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Monday, September 24, 2007

Gary Bettman's European Vacation

"It's nothing we're planning on, but by the same token I'll never say never," Bettman said.

"There are many, many, many things that we have to do and have to happen before we can consider it. And there are logistical issues.

"There are arena issues, there are travel issues, and also there is the existing infrastructure of hockey particularly in Europe and we need to be respectful of all of those considerations."

Sounds like the Gary Bettman I did not think about at all over the summer. I mean there were a few thoughts here and there about the over the glass rule, if the fall would bring some new crazy net or maybe even a no goalie rule but the thought of expanding to Europe trumps all in this case.

What shocks me the most is that a commissioner would even bring up the thought of starting a new Euro-Division up despite still having ailing US market issues. And while my blood runs true Red and White, Canada is the one place that the league should really be considering expansion if any.

But the core issue in business is that you need to sustain before growth and quite honestly, the market in the US needs help and is the real reason that this league just cannot and will not rise above a lower tier professional sport. One can argue that fewer teams would increase overall quality and possibly pull in fan base. Or situating more teams in cities that are hockey centric like a Winnipeg, Halifax or even give Toronto a second team, I am sure they could support it.

But when the Detroits, New Jerseys and other great teams have problems filling the seats, the focus should be within, and not growing into other markets. You open a new coffee shop when one is too busy to take new customers, but not when it is empty and having trouble giving away muffins.

And when you really think about it, how would Europe work? Tune in a 4am this morning for the NY Rangers as they stop into town after a seven hour flight to face the Paris Puckers. People fail to tune in at a normal hour, who the hell is going to watch a game after midnight or when they are at work.

Now if the NHL wants to create a European Development League, I would be fine with that as some youth could train and grow in the off season giving them a quick path to the NHL. But give you head a shake Gary Bettman. You can cart yourself around and promote the game all you want but start on the soil that the game is played and that is in North America. Give out Banjo's in Nashville, Seat Cushions in NJ and toolkits in Detroit because these are the places that matter and go on your European Vacation on your own dime.

Puck Off NHL...focus on the the problems at home and next time, maybe think ahead and use two eastern teams to play in England, not two of the furthest teams away. Or are you collecting air miles on the charter flights?

See you next time and click on the link above for audio commentary on this BLOG!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Very Grey NHL Rulebook!

Roberto Luongo was pushed in the net, but that goal still counted. The Rangers apparently kicked a goal in, when it wasn't kicked at all and that one did not count. The Buffalo Sabres score two goals that go off hands while on the stick, one counts and one does not.

And in the crucial game #2 of the Sens/Sabres series last night, Danius Zubrus get called for hooking when he lifted a players stick to steal the puck down 5 on 4 but in overtime, Alfredsson on the Sens hammers Tallinder from behind into the boards and there is no penalty.

I have to wonder now if the NHL Rulebook is written on napkins and the refs and officiating group just cannot read the faded out, smudged ink. And if that's not the case, the bloody cover should be grey, because the way this game is governed is equally as screwed up.

It's easy to see now why attendance may drop, and why new fans outside of Canada do not attach themselves to the game, it's simply because it is hard to understand. Sometimes you score, sometimes you don't. You can't even touch a guy's mid section with the stick, but feel free to spear or board him from behind. But...maybe we will call it differently next game. And the best part of the penalty aspects is that the ref is usually within 3 feet watching a dangerous check go unpunished while they are 60 feet away to call a hook.

And as for the goals, be consistent! How can a goal count one game, but not the next. Especially if you are going to instant replay in Toronto on both occasions where the big wigs make the final call. Oh and let's not forget the countless INCONCLUSIVE goals we have seen this playoff where the goal judge flicks his light on, only to be told after that "The puck probably did cross the line, but with our cameras and low definition feed we couldn't make a conclusive call." So how about get some cameras that work, spend some money on high def or maybe call the Pro Tennis Tour and see if you can borrow the cyclops machine, because they can sure tell in tennis if a ball over a line on a serve.

PUCK OFF NHL and take some time to get some black and white back into this great game. We're tired of hearing that you got it wrong after the fact, tired of wasting 5-10 minutes looking at an instant replay system that is broken and fearful that your obsession with hooking could result in a serious injury resulting by a hit that you never seem to call.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Keeping control of the game!

So it finally happened and now the example has been set once again in the NHL as Chris Simon has been suspended indefinitely after deciding to slash Ryan Hollweg in the face in a game between the Isles and Rangers last week. Simon who has a slight history of being an NHL bad boy awaits a meeting with Colin Campbell to decide the actual extent of the suspension.

