Most of us would agree hockey is a great game—always has been, hopefully it always will be.
Talented, skillful athletes who entertain us. It’s all good. Especially at this time of year, the hockey is tremendous. As I’ve often said, the first round of the playoffs, for me, is the best hockey of the year. Sixteen teams playing their guts out, trying to survive. We're now into the second round but it's still outstanding hockey.
That said, are there things we could do to make the game even better? Absolutely. The league, with a lot of input from current and former players, has made all kinds of modifications that have re-shaped the game in recent years. The intent was to open the game up, create more offense and make the game more entertaining. (Talent we have. Just looking at the Team Canada roster at the World Championships, you realize just how many elite-level young players Canada is producing- Tavares, Eberle, Pietrangelo, Skinner, Ladd, Duschene, etc.) But we can always make the game a bit better.
I’m not, personally, a fan of bigger nets, or Olympic-size ice, for example. But there are more things that could be done.
Well, here are a few ideas (some I have mentioned before) and I certainly don’t suggest that I’m the first to trumpet any of them. But for me, they would really help:
- Get rid of regular-season overtime and for sure, the shootout. I’m all “shot out”. OT messes up the standings, creates these absolutely unnecessary “three-point” games. The game is entertaining enough that we don’t need overtime. A tie is a tie. It shouldn’t be decided by a gimmicky four-on-four.
- Reduce the number of regular-season games to 72. C’mon, the playoffs take two months. We all love playoff hockey, but we don’t need 82 games to get there. This would, without question, allow teams to practice more during the season, wok on things like special teams and would cut down on injuries and fatigue and preserve players (and goalies) for the grinding playoff push and the playoffs themselves.
- Go back to less technology. I heard a good discussion on the Fan 590 recently with host Andrew Krystal. Why do we have these fancy sticks that can shoot a puck 120 miles an hour? Setting aside the awful impact (and cost) it has on youth hockey, do we really need this kind of puck speed in the game? Why should every guy be able to shoot like Bobby Hull did 40 years ago, just because of technology?
- On that note, let’s cut down drastically on the size and hardness of equipment. No, I’m not a professional hockey player so I don’t “know” what it’s like to give or take a hit. But I have to believe that if players weren't dressed up like robots, they may be less inclined to hammer each other the way they do. The game is at risk because of far too many serious injuries, including concussions. Make shoulder pads, elbow pads, etc. smaller and softer.
- No-touch icing. I don’t know why this is such a big deal. If you ice the puck you ice the puck. Blow the whistle. You have a choice, don’t ice the puck. Don Cherry has harped on this for years. Just change the rule. It will save on all kinds unnecessary—and serious— injuries.
- Want more goals? Make the goalie equipment even smaller. If you get rid of the 300 mile an hour shots, goalies won’t need to look like the Michelin Man out there.
- I think teams should be able to access players who are healthy and are sitting out if and when an injury occurs in a game. If a d-man is hurt early in the game, for example, you should be able to dress the guy who was scratched for the rest of the game. Why not? You’re paying the guy to sit in the press box, eh? Isn’t it a better game if teams don’t have to play short-handed all night?
- I don’t have an answer for the "hits from behind" situation, but it’s a flat-out epidemic. Almost nightly we are guessing how long the next suspension will be. Why? Because virtually every game, a player gets hammered from behind into the boards. Now, sometimes players put themselves in these situations, and/or don’t brace themselves properly. But as long as we have the ‘have to be tough along the boards’ attitude in the game, it’s going to be a problem. Somehow we to have change attitudes—hits from the side/behind/near the boards are a suspension. Period. Guys are too big and the game is too fast for that kind of hit nowadays.
- Contraction. I realize this one won’t happen, but it would be tremendous to see the quality of play if there maybe 24 teams in the league rather than 30. (Click here to see my earlier post on contraction.)
Will any of the above happen in the foreseeable future? I do hope some adjustments will be made, little changes that could make the game even better.
By all means send your suggestions along...