Posted on: June 7, 2009 5:59 pm
One major issue that the NHL (not so surprisingly, since it's the NHL) has failed to crack down on is cheap shots, especially shots to the head and equipment (mainly sticks) being used as weapons. Not only is this a major issue involving player safety, but it's an issue that affects the bottom line for the league, as they could see a loss of attendance or TV ratings if a star player is injured and misses a large amount of time.
The incidence of these cheap shots has gone up in the 15 or so years of the Bettman Era; out of the 10 longest suspensions in NHL history, 9 have been on his watch, and all of them for illegal hits or flat-out vicious attacks. I personally think that rules enacted to cut down on fighting have played a major role in the increase in goonism (see my last post), as the players who are delivering these cheap shots are not facing retribution from the other team's enforcer nearly as much as in the past due to rule changes like the instigator penalty (which needs to go NOW), and the third-man-in rule.
The NHLPA, while in favor of opening up the fighting rules so that players can police the games themselves, have told the NHL that they want an outright ban on blows to the head, but the league's GMs have refused to address the issue. Toronto GM Brian Burke said that there is "no appetite for an automatic penalty". Some of them feel that it would take some of the physical side of the sport.
While there will always be instances where a player is unfortunately injured on a clean hit, where he just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the league NEEDS to cut down on the intentional shots above the shoulders. You can't allow goons to be headhunting other players (or running at their knees, or using their sticks as weapons, etc.), especially while you're tying the hands of the enforcers and preventing them from doing their job of protecting their teammates.
The NHL should remove the instigator rule and ban intentional shots to the head. If it's incidental contact (wrong place, wrong time, or the player recieving the hit moves at the last second and inadvertantly puts himself in harm's way, cases like that), then no penalty should be issued to the player delivering the hit. If the player goes at his opponent with an intent to injure (aims for his head, skates leave the ice, etc.), then that player needs to be fined and/or suspended. The league's players need to be protected from these acts of goonism.
Posted on: May 28, 2009 11:43 pm
One of the critical problems facing the NHL today is the instability of certain franchises, the vast majority of which are teams that were part of the late-90s expansion or relocated during that era. The biggest issue facing the NHL right now in this area is the Phoenix Coyotes.
But the Coyotes are just the poster child for problem franchises in the NHL. There are several other franchises in trouble.
The once-proud New York Islanders have been struggling with attendance for the past decade, finishing near or at the bottom of attendance during that time. They have also been in a struggle to replace Nassau Colisseum with a new arena. Several plans have been proposed, but nothing has happened as of this point. The Atlanta Thrashers, one of the late-90s expansion teams, has, with the exception of a few years in the middle of this decade, struggled to produce a winner. They have also been plagued with ownership problems, to the point where the owners are in court to see who has the right to buy out who. The troubles of another of the late 90s expansion teams, the Nashville Predators, began before the team even took the ice. Founding owner Craig Leopold had to deny rumors that the team would be relocated before ever playing a game when they only sold 6000 of the 12,000 season tickets the NHL required. They even got Nashville to pay over 30% of the $80 million expansion fee to the NHL, as well as cover any operating losses from their arena. In May 2007, Leopold agreed to sell the team to Balsillie. This deal fell through when Balsillie, who had told Leopold that he'd keep the team in Nashville, started selling season tickets for the Hamilton Predators. The team instead was sold to Boots Del Biaggio, a venture capitalist who has since filed for bankruptcy, and a group of buyers based in Nashville. The team also has a buyout clause in place with Nashville, which allows them to pay a modest (compared to Phoenix's lease) $20 million buyout to Nashville if the team loses at least $20 million and fails to average 14,000 per game attendance by the end of the 2009/10 season. Del Biaggio's financial problems has led to a federal investigation into his business dealings involving the Predators. Other teams reportedly losing money are St. Louis, Carolina, Buffalo, Florida, Washington, and Columbus.
Posted on: May 15, 2009 12:19 am
Edited on: May 16, 2009 9:23 pm
Back in the early 1990s, the NHL was poised for a breakthrough into mainstream American sports. Rappers wore hockey sweaters in their videos; the Rangers brought a lot of attention to the league by winning their first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994; the league expanded into new markets (San Jose, Tampa Bay, Ottawa, Florida, and Anaheim), and got the resulting revenue from merchandise sales for the new teams; after a short-sighted decision to abandon nationwide coverage on ESPN to go after a bigger-money contract with Sports Channel in the late 1980s, the league went back to ESPN, as well as showing a game of the week on FOX; and Sports Illustrated even ran a cover story in their June 20, 1994 issue, titled "Why the NHL's Hot and the NBA's Not". That all came to a crashing halt by the fall of 1994. The 1994-95 lockout was the league's second labor stoppage in two-and-a-half years, and cost the league half of its season. Fifteen years later, the NHL still has not recovered.
2. Fix the problem franchises like Phoenix
3. Get rid of the instigator and third-man in penalties to allow the players more leeway to police themselves, and accept that fighting allows them to do that
If i think of any other changes, i'll add them to the list.