Ladies and Gentlemen, the Deuce:
The NHL’s Board of Governors met yesterday, and decided on these fantastic rule changes intended to make the sport more exciting and increase scoring:
• A player may be awarded a penalty shot if he is fouled on a clear breakaway outside his defensive zone.
• Referees are now allowed to assess a major penalty and a game misconduct when an injury results from an interference infraction.
Wow. I mean, wow. I am SO much more excited for this season now that I know improved the NHL product will be as a result of these changes!
What the NHL needs right now is a shot in the arm, not a band-aid. Why do the league higher-ups refuse to face facts, and continue to do business as usual as the sport we love is lambasted in the press. What is the shot in the arm I’m talking about….wait for it….wait for it… The Deuce is talking about BIGGER FRIKKIN’ NETS. Note: If there are any Canadians reading this website that belong to that all-important old-school of “Hockey Traditionalists,” just go ahead and stop reading now before you go apoplectic. For those of you with open minds, read on.
Here is why the NHL must, and will (hopefully within the next 5 years), increase the size of the nets:
Here’s what a BIG NHL goalie looked like in the 1940s:
Here’s Tony Esposito, one of the greatest from the 1970s:
And here is a Ken Dryden, maybe the best goalie ever, who was a giant when he played at 6’4”, 207 lbs:
(This picture can also serve as a rebuttal to those who think the new “tight” jerseys are a travesty and destroy the so-called “traditional,” loose-fitting hockey look).
Now let’s take a look at a picture of J.S. Giguere, who stands 6’1” and weighs 200 lbs:
Sooooooooo, you’re an NHL forward breaking down the ice -- which one of these guys would YOU rather face. Exactly. And no disrespect to Giguere, but it’s simply a question of how much open net there is to shoot at.
With that visual evidence, is it any surprise that the NHL has seen such a huge drop off in scoring in the last 15 years? And that’s without even mentioning that G*d D*mned Jacques Lemaire and his Neutral Zone Mind Sucking Trap. (May he be forced to watch replays of a typical Devils’ Game for all eternity).
Americans have short attention spans. They like action, hitting, and scoring (see NFL football, America’s most popular sport). Why is it Americans have never taken to soccer? Because they cannot watch a 90-minute 0-0 tie, where the only action may be some “nice crosses.”
I know the “traditionalists” out there will scream that bigger nets will ruin the game, destroy all that is good in the world, and that they would never watch another game if it happened. They are lying. Those people are hockey fanatics, and they are hooked. They can never stop watching (if they’ve been able to watch the sh*t product the NHL put out in the late 90s and 2000s, they’ll watch any hockey.)
The NHL needs to make the game more exciting to the casual observer. Not everyone understands great defense, great schemes, icing, offside, etc. Everyone understands a goal. How do you increase scoring? Well, getting rid of that stupid 2-line pass rule was a start. That stupid trapezoid is another idea. Fractionally smaller goalie equipment is yet another (by the way, you can’t convince me that we can make small, lightweight, bulletproof body armor, but goalies NEED all that stuff they’re wearing for “protection.” I guarantee you they could safely play goalie in protective gear that’s NO BIGGER THAN WHAT A REGULAR SKATER WEARS…but that’s a different post).
Why is this so hard for these old-school GMs to understand. Let’s break it down Barney-style: Bigger nets = more goals. More goals = more excitement. More excitement = more fans. More fans = more money for the league.
I want to see these kinds of stats again:
93 Goals, 120 Assists, 212 Points (Wayne Gretzky, 1981-82)
85 Goals 114 Assists, 199 Points (Mario Lemieux, 1988-89 (100 of them vs. the Caps))
Last year? Crosby had 36 goals and 120 points. The year before, St. Louis had 125 pts. Before that? 94, 106, 96, 121, 96, 127, etc.) Just more evidence of the drop-off in scoring. Something drastic must be done. Now. The NFL and NBA, who have much better numbers than the NHL, both recognized that sports = entertainment, and adjusted accordingly. The NBA outlawed the zone defense in 1974, because it was boring to watch. They instituted the shot clock, so teams could not sit on a lead (I hate you, Devils). The NFL recently instituted rules changes that make it nearly impossible to guard wide receivers. Before that, they instituted a little thing called the “forward pass.”
Hockey used to be played with straight sticks, no forward passing, and goalies were not allowed to fall to the ice to make a save. So things change. Necessarily.
And always remember this. Those thousands of hockey traditionalists who write in to ESPN and SI to skewer any writer who suggests any change to the game (new jerseys, shootouts, 4-on-4 in playoff overtime as opposed to 5:30 am ending snooze-fests) will NEVER stop watching the game. They love it too much. As do I. I am simply capable of recognizing that any product requires updating from time to time. We’re not all working on DOS right now at our computers, are we? I didn’t think so.