How You'd Fix It: Grantland Readers Fix the NHL
Last week, we tried to fix the NHL. We increased scoring, improved the standings, ended diving, and reduced (but didn’t eliminate) fighting. We killed the puck-over-glass penalty and brought back home whites. And most importantly of all, we made Gary Bettman sad.
And then we asked you for your suggestions, and you responded. Did you ever respond. We received more than a hundred reader suggestions, ranging from minor tweaks to massive overhauls. Some of you wrote a few lines, some wrote a few paragraphs, and some of you sent what can only be described as full-on manifestos. (Especially you realignment folks. Good lord, you people are detailed.)
Only a small percentage of that feedback could be included below, but we read every word of it. And it reaffirmed our suspicion that the average hockey fan could do a far better job of running this league than the leaders we have now. Somehow, that’s both inspiring and depressing.
On to your ideas …
[Editor's note: Reader suggestions have been lightly edited for clarity and space.]
Fixing the Standings
We killed the NHL’s loser point by making all games worth two points. Nobody defended the loser point, but some readers had other ideas for how to bury it.
I believe any changes made should start with bringing back the tie. Five minutes of 4 on 4 hockey and then a tie works for me in the regular season.
— Chris E.
Wait, is it possible that there are there more members of Team Tie than I thought? Could we even be a silent majority? This is intriguing.
Bring back ties, but do the soccer-style 3 points for a win, 1 point for a tie. That has worked wonders for excitement, and increased scoring as well. Ties suck for both teams, so teams go all out to try to win.
— Tom K., Boston
Can an e-mail that contains the phrase “ties suck” be counted as part of Team Tie? Tom K. wants to bring them back, so I think his e-mail can. This is gaining momentum. Something is happening here. I can feel it.
I think the NHL point system should go like this: 2 points for a regulation win & OT win. 1 point for shootout win. 0 points for regulation, OT & shootout loss. This way the shootout win means less in the overall standings to a real win in regulation & OT. But it keeps the shootout so fans don’t leave the building with a tie game like the old days.
— Chris O., Cherry Hill, New Jersey
You make Team Tie sad, Chris from Cherry Hill.
I propose a revised system of 3 pts for a regulation or overtime win, 2 pts for a shootout win, 1 pt for a shootout loss and nothing for losing in overtime or regulation.
— Mike F., Phoenix
The fans of the three-point system were out in full force. It’s hard to argue with them. Except …
The problem with the three-point games is that there’s only a one-point gap between winning and losing in overtime/shootout. Winning should always be the paramount goal. Therefore: 4 points for a regulation win, 3 for an OT/SO win, 1 for an OT/SO loss.
— Andy B., Ottawa, Ontario
A four-point system! It sounds crazy, but maybe Andy’s on to something. As long as we all agree that we don’t go any higher than four points, because that would just get ridiculously complicated and I’m not sure my brain could handle it.
If shootout remains in some format, I want 5 pt games which reward scoring goals/winning games during game play, and make every game worth same pts.
5 for Reg W, 4 for OT W, 3 for SO W, 2 for SO L, 1 for OT L, 0 for Reg L.
— Lee C., Barnegat Light, New Jersey
Let’s just move on.
The NHL always seems to be trying to create rivalries. How about this: the top playoff seeds get to choose their first round playoff opponents from the lower seeds? You’d HAVE to hate the higher seeded team that picked your team right?! And your team has to beat the lower seeded team they picked or it would be such an embarrassment!
— Mike C., Waterloo, Ontario
I love this idea, in theory. In practice, I bet every team would always pick the lowest-seeded opponent. The stigma that would come from picking a different opponent and then losing would be too terrifying for the majority of NHL executives, who dread the possibility of making a mistake.
I’d fix the NHL by introducing promotion and relegation, which I wish at least one American professional league would adopt. One of the best parts of following English soccer is that any team could theoretically climb their way up from the semi-pro leagues the the Premier League. It also eliminates tanking, because finishing at the bottom of the league results in being sent down one division and losing the money that comes from the Premier League television contracts.
