Now even the Toronto Star’s Al Strachan is saying that the new NHL is a marketing flop. Columnists all over are pointing to the horrible ratings, and the fact that the NHL is not really a top 4 sport anymore.
Well, as much as I think the league deserves criticism for things, I think it’s simply too early to judge. This is the end of the first year after a lockout. Even baseball didn’t recover, really, until the Steroid & Juiced-Ball Home-Run Wars of the late 1990s.
If hockey is failing, it’s because it positioned itself in places where fickle fans would support it, then it had a lockout, and those fans left. But unlike women’s basketball, which is still at least 10 years away from the social movement needed to accept it, hockey is something that interest in only needs to be rekindled. The potential is there. The product is good.
It needs time. Maybe another 5 years. And, I believe, it needs new leadership, but that’s neither here nor there.
Readically realigning the league isn’t realistic, even though it would improve things dramatically. Here’s another idea I’ve had. Playoff hockey is best product. It makes October hockey look stupid. How about this:
An October mini-tournament to determine the “Division Champion.” There are five teams. The reigning champ gets a bye, and the teams play home and home soccer-stlye agrregate goals matches, or best of 5s. The winner gets the same home ice the top 3 seeds do now, and gets to play all or more than normal of their intra-division home games at home.
Shorten the regular season to 70 games, and there you have it. Playoff hockey in October.
This is basically stolen from Latin-American soccer that has an Opening (apertura) and Closing (clausura) championship.