How to Fix the NHL, a League That's Broken
Here are more than 40 rule changes we'd implement to make the NHL better than ever.
Photo by Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
We don't need a big intro. The NHL is broken in countless ways. Let's fix the NHL.
1) Get rid of the salary cap. The salary cap unfairly depresses salaries and creates parity, the most boring thing in sports. I used to be a very big proponent of salary caps so everything would be "fair," but I was an idiot. If you own a team and want to spend $100 million on it, let's go. Can't keep up with the spending? Too bad, find a new way to win. I could do 10,000 words alone on this but a salary cap hinders a lot of fun things in sports, like trades, free agency, and the ability to earn so much money that I can eventually buy the Miami Marlins after I retire.
2) Get rid of the draft. My fallback here is "get rid of the draft lottery," but again, the draft unfairly suppresses earning ability. Rich people are only in favor of a free market as long as they're the ones that get to exploit it. Let's replace the draft with a recruiting system like in the NCAA, where if you make a good enough pitch to an available player, that player will come to your team. Sure, this favors big-market clubs but too bad.
Every system for bringing workers into the NHL will have a flaw, but this one will have players like Rasmus Dahlin sitting at a table with five hats in front of him and his mom next to him. Then he will move his hand toward the Coyotes hat before laughing and putting on the Maple Leafs hat. I need that.
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3) Get rid of fighting. Yeah, yeah. I pee sitting down and if I don't like fighting I should go play tennis or whatever. You know what? Fuck you. There's nothing wrong with peeing while sitting down and people actually watch tennis so maybe let's consider going with what that sport does, which is not allow the 567th-ranked player in the world fight Roger Federer to fire himself up. We're at a point where most fights are staged goon-on-goon affairs so if you're still into that, go watch a game from 1983 when nobody knew how to skate.
4) The FIEGI playoff format. You know it. You love it. Let’s do it.
But really, we need to get rid of this divisional nonsense. Let's meet in the middle and go to a 1-8 format. Stop changing things nobody wants changed.
5) Leaving your feet to block a shot is a penalty. I hate when sports reward no-talent try-hards, and hockey rewards them more than any other sport. It boggles my mind when people get pumped about a fourth-line penalty killer sliding to block an Alex Ovechkin bomb from the face-off circle. Seriously? You don't want to see where that slapper was headed?
This would increase goals and reduce injuries. You can dive to take away the puck if you're in chase mode, but no more squaring up a shooter and sliding in front of the shot. Remember when John Tortorella took over the Canucks and people were excited about the Sedins blocking shots? The Sedins! Get out of here with this nonsense.
6) Bigger nets. Let's go three inches vertically and horizontally and see what happens. I've heard the argument against this idea because goalies would eat more blasts in the mask but whenever that happens, it's always by accident and it's always with the goalie on his knees well below the crossbar. If anything, creating more room around the goalie's skull would reduce those instances but really, shots to the mask are always accidental and wouldn't go anywhere either way. More goals, though. Let's get more goals.
7) Puck off the netting is in play. If there's one general thing I'd change about the NHL, I'd reduce the number of whistles during games. Hockey sells itself on flow and speed, but man can there be a lot of whistles. I don't understand why shots that hit the protective netting above the glass can't be played when they bounce back onto the ice. Everyone has had time to adjust to the netting over the years and everyone knows when a puck leaves a stick if it's headed toward the netting. When it bounces behind the goal line, go get it. Keep playing.
For the sake of fairness, anything off the netting and into the net off the goalie doesn't count.
8) No more offside. This also means no more offside reviews. Everyone is happy. Why do we even have offside? If I could go back in time, I'm killing Hitler and kidnapping the guy in 1898 or whenever who was so passionate about an offside line. It's not like the offside line makes the game safer; it's there to give the defense an advantage against oncoming opponents. Why?
Removing offside is another way to get some whistles out of the game and help with flow.
9) Home teams wear white, road teams wear dark. Bring it back.
10) One outdoor game per year. I know I've stumped for giving one to every team every year, but the realistic solution to this dying gimmick is to return to playing one game per year on New Year's Day—EVEN IF THE NFL IS PLAYING THAT DAY. What a cowardly league, afraid to go up against Week 17 of the NFL schedule, which is always terrible. The NHL was like, "We are taking over January 1! Try to stop us!... but hey if there's a Giants-Falcons game that day, we can play on January 2, no problem, sorry for yelling."
And now, we break to hear from the people:
I agree. Blackouts are stupid. If you paid to watch the game on your mobile device, you can do that. Motion passes.
I normally would be on board but now that I'm running the league the idea of shortening the schedule and taking money out of my pocket doesn't work for me. Motion denied.
