One of my favourite hockey personalities, Pierre LeBrun, published his list of 10 ways the NHL could help the league recover from the current lockout if in fact they ever get back to playing hockey again. While I agree with a few of the items in LeBrun’s collection (give away NHL centre ice package, bring back World Cup of Hockey, 20 year CBA), most of them don’t really address core issues with the game and the NHL’s relationship with its fans.
So I thought I’d come up with my own list of 10 things the NHL could do to recover from their own self-imposed lockout:
1. Fire Gary Bettman and replace him with Wayne Gretzky as Commissioner. Maybe they can pay 99 the money they owe him from the Phoenix fiasco while they’re at it.
2. Lower ticket and concession prices across the league so that real fans and their families can attend NHL games again.
3. End the Phoenix Coyotes experiment and relocate the franchise to one of Saskatoon, Quebec City or the Toronto area. There’s no future in Phoenix for the NHL and no one knows that better than the new commissioner (see item number one).
4. Actively seek out potential relocation options for at least two other failing US franchises once the Phoenix mess is finalized. There are two cities waiting above.
5. Get rid of the shootout. Like most of what Gary Bettman introduced to the NHL the shootout is a cheap gimmick that originated from some Madison Avenue marketing firm. True NHL fans favour the overtime format with perhaps the option of a 3 on 3 version if the first 5-minute OT period doesn’t produce a winner. There’s no shame in a hard-fought tie in hockey either.
6. Get serious with NHL head shots and suspensions. The game has changed over the years and hockey fans pay to see the Crosby’s of the world, not the 4th line knuckle dragging headhunters.
7. Create a plan to expand NHL ice surfaces to international standards. With the speed and intensity of today’s game, NHL rinks need to be bigger and the only thing preventing it is the need to remove seating and the loss of revenue that will follow. With the demands NHL owners are making on the players in the current CBA negotiations they can well afford to make their rinks bigger. Plus, the decline in injuries will only help protect their investments.
8. Start embracing fantasy hockey. The NFL takes fantasy football seriously because it knows that fantasy players are fanatical about the sport, watch more football, consume more online products, spend more money on the game and drive the whole NFL machine to greater heights. It’s time the NHL opened its eyes to the super fans of the game – fantasy hockey enthusiasts.
9. Kill the All-Star Game in favour of the Charity Game where NHL players chosen to play by the fans must play for a charity of their choice, such as their hometown rink or minor hockey association. Donate $1 million in partnership with the NHLPA to be divided equally among the players. The winning team’s players pass along their share to the charity of their choice. The league and players’ association win big with fans, players actually put out an honest effort in order to help their hometowns, and communities and charities around the world see the financial benefits.
10. Start building a relationship with the players to actually grow the game, not an agenda to win the next round of CBA negotiations. If one-tenth of the time, energy and money spent by the NHL in the last year on lawyers and strategists had been spent on working in partnership with the players the future of the game would be unlimited.
There you have it, ten better ways for the NHL to recover from the lockout. Thoughts?
Image Source: C.P. Storm