August 22, 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 Steven Ovadia, longtime hockey blogger on Puck Update, contributing his list today ...
By Steven Ovadia
1. Move to the international rink size. In the past, I've been against this because the international rink is almost too wide. During the Winter Olympics I didn't think guys working the point could even see each other across the ice. And that kind of distance can take all the physicality out of the game. But I'm convinced the size and speed of NHL players would make the international-size rink seem smaller than it does during international play. The game would still be gritty but there would be enough room for plays to unfold, rather than everyone crashing the net. Speed and finesse might even become more of a regular occurrence.
2. Get rid of the Instigator rule. Other people have mentioned this which should show the NHL just how much of a no-brainer this is. Fighting is a part of hockey. You can't take it out of the game. And by allowing players to fight, you protect the skilled players. No one will touch a top six forward if they know it means a beatdown on the next shift. Does anyone think Sean Avery would still be alive if the NHL didn't have the Instigator rule?
3. Take charge of the local telecasts. The beauty of the Center Ice package is you get to see the local feed of any game. The horror of Center Ice is having to listen to announcers who don't seem to understand the game while trying to watch games shot by cameramen who can't quite seem to follow the play. A lot of markets have truly awful hockey telecasts that would put off a serious fan. Let's not think what this is doing for casual fans. The NHL needs to create an academy to show smaller, non-traditional American hockey markets how to properly put together a hockey telecast. The NHL treats hockey like a product; why is it often entrusting it to incompetent sales people?
4. Shrink the rosters. The Players Association will love this: Only allow teams to suit up 15 forwards/defensemen per game instead of 18. This would instantly boost the average quality of play across the NHL since the worst players would lose their jobs (except, probably, with the Toronto Maple Leafs). It would mean most, if not all, teams would roll three lines. Players would play longer, meaning there would be a greater chance of a mistake, and mistakes lead to scoring chances. Players couldn't be such specialists and would need to develop more of a two-way game. And coaches couldn't match as much because on the whole, there would be more offense on the ice on any given shift. NHL players are tremendous athletes. Let's push their limits a bit and see what happens.
5. Embrace the heater skates. The NHL has been experimenting with skates that have built-in heaters. Supposedly the heater skates allow players to skate faster. Faster is good, but can't we do better? Why not get rocket skates and really speed up the game? The technology exists. I've seen Wile E. Coyote use them hundreds of times. It's time for the NHL to catch-up. And you know what? While they have Mr. Coyote's ear, why not see if there's a way to bring anvils into the game, too.
We've been reading Steven Ovadia online for way, way too long; seriously, anyone who blogged about Mike Jefferson changing his name to Mike Danton is grizzled. Coming up on Monday: Lil' Jimmy Mirtle of the Globe & Mail.