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Bringing Hexy Back • 42 Years Old • Male
This is going to deal with ways I think the NHL can improve. I am not just talking about the product, but the game.

-The current mess of head shots needs to be addressed uniformly. Jesse Boulerice and Steve Downie got deserved long suspensions. But what Of Jordin Tootoo? Or Matt Weller? Or Andy Sutton? It's time to start taking everything into consideration. The NHL can't just come down hard on the well exposed incidents, it needs to apply the justice uniformly. It also needs to stop the practice of ignoring whether a guy was a thug or not BEFORE he got to the NHL.

-The NHL needs to improve consistency in another area as well-on-ice officiation. Far too often we see games where one referee is calling a tight game, while the other arbiter is more or less a spectator to the parade to the Sin Bin. This is an easy fix. Lose the second ref. I hate when calls get made from 150 feet away and so should the NHL. Elimination of the second ref would also weed out the less stellar refs and leave the NHL with the cream of the crop.

-Marketing in the US is another area that needs to be addressed. How do most NHL fans become addicts? They go and see guys play the game live. Watching a game on TV is a learned art. Most Canadians learn to watch the game on TV from birth. I was fortunate enough to grow up in the Philadelphia area, where a broadcaster named Gene Hart educated a generation or two on the beauty of this game.

The point is, nothing captures the visceral experience of a live hockey game. Instead of sending the Stanley Cup champions or Sideny Crosby off to Europe, why not allow them to play more games against the other NHL teams in NHL cities. My compadre, Number23, pointed out in an excellent blog that after the Penguins open the season with a two game set in Prague, Crosby will have played more regular season games in the Czech republic than 15 North American NHL cities. That is not only asinine, it's inexcusable.

-In that same vein, the NHL needs to mandate that a section of affordable tickets be made available for each team's home games. That means no seat more than $20, and built in specials for food and beverages for folks in that section.

-The NHL should become more aggressively involved in growing youth hockey in the US. Granted most teams do a good job in this area, but the NHL should be chipping in so places like Nashville, Phoenix and Florida can have more ice surfaces to allow kids to play. The could also chip in to help equip kids who can't afford to play.

-Either apply the instigator penalty consistently or lose it altogether. Last year guys were getting instigators because of their reputations rather than their actions. I understand the effort to limit fighting, but the two things guaranteed to make people stand up and cheer at a hockey game are goals and fights.

Besides, elimination of the instigator penalty would allow players to police the game themselves. That might be enough to eliminate some of the Downie and Boulerice head shots. I know from experience that few things get a player's attention like a punch to the jaw.

This is not a call for a return to the "Slap Shot" or "Broad Street Bullies" era of bench clearing brawls and on ice muggings. But fighting serves a very valid purpose in our sport.

