NHL Fans: Gary Bettman needs to be replaced. Here is the man to do it, George Kurtz! Here’s his five suggestions for improving the game.
I love hockey and if you’re reading this column then odds are you do also, but that doesn’t mean the game couldn’t be better. There aren’t too many actual on-ice rules I would change, it’s more the short-term thinking of the owners. No matter how much you or I love the NHL, it has nowhere near the popularity of the NFL (who does), MLB, or NBA. There are many reasons for that, but the game could be better.
1. Olympics: The decision not to participate in the Olympics this season is both short-sighted and just not very smart. While it’s true that the International Olympic Committee wasn’t willing to give the NHL the financial incentives to participate, that alone is not reason enough for the NHL to pass on what is the biggest advertisement for their game. Yes, the 17-day break during the middle of the schedule at a time when the NHL and NBA have the sports world to themselves isn’t ideal, but now they don’t have a showcase event that will bring in new fans. Both sides should have realized that the fans who were watching Olympic hockey normally don’t. The NHL has lost a way to attract the next generation of fans and the IOC lost the best players in the world playing in what might have been their most popular event in the Winter Olympics. A compromise should have been found. Instead, each side called the other’s bluff.
2. Not enough goal scoring: The NHL hasn’t adapted to human evolution. The ice surface has been the same pretty much since the game began. The size of the net hasn’t changed either. What has changed? Human beings. As a whole, we are bigger, faster, and stronger than we were 20-30 years ago more or less 75 years ago. Goalies and their equipment have gotten bigger, they cover more of the net without trying. Americans like goal scoring. We like highlight plays. Hockey just doesn’t have enough. The NHL ice surface should be expanded to the size of international rinks to accommodate the size and speed of today’s player. This will never happen, as the construction costs and loss of priority seating would be enormous, but it’s what needs to be done. The size of the net, currently 6’x4’ should also be extended. Would adding 3” all around really hurt? Sure it’s not a nice even number anymore, but baseball survives with the pitching mound being 60’6”.
3. Eliminate the trapezoid: The NHL put this rule in because there were a few goaltenders (Martin Brodeur) who would come out of the net and play the puck just like a defender and thus ruin and change of a dump and chase. Why are they penalizing a skill? Now they are only allowed to play the puck in a certain area behind the net. This is just idiotic to me. Very few goaltenders know how to play the puck, and most are actually horrendous at it. Wouldn’t allowing the goalie to come out of the net to try and flip the puck out actually add to the offense? If he’s good at it, well than his team can go on the attack and if he’s bad at it, well that’s a giveaway and the cage is now unguarded.
4. Current point system: One of the best things the NHL ever did was get rid of ties. I don’t love the shootout, I would prefer the games to be decided without what is essentially a skill competition but it’s better than a tie game (sister kisser). What I don’t like is that teams play for overtime at the end of regulation. Why? Because each team is awarded a point automatically should they get there. This goes against all sports logic. There should be a winner and a loser. The loser should not get a participation point. I would prefer that the team that wins in regulation get three points. If they win in overtime, they get two points. If they win in the shootout, they get only one point. It’s really not all that hard.
5. Playoff system: The current system of the Top 3 teams in each division making the playoffs followed by two wildcards never seemed to be a good idea. The NHL will tell you it promotes divisional rivalries and while this may be true, it also promotes teams to lose at the end of the season in order to ensure that the playoff bracket they end up in is easier to navigate. We have seen this in each of the past two seasons where losing games at the end was more beneficial to winning, as the NHL also doesn’t reseed after each round. The division winners should get the first two seeds and then the next best six teams from either division follow. This would ensure that teams play hard all season and also ensure that the best teams actually make the playoffs.
You can find me on Twitter, @georgekurtz