BY MICHAEL GARDNER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
The NHL general managers are meeting in Toronto on Tuesday where they will likely discuss head shots and the neutral zone trap. Here are a list of five topics that they should add to the list as well.
Issue One – The Silly Point System
You reward behaviour that you want to see repeated. The NHL’s policy for giving out a single point for every game that ends tied means that winning is only slightly more important. As a result, teams play for the single point so much so that nearly 1 in 4 games end tied after 60 minutes.
Forget trying to create rules to discourage the trap. Simply reward teams with more points for winning and take away the loser point. Three points for a win will have teams that are chasing a playoff spot trying to fill the net vs. trying to fill the neutral zone.
Issue Two – Performance Enhancing Drugs and the Impact on Concussions
Is it an issue? Hard to say because the NHL doesn’t want to know the answer.
As George W. Bush might say, it doesn’t take a “Rocket Surgeon” to connect some dots here. While equipment is better constructed and players skate faster, why is nobody asking how players got to be the size of NFL linebackers?
Free weights haven’t got heavier over the years. By not allowing players to be retroactively tested and not including Human Growth Hormone on its listed of banned substances, the NHL has essentially legalized its use.
Issue Three – The Canadian Dollar
Now that the dollar hovers around parity, the Canadian teams are showing strong contributions to the overall revenue of the league.
But it wasn’t that long ago that a 65 cent loonie forced the Nordiques and Jets to move south. Ottawa teetered on the verge of bankruptcy and Calgary and Edmonton discussed plans with politicians to hold a provincial lottery to supplement their bottom lines.
While the dollar can rise and fall, player salaries are doing nothing but climbing. Now is the time to look at true revenue sharing along the same lines as the NFL to ensure some stability.
Issue Four – The Cost to Attend Games
“Friggin’ Ridiculous” is how most fans describe the cost to attend games. NHL teams long since figured out that in selling the same seat to a corporate buyer, with access to tax advantages, at a higher price, they would make more money.
What has followed are generations of fans that can’t afford to go to a game. Not having access is a branding nightmare, ask the CFL how well their blackout policies worked.
Compound that with the US financial crisis and stricter laws regarding the use of funds for client entertainment and the NHL is staring at potential attendance issue in the near future.
I haven’t even touched on demographic data which suggest that as the population ages, there will be fewer “sport event attending” age cohorts in the years ahead.
Access is key for a brand to succeed.
Issue Five – Other Sports Competing for Disposable Income
Don’t look now but Major League Soccer just climbed into the third place as the most attended professional sport in the United States. It beat out the NBA and the NHL, who dropped to fourth and fifth on the list.
It offers low cost with a much larger grass roots following. ESPN TV deals are in the works and the league itself has a solid cost structure, revenue sharing, and something that the NHL doesn’t have… interest in expansion teams in big markets across the United States.