It’s July. Still. God this month drags for what feels like an eternity. I have no passionate feelings about anything so it’s hard to find a writing topic. New divisions? Whatever. The Minnesota Wild crying poor? Meh. Mikhail Grabovski remaining unsigned? Yeah, what is up with that? NHL GMs, man.
When the passion isn’t there, you can’t force it. That’s how you wind up with a ninth season of Friends and marriage. So instead of forcing it with one of those aforementioned topics (Seriously, if Grabovski winds up somewhere besides the NHL, this league should be embarrassed), I’m doing one of those things about ways to make the NHL better that will never happen but whatever it’s fun.
Some are obvious, some maybe aren’t, some are probably dumb, some are definitely things you’ve heard before. So here’s some stuff about hockey to distract you from your life and job for a few minutes.
1. Gary Bettman stops presenting the Stanley Cup. It’s at a point where everyone – EVERYONE – is aware of how awkward it has become. When a team wins the Stanley Cup, it’s a festive occasion. Fans are cheering, players are laughing and hugging, then Bettman comes out, and it turns into a scene from The Apollo. The entire mood changes. After three lockouts, it’s time to retire this tradition. Let Bill Daly do it. Let literally anyone else on the planet do it. Have a designated historical figure from the team that can clinch that night in the house. If that’s too hard, have a C-list celebrity from True Blood hand out the trophy. Hell, have the owner make a speech and give it to the captain.
If you want to make a case that Bettman isn’t at fault, hey, if you say so, but we’re past the point of blame. It’s time to move on because it’s embarrassing. Why he continues to subject himself to it is a mystery. Maybe it’s a pride thing. But it needs to stop.
Maybe Gary Oldman should present the Cup. Who would be against that?
2. Home teams wear white jerseys again. Seriously. Why did this ever stop being a thing?
3. No-touch icing. Just go all-in, NHL. Hybrid icing isn’t foolproof. No-touch icing is. It’s also a time saver. Just make the immediate leap on a safety rule for once, will ya?
4. Let linesmen call penalties. They already do, in the case of high-stick infractions and too many men penalties. Linesmen have a lot on their plates, what with tracking the puck in relation to blue and red lines along with keeping their heads on swivels to avoid large humans traveling at great speeds who sometimes fire pucks accidentally at their heads. Linesmen are busy, but they could also be a support system for the two referees.
An NBA court is 94 feet in length and 50 feet in width; an NHL ice surface is 200 feet in length and 85 feet in width. Yet the NBA uses three referees to police its players, who also move at a far slower place than those in the NHL. Adding a third referee would clutter the ice surface, so let’s allow linesmen to call any penalty they see. Will they catch everything? No, but it will prevent more penalties from going uncalled. If you have four cops on a stakeout, would it make sense for two of them to be unable to make an arrest if they see a person committing a crime?
What’s the worst that can happen? More power plays? Yeah, sounds terrible.
5. You still get a power play if you score on a delayed penalty – Yeah. What I just said. This should be a thing.
6. Puck over glass no longer a penalty. The rule was created with the best of intentions. Wheezing players trapped in their zone that can’t find a comfortable angle for icing the puck instead flip it into the stands, drawing a whistle and a much-needed change. What better way to knock that off than to punish it by awarding the opposition a two-minute power play?
Here’s the thing – 98.8 percent of the time that penalty is called today, it’s the result of a purely accidental shooting of the puck into the stands. The puck is bouncing or it flattens out on the blade or it’s an innocent attempt to play the puck off the glass and into the neutral zone. It’s like awarding power plays for icing the puck.
Since when the puck is played over the glass intentionally all the team wants is a rest, then treat it like an icing. The faceoff is deep in your zone, no changing of personnel allowed. It’s punishes the infraction far more fairly and playoff games will no longer have a chance to be decided by a misplayed bouncing puck. Yeah, adjusting the rule will result in more players taking advantage of it, but man, who cares? Maybe referees will feel compelled to call real penalties in the playoffs instead of swallowing the whistle out of a misguided sense of “not affecting the outcome of the game” and waiting for a puck to go over the glass.
Let’s meet in the middle and say if a team does it thrice in a period, then it’s a two-minute penalty.
7. Saying “Original Six” results in a fine. Stop saying it. It’s not a real thing. It’s a marketing tool. Unless you work for the NHL, you shouldn’t say it. “It’s dumb” is widely considered to be a poor intellectual argument, but really, “It’s dumb.”
8. A 17-day break every year for a World Cup. Look, I don’t want to make life any harder for the players than it is. The 82-game season is already too long, and squeezing that schedule into a tighter window for the sake of the Olympics only opens the door to more players suffering injuries.
But man, I sure do love Olympic hockey, and by bringing back the World Cup, we will basically have the Olympics every year during the season.
