August 20, 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 Tom Benjamin, venerable hockey blogger from Canucks Corner, contributing his list today ...
1. Fix the officiating. I know hockey is nearly impossible to referee well, I know than the best we can expect is rough justice, and I know fans have complained about the zebras from the beginning of time. It is, however, different these days. More and more we hear attacks on the integrity of the officiating -- as opposed to the competence -- among fans and in the hockey media. The perception of bias is growing.
The concern is that we are making the officials responsible for the quality of the entertainment. It appears as if calls are being made to make a game (or a series) closer or more exciting. That's beginning to stray into wrestling territory. It is not match fixing, but it is close to points shaving.
2. Get rid of revenue sharing. Like many fans, I think there are too many teams. Contraction isn't really fair to the fans in the small revenue markets and it isn't going to happen in any case. But when 90% of revenues are local, revenue sharing does not level a playing field - it props up teams that should fail. It is clear that some teams will always be in receipt of revenue sharing and some teams are behaving to maximize their revenue sharing cheque. This is good for the owners and the players, but it is not good for the fan.
It doesn't help when the Vancouver Canucks justify a ticket price increase because they have a big revenue sharing cheque to write. Why should Canuck fans pay more so that Buffalo fans can pay less?
3. Make all the games worth the same in the standings. I've reached the point that I'll support any change in this regard. My preference would be to do away with the shootout and live with ties. The other options include three points for a win in regulation or zero points for all losses. Pick one of the three and stick with it.
4. Fire Gary Bettman. I don't think his successor would be a significant improvement - the owners who hired him would not likely make a better choice next time - but Bettman's grand vision has failed, the players disrespect him and the fans despise and distrust him. Whether that's fair or not is really irrelevant. He wore out his welcome a long time ago.
5. Outlaw all media pieces titled "Five Ways I'd Change the NHL." I am in favour of improvement, so why do I wish this kind of media piece disappeared? I don't trust the league enough to make sensible changes. The game - as it is - is wildly popular in certain markets and it barely registers in others. The league never makes improvements to please those who already love the game. The league always makes changes that are designed to appeal in places where the sport isn't registering. I prefer the status quo to anything the league would define as an improvement. Until I can trust that the league really does have the best interest of hockey in mind, I think we should stop asking for improvement.
We won't get what we want. We'll get the "improvement" that Gary thinks will attract a football fan in Texas.
Tom Benjamin doesn't know this, but we received more "I can't wait for this" messages from other bloggers in anticipation of his list than nearly any other. Coming up on Thursday: Former Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Stan Neckar.