Sometimes I read things, and, like “Stir of Echoes”, they keep bouncing around in what passes for my brain until I either have to write something or implode. Things have been pretty slow on here, especially since the trade deadline only lived up to part of its name (the “dead” part), so……

Recently I read an article on here that touched on a lot of points. Normally I can find at least some common ground with this person, but….

The gist of the part of this article that I have a bone of contention with was that, “There’s nothing wrong with the game of hockey”.

Horse pucky; meadow muffins; road apples.

Not only are there things wrong with the game of hockey, there are huge, San-Andreas-fault-like cracks in the BUSINESS of hockey. And, like it or not, that is the part that really matters. The GAME is what you play out on the pond. The BUSINESS is what makes sure that everybody gets paid. You may love “the game”, but without “the business”, there’s no game.

The point of view that “nothing’s wrong”, especially in light of the fact that there will most likely NOT be a season next year, resulting in mass defections and early retirements, is akin to covering your eyes with your hands and telling everyone, “You can’t see me, because it’s dark in here”.

Let me throw out a few examples of what’s wrong with both “the game” and “the business”:

The Game

1.) Average player size has increased approximately five inches and forty pounds since the inception of the NHL. Both rinks and nets are still the same size. This is like trying to drive eight tanks along a one-lane road. You can “clog up the neutral zone” just by standing still.

2.) America will not pay attention to a low-scoring sport. Why do think soccer is the most popular sport in the world, except here? And, like it or not, your financial salvation lies in the lower forty-eight.

3.) You complain when you get media attention (Bertuzzi). You complain when you don’t get media attention (ESPN). Make up your mind.

Those are but a few examples. We won’t even get into the minutiae of instigator rules, red lines, etc. They’ll be plenty of time for that over the next year, since we’ll have nothing else to do except wave good-bye to all the Swedish players.

The Business

1.) Marketing sucks. Period. End of story. If you don’t expand the fan base, the sport dies a slow, painful, cyanotic death. And you cannot expand the league (Europe), without first expanding the fan base. No one in America is going to watch European hockey if they already won’t watch North American hockey.

2.) The NHLPA is taking cues from the MLBPA. Hard line, no salary cap. The problem? Baseball makes money. Hockey doesn’t. Bob Goodenow is starting to bear an eerie resemblance to Donald Fehr. Problem is, neither of them is looking out for the best interests of “the game” – or the players. They are tending the best interests of “the union”, which is “a business” in and of itself.

3.) If you lose a full season, almost all of your “casual fan base” goes out the window (and probably over to lacrosse, which is higher-scoring and, at least in Denver, has an excellent marketing campaign). All you’re left with is the hard-core psychos (like us), and that’s not enough to sustain either “the game” or “the business”. Plus, it leaves you in an extremely untenable situation as far as re-negotiating an already pathetic television revenue contract.

Again, just a few examples. Now, we can sit around and pretend that nothing is wrong, and be sitting on the porch watching the bug zapper for entertainment when the cruise missiles hit, or we can try and come up with some constructive solutions, and pass them on to the appropriate parties.

I leave it in your capable hands to decide.


65 Responses to Point-Counterpoint

  1. JStatic87 says:

    Look, I love hockey the most out of all of the major sports. The character of the players is better than any other sport on the whole. But, as the last few weeks have reminded us, not every one of them are angels. Bertuzzi, McSorley, Dino Ciccarelli, Claude Lemieux, and Tie Domi have all had on-ice violence problems that don’t really happen in other sports. Kevin Stevens, Jere Karlahti, and Theo Fleury are a few guys who have had problems with substance abuse. Our sport isn’t as bad as the other sports with substances and crimes, but to claim on-ice violence is the only thing that happens is too far an oversight.

    There is also a stigma in today’s society that “White people are lame”. Watch Chappelle’s Show (even though I love that show) and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The media always points out the lame white guy dancing (Mark Madsen) among the hip black guys. With things like this happening, and you’re trying to push a predominantly white sport on an “urban” mass media, it’s not going to fly.