But how does this league decide on how they draw the line in the sand when it comes to player conduct. You cannot deny that swinging the stick at a man's head needs to be addressed but what about an argumentative head shot that Simon took prior to losing control. We have talked about the all too familiar event of head shots on this site before, yet it takes a hit on Tomas Kaberle to bring up the first suspension in a while on the subject.

And while the league needs to keep a clean, fair game, I believe that this happens time and time again where the policing of the officials, rules and game itself is not done well. There is a rising trend of predator type hits that while I figured we would see them go away, continue to be a part of the game. And when a player is hammered with intent from an opponent, knocked silly, and no penalty is called, emotions run high. But the key here is that these penalties need to be called, and while I know it is at a referee's discretion, I would rather see an intent to hammer and kill a guy called over these awful hooking calls.

The role of officials in any sport is to keep control of the game, make the right calls so that bad things do not happen. Retribution occurs in the NHL only when the league does nothing at the point of any ugly incident. We saw it a few weeks ago in Buffalo and a few years back in Vancouver with the Bertuzzi/Moore incident. So if the NHL wants to avoid these types of events, smarten up and call penalties when they are justified.

So...PUCKOFF NHL...keep control of the game so nobody gets hurt, the game does not get tainted and the level of respect between players stays high!

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Calling these infractions is a penalty itself!

You have seen it countless times during a National Hockey League game...or maybe you haven't! The Phantom Hook and it's irritating effect on players, coaches and fans is an epidemic that seems to get worse and worse with each passing week of hockey in the NHL. Now when the league made an effort to clamp down on the clutching and grabbing, I think we all understood and painfully got used the new rules. Sure it slowed the game down, creating a 25% increase in 5 on 3's but it seemed to be consistent at it's best of times.

But now the whole hooking issue is getting a bit out of hand if you ask me. It's one thing when a player wraps his stick around someone, or yanks someone down while on a breakaway. But now the rule seems to even include the slightest of hooking gestures and even dare I say touching the curve of your stick to jersey. Basically, reach out with the stick, and you win a one way ticket to the sin bin...ridiculous. And when the commentators are running back and forth on the replay tapes to find out where the potential penalty may be, you just might have a problem with the way this penalty is called. I mean, what about the whacks, slashes and high sticks that can be heard without seeing them getting missed time and time again, and don't get me started again on the whole head shot issue again...can someone say Tomas Kaberle.

And while we are on the topic of penalty problems with the NHL, what about the tried and true puck over the glass for a nice delay of game. What a garbage rule! How many times has your favourite team been turning to fire the puck out of their zone when killing a 5 on 4 and have the puck just clear the side glass for a well earned 5 on 3 disadvantage. The clear sign of this penalty being an issue was last year when watching a Canucks game I witnessed Bryan Allen fire a puck all the way down the ice and over the end boards resulting in a delay of game. How about allowing the referee to use some discretion when calling this penalty. If a player turns backwards and launches it out of play for a stoppage sure call a penalty, but what about just limiting line changes on all other instances and treat it like an icing?

I guess that idea is too simple and the fact that it just may work may be too complex for the competition committee. So PUCKOFF NHL and take a look at these two penalties and reassess how and when we should see players doing the penalty march. Sure, scoring is good, but making the game look stupid is far worse.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Predator Style Hits!

Did you get a chance to see the Sens/Sabres game on Thursday night? If not you missed a great example of an issue that continues to be a problem in the NHL, players hunting other players who are vulnerable. Chris Neil took advantage of a vulnerable Chris Drury and landing a concussion causing hit which has put the Sabres captain out indefinitely.

What ensued after was Lindy Ruff putting his bruisers on with the last change against the Sens top line. This resulted in a full out brawl or beating, seeing Andrew Peters attack Dany Heatley and then Ray Emery. A handful of players got tossed from the game, and over 100+ penalty minutes assessed.

But the real issue is how can this league not recognize that this issue has to be addressed. While hitting is part of the game, body contact does not constitute hunting down another player and taking advantage of that situation. The NFL suspends players who go after the head, QB's are protected again and again because the players are important to the game. But the NHL does nothing to address the issue and then scratches their head on why the game has incidents like the recent one, or better yet the infamous Bertuzzi attack on Steve Moore.

The reason being is that teams need to police themselves because the league does nothing to protect against these incidents. And the Bertuzzi incident stemmed from the same style hit as the Chris Neil one. The funny thing being that one day before as the GM meetings were finished, the league was considering extending the suspension boundaries for the instigator rule since the league needs to protect the players. And then...this happens...and Lindy Ruff is the only one fined, what a great example to set.

But as with most NHL issues, the solutions are simple. Any predator-style hit, should be considered an Intent to Injure action. A five-minute major is handed out and the player addresses a possible suspension. And Mr. Bettman is you are reading or listening to this Blog you will see fewer retaliatory fights, seldom five on five brawls and your poster boys will be safe.

