Before I write this post, I will ask you to put these concepts in order of importance.
- Flawless Officiating
- Fun to play
Now you might ask: "why can't we have them all?" like any other competitive half-wit, but the truth is, prioritizing any one of these values may end up taxing the others.
So now there is a rising obsession in this playoffs in the fans and in the media that the officials need to get every call right because of what "should be" rather than what "is".
My question is: have you only discovered this NOW?!
Now some people (I call them defeatists, though it's not exact to-the-term) will always judge what should be straight by the consequences. For example, they'll use mantras like "the best thing about about best-of-7s is that the best team always wins". The defeatists will always pounce on anyone that suggests alternative systems of thought on what "should be". I am not a "defeatist" if you've ever read any of my other posts. (I don't "always" declare reality the winner - this is why I call it defeatism).
But when you're looking at the framework of the game, you ultimately have to put these in order.
Let us now go to those things you would put at the top and how it might affect other aspects of hockey.
If "profitable" is #1 (hello NHL owners and Gary Bettman):
- Games will need to have a lot of gimmicks that adjust the balance of power many times in a given game (this is what you call a "high event" product). This will tax the players playing the game as they'll be having less fun.
A perfect example of this is goaltenders forced to wear smaller gear - they have more fun in 2 - 0 games (one is an empty net goal), but the fans don't.
- The game needs to be as accessible and interactive for fans as possible. (This will also tax some players having fun because they have to start mitigating their speech on ice and to the media.)
A perfect example of this is how penetrating the media can be. I recall crew-cut-gone-wrong (Kyle Because-cuz) from CBC/Sportsnet asking Marchand in pre-game a wry question and having him skate off. Meanwhile Marchand later zipped his trap after they defeated Columbus and the same CBC media cried about his maturity.
- Games need to be fluid (will tax officiating).
Officials have x time to get the call right. Then that x time gets stretched into the y, the flow of the game will get spoiled. Have you ever tried to watch a baseball game? That's how important flow is.
- The "right matchups" will have to be put in place to generate hype and headlines.
That means teams with prestige (big ticket teams) will be "preferred" in future match-ups, which will involve them whispering in a few years to try to make it happen without seeming obvious. This will greatly tax the "fairness of play" in the playoffs especially.
Mid-article disclaimer: You might dispute some of these conclusions, but if you can come up with a conclusion that doesn't tax the other elements of the product, let the NHL know; they could use fresh ideas. But I'm telling you what their guys are trying to balance in the league: they need to make it a palatable product, and that will make a few fan bases mad to please the rest.
Have you ever watched a Japanese game show? The WWE?
If you put entertaining first, then you will support even more silly gimmicks to make the game more primal.
- You will encourage more animosity between the sides, which will also tax the fun the players are having. Animosity is one of hockey's big draws as a sport. Big hits, fighting, players jawing at each other, cheapshots, etc.
A good example of this is officials "putting their whistles away" during the playoffs. The reduction of order will increase chaos. Chaos is entertaining.
- You will encourage, again, immediate power shifts in games and high event hockey. (Already went over this)
- You will encourage the media getting into the players personal lives so that they can exploit some of their personal story lines for the sake of the game. This will tax not only the fun the players are having, but the integrity of the sport, which will wound its profitability - (it will attract more children and childlike people, and fewer money-possessing disciplined individuals).
I don't need to list examples which might tax anyone's integrity, but I have heard several things about the personal lives of players which belong in confessional booths and not in the media.
- You will introduce rules and gimmicks in the game so as to always give people a reason to watch. These rules could just about be anything: if a game is 5 - 0, the goalie now has to play with a mask the hinders his eyesight.
The Brodeur trapezoid is one such example of a "gimmick"; also, the shoot-out is another. Three-on-three in overtime. Three-point games. You get the gist.
Have you ever played Monopoly or another resource-based board game that requires that the banker or the person doing the banking be an absolute stickler so that nobody !cheats! - accidentally miscalculates what to take?
If you want games to be officiated properly! This is what you're going to get! Prepare for 1984.
- First off, no more goalies covering the camera if the puck is underneath them and they're in the net. The puck will have RF technology implanted in it as soon as the puck crosses the goal line will sound the goal horn if play is "active" (activated by the whistles of the ref, which will send a signal to stop the clock when blown and make a play "inactive".
- Fifteen cameras will be installed at each end of the ice, perhaps every three panes of glass surrounding the rink.
- Whenever a play is blown dead, they have to wait about 20 seconds before resuming to make sure the office refs caught everything.
- Games will take at least 30 minutes longer to play.
- Every time a goal is scored, you have to wait for it to be approved by meticulous review: you can't celebrate a goal anymore. Instead the refs will go over to the time keeper's bench, submitting their evidence, and then a roll of paper will come out of the slot at the bench which will say "goal" or "no goal".
- A group of lawyers and refs will be watching every play so that if a tippy toe is offside, or if a faceoff was done unfairly, or if there was the slightest distinct kicking motion on a play, a goal scored two minutes later will be called off. They'll slam everything with a big fat book of NHL rules.
- Team colours will now be adjusted to redirect the psychology of the game: the colours red and black will no longer be allowed.
- Referees will get replaced by robots and players will be forced to wear socks, pants, jerseys, gloves, helmet chips that track their movement, as well as the movement of their stick. When these robots see an infraction, play is immediately blown dead.
Because all of this, you see, is part of our problem in today's society: in everyone trying to "get everything right", everything will inevitably be reduced to some tyrannical power that becomes greater than what the game was trying to accomplish in the first place.
In the end...
PLAYERS HAVING FUN
Players need to give the NHL feedback on how to make this game a product that suits how they want to play.
When it comes to profitability, I side with the owners, because players don't know what makes a game profitable.
But players know the most about what makes a game fun because they spent their whole lives doing it. When players are having fun, fans are having fun, and owners are having fun. In the end... let's all remember:
Hockey is a SPORT - which is designed to be fun for the people playing that sport.
I hurt with you when there's a missed call, or when a team moves on when they don't deserve it (you really think SJ is the first? I've been watching the NHL for thirty years: I can give you a long line of legitimate complaints. Heck, just weeks ago, I argued that Montreal should be in the playoffs because they were a competitive team, but three teams with fewer points got in, and they had more points than a team that won the Stanley Cup in 2012 - which was 95 to their 96).
But in the end, we cannot take away the fun the players have during the game. Increasing officiating, and even adjusting those two other elements of the game, will accomplish just that. So even if I suggest that the playoffs should be shortened so that each succeeding series gets progressively shorter (Bo7, Bo5, Bo3, Bo1), I would rather the players decide.
Thank you for reading.