— Jeremy H., The Woodlands, Texas
One thing I’ve learned over the years: Every soccer fan in the world loves the idea of relegation and wants every other sport to adopt it immediately. As a Leafs fan imagining what that would have been like in the 1980s, I’m terrified of it.
One of the most divisive suggestions was to increase offense by making the nets bigger. Not everyone was a fan of that idea, and several readers offered up alternatives to produce more goals.
I don’t agree with bigger nets. At all. Part of my reasoning has to do with the fact that I play rec leagues as a goalie so I admit I’m biased, but you addressed it in your column that there are exhilarating 1-0 games as well as fun high scoring games. While I admit there are boring 1-0 and 2-1 games, I prefer lower scoring because it makes each goal that much more important and worth cheering for even more. The point of emphasis from the league should be on creating more scoring chances and not necessarily more goals. If more goals result from whatever changes are made, so be it, but a great glove save or two pad stack is just as exciting (especially in those low scoring games) as a dangle, snipe, and celly.
— Joe K., St. Louis, Missouri
The most common objection to bigger nets was “I don’t like it and I don’t actually have a reason for that.” But the second-most common was that bigger nets would increase goals without affecting the number of actual scoring chances (which, after all, is what really drives the excitement factor).
But in theory at least, bigger nets would give you more goals and more scoring chances, because shooters would have a realistic chance to score from more areas. Today, it’s hard to score from anywhere other than the slot. (The guidelines that most stats guys use to track scoring chances look like this.) Bigger nets might expand that — not by a lot, but by enough to add a few more scoring chances per game to go along with those extra goals.
In regards to boosting scoring, how about this: instead of making the nets bigger why not just bevel the inside of the post to make it more likely for a post shot to go in?
— Frank B.
This was a popular alternative suggestion to the “bigger nets” idea. It sounds like a reasonable option, but I failed my only attempt at a high school physics course, so I may not be qualified to give it the seal of approval.
Goalies play 60 min. Give ‘em a break & play sudden death OT without goaltenders in net. It should be more exciting than a shootout, and shouldn’t take too long to determine an outcome.
— Kerry S., Fort Wayne, Indiana
Right now, every Flyers fan is trying to figure out how this idea would be any different from what they’re already used to.
Making the nets bigger is a good idea because it’s really the only way to increase scoring. It doesn’t get a lot of press but the reason the scoring dropped so much during the ’90s was the shift in goaltending style to the butterfly, which is a much more naturally effective way of stopping shots … the reason the butterfly style is so effective is that it covers the maximum possible net area from the perspective of the puck. So there’s really only one solution: more net area.
— Mike N., Urbana, Illinois
Mike is right about butterfly goalies being a big part of the problem. But is he right about there being “really only one option”? A few of you had a more radical idea …
Reduce the size of the puck from 3″ diameter by 1″ thick to 2.5″ thick and 1″ thick.
The size differential will be negligible to the viewer, which is one of the primary concerns in drawing in new viewership. The puck would most likely weigh in 5 to 5.5 ounce range, which makes it not that different from current standards, but would increase velocity. The increased velocity would justify leaving goalie equipment at current sizes.
— Brendan C., Berlin, Vermont
Smaller pucks! I admit I hadn’t thought of that, despite a childhood spent pressing “P” to toggle the puck size in Superstar Ice Hockey.
I’ve never understood why you’re not allowed to kick the puck into the net, unless it’s an accident. It seems like tons of time is wasted trying to determine whether or not a player purposely directed the puck into the net with his skate, and often the ultimate decision of the referees is unsatisfying or even mind-boggling to fans. Nobody would choose to kick the puck when they could easily use their stick, so why not just allow it? Seems to me it would cut down the amount of boring review time while slightly increasing scoring, without making any egregious changes to the game. What’s not to love?
