By now it should be clear that the brains behind promoting the game of hockey for the NHL aren’t the sharpest cookies in the box. This is apparent nearly every time a coach, owner, general manager, or player opens his mouth. I’m not referring to the lockout that has earned the ire of so many fans, or to its drawn-out process that leaves several North American cities without any meaningful professional hockey. I’m referring to the rules and regulations that owners and players establish, or seek to establish for the game during times of labor peace.
To begin with, the NHL and the Player’s Association have a love affair with gimmicks that do little to help the game. Everyone remembers Foxtrax, the puck that lit up television screens with streaks of blue or red but more recently we’ve seen the league put cameras in helmets worn by players or on-ice officials and allow moronic television announcers to interview players or coaches while game play is in progress. It’s as if the NHL brain trust can’t believe that people watch hockey to be entertained by hockey players. Show the game as it is played from camera angles that make sense and allow players to focus on the action as it is being played. Dizzying camera angles, flashing pucks and talking heads aren’t necessary in My NHL.
The gimmicks are just one part of the NHL’s inability to let the beauty of the game promote itself. The league constantly institutes rule changes. Far from doing more to promote the game, these rule changes annoy die-hard fans and confuse newcomers to the game. There are now four columns in a team’s wins and losses stat line and as many as thirteen columns in a NHL standings ledger. Teams now have wins, losses, overtime losses and shoot-out losses and the stats sheet discusses points, goals for and against, a home record and away record, a division record and conference record. All of this is a result of the NHL tinkering with the rules and devising a variety of tie-breakers in a convoluted point system.
Teams don’t simply earn points every time they win; they also earn points for forcing games past regulation into overtime or a shootout. This concept was devised by owners to delude themselves into thinking that they’d have a mathematically better chance of going to the playoffs by adding pixie dust to the point board. It was also born out of a culture that spent at least a decade trying to convince children that wins and losses aren’t part of the game and that simply participating is sufficient enough reward for competitive athletes. This preposterous idea doesn’t belong in competitive sports where truly competitive athletes strive for excellence. Since magic points encourage teams to play tentative hockey, this participation reward for sticking around for an extra five minutes doesn’t belong in My NHL.
More to the point, when teams remain tied through overtime, results of the games are then decided by a glorified Skills Competition. The team with the best goaltender or the most dazzling breakaway artist usually wins the extra point in the standings, regardless of how well-rounded the opposing team is. Sometimes a goaltender who has rested the entire game is sent out for the shoot-out and earns a win without registering a save for an official shot on goal. This Skills Competition doesn’t belong in a regular season hockey game. Teams in My NHL will play 5-on-5 hockey until one team has scored a winning goal, regardless of how long the game takes to play.
This means that the point system needs to go and the wins and losses column reduced to just wins or losses. Like the NBA and Major League baseball, standings will be determined by how many games one team needs to win to catch up with another team in the standings. Mathematically speaking, teams have the exact same odds of making the playoffs under this much clearer system as they do under the NHL’s current model. Without the magic pixie dust mesmerizing teams, the incentive to strive for team victories will be far more prevalent in My NHL.
Speaking of the playoffs – NHL owners and players constantly discuss adding additional teams to the playoff mix or completely ruining the game with ridiculous playoff formats. As it is, far too many teams make the playoffs and the playoff alignment is constantly unbalanced. Already the league suffers from nearly always having one conference of teams ice a much stronger game than the other conference and teams that have no business at all appearing in the playoffs earn the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup anyway. Instead of forcing teams to play with excellence all season long, teams are given a chance to catch fire for a few short weeks on a playoff run even if they’ve spent an entire year coasting, choking games or simply playing straight-out awful hockey for a majority of the season.
This won’t happen in My NHL because both divisions and conferences for playoff purposes will be eliminated and only the top four teams league-wide will make the post-season regardless of where they play. The league’s best team will face the league’s fourth-best team while the second and third place teams will compete in another best-of-seven series. The two winners will then play for the Stanley Cup. A third round best-of-seven will be added at the start of the postseason if third and fourth-place teams tie in wins against teams in fifth or sixth-place. If necessary, the first and second place teams will play an additional regular season game before the playoffs begin in a neutral arena to determine seeding at the top of the standings.
In my NHL, teams will play 41 home games, 41 away games and two games in a neutral area. In My NHL, there will be three games a week but never any back-to-back games for any team regardless of scheduling issues at arenas. In My NHL, there will be a contraction of teams before there is an expansion of teams but in my NHL, there will be franchises located in European capitals and teams will be equally spread-out so that there are just as many teams in the western part of North America as there are in the eastern part of North America. In My NHL, NHL Game Centre Live will be available to fans living anywhere abroad worldwide. Most importantly, In My NHL there is hockey being played right now.
 You’ll notice that aren’t any women holding key positions in the league. There are certainly women behind the scenes or in the media but there are no female general managers or coaches in the league anywhere. The NHL is your typical Old Boys’ Club.