Thursday, October 26, 2006

Complaining About The NHL Schedule????

Listen carefully.

Do you hear it?

Do you hear the drumbeats against the NHL's unbalanced schedule format growing?

I have to say that this is entirely comical to me. I understand the player's complaints about playing in the same places all the time and only having one, maybe two "new" road trips a season. But the media types complaining about this is downright laughable, but very predictable, because by and large this is par for the course in the NHL and it has been this way since Gary Bettman took over.

Media types for years were complaining about "boring hockey" so we had umpteen "crackdowns on obstruction." And why did they all fail until last year? Well last year was the first time that the media types did not bemoan the parade to the penalty box that the crackdown created. The media types have long been advocating shootouts and the elimination of the two-line pass. The elimination of the two-line pass may have "opened up the game" but it only increased scoring for about a month or two (and of course, we all know that scoring=excitement/"Chicks Dig The Long Ball.") Teams adjusted and defensemen hardly ever pinch in at the opposite blueline anymore. The shootout has taken "the most exciting play in hockey" and turned it into "the most common play in hockey." Was anybody on the edge of their seat when A.O. missed his penalty shot last night? I wasn't. The only thing I want to know is does that missed shot make him 0 for 7 or 0 for 6 in his last penalty shots? Fans stand during the gimmick at the end of the game not because it is just so gosh darn exciting, but because they know that the game is about to end and they will be going home soon. Kind of like the standing ovation that accompanies a win by the home team as the clock runs out in the third period.

Media types have also been calling for more "division rivalries." One of the problems of expansion is that teams that used to play each other on a regular basis had their regular season meetings cut down. The media types kept talking about what great games "division rivals" created. So the NHL went about creating a schedule where division rivals meet eight times a season. Only baseball offers more intra-divisional bang for your buck. Yet now just barely one year into this new format we're being told that it isn't fair. It isn't right that the Denver, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, and Minnesota fans are just now this season getting to see a great player like A.O. in person and have to wait another three years before he comes back. How it is not right that Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville, and Columbus fans have to wait another year to see this player play in their home buildings. Soon we'll learn that the much ballyhooed "Battle of Alberta" is becoming "stale" because Calgary and Edmonton meet so often. Did you miss the game on October 5th because your favorite NHL team was also opening up that night or on the 7th because of Florida-LSU or some other game? Don't worry, you can still watch them play November 21st, December 31st, January 13th and 20th, March 3rd, and finally on April 7th. NHL Center Ice subscribers such as myself find that they are choosing from the same games just about every night.

But as I said, this isn't the first time the media types have done these types of things. Remember when the NHL had a rule about players in the crease? The media types went berserk when the NHL decided to enforce this rule. The media types complained about goals being waived off because of players on the other side of the crease who weren't interfering with the goaltender being in the crease. The NHL went and shrunk the crease and because idiot NHL players STILL couldn't stay out of the crease, the rule was simply abandoned, altogether. (The NHL went and shrunk the crease and because idiot NHL players STILL couldn't stay out of the crease, the rule was simply abandoned...)

And I know what you are thinking, Bret Hull. Let me tell you folks, that was by far the worst example of media stupidity I have ever seen. The media (and Sabre fans) still complain up and down the street about that call but they seem to forget that THE PLAYER WITH THE PUCK CANNOT BE IN AN OFFSIDE POSITION! It is a simple rule but what we ended up with are media types howling in protest over a rule that THEY DIDN'T EVEN UNDERSTAND. When these folks are blissfully unaware of the rules of the game that they are covering, why should we take their suggestions for "improving" the game seriously?

With their track record, the media types will get the NHL to dump the unbalanced schedule and the media types will go back to complaining about "the lack of division rivalries." Personally, I hope the media types start to complain about the gimmick, but that's too much to hope for. I'll settle for them attacking Gary Bettman's utter incompetence. But I don't hold out much in the way of hope for that one either.

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