— Bart F., Pittsburgh
This was another common suggestion. But unlike many NHL rules, this one actually has some solid reasoning behind it: the league doesn’t want goalies to have to deal with skate blades flashing around during every goalmouth scramble.
What’s the most exciting play in basketball? Would you rather watch a fast break or a post-up? Hockey can’t have fast breaks because of the offsides rule. Get rid of it. Talk about opening up the offense with end to end action!
— Doug C., Westport, Connecticut
The NHL ran a brief test pilot of this idea a few months ago. It did not go over well.
First, make icing the puck illegal on the penalty kill. I never understood why something that is normally a foul is suddenly okay once you’ve committed a penalty. If the short handed team ices the puck, call it. It should result in more power play goals without having to artificially create any more power plays.
— Trevor S., Dallas
I’m not a fan of focusing our offensive efforts on special teams, but this idea makes some sense. Would shorthanded teams just ice it anyway? Probably, which might slow games down slightly, but the extra offensive-zone faceoffs should translate to a few more goals.
Eliminate coaches — would wipe out defensive systems, create high scoring, entertaining games.
— Michael F., Toronto
The idea here is that you limit teams to one or two coaches, removing the specialists who focus on areas like goaltending, the penalty kill, or defensive systems. We just need to implement it before Jacques Martin latches on to some entertaining team and … crap, too late.
It’s time to make leaving your feet to block a shot a penalty. No more dropping to one knee, or swimming on the ice to take away shooting lanes. Make defenders actually defend instead of just clogging up the ice and you will have more pucks getting to the net, and more goals scored (needless to say, coaches will HATE this idea). You will also have fewer players getting pucks in the face, fewer injuries overall and more exciting hockey.
— Cameron H., Lethbridge, Alberta
There’s no doubt that the increase in shot-blocking is a major contributor to decreased scoring rates, with too many of today’s snipers looking at scenes like this. You can’t outlaw it all together, but forcing defenders to stay on their feet would help. Of course, so would this …
All players should go back to late ’80s style equipment from the neck down. Stepping in front of a point shot should be a decision where you weigh how much you like your jaunty gait and unbroken foot bones against how badly you want to block the shot.
— Jeff T., Waterloo, Ontario
They said you couldn’t write a hockey-related e-mail that made proper use of the word “jaunty.” We just proved them wrong.
Overtime and Shootouts
Real fans hate the shootout. We didn’t propose eliminating it, but we suggested an extended overtime to try to reduce it.
Even under your proposed changes (2 points for every type of win, 10 minute OT), there will still be teams playing conservatively in OT because everyone recognizes it’s a coin flip. Bad teams would gladly go straight from the end of regulation to a shootout because it evens the odds. However, if the shootout winner gets only one point while the loser gets nothing, it removes any motivation for a team to “hang on” for a shootout. OT action should be frantic, as BOTH teams will be penalized if the game goes to a shootout.
— Jon D., Vancouver
This idea is better than the current rules. But then we’re back to being stuck with some games being worth more in the standings than others. There must be a better option …
5v5 OT for 5 minutes then 4v4 OT for 5 minutes and so on until it gets to 1v1. Instead of a shootout.
— Trevor W., Los Angeles
Hmm. Intriguing. We asked Grantland’s elite computer animation team to put together a high-tech simulation of what Trevor’s 1-on-1 OT idea would look like. It was vaguely familiar.
Replace shoot-outs with alternating 45-second 5-on-3 power plays. One of the most exciting things that can happen during a game is a 5-on-3 PP, which is almost guaranteed to result in scoring opportunities and big saves while still resembling something that actually happens during regulation. Part of why shoot-outs don’t work for me is because they look so fake with skaters (i.e.: Kane) taking 20 seconds to cruise in on a helpless goalie without any threat of a backchecker or defense. Ramp up the speed and make it “sudden death” 5-on-3 PPs with the first team to score while stopping the other in a round wins.
