Aug 13, 2000
One must have the wisdom to abandon the trends of a time that has passed and pick out the ones of the future. The "old-time" fans of this great game that we play on ice seem unwilling to accept this. I believe that a couple of changes will endear themselves to millions of new fans across the world and the US. As it is right now the hockey games are in a word... boring. Trap, clutch, grab and then dump the puck in the offensive zone. It's a cycle that has grown painstakingly common in the NHL. The NHL front office is too often blind to the fact that this is growing more and more popular among NHL coaches who just simply put want to win. At all costs. Who cares if you have 75 percent of the crowd sleeping during games? Well, I do.
If the NHL wants to become more popular with your average fan then you have to make changes. There are a few that I believe would increase scoring and thus make games more exciting. The first would be to make the team possessing the puck's blue-line the icing line and not center ice. Too often in the past few seasons a team has wanted to make a line-change and a player would inadvertently dump the puck into the offensive zone too early (when he's behind the center-ice line). That slowed the game down to a snails pace that wasn't exactly too exciting to me. I'm sure many of you will agree.
The second change is to get rid of the current offsides rule (which also slowed the game down way too much) and give the referee the power to decide if there's a "cherry-picker". Last year if a player was offsides by a couple of inches then the play would be blown down for yet another minute or two. The new offsides rule that I proposed would also take away a crutch that teams use such as St. Louis, New Jersey and Dallas by forcing opponents offsides. It's a strategy that will do nothing but bad for the NHL and the quality of the games played.
Raising the draft age to 20 from the current age of 18 would insure that more quality players are drafted. How so you say? Well for one it would allow the teams scouts to fully evaluate them and it would give them more player history to base opinions on. It would also give players more time to grow and develop into young men. Raising the quality of NHLers instead of the quantity would increase the quality of the games being played. The draftees would be more likely to jump right in and help cash-strapped teams that can't trade for big-name players and can't sign free agents.
I know the majority of you "old-time" fans won't like this idea but put in the shoot-out after the OT in the regular season. The "team concept" may be taken away but it's always popular in the all-star game and in the IHL. The penalty shot is the most exciting time in a game (besides a fight of course) and sadly both don't happen enough. While we are on the topic of fighting...loosen up on the "no violence" campaign that the NHL is preaching!!! Get rid of the instigator rule too. It's ridiculous. You don't see anybody leaving the seats when two ruffians drop the gloves do you? I sure don't. There's nothing wrong with fighting and the instigator rule basically puts handcuffs on enforcers trying to protect teammates. You can't fight the battle against stick-work and dirty plays when you have one hand tied behind your back and you're second-guessing your actions.
Those are just a few of the changes that I would have in mind if I were commissioner Gary Bettman. There are a few more that have been bandied around but I mentioned the ones that I think would have the most significant impact on the game. Whether or not that impact is good or bad remains to be seen. But knowledge isn't exactly wisdom so the league needs to quit saying to themselves "We know this won't work so don't even try it". That's just being narrow-minded.
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