Don’t forget that while this does tighten the schedule, it only makes life worse for the each country’s best players. The Al Montoyas and Blake Comeaus of the world get a built-in holiday every season. The best of the best would play on an international stage every year for two weeks, and I don’t know how that can do anything except build the NHL’s brand. Yeah, injuries, blah blah blah, but if guys are willing to subject themselves to that at the half-assed Worlds (Hi, Eric Staal) after the season, they should be willing to do it in North America (Oh yeah, this thing is taking place in North America every year) during the season.
This would be a treat for the fans, and perhaps this should be considered as reparations to them for three lockouts in 18 years. Yes, there is reportedly a World Cup coming down the pipe in 2016, but A) We could all be dead by 2016, and B) The plan is to hold it in August. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking players would rather have a slightly more compressed regular season as opposed to an offseason that ends early with games in August. Also, players would be at their best in the middle of the season as opposed to August. My idea is better.
9. The most perfect overtime there is. I know everyone with a keyboard and IQ above 46 has their miraculous way of improving overtime and abandoning the shootout, but shootouts aren’t going anywhere no matter how badly we want to get rid of them (they are hockey’s herpes), but this OT plan is the best and would minimize the herpes outbreaks.
Overtime remains 4-on-4, because 4-on-4 is great and 3-on-3 would simply devolve into a 2-on-1 contest, which is an even goofier way to give away point than a breakaway contest. We take the time to Zamboni the ice after the third period (not a full intermission, 6-7 minutes) and there is one subtle change – teams switch ends to start overtime, thus creating another “period of the long change,” which is also Doc Emrick’s way of describing a 12-year-old girl beginning puberty. The longer change will help create more goals.
After that five-minute session, you know what we have? Another five-minute session! The ice is shoveled and we play another five-minute overtime. You give an advertiser a little on-screen plug during the ice cleaning and quick Zamboni break before overtime, and we are on our way to more actual hockey and not a shootout.
If all that doesn’t work, fine, go to your shootout.
10. Pierre McGuire stops calling games. For those of you in Canada, this doesn’t apply to you. Consider yourself lucky you no longer have to deal with this situation and spend the next couple paragraphs accepting the fact Canada isn’t winning a medal in Sochi.
Announcing is very subjective. What I like, you may not. But Pierre McGuire is objectively bad at his job. Is he knowledgeable? About certain things, yeah. Is he a nice guy? I suppose. But he has no idea what he’s doing as a third announcer. He’s there to be sprinkled into a broadcast, much like how Darren Pang does his thing, and make pertinent observations. He’s proven he is unable to do that consistently. McGuire goes into every game with an agenda, and he forces that agenda onto the viewers at home and announcers in the booth, constantly seeking affirmation from Ed Olczyk on everything. While that’s happening, he’s missing action on the ice because he’s only seeing the game through his predetermined prism.
Sure, it’s a great joke, how Pierre speaks directly to Doc and Eddie, but that is a major problem. No other announcer in sports does this, and it’s because every other trained announcer in sports knows he is speaking to the people at home. Hearing “Doc and Eddie” at the start of 40-60 statements per game is intolerable. The fact that Pierre screams when he has a state-of-the-art, top-of-the-line working microphone is also a major problem. I know it’s loud down there, but you have a microphone.
I’m not rooting for someone to become unemployed, but I’m begging for a team to give Pierre the front-office job he craves. Or heck, put him in the studio. You would be doing a service for every hockey fan in the United States.
Also: That amazing Pierre photo is from @KellyIsADIC_ and he deserves all the glory for it.
11. No more GEICO ads with Nicklas Backstrom. Even he knows he can’t act. Let’s put a bullet in those commercials for 2013-14. Fans have been through enough over the past year.
12. Turn up the volume on suspensions – We’ve come a long way since Brendan Shanahan became the NHL’s disciplinarian three years ago, when he was dispensing justice like a cross between Guy Fawkes in V for Vendetta and Willam Munny in The Unforgiven. But as the years have progressed, the length of suspensions have returned to pre-Shanahan levels.
I think Shanahan has done a really good job since taking over. He’s light years more consistent than Colin Campbell ever was at a job where it’s really hard to be consistent. When I see a hit that I think should be suspended, I feel like I’m on the same page as Shanahan 9 out of 10 times, with the occasional Rene Bourque elbow that goes unpunished that leaves me wondering.
What I want to see is Shanahan make punishments more harsh. Guys aren’t learning. They likely never will. My dream is to have Shanahan do his thing, come up with a number for an infraction, then double it. Maintain all the same rules for repeat offenders (although I barf a little knowing Matt Cooke, as much as he’s cleaned up his game, isn’t considered a repeat offender anymore), but just be harsher on any and all offenders. Double everything. That’s what I’d like to see.
