The League That Ate Itself
As a huge hockey fan, July 1 is an oasis. Hockey hype in the middle of baseball season. Cool thoughts on a hot day. In the past, especially for NYR fans, it has been a very important day. Since the days of Neil Smith, the Rangers have basically put the future of the team in the hands of some lucky mercenaries. Even last year when the salary cap virtually precluded the Rangers from signing top UFA’s, the NYR managed to make a splash with Marion Gaborik. This year, they managed to squeeze in Alex Frolov as a UFA. But this July 1st was much different than previous ones, and I believe we may soon see the end of the midsummer big UFA sweepstakes, and hopefully, the end of the NHL as we know it.
The Ilya Kovalchuk saga has yet to be resolved, and may have opened up a can of worms that will only further damage the credibility of a floundering NHL.
“I can’t believe that the preeminent professional hockey league in the world has a Ryan Hollweg in it and no Jaromir Jagr.”
That was a quote by me to anyone who would listen around the time #68 signed to play in Siberia. JJ was past his prime for sure. But how could the NHL say they are trying to grow their sport, entice new fans, and maintain any sense of quality when a surefire hall of famer is allowed to slip away to Eurasia? The answer is the NHL itself.
The NHL is a collection of owners, who for the most part, have no business owning a professional sports franchise. Take away Detroit, New Jersey, and a few others, you have incompetence. The NHL is more concerned with maintaining a mediocre status quo than improving on any level. What has the NHL done (besides removing the two-line pass) to improve the league? An outdoor game? Bettman has put more effort into keeping franchises in cities like Phoenix, Atlanta, and Nashville than keeping the best players in the world in his league!!! Now, Kovalchuk is back in limbo. Conceivably, one of the 5 best players on the planet could be playing for 20 trillion rubles in the KHL, because the NHL has resigned itself to become a league of parody.
Last winter, the NHL made a splash with the Olympics. That Gold Medal game was a game for the ages. Casual fans were glued to their sets. There was talk that Jagr may come back to the NHL. Canada got up off of the canvas to win gold. Hockey had momentum leading up to the NHL playoff chase. When the best players in the world play this game, there is no other sport that comes close.
The only problem is that the NHL doesn’t understand this.
League expansion has watered down the talent in this league to the point where even I am not interested in watching games other than the Rangers. If there is one pro sports league that needs contraction, it is the NHL.
If I were commissioner, my first order of business would be to cut the league to 20 teams. My second order of business would be to eliminate the salary cap. I would hope that the 20 remaining owners would be able to actually afford to own sports franchises, and run them efficiently. I would also prefer to see some of these teams go back to Quebec City and Winnipeg. Cities that will actually embrace the teams instead of the Atlantas of the world.
In today’s economy, contraction may just happen anyway.
Sadly, the NHL is facing another potential lockout/strike. Obviously these owners and (poorly represented) players have learned nothing from a lost season. In fact, that lockout and resulting CBA have made things worse for the game of hockey.
Maybe the next lockout will bring a real change.
Hey, it’s Carp. Great job by cw.
Forty-six days until the opener.
46: Andy Pettitte.