August 08, 2008
Every weekday in August, Puck Daddy presents "5 Ways I'd Change the NHL," in which a cross-section of sports media and hockey personalities offer solutions, suggestions and absurdities to remake the League to their liking. We're thrilled to have Mike Ross, a wickedly entertaining host on XM Radio's NHL Home Ice (Ch. 204), contributing his list today.
By Mike Ross
We have a great game. I truly believe hockey is the greatest sport out there. But it's a sport that is fighting a tough battle in the United States, going up against marketing machines like the NFL, NASCAR and MMA.
So what can be done to attract new fans to the NHL and make it a more entertaining product? Here are five of my ideas:
1. Free exhibition games. I know some teams have either entertained the idea of this concept, while some have acted on it; but given the high cost of tickets these days and seeing how many families cannot afford to go to NHL games, it might be nice to throw them a bone and a couple of free exhibition games. I also think that the only way to get a non-fan to become a true fan is to have them attend a game and see the speed of hockey up close and personal. What better way to hook a fan than to give them their first taste for free and then turn them into paying customers.
2. More autograph sessions. I don't know about you, but when I was young, I loved being able to get up close to a sports hero and get an autograph. Just a little sign that I was that close to my favorite player. Now, along the way, it's become a business. And I get that. So if you have to attach certain conditions to an autograph session, I understand. But there is nowhere near enough fan-player interaction and that is something I'd like to see a little more of.
3. More communication from officials. One of the things I love most about the NFL is how officials communicate their calls with the fans and explain each call. I like that the NHL mic's up their refs, but I also think that for the benefit of many fans, it would be a good thing for officials to give a brief explanation of their calls.
4. Ban the composite stick. I know they are popular -- I use one myself -- but there is nothing as frustrating as watching a guy's stick snap like a twig when taking a point-to-point pass. It creates ridiculous scoring chances and ticks me off to no end. All wood, all the time.
5. Finally, I have to address jerseys. My blood just boils when I see someone at a game involving two teams and they are wearing the jersey of a third team, not involved in the contest. So you're at Kings-Ducks game and some doofus shows up wearing a Flyers jersey ... it's just wrong and such fans should not be permitted to continue this ridiculous practice. (Ed. Note: And what happens if this guy shows up?!)
Mike Ross has a fondness for playing golf, drinking wine and smoking cigars. (Eh, two out of three ain't bad.) On Monday at noon-ish: Ross Bernstein, author of the "The Code" and other hockey-related books.