Growing the NHL in All the Wrong Ways

Originally published at The4thLinePodcast.com by Mike Filce

In-game Entertainment

You can’t help noticing with all of the pundits, talking heads, bloggers, podcasters and assorted Twitter-drunk commentators, some ideas come up again and again, and some of them receive respectful consideration — when they should be squashed like the stink bugs they are. Let’s look at a few.

Late in a recent “31 Thoughts” podcast episode, Jeff Marek broached the topic of “pump[ing] up the home team” with in-game music. We’re talking about the practice of silencing the music as the puck drops so fans can hear the sounds of the game. Elliotte Friedman replied, “I have no problem with the in-game experience doing that; if you think it riles up your fans, I’m all for that.” He then connected this notion with “taking the shackles off the players,” a link I’m unable to see here. Marek’s response: “Amen. Preach on.” Really?

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Now keep in mind that while highly respected in the field, this is the same Elliotte Friedman who has championed some terrible ideas about playoff qualifier games. But Marek is usually much more clear-headed than this.

What’s more baffling is that this idea is coming from a couple guys who supposedly grew up with the game, who have it in their blood and spirit, who connect with the game on something of a spiritual level, as many of us do. So, to hear that they would so cavalierly throw away the sounds of the game in favor of arena football atmosphere of pumping music every moment of the experience, is a bit like hearing Brian Burke express the desire to participate in Carolina’s post-game celebration as the starting domino.

Increasing Scoring

Let’s turn now to the ugly head that rears itself every other month, the eternal back-and-forth over scoring metrics and how to increase them — namely the ol’ net size versus goalie gear debate. We need to put this to rest once and for all by looking at some obvious realities of the game.

The first is that the NHL is now a puck-tipping league. Shots are deliberately and routinely put waist-high and above for the purpose of tipping to deceive goalies. Most pucks are no longer kept along or close to the ice and haven’t been for years. More to the point, the slap-shot is a staple of offense, so you see where I’m going.

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How many players in recent years have lost weeks or months of play due to pucks to the face — broken jaws, destroyed mouths, smashed orbital bones and so on. So we raise the top shelf, what — two inches? An inch? — and what do we suppose will happen? Shooters will elevate that shot even higher, without a doubt. It will be mayhem out there, and you would be insane not to play in a full cage at that point. After all, you have to protect your career above all.

This result should be so patently obvious as to squelch any further conversation about the net size, so I’m guessing it’s mostly coming from people who have never laced up skates above the beer league level, if that.

If that weren’t enough, a glance at the goal averages this season should put to rest the idea that we need bigger nets to increase scoring. Scoring is up both in goals-per-game average and power play goals. Are there some tweaks needed with goalie gear in some cases? Probably, but isn’t that a more reasonable fix than redesigning the nets and adding an asterisk to scoring stats going forward?

What are your thoughts on growing the NHL? Let us know on twitter or by commenting below:

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About The 4th Line Podcast 45 Articles
Coming from Calgary, AB and Nanaimo, BC, Carl and Joel provide their own unique and fun view of hockey. Catch the 4th Line podcast each and every Sunday on NBS Radio!

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