13. Face-off circles in the middle of the ice. During an NHL Research and Development Camp a few years ago, a new idea was given a chance – get rid of the two face-off circles on the left and right side of the offensive zone, and replace them with one face-off circle in the middle. It was a downright genius way to give the offense a slightly better chance at scoring off a faceoff. It was an idea so simple that you couldn’t believe you didn’t think of it.
As you would expect, it was roundly mocked and forgotten about.
The beauty of the centered dot is when you win a draw, both of your defenseman are in prime scoring areas. The center is already in front of the net, and the wingers both have a chance to crash the crease. With the face-off circles positioned how they are now, you need to make an extra pass from the wall to get into a true scoring area. The face-off circle in the center of the zone minimizes the work needed to generate a shot.
Of course, it didn’t pass because it “looked funny” and that was that. I get it. Remember when America decided not to go to the moon because rocket ships “looked funny?” Or when George Lucas said he didn’t want light sabers in his movie because it “looked funny?” Or how about when Jesus Christ decided against dying for our sins because being nailed to a cross “looked funny?”
The NHL sure saved itself from embarrassment there. It would’ve been as bad as going with a Metropolitan Division.
14. You can’t bring horns into games. I mean, why would you even do this in the first place? Do you want to be considered the team’s best super No. 1 awesome cool fan? Do you think you are helping the team win? You’re not. You’re annoying people. It is loud and no one wants to hear it. Look at this poor guy sitting behind the horn guy at Verizon Center. He sure looks like he’s enjoying it. This vuvuzela phenomenon is all the fault of the 2010 World Cup, proving once again that soccer is the worst.
15. Kicking pucks for goals is now legal. The NHL will tell you (and me whenever I bring it up) that there is both rhyme and reason for how they decide if goals should count when pucks bank off skates. Unfortunately, years of video evidence says otherwise. Let’s just say any puck off a skate counts. Is it dangerous for large men with weapons tied to their feet to be kicking and flailing in a crowded area? Sure. If someone loses a foot or finger, we can revisit this. For now, I’m willing to risk the careers of people to avoid the annoyance of video review on pucks that go into the net off skates. Seems fair. Totally sane.
16. No more fighting. It’s pointless. Is it fun? You bet. I’m not above enjoying watching two large human beings punch each other in the face. You ever see those street fight knockout videos on YouTube? Man, I can get lost in those for an hour.
As great as those street fight videos are, I don’t want to watch the people in those videos play hockey. Fighting does nothing for hockey. It doesn’t police players. Despite the existence of fighting for decades, there have always been players taking liberties on the ice. Fighting works as a deterrent about as much as the death penalty prevents murder. People are going to commit murder and hockey players are going to do dumb things, and that’s why cops and referees exist.
Football, baseball and basketball all find a way to exist without fighting. When a quarterback is hit late or a receiver is hit in a dirty fashion, somehow, some way, the team that has been wronged never feels some foolish sense of pride that results in a linebacker and offensive tackle fighting. And even if that fight happened three times a game, it would do nothing to prevent those types of dirty hits anyway.
I’m tired of watching goons who can’t skate get six minutes of ice time in which all they are doing is giving players with actual talent a breather. With the way collision sports are becoming a powder keg of concussions, banning fighting would at least take some of the powder out of the keg. We live in a dumb time. Fifty years from now, assuming the world isn’t under water, we will look back on this time when fighting was a thing in hockey and laugh about it the way we laugh about people thinking the world was flat or Ilya Kovalchuk played for the love of the game.
16a. Fights to the death. So let’s say you are your team’s enforcer. Your team’s best player gets caught with his head down in the neutral zone and is crushed with a legal hit that sends him helicoptering through the air. Does play continue because the hit was clean? Of course not! You have to fight the guy who hit your guy because in a full-contact sport, you shouldn’t be allowed to make full contact with another player.
What ensues is a dumb fight where the enforcer jumps the other guy, linesmen break it up, the enforcer yells stuff at the clean hitter from the penalty box, idiots argue about it on Twitter for two days.
I say if we are keeping fighting in the game, let’s take fighting to a Game of Thrones level. If two guys want to fight, they fight to the death. Linesmen, get a sandwich and coffee because you’re not needed. I’m tired of this nonsense where one guy stands up for another guy and after 45 seconds of holding and punching, they tap each other on the back and say, “Good fight.” Screw that. Show me you really care about your teammate. Show me you have honor. That other guy dishonored your brother, your teammate, your profession. He has to die. Why just punch him in the face a few times when killing him would send a true message of how much you care about firing up the boys?
Once the gloves are dropped, that’s it. Someone has to die. Technically, as it stands now, someone could die in a fight and no one seems to care about it. Everyone seems to cheer despite those being real consequences of fighting. Let’s take it to another level. Two guys fight, they fall to the ice, now it’s MMA. Forearms to the face, knees to the sternum, hell, take off your skate and try to cut the other guy. Hockey is the toughest game in the world? Prove it to me.
God, fighting is so dumb.