Defending The ''New NHL''

Some fans are worried about the NHL and the sport of hockey because small market teams that apparently “nobody cares about” as some might say, are having success this season. TV ratings for playoff games haven’t been very good because teams in larger markets aren’t involved. They say if a big market city isn’t playing hardly anyone is watching, and hardly anyone cares. These fans argue that if a big market team isn’t successful we won’t see hockey on TV because no one is going to watch. In a way this argument has its merit, but why is this view wrong?

The NHL set out their goal this season to make hockey more exciting, and more competative, and certainly the teams in the Conference Finals prove it worked. Nobody saw either Carolina, Buffalo, or Anaheim even making the playoffs and at least one of them is going to the Stanley Cup Finals. All 30 teams if they are properly managed have a fair chance at winning the Cup, it’s no longer the same damn 12 teams in the playoffs with very little turnover and Detriot and Colorado in the Conference Finals. Yeah, that rivalry is exciting and I always liked watching the games, but that’s why the big market teams were always in the 3rd round. Smaller market teams like Buffalo couldn’t spend 50 million dollars on players to compete with the likes of a Philadelphia, New York Rangers, Detroit, or even New Jersey. A result from that, all playoff revenues are almost pure profit, the players’ contracts are already paid. Just a few playoff bonuses to pay out, but teams make a killing on selling out every game. Teams that weren’t in the playoffs for several years don’t get that money, and large cities that were in the playoffs always got it.

The interesting part is the Sabres in particular aren’t winning just because of the salary cap limiting the talent a team can carry because skilled guys demand lots of money. The Sabres’ team budget sits around 30 million dollars for this season, over the ownership’s hoped 28 million dollar ceiling due to call ups, and still 7 million under the league cap. Although that cap plays a part in leveling the playing field for small market teams, the Sabres are winning because of the new pro-offensive rules. Cracking down on obstruction, eliminating the 2 line pass, and allowing skilled players to do what they can do are the reasons why the Sabres are winning. For years before the lockout the Sabres were drafting and developing young, smaller, faster, skilled players instead of big, slow, hard hitting guys. The bigger guys outmuscled skilled players and won teams Cups in the old NHL. In the era of the new CBA skilled players are the new wave of the NHL, and teams like the Sabres were ahead of the curve. Say what you want about TV ratings, but Buffalo, Edmonton, Anaheim, or Carolina winning the Cup this year proves there is now parity in the NHL.

Fans wanted a high scoring, exciting game and the Canes, Ducks, Oilers, and Sabres all bring that. Hockey fans regardless of who is playing will watch the Stanley Cup Finals. If you don’t you’re not a hockey fan, I don’t care what you say about it. An exciting game should be enough to get people watching. Sure I’m from Buffalo, so I’m biased, but I was tired of seeing the same damn teams win every year.