For many sport's fans, hockey seems too much like soccer - not enough scoring. While many children play school soccer, many fewer attend professional games later as adults. The fact that hockey is the least popular of the four major pro sports in the U.S. is because it must compete with the great traditions of baseball, football and basketball. 66% of the leagues arenas are rarely sellouts.
The exceptions are the "original six" franchises, the other Canadian cities and Phi and Pitt. Of course teams in winning years do play to big crowds. The current economy is a factor and Sunbelt teams must over come the perception that they seem out of place among the palm trees. The NHL Board of Governors several years ago identified the problem and made changes in the rules that were intended to increase scoring, fan interest and attendance particularly south of the border. This effort came partly as a result of lagging attendance in the rapidly expanding U.S. market in cities where hockey was a new venue.
Some of the changes include:
- Removal of the mid ice red line to cut down on off sides passes and encourage long passes leading to more goals.
- Calling more penalies [many questionable] to bring about powerplays
- Calling more penalty shots
- Allowing goals with players in the crease
- More liberal stick design
- Overtime and shootouts
One suggestion: Although many of the purists went along with the above changes, the size of the goal mouth has remained sacrosanct. If the openning of the goal were increased by just 2 inches, some of the pucks bouncing off the posts and not going in might be goals. The visual change would not be perceptable. This change would not be popular with Goalies, whose size on average over the years has increased more than 2 inches.
By comparison, the most American of sports introduced the "Designated Hitter Rule" several years ago which results in an American league pitcher having to face a top hitter 4 or 5 times a game, while excusing the pitcher from coming to bat. The purpose of the change was to produce more runs and again make the game more interesting.
The point is that to me this change seems a lot more radical than increasing the size of the goal.
My Question - What changes if any would you propose to attract new fans to our Arenas?