Monday, July 18, 2005

The NHL is Back!

Hey, what's up...

A few people have asked me what I think of the NHL coming back. I love hockey, and the NHL's return is cause for great celebration. I look forward to watching games again...that is, if someone with a national television station wants to put up any money to broadcast the games. Sheesh.

The rule changes seem okay, for the most part. Fans of the game in the Carolinas, Texass, Florida and Arizona (all two of them) and television executives are begging for more scoring. And granted, I wouldn't mind seeing Sakic, Jagr, Gaborik and company scoring 60-plus goals a year with regularity. Who doesn't love offense in hockey? Taking out the red line might be a good idea, because it could speed up the game. Shrinking goalie pads? Okay, I suppose. Calling obstruction? A worthy effort.

But shootouts??? Give me a break. When entire seasons can be won or lost on a single wrist shot, the game of hockey breaks down. For all time, hockey has been a team game. Did Howe and Gretzky do all that scoring by themselves? How do you think the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s won all those Cups? Shootouts would produce some immediate, cheap thrills, and may give home crowds more to cheer about a few nights a year. But it could have as much of a damaging effect on the game long-term as any major rule change in history. And seriously - do you think the 2003 Wild, a team that went to the Western Conference finals, would have even made the playoffs if they were facing penalty shots against the likes of Tkachuk, Modano, Forsberg and the great shooters of the West one out of every three or four games? I doubt it.

Also, offense is made to be defended, and defense wins championships. Do you honestly think that hockey coaches will turn a blind eye and allow their defense to give up more goals per game? The truly bright coaching minds in the league will continue to earn their salaries and devise schemes to counteract the rule changes. Who knows what they'll come up with, but like the advent of the Jacques Lemaire neutral zone trap (that won the 1995 Cup for the Devils), something's bound to change.

Bring on the NHL - I've missed it. Just don't make it so those wonderful hockey-playing Canadians don't recognize their national sport anymore.

2 comments:

twinatic said...

To play devil's advocate, how excited can you be after leaving a game that ends in a 1-1 tie?

I think the thing that's going to help out hockey the most is three years down the line, when after all the reconstruction of the financial system is done, and the teams that were really struggling (read: any expansion team that shouldn't have been created in the first place) finally cash in their chips and close shop, or better yet, GO BACK UP TO CANADA.

As for the national TV coverage, I honestly don't have a big problem with the way its going to be this season. Sure, it'd be cool to see some of the out of state teams play, but for me their's only two teams that matter to me: The Sabres (don't ask me why, I just have liked them since I was a kid) and the Wild, and I wasn't able to see Sabre games in the old system, so the lack of national TV coverage doesn't effect me one bit. I know it effects the owners some, but maybe this'll put more pressure on them to pay attention to the local fans and not worry about the larger markets.

I can't wait for hockey to begin, though...it should be fun seein' them back on the ice again!

Sports Ace said...

Thanks. I agree that more scoring would be a good thing. I just don't want any rule changes to compromise the time-honored traditions and hallmarks of the game. Granted, everything needs to change and adapt or it dies off. But hockey can change and still remain hockey. That is my hope for the game as it resumes this fall.

And yes, it would have been great if the NHL never expanded to those warm-weather cities. But they did, and now that teams are there, closing them up will be very difficult. Cutting 4-5 teams would require cutting 80-100 player jobs, and I have to believe that the player's union would fight this to the death. It could create an even larger standoff than the issues that caused the lockout. This is all speculation at this point, but I would expect the NHL to view that as a last resort to keeping the league going. But then again, business is business, and if you can't keep the lights on you have to close up. We'll see what happens!