I’ve been pretty active on Twitter during Penguins games, and probably at least once or twice during a game, something happens where I am once again baffled at the NHL and the state the league is in and I tweet my two cents. I usually use the hashtag #BestSportWorstLeague in those tweets. While it’s fun to use it just to take a jab at the NHL, it’s four words that could not be more true.
Hockey is a sport of great skill, passion, history, tradition, and the sport has arguably the most committed fans. My reasoning for hockey having the most committed fans is that NHL hockey is probably the worst it’s ever been and yet, teams like the Penguins, who aren’t doing very well, are still selling out games.
The fans deserve a better product. There are two MAJOR issues the NHL has right now that need to be fixed in order for the league to not just thrive, but grow to a wider audience:
LACK OF SCORING: If you look at the scores in the NHL at 11:40 pm ET on 12/27/15, not one team scored more than 3 goals in a game. Last year’s Art Ross winner, Jamie Benn, did not eclipse 90 points. Average people want to watch hockey for two things: goals and fighting. The NHL could gain many more fans and, simply, make the game more exciting if they tried to take positive steps towards increasing scoring in the NHL. They claim they’ve done this, however, with every step they’ve taken, they’ve taken two steps back. After the 2004 lockout, they eliminated ties and introduced shootouts to excite fans, however, there are mixed feeling among hockey fans when it comes to the shootout. Recently, the NHL implemented 3-on-3 overtime to increase chances of scoring in overtime, therefore not having to go to a shootout. However, this doesn’t fix the actual problem. The problem is that the NHL doesn’t enforce rules like they did in the 80’s and 90’s. Teams aren’t getting anywhere near the amount of powerplays per game than they were back in the day. Powerplays increase scoring, plus not enforcing rules allows players to get away with murder by crosschecking, slashing, high-sticking, hooking, etc.. That in turn does not give players open ice to increase scoring chances. And this leads to the second problem.
LACK OF ACTUAL PLAYER SAFETY: To save time, I’ll paste a rant I went on on Facebook last night
And no, there won’t be further discipline for the hit on Letang. Players are not safe in the league nowadays. There is not heavy punishment to players who need to be punished for injuring players, intentional or not. Obviously, intention requires further discipline.
Commissioner Gary Bettman has seen three work stoppages under his tenure and if that’s not enough for his job to be in question, these problems should be enough. I can only hope the NHL looks into these issues with actual consideration for change.