Where Did the Excitement Go? The Post-Lockout NHL

Rob FergusonContributor IMarch 31, 2009

NEW YORK - MARCH 30:  Goalkeeper Martin Brodeur #30 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Rangers during the game on March 30, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.  (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

I thought I was a die-hard hockey fan. However, every year I find myself being less and less compelled to watch the NHL.

It is not that I do not get excited at all, but I find myself being excited less and less.

After the lockout, the NHL brought in rule-changes to make the game higher scoring and "more interesting".

These ranged from taking out the two-line pass to not allowing the goalies to play the puck outside of a specific area.

Some of these rule changes have made the game better, but most of them resulted in what I believe a "gimmicky" product. 

One of my first significant issues is the new penalties that have been brought in.

In an attempt to make the game more "open", most contact is considered a penalty.

As soon as an opponent puts a free-hand on the puck carrier it is considered "holding".

When a stick comes into contact with an opponent, regardless of whether his movement is affected, it is "slashing" or "hooking".

As well as penalties for shooting the puck out of play while in your own end, deliberate or not.

The result is that there are games where teams are consistently getting over five minor-penalties each, and it always seems like there is one team on a power-play.

Another major qualm of mine with the new NHL is the shoot-out.

Two teams play hard for 65 minutes and the game is decided by a breakaway contest.

If they are so fun and exciting why not have them in the playoffs too?

After all, there are penalty kicks in the World Cup.

Hockey is the only sport with a different overtime procedure during the regular season than during the playoffs. This is because everyone knows the shootout is a gimmick.

Worse than that, the traditional rules that have applied to penalty shots (i.e. cannot stop, lose control of the puck, or skate backwards) have apparently been thrown out.

It is a wonder we do not see more Tuuka Rask like tantrums.

The reason these rule changes were brought in was because (apparently) scoring was down.

Low scoring is the excuse we hear when someone brings up the fact that the sport has limited mainstream appeal in the United States.

The reasons are cultural, and have nothing to do with the numbers on the scoreboard.

So, instead of trying to deal with the cultural issues of hockey in the US, they tried to tailor the game to a new market.

Assuming that rule-changes would bring about higher scoring, and broader appeal. Worse, they did not even seem to understand what caused the low scoring.

The low-scoring was due to much better goaltending, diluted talent due to continued expansion, and an emphasis on defensive strategy (eg. neutral zone trap).

None of this changes as a result of an adjustment to the rules.

Now we hear talks of such insanities as expanding the net-size. Soon they will just ban goalies and play three-on-three.

Most people have argued that the game today is faster, more skill-oriented, and more exciting.

I am arguing the game is being whistled down too often, is only higher scoring due to more power-plays, and relies on too many gimmicks.