Archive for the ‘The Future of Hockey’ category

Is Parity Sustainable in a 30 Team NHL? and The NHL NEEDS to Fix the Point System

April 19, 2010

The NHL playoffs are underway and there have been multiple ‘upsets’ and some tight and exciting games in this year’s opening round.   I think it shows just how much parity there is in the league.  Yes, the Eastern Conference had a 33 point spread between the first and last placed playoff teams (an 18 point spread in the West) but the playoffs are showing that when the Cup is on the line, a 33 point spread might not mean all that much.   

In some ways, we should expect this.  With salary caps and a league that holds 30 teams, it makes sense that concentrated talent on a team, like that which was on the Edmonton Oilers of old,  is something that will be hard to build.  Add to that the AHL, from which NHL quality players (NHL quality for a 30 team league) are shuffled back and forth at will and the talent pool that the NHL utilizes is deep and broad.

This means that teams, even if they are injury riddled, can stay competitive and pickup points, until playoff time.  Then if they can stay healthy through the playoffs, expect them to make some noise, even if they don’t have the horses to make it to the Cup finals.

Is this good or bad?  In some ways it’s great for hockey but it also means that the NHL/AHL network, broad as it is, probably isn’t as Elite as we’d like to think it is.  Sure, great athletes are in the mix, but in general, it’s the teamwork that makes the teams, and teamwork doesn’t sign contracts for millions of dollars -dollars that have to be made somewhere, usually in rising ticket prices.

So, in a weird twist, even with salary caps, this huge league network may have the seeds of  becoming unsustainable because the distinguishing element of the league is not tied directly to team income.

Bizarre, isn’t it?

Speaking of bizarre (more…)

Are NHLer’s Playing in the Olympics Doing What’s Best for Hockey?

February 28, 2010

Olympic hockey has come to a close.  Canada took the Gold thanks to pure adrenalin amidst legs that were quickly tiring of 4 on 4 hockey.

Now that it’s finished I too will join the chorus of people asking: Should NHLer’s be allowed to play in the Olympics?

Short Answer: It depends.

Long Answer:

The Olympics are supposed to highlight the competition of the best; best individuals and best teams.  However, there is a phenomenon well known in sports that the best teams don’t always have the best individuals.

Throughout the various telecasts announcers made reference to how many NHLer’s were on every team, as if that on its own determined whether or not the team would be able to compete.

I don’t think anyone needs reminding that the “Miracle on Ice” team had ZERO NHLer’s on it at the time they won the Gold in Lake Placid.  Oh, sure, many of the players went on to play in the NHL, but if you could time warp this year’s US team to then, there would be no doubt that this year’s team was superior in talent. 

What’s my point?

Hockey is team sport.  If the sport is to be respected and if it’s to truly grow, it needs to continue to be connected to its roots – it needs to be a sport of passion, commitment, skill and teamwork.  What will showcase that is multiple teams competing that have played together for more than 48 hours before the Olympic tourney. Having a two week, round robin, All-Star series, however exciting, is not what hockey is all about. 

But what about the players?  They overwhelmingly want to participate and play for their respective countries. 

Why wouldn’t they?  They get a chance to compete in the Olympics and if they fail they come back to multi-million dollar contracts and a shot at the Stanley Cup. 

Alexander Ovechkin said he would walk out on his team to play in the next Olympics if the NHL didn’t suspend operations and send its players like it did this year.  I would venture that other players might do the same.

This perspective is interesting.

Ovechkin (and others like him) are basically telling their native countries: “You can work for two to four years to pull together a team but in the end, you’ll want me there anyway.”

Maybe….Maybe not.

If players in the NHL really cared about showcasing hockey in its best light, they would leave the NHL for two years and go back to their native countries, tryout for, and if they made it, work to build their respective teams in intra/inter-national competition.  That would make for some really great hockey in Sochi 2014.

Okay, so I’m polling NHLer’s: I know you all bleed to play in your native lands, to go for the Gold in the Olympics.  So I’m asking you,  how many of you will leave your NHL teams in two years, go to your Native lands and go to work to prepare for Sochi? 

Now don’t all raise your hands at the same time…I’ll wait….

New Hockey Point Proposal and AHL Goal Video Review

December 1, 2009

Let me first say, I actually like shootouts.  Yeah, I know, it’s not the best way to end the game, but it’s exciting and I like it- though I actually like the AHL’s version better with 5 shooters vs. 3.

Having said that, I don’t like the fact that losing teams come away with a point in shootout games.  Why?

Because it actually rewards a team’s lack of finishing ability. 

Let me explain.  What do you usually hear when games end regulation in a tie?

“Each team earned a point.”

Fine.  They then play 5 more minutes and each team still comes away with a point.  Therein lies the problem.

The purpose of overtime is for the team with the most guts and gumption to put away the other team.  If a team can’t do it, they don’t deserve to be rewarded with a point, especially if they lose in the pseudo-chaotic arena of the shootout (which, as I said before, I actually like).

So this is my solution: If you make it out of regulation with a tie, fine, you get a point.  But if you don’t win in OT,  both teams lose the point.  The MOST a team can then get for the game is one point.  So the breakdown is as follows:

Win in Regulation- 2 points

Tie at end of regulation – 1 point each team

Win in OT – two points total for winner, one for loser.