    I am proud that most of our players aren’t spoiled whiners (Allen Iverson, Terrell Owens, Joe Horn), but we don’t exactly have personality on the ice. Sure there’s Hull and Roenick who occasionally do some funny things out there which we all notice and love, but hockey fans are more intelligent on the whole when it comes to that stuff. Your layperson isn’t going to notice that. And throw in the fact of the incosistencey of the rules thrown in, we’re not attracting too many new viewers. That is where our game is going to suffer commercially.

    I wouldn’t mind if our game shrank and we all got spoiled by better on-ice quality, but pro leagues need money to keep going, there’s no getting around that.

  2. JStatic87 says:

    There’s no problem selling hockey jerseys in Canada, but you don’t see as many people walking around in them in America. And if you turn on the worst-yet-most-popular-station on TV, MTV, you see everyone in Celtics jerseys with the matching hat, shoes, coat, wristbands, tattoos, and chains(or bling). Those urban sports can sell all of that stuff, but I just don’t see your typical thirty year old hockey fan getting all of the matching apparell that the other sports make millions on.

    We don’t get the licensing deals, TV deals, the media exposure, and pop-culture exposure that the other sports do. That’s why we’re so far behind financially.

  3. Primis says:

    You seem to be looking at this problem with too much of a Detroit bias.

    No… you’re not looking at it in a local enough manner.

    If you or someone else doesn’t like how hockey is percieved or treated where they’re at, fix it there. It’s not your business or responsibility to fix it for someone else, you can’t.

    While it’s a nice idea to come out and say that it’s Everyone’s responsibility to bring hockey up in the public eye, it’s not feasible. People in Minneapolis can’t do a blasted thing about that fact that people in Raleigh don’t give a crap about the game and never will. The few fans that are in Raleigh have to do that. The most that fans can do outside their market is to try to go to their team’s road games in markets that aren’t as big on the sport. That’s about it.

    My point was that hockey is not a problem in America. It’s a problem in PARTS of America. And there’s a large difference there…

    Detroit is a major market with hockey roots, but whta about the non-original six team, and the places where hockeyy isnt part of growing up??? The interest there is almost laughable.

    That’s because they either a) don’t warrant a franchise yet, or b) the fans that ARE there are making no effort at spreading the hockey gospel. And I HAVE lived in a non-traditional hockey market. I lived in North Carolina shortly after the Hurricanes moved there, smack in the middle of ACC and NASCAR country, and I can assure you nobody in that state is making any effort to promote the ‘canes. And I’m not talking about ownership and management, I’m talking about the fans themselves. I worked for a radio group that was trying to promote the Hurricanes and gain affiliate rights to them and there was absolutely no grassroots effort in that state. That’s why it’s failing there.

    Those fans aren’t pestering local TV outlets to carry games, they’re not showing up for games in Raleigh, and they’re not creating any sort of buzz about the game or their team.

    As far as the UM v. Mich state game compared to the MTl v. Edmonton game. The only reason that you guys had so many more people at that game is because we dont have the type oof stadium comasity in Canada, htat mnay universities in the states can provide. You cant say that the heritage classic did not show dedication by canadian fans. The sellout crowd braved -40 degrees celcus in order to watch the game….. thats pretty hardcore!!!

    I was not specifically trying to *bash* the Heritage game, but my point was that the MSU/UM game is a great example of the fact that hockey is very, very strong in some areas of the country. I’m sure more fans could have filled the stadium in Edmonton, then again I’m sure more fans would have filled Spartan Stadium too I guess. In either case, my point was if hockey carried some sort of a weird stigma here throughout all the States then that game in East Lansing couldn’t have happened.

    — Primis.

  4. cwthrash says:

    You’re right, we can’t do jack about what happens on the business side. All we can do is to be the best fans possible. The bad part about all this is that the business side may be the huge factor that takes this game away from us next season, and we can’t do shit about it. That’s what hurts me the most about all this.

