: look at the NCCA top 25 hockey standings and try to find a warm weather college. Go ahead. When you do, you can expand there. Along with the Northstars relocating back to Minnesota, the Whalers will be reunited with Hartford, the aforementioned Coyotes with Winnipeg, and the Avalanche to Quebec City.

Additionally, the NHL shall rename the Western and Eastern Conferences the Campbell and Wales Conferences respectively. You must embrace your individuality Gary Bettman. The A’s aren’t ducking the fact they wore Kelly Green, Fort Knox Gold, and Wedding Gown White. Just another Charley Finley strategy; although to be fair Charley O. also thought having a Donkey as a mascot and not paying Catfish Hunter and Reggie to stay was a good idea.

Sorry, back to the point. The most important part of the NHL makeover is getting back on ESPN. Yes, I know that ESPN runs the sports world to the point that it feels like the Red Sox and Yankees are playing every day and the only teams that matter on the West Coast are the Lakers, Dodgers, Angels, Raiders, and 49ers. That’s true. It is also true, however, that as good a job as Versus does, people are not seeking it out unless they're hockey fans. As a result, coverage of the NHL on ESPN is usually limited to ESPN news or an occasional segment with Barry Melrose’s suit (see above). The NHL needs exposure and ESPN can provide it 24/7. All it takes is a phone call and hello again “NHL2night.”


Dov said...

I think most hockey fans would agree in principle that there are too many teams in the league. But unless there is a Depression as in the 30s, the last time franchises fell like kingpins, it's not going to happen. The league expanded in the 70s when faced by the competition (sic) of the WHA and there were no Europeans coming in and few Americans. In fact it was the WHA in survival self-interest that did the spadework that led to the development of US players and they must get some credit for the Miracle in Ice in 1980. The influx of Americans plus the fall of the Iron Curtain 10 years later made it possible to staff 30 reasonably high quality teams.

But the flow of players is not going to stop. In the 70s teams had one coach, no one looking out for fitness, and the "systems" were basically improvisation. Players got to big leagues on raw talent, played like they did on the pond, and that was it. The shock of the Soviet-Canada series in 72 when they played a team from a culture with had developed set plays and patterns as in basketball changed everything and today teams have five coaches, conditioning gurus, and video reviews examining everything down how they tie their shoelaces to make sure the skates are on right.

With all these players available, if the NHL were to cut back, then someone as in the days of the WHA would come in with a new league, cut out a lot of the nonsense Bettman rules limiting the traditional beloved anything goes violence in our game, and start another league, probably in the same places the NHL abandoned.

The future is actually casting its shadow now with the Russians rolling in oil and mafia money trying to go big time. They have a way to go but if they get close, a European division will come with teams all across northern Europe and Russia, at which time the number of TV and Internet viewers for the NHL will dwarf that of the NFL.

You can't turn the clock back unless the economy collapses, which did happen. As for more teams in Canada, the problem is that if their dollar tanks again, and it seems to go up and down with oil prices, and the cost of business goes up, the teams in small market towns just don't fly. Hamilton sounds like the best bet, but then no one has ever done a serious study on that and Basillie has his hands out for government handouts as it is, and believe it or not, that's not an slam dunk among taxpayers, when the majority as everywhere are women who in the main don't follow hockey even in Canada.

Oh I think that Finley's Seals wore the same colors. That will not recommend individuality to Bettman or any other hockey fan. Try again.

GregMann said...

I couldn't disagree more with your solutions here. And i disagree also that the NHL needs to be on ESPN.

Yes the league needs to contract but 8 teams?? There is no way. And Anaheim and Dallas both get fans at every game. More so than NBA teams. The NHL actually outdraws the NBA per game.

The other teams I won't argue TOO much about but it isn't going to happen.

As for getting back on ESPN...why is that so important? Were non-hockey fans watching when it was there before? NO..that's why they left. Personally as a hockey fan I am happy it is on Versus. We get to see just about every playoff game and get regular games every week during the season. If they go back to ESPN we won't get to see near as many games because of their deals with the NFL (monday nights), nba, and mlb. And then you add to that college football and basketball and they don't have air time to give the nhl more than 1 or 2 games a week even in the postseason.

I do agree with the old division names and like I said contraction would be good. Optimum in my opinion would be 4 teams but I would even accept 2. Florida, Phoenix, Atlanta, and Nashville should go.

And Winnipeg is not a big enough town for an NHL team.

GMoney said...

Columbus is a good hockey town. They have good attendance that is only going to get better with an up and coming team. Go fuck yourself for insinuating that my Jackets should go away.

HM said...

There are two things that people will always find on a blog and criticize:

-- any suggestion that the NHL has too many teams and should contract

-- any statement that soccer is "dull" or "stupid."

#1 will be met with a very lengthy reasoned reply. #2 will be met with a statement that you are an ignorant jackass and too dumb to understand soccer.

You got #1.

Folks -- maybe, just maybe, the post here is sarcastic? It suggested contracting the Wild and giving us back the North Stars! The post calls for the return of the Hartford Whalers and wants the conferences renamed!

Come on, I know you love hockey, but have a sense of humor. If someone suggested moving the NBA should move the Clippers back to Buffalo and require all rosters to be 50% white, I might understand it is a joke.

BocaWayne said...

I agree with most of what you're proposing. I think there should be a bylaw that at least one-third of NHL teams be located in Canada. And for godsakes get hockey out of the desert and off the beach. It's a cold weather sport meant for cold weather climates and the national sport of Canada. The secret is to be better, not bigger. Maximize your strengths! The NHL is wasting its time trying to turn Nicaraguan immigrant kids in Miami onto hockey (who can't wait for the session to end so they can go out and play soccer) while neighborhood rinks in upstate New York are falling apart. Bettman has been a disaster. You can't turn the NHL into the NBA - the demographics and cultures of the leagues could not be more different. Will somebody please put Bill Clement and Gary Thorne back together in a national broadcast booth? Say what you will about ESPN's hockey coverage, but even their fourth team of Dave Ryan and Neil Smith was solid. That's good hockey coverage. That much said, hockey has always been a tough sell on TV. People complain that they can't see the puck, and those long intermissions between periods are deadly. To summarize, the NHL must play to its strengths and accept its limitations.

BocaWayne said...

Me again - just another quick thought. While the economics of returning teams to their original small market cities may or may not work today, I certainly understand the pull of nostalgia in this case. The NHL was never better than during the mid to late 1980s, when 21 teams in cities like Hartford, Quebec City and Winnipeg duked it out with the original 6, scoring and defense were in perfect balance and the Gretzky-Messier Edmonton dynasty was at the zenith of its glory. And having teams in places like Quebec City was one of the things that gave the league its charm. It all ended with the scandalous trade of Gretzky to LA, the onset of the clutch and grab era in the '90s and, of course, the mindless quest for a "national marketing footprint" that took the sport to absurd Sun Belt locales. But yeah, those 1980s seasons should definitely be the model for saving the NHL.

viagra online said...

Nothing can save the NHL form the ruin and the shity attitude of all it's players, what a sad situation.

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