Tied at end of OT – Teams lose the one point they earned during regulation. Zero points for either team

Winner of Shootout – One total point for winner, none for loser.

So what do you think?  Would it make OT more exciting and make teams want to win?  Heck, teams might pull goalies in OT to get two points instead of one.

Oh, and the AHL still not video reviewing goals? A college game on tv had video review and the AHL can’t do it?  What gives?

Town Hall with Wolves’ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

February 21, 2009
Town Hall meeting Prior to Game Against Milwaukee

Town Hall meeting Prior to Game Against Milwaukee

"Chevy" Addressing a Fan's Concern of Team Inconsistency

"Chevy" Addressing a Fan's Concern of Team Inconsistency

 

I attended the Wolves TownHall meeting with GM Kevin Cheveldayoff before the Wolves played (and lost) to the Milwaukee Admirals.

The GM was extremely candid and answered all the fans questions with candor, not dodging any questions at all.

Insights (and quips) from the GM:

  • When asking his players why they play hockey at the beginning of the season, they answered, “for the money,” “because they love the sport,” etc.  The ‘correct’ answer (paraphrased) according to the GM? “I’m playing because I want to win the championship.”
  • Boris Valabik needed someone to have shot him before he’d admit to being injured.  He used Valabik as an example of how pro athletes need to know the limits of their own bodies, know when exceeding those limits would hinder play, and communicate this to the coaching staff.
  • When Mike Hoffman was recovering from his first hand injury this year and he was at the end of his healing time, he called the team doc to ask permission if he could fight in the upcoming game.  “Yes, Hoff, you can fight.”
  • Also joked that “Hoff” has a problem with breaking his hand on other player’s faces.
  • A pet peeve of his is when players miss the net on shots.
  • Believes that the AHL will stick with one referee due to cost constraints.  The times that two refs has been used is usually when a seasoned ref is paired with a rookie.
  • Players need to shoot more but it’s something that can’t be forced, players need to grow into that habit.
  • Players develop more fully when they’re on winning teams as opposed to losing teams.  Experience gained by Wolves players in the Cup run last year has helped players know what it takes to succeed and helps them deal with pressure more effectively.
  • There are players that have not performed to their expectations . The coaching staff and management noticed this and players have received a talking to.
  • He said on multiple occasions (paraphrased): “You see the same things we see, you know the game…” when discussing problems with the team’s performance. (This was nice to hear as we’ve heard players and coaches  in other sports in Chicago who don’t hesitate pointing out that the fans or the press aren’t playing and so somehow don’t know the game.)
  • Poor Special Teams have been one of the reasons for the inconsistent play.  He pointed out the importance of a good powerplay and how in some games this year he almost hoped the Wolves wouldn’t get powerplays early.  The reason being that the team had no rhythm and a bad powerplay would be worse than no powerplay.  Also reiterated that on the power play, the four guys out on the kill will be working extra hard, so contrary to popular belief that it’s easier with a man advantage, the guys on power play have to step up and play even harder and work to find the seams.
  • This management team is committed to winning a championship.
  • Pointed out the new President of Business Operations, Mike Polisky ,  reiterated the commitment to the fans and how there will be some great new things for the fans next season (he hinted that maybe some things will be seen this year, but  for sure there will be changes next year to heighten the fans’ experience.)

First class all the way.

If you were there, what were your thoughts?

Anything you wish would have been asked but wasn’t?

Incentive Proposal for the NHL and AHL

January 17, 2009

While speaking with an usher at the completion of the Wolves game  tonight, we hit on something that personally, I kind of like!

“Since it seems so many NHL teams are made up of so many AHL’ers, how about if the Wolves win the Calder Cup again this year they go up to the NHL?” he said as people passed him by heading for the exits.

I paused and responded:

“And whoever has the worst record in the NHL moves into the AHL the following year!”

No we’re on to something.  Worst NHL team goes AHL, and best AHL goes NHL.

 The kicker would be if John Anderson and the Thrashers finished worst in the league. 

What a kick in the head that would be!

What do you think of this idea??

Possible Locations for the Next Winter Classic

January 14, 2009

The NHL is looking at the possible locations for the next Winter Classic.

While they are not looking at NFL stadiums because of possible football conflicts (HA! The Bears in the playoffs???!! Palease!!!–ok–I guess they have to take that into account), but why use baseball stadiums?  It cheapens the game and the experience for the fans.  Sight lines in ball parks are meant for baseball, not for hockey.

Unless they go the clear boards route but then where will advertising go?
Clear Boards

Clear Boards

Let’s Listen to Hockey as Well as Watch -An Audio Enhanced Cable Broadcast

January 8, 2009

At the risk of stating the obvious: Hockey is team sport.

What gets lost in typical broadcasts is the banter, the communication, the verbal jabs and joking that gets exchanged between players. 

So, here’s the suggestion. 

Put a separate feed on cable that has the game mic’d up and no announcers. 

There was a similar experiment done sometime back, but I believe it was primarily to capture crowd noises as opposed to the sounds of the players.

Put a warning at the bottom of the screen to remind people that kids perhaps shouldn’t be watching if the following happens:

What do you think?