Certain sports revamp, restructure, improve, innovate, and update themselves, while some don't. Baseball has its purists, yet a time comes when change is necessary to remain sexy, viable, profitable, etc. We've seen the changes and tweaks to rules in the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL, yet the latter has a long way to come still. I've been a huge hockey fan for 25 plus years, however, I, myself, am getting bored of a drawn out season and playoff run that isn't epic anymore its just outright outplays its shine in a given calendar year. Hear me out. Of the 3 major sports that have best-of-seven series, only baseball remains a valid structure for playoff excitement.
The NBA, quite honestly, I'd rather see adopt a 60 game season with playoff one-and-dones like the NCAA tourney. Believe you me, I know the owners would never agree to foregoing so much booty from their treasure chests. Never. It would never happen. Understood. Just think of the excitement. Change the playoff format to a 24 team bracket and watch the fireworks. I know their are exceptions such as the Bulls/Celtics 7 game marathons of this year. Those are exceptions. Not guaranteed excitement. The '09 NBA Finals was a joke. A sad foregone conclusion. Not fun at all to observe as a fan unless you were a Laker fan, but how fun is that? We all know if KG didn't go down, it was to be a rematch of '08. NBA upsets are just too rare. Not so much in baseball or the NFL. In baseball, anything can happen. The variables and tangibles and intangibles are so numerous that it is really a true testament to the winning team that wins the World series. Spring training, 162 games, getting into the playoffs albeit via the WildCard which is genius in itself to revamp, LCS-semis, LCS and World Series.
This is an opinion and you won't win me over with a rebuttal. It's a conclusion I've come to after watching all the angles of BCS, March Madness, 7 game marathons, epic titles runs over the last 25 years of my sport watching career.
So, to the crux: hockey, a major league sport, yet it is easily supplanted (in terms of viewership, fan base, TV contracts and filthy-stinkin'-cash-moula-generating revenues) in the fall by college football, NFL and the World Series. In the new year overthrown by the BCS championship, NFL playoffs, NASCAR and March Madness, not to mention the murmur of spring training and at least for myself the dreaded NBA playoffs. On a side note, I'm not sure what I'm bored to death by the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup playoffs due to sheer absurdity in playoff season length. Don't get me wrong I love overtime playoff hockey in a game 7 but its too much. With a best-of-seven in the NBA and NHL, teams can decide when to bring their A-game, how they want to win the series when the match-up is lopsided (home or away). It creates a personality disorder. A team shows up for game 2, Dr. Jekyll, a team tanks game 3, Mr. Hyde. What nonsense. Don't you expect only the best game in game out from the athletes you watch, indirectly pay and root for. The 7 game cushion allows for athletes to cruise every now and then and we've seen it more often than not from Hockey and Basketball playoffs.
Back to hockey. In essence the season needs to be scaled back to a 60 game season similar to the NBA recommendation. Let 20 teams get into the playoff round from each conference based on best records regardless of conference because in hockey on any given night you can be beat. Hence the first round upsets when seed #1 plays #8 every 3-4 years would disappear (as fun as that is its not generating large volumes of cash) otherwise why play 82 games to get crowned and pissed on 8 days later. With that 20 team pool generate a 10-team bracket that is based on best overall regular season record and let them spectate for 2 days. The bottom 10, make them duke it out in one and dones. Determined in a matter of 2 days so the 10 teams aren't waiting long. You don't earn the right to play in a 7 game series and generate all that revenue for sneaking into the playoffs. Hell no. Now you have 15. President's trophy winner gets a bye. Now re-seed 2-14 in a simple top vs bottom in a best of 3. The best of 3 has first 2 games back-to-back with a one day layoff between 2nd and 3rd game. So the current math is the #1 seed has had a 7 day layoff including 2 days between end of regular season and the start of 10 team one and dones to the conclusion of the best of 3. Remember by watching this carnage the trophy winner of the regular season knows that they can't sleep when their turn comes with a 1st round bye. They will be chomping on the bit because of the shortened slack for error. It actually forces the the trophy winner to bring their A-game so they aren't easily upset and have to suffer the humiliation.
The carnage from the best of 3 round leaves 7 so re-enter the president's trophy winner with a pool of 8. Seeded again based on original seeding. You are almost guaranteed 4 elite teams if not 6 with a couple of upsets along the way. Let the 8 war it out in an epic best of 5 game series. With the final four remaining, return to a best of 3 format. Force the teams to bring their A-game every time. In the final return to a best of 5. The lack of consistency in the format ensures teams, players, coaches don't sleep and decide to take a game off like the pens did in game 6 of this year's cup final. That's absolutely unacceptable in a finals.
You would have a hockey season done, champs crowned, parades completed in late April not sweltering June and you would re-invigorate a lost fan base. The excitement generated would swell TV viewership and TV revenue not to mention new mammoth league contracts from ESPN and/or CBS. More teams in the playoffs generates the excitement in the a weak fan base in the sunbelts. You awaken a giant derth of revenue lost to NASCAR and such. Nobody cares about the NHL because the season is too long and so many games are meaningless. Then add potential 28 game playoff season for your team its not really exciting. It maybe so when you're team is in the run but for the remaining millions out their, they're too busy on the golf links, planning family road trips and attending June weddings.
NHL Changes necessary to remain profitable.
--No touch icing --penalty for any physical contact along the boards including hits, grappling i.e. wrestling, obstructions (I saw way to many during dump-ins in the playoffs) this means the only hits and physical play allowed in hockey are clean open ice checks and it makes the game faster much faster and more skilled --50 game suspension immediately (no appeals, no league cases) for any direct or indirect blow to the head of a player by any part of your body during your motion to deliver a bodycheck. Period even if the hit is deemed legal from purists. Accidental skates, tumbles and falls and such are excluded. Not acceptable, zero-tolerance policy. It ensures that skill is maintained and players don't have their careers shortened without mentioning their lives. --Short season, short playoffs, new format guaranteed excitement and new vigor
That's my take to revive, renew and ensure that the NHL is healthy, viable, current, exciting and profitable for another 50-100 yrs. Less is more. Less is more.