August 26, 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 Kevin Kaduk, editor for Yahoo! Sports' baseball blog Big League Stew, contributing his list today ...
Seeing as how I’m a Blackhawk fan, I feel a bit funny suggesting the NHL needs to change anything. Over the past year, Rocky Wirtz has brought all the team’s games to television, welcomed announcer Pat Foley back into the fold and signed an honest-to- goodness difference-maker in free agent Brian Campbell. I feel like if I get too greedy and ask for more then, well, Mom and Dad are going to bring the Atari and He-Men right back to Toys 'R Us the day after Christmas.
But since it’s summer and my esteemed colleague has put together a great space-eating feature while we dream of puck, here’s the crack I’d take once I stop saying thanks.
1. Return the out- of-conference matchups to a home-and-home series. This has been an oft-repeated gripe since the advent of the unbalanced scheduled, so let’s just get it out of the way (because it’s also my biggest gripe as a Hawks season ticketholder.) Last year, we Blackhawks fans got to see Alexander Ovechkin in the flesh, but not Sidney Crosby. This year we’ll see Crosby in action, but not Ovechkin. When it comes to teams, the Montreal Canadiens, a fellow Original Sixer, have come to town exactly twice since 2002 but they won't be here in '08-'09. It’s such an easy fix and it boggles the mind that Gary Bettman wouldn’t be trying to get his best players into every building each year.
2. Stop the charade already and bring back the old division and conference names. The NHL hasn’t had a problem with bringing back throwback jerseys, so why not bring back the traditional names atop the standings? There’s no way the NHL ever attracted new fans by renaming the divisions and conferences with geography so bring back the Campbell, Wales, Norris, Smythe, Adams and Patrick titles that felt like the names of next-door neighbors to us. Hockey Blog In Canada even has the alignments all worked out, in case you were worried.
3. Invent "histories" for teams like Nashville and Columbus. Since I don’t want to poke Ted Leonsis with a stick like some people around here, I’ve come up with an alternate solution to fix part of the reason I can't fully enjoy watching the Hawks play the Blue Jackets or Predators. No matter how good each team ever gets, it’ll be hard to hate them because they’re "Nashville" and "Columbus" and not, say, Detroit or St. Louis. In a league based on rivalries that span generations, it's hard to get worked up for either team.
However, to make lemonade out of the proverbial lemons, I’m proposing to write team histories for both franchises (as well as Florida and Atlanta) so that we can just accept them as gospel and actually have someone or something to hate. For example, who can forget that immortal fight between Keith Magnuson and Nashville’s Franklin "Boots" McCarthy in '74? And what about the time Columbus dragged the Hawks to seven games in the '85 playoffs?
See how much better that makes everything? Now onto the brainwashing!
4. Two words: Pep band. As much as I like the sound of a good organ at a hockey game, I like a good pep band even more. Dancing with the horns between periods at the University of Wisconsin for four years will do that to a man. The things you learn in college.
5. Ban all hockey jerseys from stadiums except for the ones worn by the two teams playing that night. I’ve never understood the logic of people who wear a Devils or Sharks jersey to a matchup between the Hawks and Avalanche since it's basically akin to carrying an Italian flag to a U.S.-Germany soccer match. To save these poor guys from themselves, I’d like to propose a ban on any jerseys that were not worn at least once by two of the teams battling that night. Exceptions will always be made for any Whalers or Nordiques jerseys — in keeping their memory alive, you’re welcome to wear those to church on Sunday — and anyone with a BAC of more than .25.
Kevin Kaduk continues to anticipate the Blackhawks' season and the next Tampa Bay Rays tribute song with equal giddiness. Coming up on Wednesday: Blogging oracle Eric McErlain, of NHL FanHouse and The Sporting News.