— Tom B., Eagan, Minnesota
Come on, Tom, that would be completely ridiculous because …
[Tries to think of a reason that alternating 5-on-3's would be any more ridiculous than a shootout.]
We set out to reduce fighting without eliminating it. That didn’t seem to please anyone.
Get rid of fighting. What legitimate sport allows bare-knuckle boxing matches right in the middle of the game — is bare-knuckle boxing even legal anymore?
— Tyler W., Vancouver
The rule [Author's note: He’s referring to my proposal for a cap on how many fights a player can have in a season before getting suspended] has some risk that teams would start carrying 3-4 cheap enforcers and rotate them in and out of the NHL to get around it.
— Daryl P., Vancouver
This was a common objection, and I guess it’s possible. But it’s worth pointing out that this sort of strategy would have an impact on both a team’s salary cap and on the maximum 50 pro contracts each team can carry.
Almost all of the staged fights we see today are of the “gotta change momentum” variety, typically coming after the opponent has rattled off a goal or two. So why not use the score of the game as the “staged fight” criteria. If you fight when your team is more than 2 goals down (or up), you get the boot. No more of these ridiculous fights that everyone knows are going to happen. This will slowly get rid of the guys that can’t play a regular shift, while still keeping those “in the moment” fights.
— Daryl A., Kitchener, Ontario
The problem here is that many staged fights these days happen in the opening minutes. (Hello, Colton Orr.) The game is usually 0-0 or 1-0 at that point. So basing suspensions on the score wouldn’t help and may actually encourage more early fights.
Please eliminate all of the post-whistle shenanigans (and yes, I am looking at you Boston Bruins …). It is tiresome to see all of the clutching, grabbing, face washing, deliberate interference and gamesmanship/brinkmansship go on. It is boring and sends and incredibly bad message about both the individual players who indulge in such behaviour and the overall misconception of the ‘loutishness’ of the game.
— Charles W.
I just liked this idea because it included the word “shenanigans.” Has anyone started referring to suspendable offenses as “Brendan Shananigans” yet? If not, can we start?
I stole Adam Gold’s idea, which would see teams earn the top overall pick based on how many points they record after being eliminated from the playoff race. Based on e-mail and Twitter feedback, it may have been the most popular idea in the entire post. But it wasn’t unanimous.
Adam Gold’s idea could actually make the problem worse by encouraging teams to tank during the first half of the season to fall out of playoff contention before making changes to qualify for the No. 1 pick.
— Adam W., Ottawa
This was a common objection to our draft order suggestion. But would teams really start tanking early, even when they still had a mathematical shot at the playoffs? Don’t all teams desperately cling to the delusional belief that they can contend until reality finally sets in and it’s far too late to do anything about it? No? Only the Leafs do that? OK, good to know.
Your idea about fixing the NHL draft is worse than any listed. This idea will instantly kill the trade deadline. No struggling team would ever trade a player to a contender because they’d need all the good players necessary to fight for the no. 1 pick. The trade deadline, which is usually one of the best periods in the NHL, would completely die.
— Vsem, Toronto
Fair point. But then again, hasn’t the NHL trade deadline already been killed? Do we really want to avoid rule changes just so we can keep this?
I love most of the article but I wanted to raise one minor point — the number of points a team earns after elimination from playoff contention is variable among teams mainly depending on the relative strength of their division. The proposal therefore rewards bad teams in good divisions. For example, my beloved Panthers, no. 30 out of 30 last season, weren’t technically eliminated until the last five games of the season due to the weakness of the rest of the Southeast. So long as they had a shot at overtaking Washington, they were still capable of getting into the playoffs as the division winner, and therefore not accumulating draft points.
