We don’t need it. The lockout is an excellent chance for new beginnings in Canadian hockey, a renewal of the game. Let the NHL bankrupt itself, as it seems intent on doing. After all it has become a private enterprise business with the risks that that involves. Replace it in Canada with a co-operative of hockey players.
Insofar as the NHL is “National” it has become US national. Forget Canada. The business strategies are typically aggressive arrogantly US, on the side of both players and management. Get the most and devil take the hindmost, especially the fans. Price the business – it’s not a game any more – out of the most devoted Canadian “markets”. Note that, fans, we’re pieces of the market, to be bought and sold, just as the bodies on the rink are like Roman gladiators, to be bought and sold, the more bloody the more noteworthy and the more loudly cheered on. Hockey scholckey.
Good, we’ve banished the NHL from Canada. Gone are the shackles. Now we must face freedom and use it for the best.
First we create a Canadian Co-operative League and bring the Stanley Cup back into it. Pressure the Trustees to return the cup to its initial mandate = a challenge cup akin to The America’s cup, and open it to European teams as well as North American. The Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal NHL clubs, ahem I mean businesses, get out of the way, or adapt. New teams emerge throughout the country. Winnipeg, Regina, Halifax, come back. Maybe Toronto has two teams instead of one.
We might let the Canucks, the Maple Leafs, the Oilers, Calgary, the Senators and the Canadiens back in if they shut down the present organisations and create new ones according to new Canadian rules. But they would have to recreate their business models.
It would take time to create and operate the CCL , but let it grow steadily with a few teams to start with. Many players have the financial savvy and connections to get started, acquiring rinks, players and TV rights.
The Canadian Cooperative League will have new rules about who plays. Money will still be important, but there would be incentives to replace lucre with community as the major test of a player’s commitment. Commitment – a forgotten word – to the team. Each team will be assigned a geographical base – British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Ontario outside of Toronto, and so on. At least 60% of the players will be drawn from the designated area. Teams which break this rule will not play.
It will be a chance to establish new game rules, and perhaps move to the European rink size. Every year there is a little tinkering in the NHL which is afraid to go the whole hog. Canadians like their bacon, so the whole hog should not be difficult.
As far as the rink is concerned it may be objected that to change rinks in Canada would be too costly. There are two considerations. First, if the Canadian Cooperative League were to become a Canadian-European league there would be enough European sized rinks in the game to keep it throbbing. But note that a Canadian Cooperative League would have e a quite different business base. The high expenditure franchises would go down with the NHL, leaving the franchises worthless so that new owners would straightforwardly acquire the physical assets at sensible prices. Because of this they would have funds left over to put into rink size changes.
We should move toward a more European types of game – more open, faster, more rewarding of skills instead of brute force. Eric Duhatschek, writing for the Globe and Mail [Dubé finds happiness in Swiss League – Nov. 27 3004 p.S1] records that many NHL players, currently refugees from the NHL in Europe, are thoroughly enjoying the skilled game.
Apart from many tinkerings now on the table, two major issues stand out for more drastic action.
Obviously, brawling, How stupid can it be when both the instigator and the victim who defends himself are given matching penalties, and the teams carry on at full strength? Who cooked that one up?. It almost deliberately encourages thugs to take out skilled players with them.
No. Instigator(s) out for the season. Game stopped. Victory assessed to the victim’s side. Any players (no matter how many) who join the fray, out for the next game. Result. No fighting. A clean game.
The second issue is that of goal keeping. Just look at any professional goal keeper, trussed up like a medieval knight in armour, but without the chivalry. Usually tall – always taller than the goal. One way or another blocking with his one little body over three quarters of the goal. “Crash the goal” comes the chant “crash the goal”. “Block his vision” “Don’t let him see the puck”. Result, mayhem around the net. The reverse of sportsmanship The referee, the players, the fans, have to guess what’s going on.
Come on. Get real. Let’s have decent visible play around the net.
Increase the size of the goal by at least 100%
Increase the size of the area within which there shall be no attacking players and no goalie interference by the same amount. Shots on goal from within that area shall not be counted.
Results: Cleaner, sharper action in the attacking zone. More fan excitement. More goals. Better hockey. A real game at last.
And a last shot. Might it be imagined that the Canadian Cooperative League evolve into a world of hockey in which European teams are included?