Thursday, March 27, 2008

Gary Bettman, NHL Teams And Rebuttals

This post is in rebuttal to the recent post by Chris Lucas over at Lucas On Sports regarding Gary Bettman and the NHL … while we at Ice Junkies agree with a few things in this post, there are some ideas thrown around that we need to interject our 2 cents worth. You can read the post by clicking here - What Gary Bettman Can Do To Save The NHL and you can follow Chris over at Twitter, he is @Hockeyskates The other driver of our rebuttal is the comment from “Chris in Canada” and his thoughts as to how he would make the NHL better also. So, sit back and enjoy – and thank you for taking the time.

It is annoying when Hockey purists complain about the league having teams in southern states just because they don't think they are "hockey states.” We at Ice Junkies believe if you want the league to grow, that has to be part of it. If you trimmed down the teams in the NHL you would not be able to see the difference between "good" players and "great" players. We would love to see another team in Canada … but it's ridiculous to say that the league has too many teams when you look at the standings this year and how close the race is for the playoff spots. The talent isn't being spread thin at all, in fact, if you had less teams it could be harder to find these gems because there would not be any room on NHL franchise rosters for young players or tough role players. You'd never see a guy like Darren McCarty, Georges Laraque, Steve Ott, Daniel Carcillo, etc … they would all be in the AHL. If you look at Anaheim and why they won the cup, they won it based on role players … by limiting the number of teams the league would lose that ability, like Travis Moen in Anaheim, would he have made it onto the roster? A player like Daniel Carcillo, who clearly has offensive skills, would never get to learn how to play in the NHL because nobody would want to take a chance on him when they are inundated with star caliber players. Also, when great players hit a slump, unless they have the seniority, in a league with less teams to absorb the field - they would be thrown back into the farm league and some of the great ones might never be "found" by allowing them to grow through the droughts - because no matter how you slice it ... AHL Hockey and NHL Hockey are day and night. Your stars in AHL could easily be flops in “The Show.” Look at the Busch League and Nextel Series in NASCAR.

Now, we do agree that having two teams in Florida is unnecessary when there are places in Canada begging for a team, but saying that Carolina (Stanley Cup winner), Phoenix (who has been great this year), Columbus (who actually has a decent following) don't deserve teams is, in our opinion, a clear display of bias and jealousy.

Regarding shortening the season, we do not support that idea in any shape or form, for us that's part of hockey. It's supposed to be the toughest sport on the planet and the length of a season is a part of it and to say "No one wants to watch in October when it really doesn’t matter until April and June!" proves to us that someone’s not quite as hardcore as they want to pretend. Anyone who says October doesn't matter isn't paying attention - teams know this and fans clearly care about October looking at attendance stats it's not like no one is coming to hockey games until the end of the season.

As much grief as Eklund gets around the Blog Universe, he does make some good points … and a couple days ago he discussed this exact point about tightening the NHL and the teams that are playing. You can read his post here (of course after you finish this one.) The Oil Rises. An NHL 1/3rd tighter, plus the Virtual Final Standings.

Let’s talk about the Commish now, We think Bettman has done one great thing and one terrible thing. The great thing being the salary cap structure and the new CBA (which many said he would never get) and the terrible thing is the agreement with Versus. With Versus the main problem is the lack of a real marketing push to spread the game into the mainstream (though the winter classic was brilliant) – Versus just does not have the market share to help the NHL expand its viewership and introduce this sport to new audiences. Frankly, you won’t grow the sport without ESPN and NBC. While the best way to generate a solid fan base is to have them experience the passion and excitement of the NHL in person, you won’t do that until people can see what they’re missing when they’re not even looking for it. Chicago is a great example of this. Now that the Hawks are back on local television, their attendance levels are finally climbing out of the gutter.

You can't put all the blame on Bettman either, though part of his role is to be the scapegoat, but the owners have a big say in how the sport develops and keep in mind that the NHL has actually gotten healthier under him (much like the NBA did). So while we are unhappy about some of the stuff he's done, he's at least made it so that the sport can wasn't going to under the previous system.

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