— Jim H., Miami
I heard from a surprising number of Panthers fans (i.e., more than zero) who objected to the draft idea because it would penalize teams, like Florida, that play poorly while in bad divisions. My response: Good! If you can’t compete in a division as bad as last year’s Southeast, you don’t deserve the top pick. Give it to a team stuck in a truly competitive division that really needs the extra help.
Player Safety and Suspensions
We tried to make the game safer by switching to hybrid icing and changing some of the rules around hitting. But we left the suspension system as is. Some readers didn’t think we went far enough.
The biggest argument for hybrid rules is to decrease the number of horrific injuries and that argument is broken. If the race to the puck is close, the official is supposed to let the play go under hybrid rules. Those are the races that cause the injuries. Players have not suffered broken legs coasting toward the boards in a race against nobody.
The moment you acknowledge that hybrid might be better than the current system, which it is, a no-touch system should be inevitable so just make it happen.
— Jeff S., Calgary
This was the most common complaint about the hybrid icing idea; that it won’t eliminate the worst injuries, since those happen on plays where the two players are arriving at the same time.
But that’s not completely true. Many icing injuries do happen on plays that would be whistled down under hybrid icing — namely the plays where a trailing player makes a last-second poke at the puck and/or his opponent’s skates. (For example, this play would have been blown dead under a hybrid system.)
When a player does something that garners action from the league (illegal hit to the head, for example) … that player’s team should lose an actual roster spot for the length of the suspension.
This is especially true if the player that is the recipient of the illegal hit is not able to play (say, Marian Hossa and Raffi Torres in the 2012 playoffs). Why should the penalized players’ team get the benefit of calling up a younger player looking to make their mark in a big situation?
— Marc S., Billings, Montana
I’ve never been a fan of the “suspend the player for as long as a player is injured” concept, which seems to be popular with many fans. But this version, in which teams lose a roster spot when a player is suspended, makes some sense.
Instead of a one man side show [for determining suspensions], why not have a 3 person team? An ex player, a n executive/front office guy and a lawyer? No one person would be blamed as it would be a majority thing. One person says 1 game, the other 2 say 3 games, 3 games it is. But seems a ton better then just Shannahan or Campbell making the call.
— Sonny G., Plattsburgh, New York
Has a committee ever made anything better? I’m trying to think of an example of that happening.
Players must wear mouthpieces and tighter chin straps: The visor is a good first step, but more can be done with safety. The benefits of mouthpieces can be debated, but a tighter helmet is better protection.
— Michael M., Tampa
Agreed. The whole “loose strap on the helmet” thing might have been cool when Doug Gilmour was rocking it 20 years ago, but it seems ridiculous now.
NHL referees, repeat after me: “The rules are all there for a reason. They are intended to be enforced as rigorously, accurately, and impartially as is humanly possible in all game situations. This is my job, and I will do it to the best of my ability.”
— Alice T., Madison, Wisconsin
Just as long as they don’t have to repeat that into a wireless microphone.
Of course, readers weren’t limited to commenting on the changes we proposed. And more than a few of you had ideas of your own that we could describe as … unique.
Give back true home ice advantage by freeing up the NHL rink constraints … If you allow changes to be made to the playing surface unique to its team, they are the most familiar with the size, bounces, etc. giving them legit home ice advantage … The league needs to set up certain parameters for which a team must follow when constructing their rink, however allow freedoms and quirks that could potentially give the team home ice advantage.
— Geoff W., Vancouver
I’ll pause so we can all make our own jokes about placing random hills around the rink. But this isn’t as farfetched as it seems. NHL arenas have had some odd quirks over the years, including some that actually were different dimensions.
Be the first sports league to reduce the time it takes to watch/go to a full game. Have commercials run in a little box in the corner of the TV screen with sound while the rest of the screen is showing the game. Try to start the commercials during stoppages in the game to reduce the amount of time the game is happening but we cannot hear the announcers. Not sure, but ad revenue should be about the same. Downside is a smaller ad, but upside is people will stay on the couch during your commercial.
