by Jeremy "Fastttalker" Bjornberg - 08/02/2005
When the NHL players and owners decided to take part in an absolute disaster of a holdout, I was full of optimism that the league would fix some of its many problems. The main problem was that the product was no longer fun to watch. Huge players and their constant holding and hooking caused the game to have very few exciting scoring chances. The success of teams like the New Jersey Devils caused many teams to also play a boring style of defense that put even the most ardent hockey fan to sleep.
Many of the rule changes that will take place are very confusing. I am not sure why the NHL would choose to make the game any more complicated to understand, but they managed to do just that. Many of the rule changes were positive, and they should open up the game and make the younger, faster players more relevant. Fans could only sit through watching so many 39-year-old ancient defenseman behind the blue-line barely able to make it up and down the ice. The number of veterans in the game slowed the pace of the game down to a screeching halt, and I can only hope players like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby can restore hockey to a rightful position among the top sports.
The NHL will also suffer if ESPN does not continue to broadcast their games. Not only will a lot less people see the games, but ESPN will also make the sport suffer when they show few, if any highlights every night. World Series Poker reruns were rated 2-4 times higher than NHL games, so maybe the players and owners will realize the need to establish legitimacy again.
The NHL has been run into the ground by greed and bad decision makers. The owners' decision to keep adding teams just to make a quick, sleazy buck have come back to haunt the league. We now have like 10 teams in the hot, southern states and none of the fans care other than maybe the ones in Dallas. The talent was spread to thin and the correct thing to do would have been to eliminate a few teams.
I do have to say it was an idiotic at best idea to include two more playoff teams from each conference. Whoever came up with this clueless idea had to be one of the "brilliant minds" behind a holdout that potentially ruined the game. I almost feel like there is no reason to watch the regular season (besides those juicy parlays, that is). If it wasn't for gambling I don't know if I could sit through a boring 80+ game season just to see it eliminate a few teams.
The good news is that hockey is back and the game has been redesigned with the idea of making the sport entertaining and fast paced. I am going to hold my breath that hotshot Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux playing together on the power play will be enough to bring back the fans who left the sport.