In re: Does the NHL need saving? and would relegation do it?

“I’m writing today, however, to ask you to look beyond the excitement of this opening week. I know it’s difficult to focus on trouble down the road with all the hysteria surrounding the weekend’s big Thrashers/Lightning matchup, but I’m afraid you’re still facing some serious challenges. Thanks to a functional but deeply imperfect revenue-sharing system, you’re getting by. But you’re propping up franchises that have no business surviving…” My Plan to Save Hockey – Slate

For those unaccustomed with the world of football (soccer here in America) many countries operate on a system of relegation where the bottom teams move down from the top division at the end of the year and the top teams from the next lowest league move up via promotion.  The system of relegation means that the teams aren’t fixed to a particular league and that there is a mad scramble at the end of the year to stay up, or to come up.

I just came across an interesting article on Slate about why the NHL, the worlds premier hockey league needs such a system to save itself.  While its a proposition that would probably never take hold (owners of NHL franchises probably wouldn’t like his proposal too much, but I think he is spot on in the assumption that ratings would soar for relegation games) See the the article My Plan to Save Hockey on Slate.

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3 Responses

  1. A system of relegation would hurt hockey in North America, not help it. The author of that article simply hasn’t thought the idea through. Under a relegation system, the richest teams win because they can sign all of the players when they’re young and afford to retain the good ones (not to mention sign top players away from smaller market teams that can ill-afford to lose talent.

    I could go on and on about this issue. Ultimately, though, the NHL is fine. It’s all of these random writers who don’t do any research that hurt the game, as explained in this link:
    http://thesituationist.wordpress.com/2007/07/02/negative-press-is-espn-is-killing-the-national-hockey-league-by-influencing-public-attitudes/

    I’m not worried about hockey.

  2. I read the post you linked to and it was pretty good (I agree that ESPN has enough pull to raise or lower sports status and that it is potentially a problem to view them both as a source of unbiased reporting while they have an interest in promoting their lineup of shows).

    The other day I saw one of my first HD games on HDnet of hockey and that alone could get me back into the game more then ever, as a player I am trying to learn my positioning on the wing, but traditional broadcast doesn’t allow you to see the away from the puck players that much, HD solves this and makes the game amazing, right now I don’t have Versus in HD and thats a shame (especially since they have some great football games) but the Versus coverage doesn’t equal the NHL on Espn of old because they don’t have the programming like NHL 2 Night or the like, that was sure to be on Espn2 during the glory days. Hopefully the new NHL channel will solve this.

    Still I stand by the fact that hockey has lots of problems, the NHL is not fine and your author cited acknowledges that ” I will concede the point that all is not rosy with the NHL. The league may be over-expanded, under-funded, and poorly marketed.” That said I don’t think all is lost, if they operate the NHL network properly and use HD more and more fans like myself may get sucked in again, rather than the casual status I’ve enjoyed since the lockout.

  3. I think calling the league over-expanded is shortsighted. I am convinced after seeing how hockey has grown in Columbus since the coming of the Blue Jackets that it is simply a matter of time before the hockey audience grows to match the hockey expansion all around the country.

    BTW, check out NHL Center Ice, which offers many many HD games if you get the HD version. It is amazing and probably one of the best deals out there (I bought it for 150 bucks!).

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