— Joshua A., Japan
Ridiculous. If we did that then we’d never get to hear what Pierre McGuire had to say and …
This doesn’t affect the on-ice product, but I think that scrapping the NHL awards show would help the perception of the sport. As it stands now, the yearly telecast makes a longtime fan like myself feel embarrassed for liking the NHL. Cringe-worthy jokes, D-list celebrity presenters and laughable musical choices (Chaka Khan? Nickelback?) makes the NHL feel like a far inferior product compared to the other major professional leagues.
— Ken C., Halifax, Nova Scotia
No! The NHL awards are tacky and awful, and that’s why we love them! I want more awards handed out by Real Housewives who didn’t bother to learn how to pronounce a player’s name!
Did that sound sarcastic? It wasn’t. I love the NHL awards show.
The purpose of the trapezoid was to limit goalies handling the puck. If the league REALLY wants to minimize puck-handling goalies, make them subject to be being checked. Why do they get a free pass?
— William O., Benicia, California
The Buffalo Sabres were unaware that this rule did not already exist.
I think the all-star game could be improved (at least for a year or two) with one change. Have the all-stars play the KHL or some other European league all-stars like MLS does with its all-star game. At least for the first couple years, the game would be interesting.
— Daigo I., Las Vegas
“And the NHL defeats the KHL to win the annual All-Star showdown. Wait, why are the KHL players leaving the arena dragging duffel bags shaped like Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk?”
I played men’s hockey til I was 63. I live in Cincinnati where hockey has never achieved a base of knowledgeable fans, or of casual fans who can really enjoy the up-and-down thrill the way fans seem to in the bigger/older markets. One of the the things I enjoy most is coaxing friends who have never seen a game to join me at our local EHL venue. If the game is even moderately exciting, many become moderately hooked.
But the thing they complain about is not being able to see the puck as goals are scored [I still have problems myself]. Could anything be done to “colorize” the puck (perhaps using special lights that would bring out whatever “colorization” was used)? Just asking?
More importantly, I think, would be doing something to the televised puck that would make it more visible. Obviously the “trail of smoke” thing didn’t work years ago. But, in the new Hi-def world, do you think they could do something to make the puck more visible, maybe even to make it visible when it is “shielded” from view by players’ legs or the goalie’s glove.
— Jim L., Cincinnati
This isn’t a bad idea, and is probably possible with modern broadcasting technology. Just be aware that Canadian hockey fans will never, ever go for it. We’re too scarred by the FoxTrax debacle. If you think Canadian fans are irrationally opposed to bigger nets or eliminating fighting or drinking a coffee that isn’t 90 percent cream and sugar, wait until you try to make the puck glow again. It’s going to get ugly, eh.
You didn’t go far enough with “Crossover Final.” With the new division format, we should seed the top 4 by division winner, then 5 to 16 based on points, regardless of division. Put all 16 teams into one bracket, market the bracket and let it play out. Brackets make everything better!
— Zack D., Nashville
If we’re going to steal brackets from the NCAA, do we also steal “not paying the athletes we make all the money off of”?
(That was a joke, Jeremy Jacobs. Settle down.)
Get rid of the isosceles trapezoid. (I am a math teacher and it is isosceles because non parallel sides are equal in length.) Let the goalie get the puck. This way the defenseman forced to play it isn’t a sitting duck waiting to take a body check to the boards.
— Matthew F., Brooklyn
I’m including this one because I had no idea we were supposed to be calling it an isosceles trapezoid. We’re all going to start doing that now, right? I’m getting in on the ground floor of this one.
Being able to end contracts due to poor play. They do it in the NFL, so why not do it with the NHL? Then you wouldn’t get these stupid Gomez, DiPietro, and David Clarkson contracts. If you aren’t producing, you aren’t playing. Buyouts are a good start though.
