First of all, let’s start with a disclaimer.
This article is an opinion of one hockey fan who has (reluctantly, on Versus and NBC) watched nearly every game on TV.
(Thank god the NHL hates Detroit so I could still watch an occasional game on FSN with real hockey calling with Mickey Redmond thru the first 2 series.)
This is in no way a professional opinion, but it should be.
1. Continually over-advertising certain players.
Has the NHL's marketing team realized yet that maybe five people outside of Pittsburgh like Crosby? Yeah, sure—they have recently given Ovechkin some love, but that's only because he was in the same series as Crosby.
I've heard Datsyuk's name more times in the past few days because of his injury than the rest of the season. Marian Hossa was mentioned every time he got on the ice for Pitt—now that he's wearing red, bah-humbug.
Before the Detroit-Anaheim series I wanted to see more Getzlaf, but now he's just another flash-in-the-pan a la Bertuzzi and Lindros. The NHL could be doing so much better with better marketing.
2. Denying its major problems.
We all know that the officiating has been horrendous (at times, to be P.C.—the rest of the time they are doing the right thing by doing nothing). At least that's been consistent throughout most of the major sports.
However, at times it looks like the referees are trying to get their names on the Stanley Cup by siding with one team.
I can't remember which game or who did it, but I watched Hossa and one Duck go behind Hiller, the Duck grab Hossa, and pretty much do a swinging German suplex into the boards while Hossa had the puck. Result? No call.
Do I even need to bring up the "quick whistle" in Game Three as well? How about the interference call on Hudler when he got tripped and slid into Hiller unintentionally?
I'm not saying Detroit didn’t get away with a few, and I’m not saying Detroit is/was the only team getting the raw end of the stick. What I'm trying to say is that instead of the NHL and Gary Bettman hindering commentators and journalists first amendment rights, they should fix what the aforementioned people—and hockey fans everywhere—have been complaining about.
Wouldn't it be a great publicity piece if the NHL was the first major sport to radically change how its officiating is officiated? That would be the best publicity the NHL has given/done for itself since Wayne Gretzkey first stepped into a hockey arena.
3. No media strategy.
Bettman, get some face time or step down. The only person/people I've seen less of that run a major sport/sport franchise were Matt Millen and William Clay Ford Sr.—and that's far from a compliment. Perhaps, Bettman would get face time if NHL wasn't on a channel that was once called "the Outdoor Channel."
And here’s an idea to save money—fire the Versus and NBC commentators! How about using one commentator from each team in the playoffs? I, for one, have had enough of watching Detroit play whoever and listening to whatever other teams star get a metaphorical butt massage with a reacharound from Mike Emrick every game. Third and fourth liners from either team never get mentioned unless they score or no one else is on the ice.
While listing the injuries to Detroit, Draper, Ericcson, and Kopecky were not mentioned, but Datsyuk and Lidstrom were. After Frazier's two great chances for Chicago, I don't believe I heard his name the rest of the game.
One last thing about the commentators. The only people watching NHL on Versus already know about the game and its rules, I highly doubt hockey being on Versus has brought any new people to the game, since no one watches that channel except when hockey's on or when they have a cage fight worth watching.
So please for my sanity, call the game with clarity, and stop acting like penalties didn't happen just because the ref didn't raise his hand.
This is just my opinion on a multitude of problems that one sport faces but is a challenge for most, if not all the major sports. So until they are fixed, i'll just have to sit back and enjoy with a grain of salt.