(Editor's note: Welcome to Sean McIndoe's weekly grab bag, where he writes on a variety of NHL topics. You can follow him on Twitter. Check out the Biscuits podcast with Sean and Dave Lozo as they discuss the events of the week.)
The third star: The Penguins vs. this random fan. Poor Tony. This Flames fans got a little too caught up in Calgary's playoff push, and tweeted this at the official Penguins account.
The Penguins won, and, well...
Sorry, Tony. Chalk it up as a learning experience.
The second star: Steve Ott. I have no idea what's happening here, but let's at least be thankful that he's not licking anyone.
The first star: Brenden Dillon and Austin Watson. These two polite young men engaged in the world's friendliest fist fight.
The issue: This is the time of year when teams start rolling out their ticket pricing for next season.
The outrage: Wait a second—the prices went up. Those greedy bastards!
Is it justified: Probably not.
Look, I like going to hockey games. I like taking my family with me. When I get there, I usually like to have something to eat and maybe a couple of pops. And all things being equal, I'd prefer it if those things didn't require me to take out a second mortgage.
So I get why hockey fans get upset when their favorite team jacks up ticket prices. The league is expensive these days.
The thing is, there's a "right" price for NHL tickets, and it's this: whatever the market will pay for them. That's it. That's all that really matters. Whatever price a team can set that maximizes the amount of revenue they'll make is how much the tickets should cost.
Chances are, that's higher than you'd like it to be, but that's business. And that's especially true in markets that generally sell out. In those cases, teams have two choices: charge whatever the market is willing to pay (and get criticized for high prices), or charge less than that (and leave money on the table). And, by the way, if the team tries to be nice and chooses the latter option, a lot of that extra money just goes into the pockets of scalpers and the secondary market.
In some especially crowded markets, where there are millions of people and only 18,000 tickets or so for each game, that means the "right" price will be very high. Ideally, a team will recognize that there's a long-term cost to pricing out certain fans altogether, and figure out a program that makes it possible for everyone to have a chance at getting to a game every now and then. But that doesn't mean lowering prices across the board, because, again, the NHL is a business and most businesses aren't really keen on setting money on fire.
It doesn't really matter whether the team was good or not—raising prices isn't some sort of reward that you only unlock when you win. And it certainly doesn't matter that Gary Bettman told you that his constant lockouts were about keeping ticket prices low; if you were gullible enough to swallow that, then I'm not sure anyone can help you.
If your team sets prices too high, the market will punish them with empty seats, they'll lose money, and prices will come back down. If that doesn't happen, however, it means the prices are fair. You don't have to like it. And if the team tries to insult your intelligence with some tortured PR spin, then you really don't have to like it.
But you can accept it. This is just supply and demand at work. In a league that specializes in constantly giving its fans things to be angry about, ticket prices shouldn't be high on the list.
Today is St. Patrick's Day, which means you're going to be leaving for lunch soon and then "forget" to come back to the office.
It also means we should probably pick a Patrick as this week's obscure player. NHL history is filled with some pretty good ones, but of course that's not what we're looking for in this section. So instead, let's go with someone a little less familiar: winger Patrick Lebeau.
Lebeau didn't have much big-league impact; if his name sounds familiar, it's probably because you're thinking of his brother, Canadiens forward Stephan. But Patrick had one of my favorite careers because of how much better it sounds in the abstract. You could say, with total accuracy, that Leabeau's NHL career spanned a full decade and saw him play for four different teams. That's impressive. What's not quite as impressive: it also lasted just 15 games.
Here's how that works. Lebeau was picked by Montreal in the eighth round of the 1989 draft; he'd been a big goal scorer in the offense-happy QMJHL, and in his final year of junior he racked up 68 goals and 174 points. By 1990, it was on to the AHL, where Lebeau scored 50 goals for the Canadiens' farm team. He got a two-game cup of coffee in Montreal, scoring once.
That was it for his Habs career. Lebeau spent the 1991-92 season with the Canadian national team, winning silver at the 1992 Olympics. His rights were traded to the Flames, where he played one game in 1992-93 before signing with the Panthers. He got into four games in Florida during the 1993-94 season, while spending most of the season racking up his second straight 40-goal season in the IHL.
