State of Hockey Address

October 4, 2007

My favorite sport is hurting. In particular, my favorite team is hurting. So here’s my list of reasons why:

Why there were only 17,600 fans at JLA last night for the season opener

1. Ticket prices are out of control. Out of control. This is no longer the big show in town. Hockey is a, gasp, regional sport. I can waltz into Comerica and watch the Tigers, who were in the World Series last year for half of what it costs me to STAND or SIT IN THE LAST ROW at JLA. Atrocious. The Pistons have had more immediate, recent success, and their tickets are also much, much cheaper. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of hockey games to go to:41 home games + 3-4 exhibition + however many playoff games. Mr. I, you can longer open the doors and expect a sellout. So adjust.

2. There is no identity on this team. Which isn’t their fault. They’ve done the best they can. How many teams can rebuild and remain at the top of its game at the same time? You can say the Wings are boring as a declaratory statement, and I’ll agree with that, but don’t say it as an accusation. There’s a vaccuum right now. We lost Yzerman and Shanahan. Guys like McCarty just don’t make it in the NHL anymore (evidenced by him being out of a job right now). So, this is obvious, but it’s not anyone’s fault… I’ll take an identity-less good team over a bottom-feeder right now.

3. There is no “pull” to games. This is part of #2 as well, but also reflective of a few facts. First, the Joe needs to go. There is no connection to the old winning era. Now, it’s just a hole. Get the new arena. Second, up the presentation of the game. I don’t even like basketball as a sport, but when I go to Pistons games, I can’t help but get fired up for the game. Not so at Wings games. It’s silent in there, and they do very little to get us pumped up.

4. My team is inaccesible. No fan can penetrate the veil of secrecy surrounding the Wings. 1-2 open practices a year doesn’t cut it.

5. We’re a bunch of Euros. This is a controversial pick, sure, but it’s true. People just don’t embrace European players like they do North American players, unless they’re Alex Ovechkin. Probably cause they don’t talk as well and play more of a finesse game.

6. The Wings are just good. That’s it. It’s boring now. They dictate every game and win by dazzling skill. They’re not scrappy until the playoffs. There’s no real reason to go down to the games — you know what you’re going to get most nights. It’s a foregone conclusion of sorts.

7. The schedule is atrocious. Move the Wings to the East. The league is failing in every sense of the word, and instead of showcasing their premier talents (Crosby and Ovechkin) in every possible market, they make it so we only get to see them every other year, and maybe not on our home ice. This is Sidney’s third year in the league and he’s been on the ice at the Joe ONCE, and won’t be this year. The Ocho is finally making his first appearance at the Joe this December, and is also in his third year. And instead of these guys, I’m watching St. Louis, Columbus, Nashville 4 TIMES? 4 TIMES? Looking at the West right now, do you see any team that’s going to fill the seats at the Joe on a regular basis? The closest I can find is Colorado, or Anaheim — and we saw that they couldn’t draw a crowd last night. Give us the East. Last year I went to a game against the Leafs at the Joe and it was packed and the energy was sky high, even higher than the energy during the playoffs. Make it happen.

Reasons why the NHL blows

1. Gary Bettman. Dude has ruined the league. I can point to nothing done right during his administration, and a lot done wrong. The crease rule. Expansion. The lockout. The schedule. Taking fighting out of hockey. Taking physical play out of hockey. On and on and on and on and on. He might’ve done alright managing the NBA, but not so here.

2. It’s a regional sport, stupid. Stop trying to be something you’re not. You’re going to pull in Canada, the North, and Colorado. Stick to that. You’re diluting the game of its talent and profitability by having dead weight in the South. Hockey was never going to be a national sport. It’s got a cult following. Play to your strengths.

3. That being said, put it back on ESPN. Yes, this makes sense given what I just said in #2. There’s a whole hell of a lot of people in the North and Colorado. Just as many people, I’m sure, as watch televised poker or schlock like “The Contender.” Sticking the playoffs on NBC was a mistake — it just poured salt in the NHL’s wounds — because it’s not going to draw nationally. It’s just not. But a game a week on ESPN is the perfect solution. Get back the relevance. Get it back on sports fans radar screens. Get more highlights on SportsCenter. You’re never going to crack the top 3 sports, but do what you can.

4. The game lost its balls. No fighting. Physical play marginalized. People cheer more for fights than goals, it’s a fact. Why is the NHL trying so hard to run away from this? Would you rather have a reputation as a goon’s sport, or have no reputation at all? Let’s face it: the game is boring.

5. The lockout was miserable. Absolutely miserable. Way to alienate a fanbase.

6. EXPANSION. Just blow up the SE Division in the East. Columbus? Nashville? Honestly. People don’t want to pay money to see this stuff. Also, you’re diluting the talent pool by having too many teams. Take the same player base in the league right now but minus 5 or 6 teams. Every team is better, and every team pays less — in general — for top-tier talent due to more supply and less demand.

7. The schedule. Mentioned above, but it’s just a nightmare, unless you’re in the NE or Atlantic divisions.

I could go on for hours. I’m depressed.

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One Response to “State of Hockey Address”

  1. daniel Says:

    Problems I found with Scott Burnside’s Red Wings Season preview posted on espn.com 2 days before the season started:

    1) He says Niklas Kronwall is the next Konstantinov. what the fuck?
    2) He says the Wings biggest off-season acquisition was Mike Sillinger. huh?
    3) He says “hope hasek stays healthy -cause Detroit’s backup options are Osgood and Koopmans.” I guess I missed it this summer when we traded Jimmy Howard for Mike Sillinger. ugh

    And that’s a perfect example of how much time US media gives to hockey. I got so mad i finally registered espn.com just to post a comment.

    Anyways, you make good points, I can type all night about this so let’s save it for face to face.

    D


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