HEY NHL, "PIMP" MY PRESEASON
With the 09-10 preseason schedule winding down I challenge anyone to tell me why this ever-shrinking schedule of games has to continue to be treated like regular NHL games.
The players aren’t all NHL caliber.
The intensity isn’t anywhere near full-throttle (or at times half-throttle for that matter)
The pressure to win is not palpable.
And the fans are viewing these contests with according apathy.
So why wouldn’t the league and the player’s union (if there still is such a thing), along with a group of vested observers (broadcasters, scribes and long time season ticket holders), get together and discuss ways to experiment and entertain during the two weeks of “exhibition games”?
I remember back in the 80s when teams were playing 12-15 exhibition games every fall and doing so all over North America. It was like being a carnie. With Wayne Gretzky as the main attraction we would play games in Dallas and Houston and Florida and Denver and Halifax and Milwaukee and…well, you get the picture – and Wayne would always play. The league was trying to expose the game to non-traditional markets – it was trying new things.
Now days there are only 4-7 games scheduled, and those exhibitions are referred to as “preseason” games. The league must think that the name change makes them much more valuable – sort of like calling used cars “pre-owned” – but they’re still just exhibitions of hockey with nothing on the line. Sure the past few years teams have gone to Europe to play and open the season - that’s something, but it’s not enough.
Why not trick these exhi-season games up?
Why not go with two halves instead of three periods?
Why not play third periods 4 on 4?
Why not hold a 10-player shootout after 40 minutes?
Why not have players serve the entirety of a two-minute penalty whether a goal is scored or not?
Why not paint the ice?
Why not use orange pucks?
Are they afraid fans will be in an uproar over not seeing a half-hearted, plodding, robotic matchup featuring players they’ve never heard of and will likely never hear about again?
Will the coaches who are counting the minutes till these gerbil-on-a-treadmill games are over be miffed if they had something new to plan for and challenge them? Just think of how a couple little wrinkles might enliven a veteran player who is on autopilot in his 15th camp/preseason. And what if a few of the experiments actually enhanced the experience for the fan – how novel – maybe adopt them going forward?
How would you know if you don’t try? How would you discover a better way if you never searched for it?
Come on NHL, lift your head up from studying depositions and maps of Europe and consider this. In the preseason think of yourself as a team with full possession of the puck on a delayed penalty call that has just been signaled on your opponent. Be risky. Try stuff you normally wouldn’t. Go for it. You have nothing to lose, because the alternative is to just safely dump the puck in a corner in the opposition’s zone and get a change of players, which would seem nothing short of dumb and borders on ridiculous.
Unfortunately that’s what most of the preseason in its current format is – safe, dumb and ridiculous.
It doesn’t have to be.
Posted on September 28, 2009 10:06 AM Email Razor
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