On Wednesday, The Atlantic posted an e-mail roundtable with the title, "What Exactly is Killing the NHL?" Writers Jake Simpson, Hampton Stevens and Patrick Hruby discussed the many faults and foibles of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the causes of the lockout and how to end the league's latest work stoppage.
I was invited to participate, but somehow my response must have gotten tied up in cyberspace. It's been posted here instead.
Dear Jake, Hampton and Patrick,
I agree with everything you've said above. Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow are doing a terrible job running the NHL and NHLPA. Goodenow, in particular, has really dropped the ball during this lockout, so much so that you wonder if he even works for the players anymore.
Contraction is vital if the NHL wants to survive post-lockout. A 14-team league, with no team located south of Philadelphia, is a must. The sun-belt manifest destiny, orchestrated solely by Bettman in a quixotic quest to create new television markets through expansion teams like Phoenix, has resulted in a bloated, beached whale carcass of a league. As we know, downtrodden teams almost never turn around their fortunes, and these low-revenue anonymous warm weather franchises have never accomplished anything worth noting. The sooner the NHL amputates these atrophied appendages, the better.
Hampton also brings up a good point about the environmental effects on the NHL's ticket sales. Winter is the worst. No one likes it. No person in their right mind wants to attend a sporting event when it's cold outside.
And until hybrid Zambonis are more widespread, a hockey rink is simply far too environmentally unfriendly for the average American family to enjoy with a clear conscience.
The NHL is also severely lacking in star power. Jake mentioned Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Quick as three of the league's few famous players. I'll submit that the non-die-hards probably haven't ever heard of these guys either. I mean, Jonathan Quick sounds like a 1940's comic strip character.
Just as with its teams, the NHL needs to eliminate all of its boring players and keep only the most talented, exciting, good-looking players with the highest Q-ratings. And no goalies! How is America supposed to fall in love with a player when he's hidden behind a mask and bulky pads? They aren't super heroes.
Patrick is obviously the most optimistic of us. His belief that the lifelong hockey-heads will come back no matter what is admirable but naive. This second lockout has given fans in Detroit and New York and Toronto time to get into other sports they may not have ever learned about during a normal hockey season. No one will come back to hockey when soccer, poker and dog shows are readily and widely visible on television.
Hockey may be unique in that it's fast and fluid and powerful and requires players to do more at one time - while skating on ice - than any other sport. But once you've seen a true champion like Malachy strut triumphantly around Madison Square Garden, even the most die hard Rangers fans will forget whatever grotesque nobody darkens that arena's corridors now.
This is a parody, and sadly I wasn't actually invited. But seriously, that "roundtable" is ridiculous. Read it.
On the flipside, Hruby's article on Ending Sports Welfare is truly excellent and eye-opening, Read that, too.