In January of 2008, the Hockey News put out a challenge to its readers—what would you do if you were the Commissioner of the National Hockey League?
The following is my response:
- Contraction: say good-bye to Nashville and Florida. 28 teams are still too many, but it's a start.
- Dissolve divisions altogether, leaving two conferences only. The top eight teams would still make the playoffs.
- Atlanta Thrashers move to Winnipeg and join the Western Conference.
- Detroit Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference.
- Regular season begins in mid-September, ends in early April.
- Five pre-season games per team, with each team playing one game in a neutral-site city (ie. Seattle, Houston, Hamilton etc.).
- Am 82-game regular-season schedule—each team plays their 13 conference opponents four times each, and a home-and-home series with the 15 other teams in the other conference.
- Zero points for losing! Two points for a regulation win, and one point for a win in either overtime or a shootout.
- Don Cherry is fired, and Ron MacLean becomes a fan of hockey—not just the Toronto Maple Leafs.
- Games televised on ESPN, Versus, and NBC.
- Blackout policy abolished, so that, for example, an Oilers fan in Ontario can watch an Edmonton game on Sportsnet West.
- A hanging-wire camera system over the ice, similar to what the NFL has for their field.
- Put a microphone on every player, and play the good stuff (read: family-friendly AND entertaining) at the end of each commercial break.
- Bring back the goaltender camera.
- A radar gun to clock how fast the puck is shot from the point.
- No-touch icing rule adopted.
- Visors made mandatory via grandfathering process.
- Shootouts extended to five shooters a side. All skaters must take off helmet before shooting. A camera man will be on ice level, skating nearby for the up-close shots.
- Goalie equipment shrunk by 20 percent, and/or custom-fitted in every area except skates and helmet.
- Players must stay in the penalty box for the full length of the penalty, even if the other team scores.
- "No-trade/movement" clauses can no longer be written into contracts—effective immediately!
- Random drug testing throughout the calendar year, not just during the season.
- Hits-to-the head policy adopted, mirroring the OHL.
- Any player guilty of applying two dangerous hits from behind is automatically suspended five games. Each additional incident caused by a player tacks on 10 more games to subsequent suspensions.
- Teams are held accountable for their players' suspensions by losing draft picks in the upcoming draft. A 5-10 game suspension loses a sixth-round pick, a 10-15 game suspension loses a fifth-round pick, a 15-20 game suspension loses a fourth-round pick, and so on.
- Establish a three-man independent committee—including Colin Campbell—responsible for handing out suspensions.
- The Player's Association, for once, has someone represent players injured by one of their peers.
- White jerseys for all home teams
- No rotation of team captains. Just pick one already!