After months of negotiating, news stories, arguing, fighting, debating, proposals, lockouts, changing schedules and anticipation ... FINALLY it is opening night for the NHL! And let me be the first person to say ...
I mean seriously, who cares ... other than the 25 people on my Facebook feed who seem to have unbelievable loyalty to the Boston Bruins or Washington Capitals? Side bar: How is it that a guy who's never lived north of Chapel Hill can possibly have so many friends who cheer for Washington and Boston? I don't get it.
Back to the original story. Tonight ends the second major work stoppage in the NHL in the last 5 years. And honestly, I'm surprised hockey is still breathing in the United States. While the sport continued to thrive in the rest of the world, nobody really seemed to notice in the US that it was even gone. Even ESPN essentially stopped talking about it because nobody was that interested in the return of the sport. How do I know? When was the last time you saw hockey (before this mess of course) on a major television network? I think NBC televised one or two games last season and I'm pretty sure the majority (if not all) of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were available exclusively on Versus.
Since hockey fans are a dying breed here in the States, I thought now would be a good time to recommend a few ways to boost the popularity of the sport. It certainly couldn't hurt. Here are 5 ways I think the NHL could increase it's viewership very quickly:
1. Double the size of the net. Americans love scoring ... a final score of 14-12 sounds a heck of a lot more exciting than 3-1.
2. Bring in the 30 heaviest sumo wrestlers Japan has to offer. Give them the largest pads a goalie can possibly wear and still be able to move. Have them lay down on their sides in front of the net. See what happens.
3. Get rid of offsides and icing. Open the game up a little more and let players have freedom on the ice. As I mentioned in #1 above, Americans love scoring, and this would certainly help.
4. Instead of penalizing a fight, reward it. Most hockey fans go crazy for the brawls so why not increase the frequency? In a fair one on one fight, the winning player is awarded a goal. Everybody is happy!
5. Stop playing indoors. I would be willing to bet that the Canadians don't learn their craft skating around a cozy air conditioned rink in the middle of Phoenix. They are out on a frozen pond in the middle of winter freezing their butts off. And you know what ... there's a reason they are so much better than us. If you want to authenticate the NHL a little more, try playing more than 1 game a season outdoors in the elements. If Tom Brady can play in the snow, so can these guys.