How To Fix the NHL
The National Hockey League is in trouble. The lockout and the current financial crisis has strained the daily operations of the league. Some teams may even shut down.
Various decisions from the top have left the league losing its identity as a major sport in America. The hope is that the league can turn itself around.
However it will take some work in order to return the NHL to at least a level of respect from the sports world and fans throughout the country.
10. The Crease and Contact
The rules that have been modified over the last few years have become an issue. The crease rule since it inception has not had a great deal of consistency.
Case in point was last season's Western Conference Final when Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom was called for a crease violation which called off a goal when in fact he did not interfere the Stars Marry Turco.
The other issue is with the concept of contact. Nowadays a player can be called for slashing just because his stick touched the other player and that other player embellished the contact.
The rules need to be overhauled so not only is the crease rule is finalized, incidental contact and the embellishment of that contact can also be corrected so the games are not decided by penalties.
9. The Edge Jersey
Reebok holds the rights to the NHL sweater. Their Edge design has turned the jersey into a mockery of its former glory. Some of the designs are quite atrocious.
In the case of the Sharks design, the captaincy is barely legible. The funny thing is that when the Edge design first came out, there was talk that would be no alternate designs.
Yet this season, alternate designs were introduced and some these are quite hideous such as the Thrashers version which doesn't look like a hockey jersey.
However to solve these problems is not easy as the league has not shown any outrage to the designs and besides too much money has been invested in the changeover.
However one simple ascetic solution is to increase the size of captaincy letters on the jerseys. At least the leadership roles can be given their due respect.
8. The Greatest Trophy as a Prop
The players won't touch the Stanley Cup unless they have won it, yet it is okay for the NHL to have the Stanley Cup appear anywhere they can.The greatest team trophy in sports should not be used as a prop to promote a movie.
The fact that Niklas Lidstrom and Chris Osgood were brought on the Tonight Show to more or less promote "The Love Guru" rather than talk about winning the 11th Cup in team history is sacrilege.
That movie ended up being a bomb anyway. None of the other leagues would have allowed such a incident to occur.
The need for the country to pay attention to the NHL is key, however flaunting the Stanley Cup like this only degrades the league instead of boosting it.
No more deals with movies or TV shows is a start as well as only bringing the Stanley Cup around only when players from the winning team are there to do a interview.
7. The Don Cherry Rhetoric
As much as Don Cherry is a highlight of every Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, his rhetoric is a problem. His distaste for foreign players has to stop.
To criticize Alexander Ovechkin for his goal scoring celebrations has more to do with Ovechkin being Russian. Also for him to call out that someone should take Ovechkin out is crossing the line.
The image of the NHL can't afford to have Don Cherry telling players how they should treat other players because of his opinions on the matter.
No other sport has such a colorful personality and yet the same time gives him such a pass on xenophobic statements.
Sadly it seems he maybe reaching the end of his career sooner than planned if he keeps this up.
6. Behavior of the Players
Some players are not taking their hockey careers seriously.
Sean Avery has a rule named in his honor for his antics on the ice and suspended for his actions off of it.
Chris Pronger has gone from a Hart & Norris trophy winner to a headhunter during the Ducks' Stanley Cup year then suspended a year later for stepping on Ryan Kelser's leg with his skate.
Todd Bertuzzi ruined Sean Moore's hockey career due to his goon-like takedown.
Patrick Roy's sons have both been suspended for their actions during fights on their minor league teams and one of those teams was coached by Roy.
There has been talk of banning fighting in the wake of Dan Sanderson's death from a fight in the minors.
The league has an image crisis and they need to take a page from the NFL and clean it up.
A code of conduct on the ice in terms of the severity of hits and fights as and off the ice in how players represent the league.
The NHL does need the whole world to be watching...for the right reasons.
5. The NHL All-Star Game Weekend
As great as a player Alexander Ovechkin is, this is not how an All-Star Game should be held.
A trick-shot competition where scoring is not required? An all-star jersey that suspiciously looks like an NBA type of design complete with player number below the "logo".
The game was shown on Versus which not everyone receives and on a Sunday night.
The solutions are to stop goofball contests such as trick-shooting, place the game on a major TV network on a Sunday afternoon and bring back a classic style jersey so that hockey's all-star game is taken seriously again.
4. The Sidney Crosby Love Affair
Trying to put a face to the NHL is not in the best interests of the league as Sidney Crosby is only one player. He may be the most hyped player to come out Canada since Eric Lindros.
However, Alexander Ovechkin's recent tussle with him as well as being named the biggest complainer in the NHL by the players prove his status is starting to show cracks.
Since the NHL wants to be the NBA, they want to bank the league on his back so much that even though the Red Wings won their 11th Stanley Cup, the league advertises their Center Ice TV package with footage from the Finals from the Penguins perspective.
Not a good message to send if you want fans to take the NHL seriously.
The only solution is to also have advertising with the likes of Ovechkin, Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Chara to name a few. A
t least people will see that actually there are other players besides Sidney Crosby.
3. The Versus Deal
Using Versus as the primary provider of NHL games has been a big factor into why hockey is not popular.
Versus which is owned by Comcast is not available in all cable markets. The Versus coverage is Monday and Tuesday nights, which is ludicrous as Monday Night Football has a bigger viewership.
Why can't Versus show games on other nights makes no sense. NBC does show games on the weekends as well as the Stanley Cup Finals, but their coverage is aloof in that they want to hear themselves talk as opposed to actually covering the games.
Truthfully bringing back ESPN would help a lot, but ESPN covers the NBA and that deal is not ending anytime soon.
2. The Failing American Markets
The strategy to increase the popularity of the NHL by placing teams in various American cities all over the country has not worked out well at all.
Some of these new teams such as the Ducks or the Lightning have met with success.
However there are too many teams to go around. Not all of the markets such as Phoenix are financially doing well. The reality of losing a team like the Coyotes is a likely one.
The combination of the 2004-2005 NHL lockout and the state of the current economy are factors to these state of affairs.
Moving teams to Canada may be an option where at least there will be franchises that won't have to compete with the NBA, NFL or MLB for fans.
1. Garry Bettman
It starts at the top to which hockey owes its greatest problem. The struggles for identity that the league lost during the lockout have never truly recovered thanks to the Bettman regime.
The league needs a major national network for coverage besides the weekend games on NBC. Versus does not cut it as not everyone can get the network and their coverage is laughable.
The Edge uniform changes have insulted what a hockey sweater should look like.
The league needs a commissioner that is a hockey guy who can rally the fans not someone who is trying to turn the NHL into the NBA, therefore the only solution is for Gary Bettman to step down.