    I have zero problem if some teams are haves and some are have-nots. If you have a bad infrastructure, bad management, bad planning, etc; I have no sympathy if that team sucks. It is most definitely their own fault. That’s the way it is within every industry. And like you said, that is the nature of capitalism and I love the fact that’s the way it is. Drives people and companies to give us consumers the best possible product, while weeding out those who can’t cut it. Just like out in the wild, the strongest and smartest survive. I am 1000% for that.

    The NHL has all that as well. But in the sporting industry each company (team) is in part dependant on the other companies. At least much more so than most other industries. Driving one competitor out of the market is normally a very good thing, in the NHL not so much. The dynamic of business is altered to a pretty fair degree because of that. There is more of a need for solidarity between the teams, at least for the specific aspects that relate to the overall health of the league. I’m not seeing that much or at all in today’s game, just another of the factors leading us to a stoppage.

    Like I said, I’d love to not think about the business side which is out of my hands to help anyway. But when the league is floundering and even the on-ice product is suffering to a degree because of that, I have to take issue with it. All I can realistically do is just spout of at the mouth like I’m doing here, and it doesn’t help anything except to let me vent. I’ll take what little satisfaction I can get at this point.

  5. Primis says:

    The NHL has all that as well. But in the sporting industry each company (team) is in part dependant on the other companies. At least much more so than most other industries. Driving one competitor out of the market is normally a very good thing, in the NHL not so much. The dynamic of business is altered to a pretty fair degree because of that. There is more of a need for solidarity between the teams, at least for the specific aspects that relate to the overall health of the league. I’m not seeing that much or at all in today’s game, just another of the factors leading us to a stoppage.

    I disagree in this regard, and I posted an article on my website a bit ago in regards to this matter. I think I’ll do some minor editing on it to target this crowd and submit it as an article here. Maybe it will explain better why the economic model of professional sports is so stupid and what can be done to fix it.

    If hockey or pro sports in general changed their economic model to reflect and mirror that of every other North American marketplace, there’d be no problem.

    — Primis.

  6. skandelousHABSfan says:

    All i was trying to say abuot you conparison for Detroit, is that you cant expect ehe rest of the US to have that kind of exposure for hockey, when there isnt the same type of hockey history in that city. I didnt mean that the NHl should look that he problem nation wide. In fact i agree that grass roots is the way to go, but it is very difficult to use grass roots strategies, when there is not ROOTs of hockey.

    You yourself said how hard it was in NC to “spread the Hockey gospal” so you have to understadn that in these smaller hockey markets, extra effort from the organization and the NHL WILL have to be made, because there is too much apathy from the fans.

    I personall y think that there are too many teams in the NHl and that if we got rid of some, it could fix some of our problems, but that if a topic for another post.

  7. skandelousHABSfan says:

    i highly doubt that it is only canadians that are buying the leafs jerseys if they are beating out all these other taems in terms of merchandising.

  8. cwthrash says:

    I wasn’t insinuating that the economic model for the NHL (or pro sports in general) is one that achieves maximum benefit given their cir*****stances.

    I know that I put it rather poorly before. But what I was trying to get across is that hockey is a business AND a sport. In a normal business you do your utmost to offer the best product, gain the highest market share, make the largest profit, etc; as well as trying to make sure your competitors don’t do the same and are hopefully put out of that marketplace.

    The difference when it comes to sports is that the overseeing body (ie the league itself) mandates in a given year that there will be a very specific number of competitors that will not change. And your basis for having a team is so that you can defeat other teams, and ultimately win a championship. Without the other teams, you have no one to play, no one attends games and you end up losing your investment. That’s the basic, bare-bones version of what I was trying to say earlier.

    And you may very well be right. Adopting a different model may work better for pro sports. I really can’t say as I don’t know any specifics. But I’m not trying to debunk that point in any way. I’m just saying the cir*****stances inherent to pro sports are different than what you see in most other industries, so there has to be more give and take amongst all the entities involved to ensure the highest level of competition (and hopefully as a result, the highest monetary gain possible).

