You can tell someone you love them only so many times. If your actions don’t reflect what comes out of your mind, it will be a tough sell. I am a strong believer that actions speak louder than words. I am also a man of integrity, a man of my words. At some point, words mean nothing… unless you back them up with actions. And that’s the lip service Gary Bettman and the NHL has been doing to fans for too many years. No Gary, you’re not being booed because you’re the Commissioner. Fans boo you because while solely focussing on filling the owners’ pockets, you are ruining the hockey experience for fans.
You see Gary, while you were in College and University, I was watching and cheering for my hockey team. While you were creating havoc in the NBA, I was an avid NHL fan. I was buying merchandize before you learned that there were no three-points shots in the NHL. I have seen the glory days of the league. I have seen the Howe, Cournoyer, Richard, Lafleur, Dryden, Robinson, Savard, Lapointe, Shutt, Gainey, Sittler, Dionne, Perreault, Hawerchuk and company. As a matter of fact, I’ve been alive for 10 of the Montreal Canadiens’ 24 Stanley Cups. In other words, I’ve seen good hockey. Not today’s crap.
Anyone claiming that this is the best hockey the NHL has ever seen is either a fool for thinking so, or they are too young to recall what good hockey was. This league is a head-hunting, trap setting, money driven and corrupted organization. It’s a clown league trying to pretend to be a major sport because of revenue. But it’s far from the best experience for fans. You will see several links on this text. I won’t go in details to keep this somewhat short, so please click for important details.
Expansion is good. But there is such thing as over expansion. It was necessary to expand when Europeans started joining the league in numbers. Well beyond Börje Salming, Russians from the Red Army and Czechoslovakians were defecting to come to the NHL. The NHL was then scouting the world’s biggest talents and that’s how they became a major league. The product on the ice didn’t suffer from expansion in those days as there was fresh international talent joining.
For the past several years, the NHL struggles with many markets but instead of solidifying those franchises, perhaps moving them, the league kept them on life support and expanded instead, all in the name of, you guessed it, money. The product is so diluted, good players on many teams often struggle to find equally matched talent to play with.
There have been several ridiculous rule changes over the years, most of the worst ones under Bettman. In trying to improve, the NHL ignores the side effects of their decisions. They need to stop trying to reinvent the wheel. In the articles I’ve been linking into this one, there are several rule changes that either I’d like to see, or that have been made and don’t work. Here’s a list of five.
- Instigator rule
- No touch icing
- Video review
- Four minutes high sticking
- Broken sticks
- Players benches on the same side
Referees have been a subject of controversy ever since I’ve been a fan. Having done it myself in minor hockey and in beer leagues later, and having been a Slo-Pitch National umpire, I know that each call you make is scrutinized. Further, most times when making a call, you’ll have one team that’s happy and the other team, not so much.
But ever since the implementation of the two-referee system, officiating in the NHL has been a real nightmare. Remember the outrage in the NFL when referees went on strike and they used replacement referees? The NHL isn’t far from there as in their wisdom, hoping to “not miss calls”, they promoted incompetent officials for whom the game is way above their head. They also brought in two judgments on the ice, creating incredible inconsistency within the same game.
Then, in the lamest and most obvious attempt at a smoke screen, the NHL threw Tim Peel under the bus, he who was about to retire anyway. What Peel did on microphone is happening just about every game with mics turned off. Everyone in hockey knows that.
NHL Player Safety
We wrote about this a few times. It’s gotten worse. Yes, some of it got worse under George Parros. But I seriously wonder if George’s hands aren’t tied. Due to the inconsistency (or constant unfairness of the process), I’m seriously wondering he’s not just a puppet, a scapegoat figure, who does what he’s told to do based on the Commissioner’s friendships and political views of the NHL. They need to rename the NHL Player Safety as they seem to be flipping a coin to decide what punishment will be handed out… after serious consideration of the name of the culprit and/or victim, the team it was against and the NHL’s relationship with those teams.
How much I would like for Brian Burke to take over from Bettman. At least, he knows and understands the game. The NHL has become a boring, predictable game. The only thing unpredictable about it is which way the officiating will tip the balance. But they don’t take our words seriously. Instead of investigating and realizing that there’s a problem, the league sees the complains as fanboyism, bias.
It’s not the first time in the past couple of years that I’m questioning my future relationship with the NHL. But hey… I’m just a fan. Who cares, as long as owners make their money. I mean, when the Commissioner declares lock out after lock out, even losing an entire season, and fans keep crawling back like sheep, who can blame them, right? Well this fan has had just about enough. And no, those are not empty threats.