TCL Top Ten: 10 Reasons Why the NHL Will Always be #4

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I was born a hockey fan, and I will die a hockey fan. Nothing will ever keep me from watching an NHL game, especially a Montreal Canadiens game. But unfortunately, not everyone was born from the same mold as us ''hardcore'' fans. There are a lot of things holding the NHL back. There are many issues keeping the NHL at #4 amongst the major North American sports, and there is seemingly no chance of improvement in site.

What are the main problems holding the NHL back? How spiteful will this list be? Read below to find out!

Here is a list of ten issues that, in my opinion, are plaguing the league. Some interlap, or could be grouped into a bigger problem, but all hold their unique aspects and reasons as to why the league would benefit from a change or the complete elimination of the issue.

With that being said, here are those 10 issues, listed from least to most important, from the perspective if this writer:


10. Players Who Don't Want to Protect Themselves

This year we've seen some weird injuries. A couple of tendon injuries, lots of legs and ankles broken, shoulder injuries, the works. What most have been able to wind this down to, in terms of reasons for so many injuries, are harder shots and bigger, stronger players, not the compressed schedule, like some people thought. Most of these injuries can be prevented. There are pieces of equipment that protect your ankle tendons from being sliced. There are new designs and developments in equipment to protect your upper body from hits, and there are visors to protect your eyes and face from pucks and sticks. But players think these things will slow them down, so they don't protect themselves unless they are forced to.

Wake up guys, you're bigger, faster, stronger and more talented than the players who laced them up 30-40 years ago. You have to protect yourselves, and if players and goalies can make the transition from little equipment to full body gear, helmets and, for many, visors, you can compromize and adjust!

9. Revenues Somehow Equal Profits Now?

In the NHL, revenues dictate the Salary cap, the amount of escrow off player contracts, and various other financial and operational issues that define the CBA and the league itself. Thing is, I could run a business that makes 1 million dollars in sales, but if I run 2 million dollars in costs, I'm not making any money. The NHL props up ticket sales and other revenues, but at what expense? There is a lack of disclosure in the league's financial affairs that is frightening, considering this league's history with scandal.

8. Bettman's Insistance on Southern Hockey Markets

I hesitated before putting this one in here. Hockey has worked in a lot of Southern cities, places that don't usually get any snow. Southern California is thriving, Florida has potential, and places like Dallas are doing fine. Not every experiment is going to work, not every game is going to sell out, and that's fine.

But when you're losing tens of millions of dollars in a city like Phoenix, cut your losses and leave already. It's not only hurting the Coyotes, not only hurting the league itself, but hurting the players who have to give up escrow percentage points as a result, profitable teams that have to come up with the difference, etc, promoting NHL hockey in Phoenix isn`t helping anyone.

That are thousands of rabid fans in Canadian cities such as Winnepeg, Quebec City, and southern Ontario that would kill for hockey in their cities, and they're being denied because Bettman wants his legacy to be in the desert, and it's pathetic.

7. Traditionalists

Traditionalists are people that hold hockey back. They fight every change that's made to the sport, no matter how miniscule or irrelevant it is. They want the game to be like it was in the 60s and 70s. They refuse to believe that hockey is an evolving sport that is dominated by the newest generation, and while most of them find themselves in the media, they're not helping anyone with their detrimental comments. The latest example is Ross Brewitt's article on which argues that the game of hockey has been Americanized, and that it's not a good thing. Sorry Ross, but the one thing the NHL gets right is marketing towards the country with 350 million people, versus the country with 30 million people. We may disagree with some of their methods, but Canadians are going to be fans regardless of details.

Read the article linked in the above paragraph, and you'll understand exactly why Traditionalists made the list.

6. The NHLPA is a Bigger Joke than the UN

Director after direction, people being hired, fired, stealing, questionable decisions... sounds like any normal union (even if they don't liked to be called a union). They provide no help to the advancement of the game, and all they care about is making themselves and their players richer. Clearly, people within the PA lack the understanding of the bigger picture, and they seem to be hurting the sport. It hurt the sport in 2005 when their argument with the league cancelled an entire season, and it's going to hurt the league again in the future. They have no credibility as a Player's union, and it shows every time a player gets taken off on a stretcher during a game.

5. Owners > Players

Don't worry, the other side of the coin isn't immune from scrutiny either. The Owners care just as little about the players as the players care about the owners. They want the money in their pocket, the salaries at a minimum and the product at a status quo. It's an old gentleman's board of directors, and the way they treated Jim Balsillie is proof of that. They basically didn't like his face, so they denied what would have been a great owner for either of the teams he would have acquired, as well as the sport in general.

And don't even get me started on the owners who are not only bad for the league, but are ruining their own teams.

