October 5, 2007

I have seen the light.

I'm a recent convert to hockey. It coincides with starting to date Jenn in 2002 and subsequently attending my first St. Louis Blues game. Not to say I don't have a pedigree for hockey. My mom, her grandma, and so on, all call/ed the hockey hotbed of North Dakota home (no, I'm not being facetious. The University of North Dakota Fightin' Sioux hockey team is one of the best college teams in the country).

With the recent collapse in popularity of the league, a lot has been said about how to improve ratings. The NHL has made rule changes to try and make games more high scoring (which I disagree with on a fundamental level) while taking their games from ESPN to the mighty Versus Network, so, cut off their nose to spite their face.

I propose another person's idea. Promotion and relegation. It's been done in soccer around the world for over one hundred years. Sure, it's not "fair" that Leeds United from Leeds, England, the third largest city in England, are toiling in the equivalent of AA (League One), but they fell apart faster the Expos and paid for being such a terrible team.

The reality is that having 30 teams in the NHL is too much and a talent and monetary drain on the league. Realistically, five to ten of those teams need to go. This is how it's done:

But how do you ditch teams without looking like you're waving the white flag? You contract through relegation.

Tomorrow, issue a press release that says you will eliminate the five teams with the worst records at the end of the 2008-09 season. Then, don't answer media phone calls for a couple of days. After you've milked your moment in the PTI/SportsCenter/talk-radio sun, watch as teams scramble for players. This process will be grossly unfair: The wealthy teams will buy up the talent and the struggling teams will get scraps. Sure, a few teams will spend way above their ability to pay. They'll do it, though, because their very survival will be on the line.

Teams (read: owners) will be mad that they will no longer be able to field an underperforming cash cow anymore (read: Chicago Blackhawks). They'll likely sue. Other owners will have their pride bruised and try to spend enough to stay up or, if they go down, spend enough to get back up.

This could work, you know. But it'll never happen. Disrupting the status quo? Not in America. Fans would rather keep their shitty team going, rewarding them with high draft picks, than ever consider the thought of them not existing anymore or being sent down a level. I didn't realize that this was how businesses operated in the American economy. Seems a little socialistic, eh, comrades?
That doesn't carry the same kind of terror it once did, does it? Darn.

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