Friday, August 20, 2010
Thankfully, the new rules implemented after the lockout helped quicken the pace of the game and made a much more entertaining product. HD TV has certainly helped as well. If this was around in the mid-90s there wouldn’t be a need for a glowing red puck. Despite the great strides the NHL has made to create a better product there are still some tweaks that I’d like to see implemented.
On Wednesday and Thursday the NHL held a research and development camp which examined some potential tweaks to make NHL hockey better. Some absolutely need implementation right this second (hybrid icing where it’s no-touch icing unless the attacking forward gets to the face-off dot first), while others shouldn’t even be considered (no icing the puck while short-handed).
None of these changes are revolutionary, but all have the potential to make hockey a better sport. But what are some things that could make hockey more fun. What types of changes can we make to create a better overall fan experience?
Some are pretty outlandish (I’m talking about you #4).
Here are ten ways the NHL can make watching hockey more fun.
10. Bring back the organists
Most (some?) arenas still employ an organist, but they are severely neglected. There’s no need to play the latest Black Eyed Peas hit at games. This isn’t a 14-year-old girl’s slumber party, it’s a hockey game. Just let the organist rock tunes like ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ (or something, I don’t know what you play on the organ). Just play NHL ’94 (best year, bar none) and listen to how awesome the atmosphere of the game is when the organist starts ripping it. If you must play pop music during game breaks then make sure it’s played on the organ. Poker Face organ styles? Yes, please.
9. Remove goalies’ water bottle holders
Remember when a top-corner snipe was punctuated by a water bottle being launched from the top of the net? Well, it rarely happens now because they’re nestled comfortably in little holders that sit atop the net. Are we trying to protect the goalie’s feelings? If you let someone go top-cheese then you should feel embarrassed. And the flying water bottle just shows everyone just how badly you were beaten.
8. Team specific goal songs
We must stop allowing every team to use that Zombie Nation song after their goals. We have to decide who owns it? Is it the Leafs? Maybe. Likewise, no other team in the NHL should be allowed to use ‘ole, ole, ole’, it’s clearly the Canadiens at this point (at least in hockey).
It’s best if the song is picked from a band actually from each city. Detroit could play Search and Destroy by the Stooges after every goal or New Jersey could rock Badlands by Springsteen. That seems like it would make more of a connection between team and city (something sorely lacking in the game). More civic pride.
Or teams can get creative and make their own goal song. Some of the best goal songs are the ones made specifically for their teams. The Rangers have a great goal song because it’s a good pump up track and it gets the fans involved (second place goes to the Hawks whose song is utterly catchy and severely demoralizing for opposing teams). There needs to be more soccer-style chanting in hockey. The fans need to get more creative. Let’s do this.
Oh, also more Europe please. The Final Countdown is an excellent album. For serious.
7. Cheap beer nights in southern U.S. markets
Having trouble getting fans out to your games? Try a few cheap beer nights every month and you’ll have fans flock to the arena. Once people are inside the arena and become properly plastered they’ll see why hockey is so great. First, seeing hockey in person is far superior to watching hockey on TV and watching any sport drunk is great. Plus, the energy level from a building filled with thousands of drunken men (and women!) will be enormous. And if there’s a fight on the ice then you’ll have fans for life. Or maybe this will just end in a riot like anytime this has ever been tried in the history of sports.
6. Fire/Ban the game’s defensive coaches
I’m speaking specifically about Jacques Lemaire, Jacques Martin, and Claude Julien. You can throw in anyone who has coached the Devils in the last 10 years (I’ll exclude Pat Burns from this group, just because). If you preach a totally laid back (read: boring) defensive style then you’re out. Banned for life. If you preach a swarming, intense forecheck style of defence then you can stay. That’s still fun. Coaches must allow their teams to stay aggressive for the whole game. If you built your 3-1 lead playing aggressively through two periods then you better keep it up in the third. Any hint of anything trap like and you’re also getting fined. Boom!
During Paul Maurice’s brief stint with the Leafs he decided to coach a run-and-gun style offense. The only problem was this was the talentless Leafs and not the Washington Capitals. They lost a lot, but it was certainly exciting. Storming back within the last few minutes only to snatch defeat from victory’s clenched jaw. If your team sucks then live a little, play recklessly.
5. Relocation/ Vegas, baby
Relocate three teams back to Canada (Winnipeg, Quebec City, and Hamilton/Toronto) where they belong. Relocate another to Las Vegas. The Vegas team will allow gambling to go on during the games. You can place bets on every sort of thing possible. Over/under for shots, goals, saves, fights; head-to-head player matchups (who gets more goals, points, etc); the winner of the quick minor hockey games that go on during intermission. People would get into it. As long as you have snow then you can keep your team, otherwise I don’t care which four teams get moved. Sorry, southern states. I know some of you like hockey, but not enough. Move to Minnesota.
4. The goalie is fair game once he leaves the crease
This one certainly will never be implemented. It's included because of Carey Price’s adventure outside his crease which led to a near fight with Cam Janssen last season. If the goalie leaves the net to play the puck he's fair game (obviously, the same rules that apply to hitting players will apply to hitting goalies). This will make dump-ins much more exciting. Are you telling me you aren’t rooting for this to happen anyways? Goalies will have to decide whether they have enough time to play the puck before getting hit, or whether they better just stay in the crease. Plus, seeing a goalie lay a check on a player would be crazy - definite crowd pleaser. If Ron Hextall was still around he’d love this rule. Another positive of this is that it will increase scoring opportunities since goalies won’t play the puck as much.
3. Hockey Champions League
Just like in European football. The best professional teams from Canada, USA, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia, Switzerland, Germany, and the United Kingdom compete in a tournament at the conclusion of the hockey year. You might think that the team from Canada or the USA would walk all over the competition, but I’m not entirely sure after an excruciating playoff run that leaves the roster battered.
I’m not set on the countries that should send teams, but I think it would be fun to watch. I’m trying to watch as much hockey as humanly possible, don’t crush my dreams.
2. Inter-sport Trading
Making this work would be a little tough, but basically all major North American sports leagues should be able to trade together. This gives a clear advantage to cities with multiple sports franchises, but those are the better cities anyways.
For example, the Toronto Blue Jays want to trade home run leader Jose Bautista but don’t think the return from any MLB team will be enough. The hypothetical New York Yankees want him and are willing to trade a couple of prospects, but nothing off their roster. Thankfully, in this scenario sports team represent their cities, so the New York Rangers are willing to throw in a couple of draft picks for the Toronto Maple Leafs to make sure the deal gets done. The city of New York wants to keep their baseball dominance alive and the city’s sports teams pull together to make it happen. Different salary caps in different sports would certainly make these trades difficult, but we’ll hire some savvy capologists.
1. Fire Gary Bettman