4. Referees > Players; Corrupt Officiating

The issue that got this entire idea in my head. What started, in my opinion, as a player expressing genuine concern over issues with the officiating not only in that particular Vancouver/Nashville game, but all around the league (whether Alex Burrows has the oratory to express t hem properly or not), turned into a smear campaign against the way Alex Burrows and players like them play their game, on and off the ice.

It came to a head Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada, when Ron Maclean interviewed NHL Disciplinarian Colin Cambell. They spent the majority of the 15 minute interview talking about how Burrows has had a Sean Avery-esque career, and basically implying that his word shouldn't be trusted. He dismissed even the thought that Auger could have said what Burrows implied in the pre-game warm-up, even though he was nowhere near Vancouver when it happened, and barely even addressed whether Auger could have been culpable in the matter.

And while the league was quick to publicly punish Burrows more than they had the right too (slandering an official is a $1,000 offense according to the CBA, burrows got a $2,500 fine), and send Cambell out to do damage control, yet Auger, whether he'll be punished or not, was protected from any scrutiny or public punishment.

In the NFL, this issue would have been resolved publicly and properly, and both the League, the referee, and the player(s ) involved would have actually learned something from the matter. In the NHL, it gets buried, we forget about it with the next hot-button issue, and forget it ever happened, until it happens again.

Every league has corrupt officials, dumb officials, and missed calls. But the league misses way too many of them and doesn't want to do anything about it.

3. Lack of Discipline

Naturally this is a point that ties into almost every other point on the list. But it transcends the officiating issues, the headshot issues, or anything else. When we know that a player needs to be suspended, for whatever he did, whether it was a hit to the head, a hit from behind, a slew foot, or anything else, there is no consistent scale for suspending players, other than ones created by Down Goes Brown in somewhat of a tongue-in-cheek nature.

And while that flow chart was meant to be humorous (and it certainly was), it speaks volumes about how the NHL goes about its business. Superstars will get carte blanche in most cases, simply because their absense may cause a slight decrease in ticket sales. Players like Alexandre Ovechkin can do pretty much whatever they want, and unless they kill a guy on the ice, they won't miss any more than a game or two. Yet if Sean Avery makes a joke in front of the cameras and makes someone look bad, he gets 6 games and has to go to rehab. It's a joke.

Which brings up another issue. Why does someone need to get hurt in order for the player who hurt him to get suspended? The intention is there regardless, the player usually knows that what he's doing is dangerous, yet if the player who gets hit walks away injury free, the chances of suspension, in most cases, are drastically reduced.

We could go on and on about how flawed suspensions are in the NHL, but we all know what's wrong, and that's it's clearly one of the major issues in the league.

2. A Marketing Department with Limited Intelligence

Honestly, if headshots weren't such a hot-button issue at the moment, marketing would be the number one thing holding the NHL back.

Don't get me wrong, the commercials the NHL produces and the events they put on are top notch. Problem is, there's much more to marketing than commercials or All-Star Games. Hockey is failing in AT LEAST 5 markets in the United States, and it isn't as stable as the league would like us to believe in many other markets. No one cares about hockey in Atlanta, Long Island, Florida, yet the NHL could very well make them care. But more concerned with the Status Quo, the NHL fails to capitalize on something that probably isn't that hard to accomplish.

Add to that the stupidity of the way the NHL handles TV rights, the fact that you can't find a hockey game on a major US network in January, and you can never find on in the evenings before game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals, and this becomes one of the main problems in the league. ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC don't show anything important on their networks on Saturday nights. Why hasn't anyone forced one of these network's hands in airing hockey on a Saturday Night? Monday is football night, why can't we make Saturday hockey night, like it is in Canada?

For shame.

1. Headshots

How much can we say about headshots? We all know they need to be eliminated from the sport, yet somehow, people resist whenever it's brought up. And I'm not talking about punishing headshots, but PREVENTING them. This is why we go to the doctor when we're healthy, so that they PREVENT the cancers and strokes and diseases that kill is. this is why we have educational and social systems, to PREVENT people from falling into drugs, crime and all those other bad things.

Yet in the NHL, people are ok with keeping headshots around, so the quality of the game doesn't decrease. Through this logic, a young hockey player came close to losing his life last night, because he was hit in the head. Go figure.

In the NFL, you're not even allowed to touch someone's helmet with your finger. In the NHL, there's somehow an argument for every hit. Did the player leave his feet? Did his elbows come up? Was the hit low? High? It's not right. The NFL isn't suffering from these changes. In fact, they're thriving. But, through some sort of warped logic, changing things in the NHL would hurt the sport?


What do you think? What's the biggest issue holding the league back at the moment? Do you agree with the above issues? The order? Disagree? Please leave us your comments!


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