  9. ZaphodBeeblebrox says:

    There is alot that is wrong with the game side of hockey.

    diluted talent base

    poor officiating

    congested neutral zone which leads to sloppy play

    These things are all closely attached to the business side of the game, because you really cannot differentiate the 2. You can’t have 1 without the other.

  10. Leaf_Expert says:

    I look forward to the Leafs kicking some Avs‘ss tonight!..

  11. TheDarkhorse says:

    I believe that a few things could be done to greatly increase scoring and help the league gain more fans. First off, contraction is very necessary and I know I’m going to make people mad with this comment. There are a few teams that simply need to be eliminated. The first to go should be Vancouver. That whole organization from top to bottom is a disgrace to hockey. Burke and Crawford…what a joke. The whole team is a bunch of choke artists who simply cannot win big games. Their fans are fareweather and they make so little money, they should be gone. Other teams to eliminate would include the Florida Panthers. Let Luongo go to a real team. It’s a sad waste of talent to have him in Florida. It’s like the Marlins winning the World Series. Other teams to consider: Atlanta, Carolina, Pittsburgh, (yes, Pittsburgh,) Pheonix, and Columbus. What has Gretzky done since his playing days. He’s a freaking whiner and doesn’t know jack about operation an NHL team. Much like Burke, Gretzky whines about everything. He’s the old grandpa who wants the game like it was when he played but can’t accept that is just isn’t. I’d be in favor of eliminating some older teams like Chicago and the Rangers, simply because they’ve proven they can’t compete even in a big city. Even Minnesota could stand to be ousted because even though they have a rabid fan base, they play that hideous trap that everyone thinks has destroyed the NHL. Get rid of them.

    Next, put Detroit in the Eastern conference so that it isn’t that laughing stock of the NHL, much the NBA eastern conference. The east may have more teams than the west with higher point totals, but it’s kind of like the difference between college and the pros. If the pros play each other, they will inevitibly beat each other more often. When high school sissy teams play each other…ala eastern conference teams, the same result occurs. This is why Toronto sucks every year and will yet again lose in the first or second round of the playoffs this year. They don’t stand a chance against the West. The flyers? Same thing. I hate that team. If Detroit was in the East, everyone could get what they really wanted…a Colorado Detroit Final. Not this Western conference final that always ends up being the Stanley cup final since the East always sucks.

    One more note on scoring. Since the east is so bad, I think their lack of quality forwards is the reason scoring is down.

    Also, to Toronot fans who can’t wear their uniforms in the Ottawa building…I love it, I love it. I think you should get ketchup thrown on you instead.

  12. TheDarkhorse says:

    good luck to a team that hasn’t won in 40 years. Look across the ice to see what it means to be a real winner.

  13. Serdy says:

    I think a lot of us are mistaken in the fact that we need more scoring, I think we need more offensive flow, not necessarily pucks going in the net. Personally, I like seeing those good 1-2 minute scrambles infront of the net, if the puck went in the net every time, there would be no flow. I know people will totally disagree with that. I have a feeling people just want to see another wayne gretzky re-write the record book, which would be cool, but in the short run its not that important.

    Next. The reason I feel that hockey is not taking off in the states is simply because down south it is hot, and nice weather. There are limited ice rinks, and lakes dont freeze down there like they do up here. There simply are just not enough ways to be exposed to hockey, and I dont think they really care anyways. Solution, is there one? Could be the same reason why surfing, beach volleyball, and other summer sports are not very popular up here, basially because we cant do those sports year round. I think we are going to have to accept that down south will never be a very viable market.

  14. MAniac29 says:

    Exactly, I think the lack of role models is the biggest thing, absolutely!

    By the way, did you get to try out Eastside Hockey Manager?

  15. cecilturtle says:

    Hockey made the rules, they bought the tickets… I say let them crash!

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