— Daniel F., Thunder Bay, Ontario
Two things: (1) Trying to get rid of guaranteed contracts would probably cause a player’s strike that would wipe out a season or more, and (2) I can’t express how depressing it was that your three examples for this idea were Gomez, DiPietro, and David Clarkson.
The following list of things that I wish could be changed immediately, but I don’t know if you/we have that power.
— Sean C.
I’m not completely sure, but I think that Sean here is saying that he wants the other three divisions in the NHL’s new alignment to also be called “Metropolitan.”
In order to foster fan loyalty, prevent spectators from wearing the other team’s jerseys and cheering against the home team. Possibly through the use of undercover policemen deliberately placed in the crowd.
— Ben G.
Hey, everyone, I bet you can’t guess which city Ben was writing from. Go on, just try to guess, I’ll wait right here …
Why not let the all-star game take place outdoors? It would increase the potential revenue because the stadiums where they would be taking place would undoubtedly hold more people than the local NHL arena. Also, it allows the uniqueness of the event to be paired with the uniqueness of the venue. Outdoor hockey at Wrigley Field or Chavez Ravine or Yankee Stadium is such a great idea. But by subjecting regulation games to the issue of snow on the ice or more importantly humidity and heat in the lower regions, you can have a fun concept affect a division race, and that’s just not right. Much better to let a game that the players can relax and enjoy and not have to go 100 percent in be affected by such outside forces than one in which two division rivals are competing for a playoff spot.
— Stephen D., Los Angeles
I’d complained about the All-Star Game being awful and there being too many outdoor games, and a surprising number of readers suggested fixing both problems in one shot. It almost makes too much sense. The only downside I can think of is that it could rule out certain cities from hosting an All-Star Game.
If the team wants the loser point their goalie should have to tackle the other goalie before he makes it off the ice. Or the goalies could be forced to charge center ice, first goalie to be thrown to the ice loses. Tradition and kinesthetic art aside, I like to be entertained.
— Paul M.
Nice try, “Paul,” but we know who you are. Good luck in the new coaching job.
The person who should present the Cup to the captain of the winning team is … the captain of the team that won it the previous year! Think of it as the last act of a champion — to be gracious enough to pass the trophy to the next group of champions. In a league where the championship trophy is steeped in history and continuity, why not make the handoff part of that continuity?
— Michael D., Whitby, Ontario
This idea came up surprisingly often, with many readers admitting to being inspired by the way the green jacket is handed out at the Masters. Could it work in hockey? More importantly, would Jonathan Toews actually fake enthusiasm about the job? I feel like we may need to find out.
What I don’t understand about sports marketing is the singular focus on male fans. That demographic is sewn up already. Shouldn’t they be talking to the group that presents the opportunity for growth? Doesn’t anyone realize that women tend to do the merchandise purchasing in families?
So, what I’d like to see is the NHL looking women in the eye and saying “I see you.” I’m not talking pink jerseys and breast cancer gimmicks. I’m looking for more women broadcasters, an end to misogynist language like “Cindy Crosby,” the “Sedin sisters” and what have you from TV analysts, for a strong condemnation of sexual assault by players/prospect (not spinning sex assault allegations as “adversity” a player works to “put behind him” as an example of character-building would be a good first step), including female fans in NHL marketing without making them a male fan’s girlfriend or wife, and discouraging teams from deploying barely-dressed women to shoot T-shirt cannons under infantilizing names like “Ice Girls.”
Women are fans and always have been. My great-grandmother was a Bruins season ticket holder in the 30s, my mother was a season ticket holder for UMass-Lowell in the 90s, and now I’m a Bruins and UML fan. Why won’t the NHL acknowledge us? Furthermore, why do they work so hard to alienate us?
— Ridley C., Boston
I tried to stay away from marketing-related changes, but there’s some good stuff here. And sure, every other pro sports league has the same problem. If anything, that should be all the more reason for the NHL to take the lead here.