Please allow me to introduce myself. I'm a man of wealth and taste.
So now that we've got the Stones reference done with, here's the basics: I'm Kevin. I've played hockey for nigh on 15 years now, and have loved the game ever since I first strapped on skates and went around Kirkwood Ice Arena in the St Louis suburbs. I idolized Gretz, Jagr and Hull when I was a kid, and even when the posters of all the goalie masks of the NHL came down (I still have it, and it's notable for having the Islanders "Gorton's" logo on it) off my walls and posters of bands and actresses went up, I still went to games, wearing at first my old Tyson Nash shirt and then a Jackman sweater.
But recently, I've come to question my faith in the game. I didn't go to any NHL games this year because I didn't think the product was worthy and (at least with Kitchen in charge) the Blues were worthless. Most of my friends think that hockey is a sport for unintelligent dolts that give you mullet wigs to wear at the arena so you'll look "proper".
So after some thought, maybe a bit of alcohol, careful viewing of several films (none of which have anything to do with hockey) and sessions spent in the basement of my house with index cards, Lou Reed's Transformer album and a can of Red Bull, I've come up with a Multiple-Point (and for the most part feasible) Plan To Save The National Hockey League:
1. Fire Gary Bettman. Put in a hockey man, one who knows what he's doing and can make things work. Even though it would be bad for my Blues, I nominate John Davidson.
2. Contract the following teams: Florida (too close to Tampa), Atlanta (they just don't get pro sport, and never will), Phoenix (all too old to get it) and Carolina (if it's not racin' or college basketball, it won't really get covered there).
3. Merge the Ducks and Kings, with the Samuelis getting majority ownership but keeping the Kings history and colors. AMENDED: Because I just realized that Orange County fans would probably not want to travel into LA (there's...crime! and immigrants! and traffic!) and LA fans would not really want to go to Anaheim (there's...traffic! and tourist traps! and more traffic!), have them split home games as evenly as possible between the Pond and Staples.
4. Move the Predators to Winnipeg, a city that really deserves a hockey team.
5. Columbus is a thorny issue: you could roll the dice with moving them to Kansas City (which does not have a winter sports team there, but is solidly a football market), go a safer route and send them over to Cleveland (where there's a pretty established hockey fanbase, but they'd be in the 6'6" shadow of LeBron James forever and ever amen), or keep them in Columbus (where they'd have the arena and all that, but lower attendance and living in a city where The Ohio State University rules all). Let the market determine that, but if I were king it would get contracted.
6. Attempt to get a television contract with someone other than Versus. ESPN right now is pretty much full up, I'm sorry to say, due to their whole thing with the NBA (who I'm certain is pulling the strings at that station). I would think that USA would be a good fit for hockey: they're owned by NBC who has the network package, have done a good job with golf coverage, and have a wide variety of primetime slots due to the fact that they've only got about 3 nights sewn up (Monk on Sundays, WWE on Mondays, Psych some other night, all the rest are movies). Strengthen local coverage and also get an NHL Network in the US, broadcasting the best local games and a national highlights package.
7. While we're at it, do innovations with the TV coverage. Put a rail/skycam on the bottom of the scoreboard and have that run back and forth. Reintroduce the Scanvision thing that ABC did for the playoffs a few years back. Televise all games in HD nationally and get as many local providers to do the same.
8. Now that under my plan the NHL only has 24 teams, shorten the season and balance the schedule. Have every team play each other twice, once at home and once away: there, you've got 46 games right off the bat. Ideally there should be a 74 game schedule, 37 at home and 37 away. Let someone with more time on their hands figure out all the details.
9. Rename the conferenced Campbell and Wales and the divisions Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe. It's a little thing, but it's good for nostalgia.
10. Take out a few of the stupider Bettman rules. Move the blue/red lines back to where they were 10-15 years ago. Keep tag-up offsides and abandon the two-line pass. Amend the instigator rule. Go back to having ties (personally I would even bar overtime, but then again I'm a soccer purist). But keep the trapezoid: I think that's a good rule.
11. Playoffs should only have 12 teams, with the division winners getting byes to the division finals. Division semis should be best-of-five, everything else best-of-seven.
12. Teams should actively work to promote hockey at the youth level. Create an NHL Youth League (seperated by region, so we have a East, Central and West) of Jr B teams operated by the Motherships that provide regular competition.
13. I know this might be hard in such a team-oriented game, but the NHL should really actively promote its superstars. The NBA's growth was based around Johnson and Bird, and while they had great supporting casts at the end of the day most people weren't concerned about Dennis Johnson (no slam against the man who memorized where every dead spot was at the Garden) or the rest of the Celtics, but how Bird did.
14. Finally, get forward-thinking owners who understand the concept that the welfare of the league as a whole is better than their own personal growth. That means that the league should do everything in its power to get Wirtz, Jacobs, Dolan et al out of high posts.
That's it for now. I might add to this later, but right now I'm tapped out. Hope you like it, and feel free to comment.