NHL Makeover: 10 Simple Steps to Improve the Game

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NHL Makeover: 10 Simple Steps to Improve the Game
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
Gary Bettman is among the least popular commissioners of any sport

There may be no more dysfunctional league than the NHL. This is the reason Gary Bettman has had a hard time selling the game to the United States.

It certainly is not for a lack of trying. His efforts are why he probably needs a police escort in a Canadian city. And he probably does not trust the Mounties much either, because they are almost certainly Canadian hockey fans.

Some of this is warranted. There are his approvals of questionable American owners in questionable American markets while more solid Canadian owners and markets are rejected. His alignment proposal forced the one conference with the most Canadian teams to do the most travel.

Some will also point out more coincidental occurrences: No Canadian teams have won the Stanley Cup since his 18th week on the job in 1993, and only three of the last 16 finalists have been Canadian.

Despite all three coming in the last seven seasons, some in the Vancouver Canucks organization are convinced that played a part in the officiating last season. However, those who buy into a conspiracy theory rarely consider its unlikelihood given the number of people who have to remain silent.

Besides lagging behind the American economy for years, many Canadian franchises have been poorly run. Toronto and Montreal repeatedly make mistakes not seen outside of New York in the United States, Ottawa has been on the brink of bankruptcy and never had sufficient goaltending and every other team has made it to the Finals.

Moreover, not all of what Bettman has done has been bad. While purists like me hate that games are decided on skills competitions like shootouts, that has been good for the game. The Winter Classic has been great for the game. The league has gotten out in front of the concussion issue.

But there are so many more very simple things that could be done to make hockey more than a fringe sport...

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