While the National Hockey League may not be the most popular league in North America, it certainly has its fair share going for it to make it one of the most exciting sports on the face of the Earth.
The NHL used the slogan “The Fastest Game on Earth” for many years, and that adage holds true today. There is no sport that can boast the pace and non-stop action that the majority of NHL games offer on a nightly basis during the regular season. Baseball, basketball and football all bring elements of excitement to the table, but none come close to matching the speed of hockey.
To grow the game in the United States, the NHL has often had to resort to selling the brutal nature and physicality of the sport. Big hits, fights and all-out line brawls often out-shone the skill and high-tempo action when it came to advertising the NHL. With the increased awareness of headshots and concussions in today’s era of sport, the viciousness has been toned down – but only a bit.
The entire package usually results in an exciting product, but there are still many, many issues the NHL needs to deal with before they can truly compete with the “big three,” the National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball and the National Football League. All three have deeply entrenched themselves all over North America, while hockey has always been considered a primarily Canadian sport.
Even if the NHL doesn't expand their fan-base by a single fan for the rest of its existence, it still needs to get its act together on certain things if they want their current fans to stick around. It’d be a stretch to say that hockey is “broken” – the game has never been as profitable or popular – but there are still aspects of it that justify its spot on the totem pole when it comes to major North American professional sports leagues.
10 Widen the Blue-Lines
9 Increase the Ice-Surface
8 Remove the “Loser Point”
7 Get Out of the Sun-Belt
If the NHL is serious about "upping" it's overall image and competing with the NFL, NBA and MLB in terms of how they are perceived, they need to rid themselves of the anchors holding down the rest of the league. While the Coyotes might have turned the corner with a new deal to keep them in Arizona for the foreseeable future, the first order of business should be to remove the Panthers from South Florida and move them somewhere where people actually give a damn about hockey (to be subtly blunt about it). The Panthers' putrid attendance to a home game earlier this season not only made them an internet sensation (for all the wrong reasons), it gave people another reason to point and laugh at the NHL.
I can count five markets that, if not necessarily "viable" just yet, are guaranteed to be more profitable that the Panthers. Panthers owner Doug Cifu uttered these exact words in an interview with FOX Sports in August:
“The arena and the team have lost a significant amount of money year over year for the last 10-plus years and the current business model is not sustainable."
6 Making All Contact with the Head a Penalty
5 Allow Linesmen to Contribute to Penalty Calls
4 Get Rid of the Shootout
3 Changes to Make Overtime More Exciting
2 Adding a Coach’s Challenge
1 Fixing the Goaltender Interference Rule
This might be the most infuriating issue of the bunch. If the headshot issue was a "gray zone," I can't imagine what color the goaltender interference rule could be described as (perhaps a Picasso, but for all the wrong reasons). One night, running over a goalie is a mortal sin - the next, it's let go. Some nights, being in the crease and screening the goalie is celebrated - the next, you can't even glide the toe of a skate blade over the blue ice, for fear of being sent off.
I could go on and on, but you get the point - the NHL needs to make up it's mind on what is and isn't goaltender interference, and once they do, they need to make sure their officials have one clear and consistent interpretation of the rule.
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