I wrote an article a few days ago about why I think the NHL shouldn’t revert back to the old schedule. One of our readers wrote to us explaining why he thinks this change is for the better.
I couldn’t disagree more with what you wrote there. And personally, I think they should go back to the NBA style format they had in the mid 90s when everyone played each other at least twice. I also have history to back me up on this one. Remember when Gretzky was traded to the Kings? That was one reason why the game got so popular during the early 90s. All that LA media attention helped the league out and when the Kings would come to town, more people went to the arenas to see hockey games. Yes, just because you get to see Crosby and Ovechkin once a year doesn’t mean that people will go to the 39 other games. However, they might go to more games after seeing someone like that play. Which brings up another thing, the NHL needs to go back to ESPN, but that is a whole other post.
Let’s say you were the owner of one of the teams in the basement of the Western Conference. Not a lot of fans go to see a last place team night after night, but more would go to the games if Crosby or Ovechkin were in town. Do you think that a team like LA Kings, who didn’t see either of them this year would have loved to trade a couple of division games to get them there? Or how about the fact that it is Crosby’s third year in the league and he had never been to Calgary, Edmonton, or Vancouver before this year? Players like Crosby and Ovechkin are huge draws and they create excitement in the city when they are in town, in return, they might draw in some non-hockey fans sports fans who want to see what these guys are all about. Maybe after seeing them, those people go to more games. Imagine the firestorm in the NBA in cities like Memphis and Sacramento if they new LeBron James would not come to town but once every three years? Teams in the bottom of the league need the big name stars to come to town as revenue boosters. Yes, the west has plenty of talent (a lot more talented I would dare say), and is more competitive than the east, but the west lacks the marquee names that the east has.
Another problem with this format is the Division layouts, and just thanks our lucky stars that Detroit is not in a division like the Southeast, but the Wings are in the weakest division out west. Another thing is why is Dallas in the Pacific Division when they are no where near that Ocean? With this format, if you have one team leaps and bounds better than the other teams in their division you are practically giving them the President’s Trophy. At the same time, you are hamstringing teams like the Rangers, Devils, Pens, Stars, Ducks, and Sharks by placing them in the same divisions where the talent in both conferences is concentrated.
The problem with the current format is that rivalries aren’t made in the regular season. Think about it, the Celtics and Lakers aren’t rivals because they played each other 20 times a year. The Colts and the Pats are rivals because of the great games between them when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line. Rivalries in the divisions are going to exist because they still play each other more, and in the end of the year, those are quasi-play-off games. But the big rivalries are created when the Cup is up for grabs. You mean to tell me that you would rather see the Wings play the Blue Jackets than the Avs?
Teams like the Pens and the Flyers are always going to be rivals, and the same holds true for Edmonton and Calgary, Detroit and Chicago, and The Rangers and Devils, et al. Rivalries are there because of history also. There is history in games like the Wings vs. Leafs, or Habs, or Bruins, or the Rangers. But sadly, the League with its current format has turned its back on those games. Most of us loved the game between the Pens and Sabres this year outdoors. It would have been better if it were between the Wings and Boston, or Montreal, or the Rangers. Even more exciting with the fact that the Hobs and Wings were the best teams in their conferences.
It is their playoff histories that make those rivalries even bigger rivalries. Another problem with the current format is that the odds of the two finalists playing each other next year is small. After those chippy Finals last year, wouldn’t you have loved to see two more games between the Ducks and Senators. That is also how rivalries grow and stay alive. Rivalries like the Wings and Leafs are dying because they hardly play each other, which is just sad because there is so much history between them. I applaud the league for trying to fix this issue, but they still haven’t gone far enough. Maybe if you didn’t live in NY where you get to see the big draws every other week you might understand why the schedule format needs changing.
Thanks for your thoughts, Phil. We hope to hear from you again in the future.
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