Ripe for a new WHA?

With regards to the many complaints of the referees, I’ve begun to ask myself a new question: if a new league, committed to providing clean and enjoyable hockey, sprang up against the National Hockey League, would it outdraw and eventually dethrone the NHL? With the NHL’s poor ratings and even worse attendance, at least south of the Canadian border, I’m guessing that the new league does stand a chance, not like the doomed XFL against the National Football League, since the NHL isn’t very strong on the North American scale (at least when compared to the NFL). Before I begin, there are two things I have to mention. First, part of the idea came from an article I read while flying from Toronto to Florida for Christmas (not to brag) that pined for the old, glory days of hockey when every rule was called. It even suggested that the league might even compliment the NHL instead of compete against it, giving fans at least a taste of what hockey really is. I read it, and, I have to admit, I believed him. Most hockey fans today, including myself, have probably never seen an Original Six game with the rules properly called, so for a league to promise that would be gratifying, at least in my eyes. Then I extended the idea: I had always though the NHL was ripe for the taking, and, given a smart league with a credible and reliable direction, it would be enough to dethrone the NHL. The World Hockey Association’s only vice was it’s disorganization: considering the NHL was a mess back then (just like it is now, unfortunately) as well, if the WHA was a little more organized and keener, it just might have won the battle with the NHL. Then I thought of this: combining the two ideas (the fair league, I’ll call it the “Canadian Professional Hockey League like the article suggested, and a league that could usurp the NHL) into one big hockey league idea, and, I’d have to say that, for the most part in my mind at least, it just might be a good idea.

First, there would be a few simple definitions of the rules, one of which would read as follows: “any use of the stick except to gain or maintain direct contact with the puck and any use of the hands except to catch an airborne puck and throw it down immediately is strictly illegal.” This rule would outlaw, outright, hooking, holding, slashing, spearing, clubbing, etc., and even cross-checking (since the stick isn’t directly touching the puck). The idea is that a player can use his stick to keep the puck or to deflect a pass, but not to wedge it in an opponent’s armpit as so often happens in today’s game. The hand rule could also be interpreted as banning fighting, but that’s a seperate subject I’ll deal with later. A second rule would be to keep the existing charging rules and toughen the roughing rules to any intentional harm, as well as banning any contact with goalies. Thirdly, any attempt to injure will result in automatic expulsion, with another addition: the offender must sit out the same number of games the injured player sits out, probably up to and including a whole season. This might also smarten up players like Vaclav Varada and Bryan Marchment, who seem to make their paychecks on ending other players’ careers, which is grossly unfair. Fourthly, fighting would result in immediate expuslion and not just a major penalty, and instigators would receive lengthier suspensions, based on the fight. I could go on saying how ugly fighting is, but I’ve already done that before. If nothing else, here this: in “The Death of Hockey” by Jeff Z. Klein Karl-Erik Reif (recommended to all hockey fans), there is a report that the NHL actually has a gag order prohibiting fighting from being discussed in NHL publications. The authors were NHL writers, and many times they’ve run into this order, one which even the NHL has told them to honour. Certainly if even the NHL thinks fighting is ugly, then it must be, but that’s probably just me. Lastly, there would still be the old rules on icing, two-line pass, offsides, etc.

Second, the CPHL doesn’t necessarily have to be a major league from the start, since hockey already has too many major league teams. It first has to be organized: above all else, that is what it has to be or else the league will just not work. It could then run like the International Hockey League once ran, also having revenue-sharing also and a revenue-based salary cap (e.g. players can only earn 50% of a team’s revenue share) to increase competitiveness, and, if it gets more positive attention than the NHL and/or perhaps a star player refuses to leave the CPHL because it is, for once, clean, it could then start to try to become major by simply accepting players and by using the increased money they’d get from, for example, a T.V. deal and wait until the NHL gets sucked dry. The CPHL would have to make sure it doesn’t aggressively attack the NHL until the final stages at the earliest, and make sure there is only an agreement allowing individual players to leave to the NHL, and not have NHL affiliations. That way the NHL can’t sue the CPHL for contract violations since, after all, the CPHL isn’t committed in any way to the teams. Then the league could grow and prosper, providing hockey fans with a real league and not a disguised game in the NHL.

I know my idea is wishful thinking, but considering hockey is at a point where the rules have become useless, there needs to be a push to get the NHL back onto it’s feet. I think it might work, and I’m asking all hockey fans this: would an idea this radical work, considering the NHL never seems able to fix itself? Feel free to comment.

-DG


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