Dose of Reality #30

February 7, 2007

Dose of Reality

I left my house last night at 5:00 PM for the Jackets game, covering seven miles of my 18 mile trip in about 40 minutes. At that point, I could see that it was going to be very difficult to make the 7:00 PM face-off, so I turned around and headed back home. I pulled into my driveway at 7:00 PM, frustrated with the fact that because I live in Central Ohio, I have to put up with Central Ohio drivers. Let me offer some advice, people: After you get that sweet, weekly payment deal from Ricart, don’t sign anything until they throw in an ice-scraper. And operating instructions. And also, if you see snow falling and don’t like to drive in it, get the hell off the road! It is not mandatory to subtract 20 from the posted speed limit if you see snow, either.

So where was I? The Coyotes decided they wanted to do some pre-game shopping at Easton and arrived late for the game. Can you imagine the tension on that bus? Late for an NHL game? But then, the Blue Jackets didn’t even bother to show up.

So lets change the subject. John Buccigross, ESPN Hockey Expert, wrote a nice column yesterday about what he would do to make the game better. I suggest that you go to it and read it and consider it. John has some good ideas, like making the overtime period longer while retaining the four on four play. If anyone else out there has proposed this, I compliment you and Buccigross. It is a terrific idea because it would generate a high level of excitement with the open ice play and make the shootout even more dramatic. Ohio high school games play eight minutes, by the way. A lot of NHL teams still go through the motions during the OT because it is brief and they have already earned one point. To them, it is easier to hold on during the OT and take their chances on the shootout. But if the OT is now longer, the defensive strategy that most NHL coaches embrace will be harder to implement and they will have to try to win.

To this idea, I think the NHL should consider awarding three points for any OT or shootout win instead of the traditional two points. Does this cheapen the regulation win? Maybe, so should this idea be modified to where three points are awarded for a regulation win and two for other wins? I blog, you decide.

I am not enthusiastic about enlarging the goals. Buccigross makes a reasonable proposal for just adding a puck length to each side and on top. But after a short time, I think you would see goalies adjust, making just as many saves regardless of the larger goal size. Is there any research out there that shows how the goals are scored? I know that the NHL charts where the goals enter the net and what kind of shot is used, but do we know the speed of the shots, the succession of shots, and the goal-area activity? If research shows that more goals are scored as a result of side-to-side movement or that players can’t score from outside the slot anymore, then a larger goal won’t help.

Goalies used to be the kids who could not skate very well or they lacked quickness. In the last twenty years, the goalie is every bit as athletic as the position player, making goal scoring more a difficult task. Today’s shooters are more skilled and they have composite sticks, or the numbers might be even lower against the modern goalie. Teams have goalie coaches and kids go to goalie camps and all this has paid off. I need to study this more before I jump on the “Enlarge the Goals” bandwagon.

I also agree with Buccigross that we need more Canadian teams and we need fewer games. The addition of a Canadian team means no fan base development, no Pepsi Party Patrol, no marketing fluff. Just name the Canadian team and go from there. They wouldn’t have OhioHealth commercials featuring a hockey player wearing skate guards and earflaps on his helmet.

A season starting in November with fewer games would make financial sense by lowering operational costs and it would feel like hockey. As I sat on the bench during my own hockey game on Sunday, a teammate talking about the weather said it made him feel like it was hockey season. There is something wrong with going to a game wearing spring clothing. It is hard enough going to a football game when it is baseball weather outside, but attending a hockey game in the same weather should be restricted to Atlanta or Tampa Bay.

Finally, John talks about USA Hockey working more closely with the NHL to sell the game to Americans. Here in Columbus, there are two associations, CAHA and CCYHA, that work extremely hard at coaching, organizing, educating, and promoting the game of hockey to kids and their parents. They do it all with a group of dedicated adults who put in hundreds of hours away from their homes at all hours of the day so kids can enjoy the game of hockey. They could use some help. Paying for ice, acquiring uniforms and equipment, developing coaches and officials, and managing the programs are expensive, but these two groups find a way to do it year after year. They were around before the Blue Jackets and they will do everything possible so that a seven-year old can do the dance of joy when his or her team wins.

– Truth Serum

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