So Puck Off NHL, change the rule book and protect those who make this league the success it is. Fix the problem at the source and your other violence issues go to bed. Be the league you can be, and let's stop seeing these devastating and sometimes career ending hits. The last thing you want to happen is see your Golden Boy #87 in a pool of blood, unable to return to hockey.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Winner Take All Points System!

Despite what this site says, there are many things I do love about the NHL and one of those fine elements is this time in the yearly schedule. February may bring the wonders of Groundhog Day, Valentine's and the shortest month of the year, but it also brings the yearly get together of the grizzled GM's down in sunny Florida or one of the other tropical locations in the league.

Each gathering brings potential trades to the surface, but more importantly, the thirty brothers in arms, bring up potential ideas to improve the game which then get introduced to the competition group from the NHL for final approval. Ideas get nixed, new concepts are laid out for discussion and we the fan, get the high level breakdown at the end of the day. It's like waiting to see what Santa Claus left under the tree in my opinion.

One hot topic that has been passed around since the lockout is the potential for a new point system. The main concept was a 3-2-1 point system which saw three points for a regulation win, two points for an OT/SO win and 1 point for an OT/SO loss. This concept was put to bed today as the GM"s thought that the current system is working fine, and that there are great races in the NHL's playoff hunt.

Well...maybe someone needs to show the GM's the latest standings!

While the comments may hold true in the East, the Western Conference looks to be all but decided barring a huge skid by any of the current top eight seeds. Having said that, the current system is broken in many ways and while Colin Campbell claims that the NHL needs to take a break from constant change, nothing but great things can come from changing the game to improve the product, and let's face it, the NHL is far from perfect.

While I think the 3-2-1 system is flawed, I think an even simpler system would provide better excitement, even more dramatic playoff races and a better product for fans every night they drop $50 for a seat in the house. My main concept sees only points being awarded to the winner and zero points for the loser. One of the biggest drawbacks to watching the current NHL is that teams play for the guaranteed point. If you have a points lead, one point just keeps you further ahead and it's more beneficial to slow the game down, clamp down and get out of dodge with a single point. And after watching the conclusion of the Ducks/Canucks game this past Tuesday, I would love to see how a 2-2 game with 10:00 left in the third would be played out if the loser got diddly squat for losing.

Gone would be the days of the neutral zone trap, teams way behind would push like you have never seen before and dare I say, more regular seasons games would feature a playoff like atmosphere. Go one step further and offer three points for a regulation win and only two for an OT/SO loss. Guaranteed, you would see balls to the wall hockey for sixty minutes and then a crazed overtime. And then come playoff race time, you trail the 8th seed by six points, that is only two regulation wins to catch them as opposed to three games now.

So sure...the NHL has undergone lots of change, but change is good. Welcome change. It oftens creates new opportunities, and if embraced and introduced for the right reasons, could even make something good...great!

So as we say here, Puck Off NHL and don't be afraid of changes to the point system. What you currently have while could be great, has shown that it breeds boring traps, uninspired regular season games and in the case of the Western Conference, a playoff race that in a week or so, could be all but over.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Drop The Damn Three Seed!

Is it just me, or are there actually other people out there that despise the silly, stupid and dumb conference seedings in the NHL. While I have no problem in allowing a division winner to grab a playoff spot, I do have issue with the 3rd seed in either conference having fewer points than the 4th seed but still being positoned higher in the standings!

Beer leagues across Canada and the US do a better job organizing teams, heck even ten-year old kids on their PC's could come up with a better way of getting this kind of lacklustre job done right. And Mr. Bettman wonders why he plays second fiddle to the likes of the PBA, NASCAR and other highly acclaimed sports in the states.

And while this may seem like small potatoes to some, it's just a symbol of the state of the NHL. It's the little things that matter when it comes to big business. The PGA would never grant a golf title to a golfer who has the same stroke total as his counterpart, but took two more putts. The PBA would never award a title to a bowler who lost a match but had three more strikers than his opponent. So how the hell can the NHL give a division winner a 3rd seed despite having fewer points than the 4th place team.

The solution is simple, one conference, eight teams qualify...seeded by POINT TOTALS!!!! So while each division winner gets in, you get seeded by your overall points. What a novel idea...I mean using points as a sorting convention. Now maybe I'm too hard on the NHL, maybe the guy who runs this part of the league has a headache, or his hard drive crashed or maybe it's those other loonie ideas such as the new bigger net that has caused Mr. Bettman and his league directors to forget about fixing the small things.

Congrats to the Northwest and Southeast Divisions...enjoy your three-holes and my condolences to Pittsburgh, Nashville and maybe even Detroit...your 100 points may only be good enough for 4th.