From there it was on to Europe, where he starred in the Swiss and German leagues. He returned to North America for the 1998-99 season, and played eight games for the Penguins. That would be the most he'd ever managed with an NHL team. They'd also be the last of his NHL career, which saw him finish with 15 games played and three goals.
Lebeau headed back to Europe, where he played until 2007; he reportedly had an offer from the Flyers at one point, but didn't pass his physical. That's a shame—if he'd got a few games in, we could be talking about the world's shortest 17-year NHL career. As it stands, Lebeau will go down in history as the owner of some truly impressive numbers in almost every league he ever played in, and some truly weird numbers in the NHL.
This one might get a bit controversial. Let's all be cool, we can get through this.
The loser point is garbage.
That's not the controversial part, of course. Every decent person already agrees that the league's insistence on rewarding losses is an absolutely terrible idea. It waters down the product and doesn't actually make playoff races any closer. If you actually like the loser point, tell whoever is being paid to read this to you to stop right now.
But now, for the first time in a while, there seems to be some small hope of change. For the first time I can remember, it seems like there's a sliver of momentum building within the league to find a better system. Coaches are finally admitting the obvious: that their teams shut it down in regulation so they can get to overtime, resulting in boring games. And at this year's GM meetings, there was some discussion of finally getting rid of the damned thing. Even the hockey media, who typically just mindlessly go along with the "closer playoff races" excuse, are starting to push back.
The tide is turning, and that means it's time for those of us who hate the loser point to take the next step. It's a big one.
We need to come together on an alternative.
That's one alternative, and only one. Right now, we have several: Just go with wins and losses. Bring back ties. Use a three-point system. Use a four-point system. Use this ridiculously complicated system that some fan came up with on their own and will explain to you in a fourteen-part series of tweets.
And here's the problem: They're all better than the stupid, insulting system we're stuck with now, so they all gain at least a little traction, and we spend all our time endlessly debating which one of the alternatives is the perfect one. And while we do that, year after year, the status quo stays in place.
Well, not anymore. It's time to stop debating, and rally behind one option.
So today, be it resolved: It's time for loser-point-hating fans to unite behind three-point games. That's the system that awards three points for a regulation win, two points for an OT/shootout win, one point for an OT/shootout loss, and nothing for a regulation loss.
Maybe you don't like that because you think there's a better option. I did, too, at one point. A few years ago, I pushed for a simple two-point system with wins and losses and nothing else. I still like that idea, but I've been convinced over the years that the three-point concept is even better.
Is the three-point system perfect? No. For one, it still rewards losing in some cases, although now that comes at the expense of the other team instead of just magically creating points out of thin air. It's also a bigger change than some fans might like, and would require a brief adjustment period while we get used to higher point totals and bigger gaps in the standings (they won't actually be bigger, but they will look like it).
Is it better than what we have now? Easily. It's not even close. All the games would be worth the same number of points, and teams would have an incentive to play hard in regulation instead of shutting it down. And no, it wouldn't do anything to hurt parity or settle playoff races earlier. The people who tell you that are either lying or don't understand math.
The loser point system has been an embarrassment for too long, and there may finally be a chance to fix it. So let's stop arguing amongst ourselves over whose alternative is best, and get behind one that's more than good enough.
Swallow your pride, unite with your fellow fan, get a "live three or die" tattoo (optional), and let's kill the loser point once and for all.
Scoring is down again this year, and plenty of fans have thoughts about what the NHL should do about it. There are many different ideas floating around, but there seems to be one thing that hockey fans agree on: we can't change the nets. Sure, every now and then some dummy will suggest that the league just do the obvious thing and the make the nets slightly larger to account for bigger goalies. When that happens, you can count on good, honest traditionalists pushing back by losing their minds at the mere suggestion.
Only new-age pinkos want to mess around with the nets. Old-school types—you know, real hockey people—know that the nets must never, ever change.
Anyway, here's Don Cherry from 35 years ago talking about how the nets should change.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org.