-Please stop making it a penalty to shoot the puck into the stands. Disallowing line changes would be far more logical and expedient.
Filed Under:   Boulerice   NHL   Instigator   Referees   Jsaq  
October 13, 2007 12:03 PM ET | Delete
Great suggestions. I'm also all in favor of expanding youth hockey and Building ice rinks all over the place, that and an equipment bank would help the sport tremendously.
October 13, 2007 12:23 PM ET | Delete
More time well spent! I agree that we should loose the instigator rule along with a penalty for shooting the puck over the boards. I do think the league is going to address the schedule change, or so they have acknowledged. I really believe that the NHL should spend their time promoting the game in the US first before going overseas, and establishing a program to interest younger kids and help get the communities involved in helping those who's families can't really afford the funding for these kids to enjoy the greatest team sport in the world. Thanx for this Js.
October 13, 2007 1:07 PM ET | Delete
A lot of excellent points and a great blog JS. I'd like to reinforce your improvement list with my comments, but then I'd be re-writing what you just posted, so I'll just say thanks (and keep it up).
October 13, 2007 2:02 PM ET | Delete
here we go again. can't post
October 13, 2007 2:02 PM ET | Delete
More respect for you J. Great blog. If interested, click on my "slap shot" image and go to my profile for a good read. I believe that most kids who play a sport as kids later become the financial machine we call fans. It is not an absolute rule, but playing a sport really gives a great appreciation and shows a definite interest in the sport. I have never played Rugby and played football for a only a couple of years. I have never supported those sports in my adult, money making life. I have never been a part of their television rating either. I am disinterested. I'll go to games, buy merchandise, and watch TV events for hockey, baseball, and soccer. I played those games as a kid and for many years. I have a sincere appreciation for those sports. The sport I played the longest (hockey) receives the lion share of my financial support.
October 13, 2007 3:31 PM ET | Delete
Great rant as usual JS, you're one of my favorites to read here! As a devoted Hockey fan like those of us that frequent this sight, we're always going to love the sport and I'm willing to bet that most of the people that participate here, it's by far their favorite sport to follow. My concern is for the fringe fan or the possible future hockey convert that will grow the sport, that the game needs to eliminate the lack of respect that the players have been showing each other lately and play within the confines of the rules and that in itself will improve the image of the game in the non-die hard hockey public. I run into people from time to time that don't follow hockey and they view it almost as a novelty with some of the things that go on during the games. I think of how the NFL has managed to regulate itself to the point where you almost never see a fight during a game and now you can't even hit a quarterback around the head. Fighting and intense contact will always be a part of hockey and it needs to be or we'll create other problems within the existing fan base but going outside the boundaries of the rules and increasing the chances of serious bodily injury to fellow players has got to stop and be prevented. The players need to respect each other and I think the league is finally taking it seriously and consistently stepping in to show that breaking the rules will not be tolerated. I believe the big suspensions will eventually prove effective to curb the serious violations cause much more than one big suspension and the player runs the risk of no longer having any value to his team, thus possibly ending his career or seriously effecting what the player will be able to command for a future salary.I dream that someday hockey will rival the popularity of the big three sports and pass up a couple of them, in the U.S. and be treated like "The Sport" like it is in Canada!
October 13, 2007 3:46 PM ET | Delete
Well, this group of commentators are certainly on the same page, and that's a great start. Excellent responses. My sincere hope is that these messages, your comments, and our beliefs reach where they are most needed. Keep spreading the word and it will happen someday.
October 13, 2007 5:29 PM ET | Delete
not sure on losing the 2nd ref but you are correct that it would get rid of the less , shall we say, talented. my biggest gripe with inconsistent discipline for head ( or any other serious/blatant) shots is the pathetic tendancy to punish result. i dont care if the guy is decapitated or gets lucky and skates away. a high hit needs to be dealt with the same either way. also will help prevent the guy laying on the ice only to return in a few minutes. that gripe applies to the refs and the nhl office as well
October 14, 2007 11:10 AM ET | Delete
Great suggestions - particularly the NHL being more involved in youth hockey. Kids who play youth hockey will be fans for life. However I like the penalty for clearing the puck into the stands. Keeping the puck in play preserves the flow of the game and helps keep the pace high. Besides, NHL defensemen should be skilled enough to do something with the puck other than just dumping it out of play.
October 14, 2007 11:02 PM ET | Delete
JS - really an insightful and though provoking blog. head shots - could not agree more. It has got to be uniform to be successful. Should coaches be held accountable in some way - monetary or otherwise - if they have headhunters on their rosters who play in that manner? Should the league have a three strikes and you're out rule? (three suspensions for more than 5 games and you are out of the NHL permanently?...just thinking off the cuff here_)2nd Ref - they are useless and should be gone immediately - brilliant point! Who actually thinks they can see what they are calling from across a blue line, a red line and another blue line with the incredible speed at which the game is played? No one.NHL marketing sucks - I have touched on it numerous times and THANK GOD for Gene Hart - he was one of the reasons I got hooked on hockey in the first place. He was the voice of the Flyers for 29 years and his sign off was legendary...Good night and good hockey. He was one of a kind and the world is a lesser place with his passing.Hockey is too corporate...at least in Philadelphia it is. It needs to reach out to fans who are not quite so well heeled and get them in the house more often.The instigator rule needs to go the way of the dinosaurs - it was a marginally good idea gone horribly wrong. Stars being run by goons or pests getting chippy, then turtling at the first sign of trouble would end if they knew the next shift, there would be someone waiting for him ready and willing to rearrange their nose. I love a good hockey fight with willing combatants - let's not take that out of the game. Great work JS - as usual. Keep your "random thoughts" coming before Jules swipes the name again...SYF
October 15, 2007 8:15 AM ET | Delete
1st thing the NHL has to do to be better is to STOP changin every year. Don't take the 2nd ref away, for the specific reason you mentioned the game is alot faster and one ref cannot keep up.
October 15, 2007 9:03 AM ET | Delete
i still believe each team should play 1 home and 1 away game against all teams in the league. if i was on the west coast i would be pissed that i couldnt see crosby / drury / etc more than once every two years.
October 15, 2007 11:30 AM ET | Delete
I've been saying since the post lockout season that the NHL should form panels in each NHL city consisting of fans and listen to what they have to say. The NHL could be such a better league. just my 2 cents
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