Yes. Public shamings for any referees that blatantly ignore penalties because they want "the players to decide the game." Do your job. I'm also making referees available to the media after every game—regular season and playoffs. Face the music, fellas!
And now, back to my genius ideas:
11) Referees must explain every video review ruling. I need more than "the call on the ice stands" or "the call on the ice has been overturned." Tell me why! It's not always clear! I don't need a 1,000-word explanation, just the basic reasoning. This is very important for goalie interference reviews. Was the goaltender outside the crease when he was contacted? Did you determine the contact wasn't enough to disrupt the goalie? What's particularly annoying is after the non-explanation explanation, you know what refs do? They go to the bench and explain the decision to the coach! Fuck that coach! What about me?
12) A 3-2-1 points system. Three for a regulation win, two for an overtime/shootout win, one point for an overtime/shootout loss. Rewarding teams with the same amount of points for a 7-0 thumping and a 1-0 win in a breakaway contest or three-on-three competition is asinine. You know it. I know it. Let's change it. Get your artificially inflated point totals for the sake of parity and making teams look better than they are out of here.
13) No more in-game coach interviews. Anyone conducting or participating in an interview with a coach on the bench during a game is subject to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The network will lose broadcast privileges for 25 years. It's time we got tough on this. Nobody wants these. Fans don't. Coaches don't want to talk to Pierre McGuire. Hell, let's give Pierre the benefit of the doubt and say he has no interest in doing it. Then who are these interviews for? "Honey, hurry up and get back here, Brian Boucher is going to ask Peter DeBoer about the Sharks' start!" Never again.
14) No more in-game, between-periods player interviews. How did this ever get started? After watching 20 minutes of hockey, I need an out of breath guy to tell me about being harder on the puck and getting pucks in deep and any other hockey cliché he can muster in 30 seconds? Just throw it back to the studio or to a commercial break. Again, who are these interviews for?
15) Fans pick everyone at the All-Star Game. We cut Colin Campbell completely out of the process (which is a good starting point for anything you do that's hockey-related) and let fans vote in any player they want. An All-Star Game full of goons? Sure. If we actually let fans pick all the players, what's the most likely outcome? That the entire Chicago Blackhawks team gets voted to the game, right? And is there anything the NHL loves more than a Blackhawks game? So we get a Blackhawks vs. Pacific game? This idea makes everyone happy.
16) Unrestricted free agency begins two years after your entry-level deal expires. As of now, 25 is pretty much the age when players can explore free agency but that number is almost always higher because teams buy UFA years and that player winds up getting there when he's 29 and on the downside of his career. I'm trying to get players to market when they are 23, which I'm sure is still a flawed idea but I'd like to care about July 1 again and I'm sure other fans would, too.
17) One interconference game between teams per season. Do the Jets really need to play the Panthers twice? Who is dying for a home-and-home between the Islanders and Flames? The current rule exists so you can see the stars in your building once a year, but come on, it's 2018. It's not 1988 when Wayne Gretzky was someone you saw for eight seconds on SportsCenter every third night; it's 2018, when you can watch every Connor McDavid shift and postgame interview on your phone.
Take those excess dates and use them for games within your conference or division. McDavid comes to your building once every two years. That should be enough. By 2025, you'll be able to buy an app that allows you inside McDavid's head a la Being John Malkovich, so let's bag this twice yearly Oilers-Lightning matchup and let those teams play rivals one more time instead.
18) Mandatory Olympics. We are going to the Olympics every four years whether they are in Vancouver or on the surface of Jupiter.
19) World Cup in years between Olympics. And then we play our silly cash grab with Team North America and Team Europe so we have a best-on-best tournament every two years. The games are always in North America. Sorry, rest of the world.
20) Get rid of the trapezoid. Martin Brodeur retired nearly three years ago. We don't need it anymore. If anything, allowing goaltenders to play more pucks would result in more goals because most goaltenders play the puck like they've never seen a puck in their lives. I want more goals with the goalie behind the net with his arms in the air or with him on his back.
Time for another interlude to hear from fans:
We gave Atlanta two cracks at the NHL and it didn't work out. Sometimes things aren't meant to be. Denied.
Yes. I will hire a Senior Vice President of Ball Sitting Prevention. Motion passes.
Unpaid labor for five years? Please wait here while security escorts you from the building. Denied.
Oh look it's more great stuff from me:
21) You can't ice the puck while shorthanded. I'm on the fence about this because teams will just ice the puck and create more whistles, but it has to generate more power-play goals so let's do it.
22) Power plays at the start of a period begin in the offensive zone. Let's say you draw a penalty with six seconds to go. Those six seconds are almost useless. Yeah, you can score off a draw but it's hard. Then the next period starts and the faceoff is at center ice. If you win the draw, you need to circle back, organize your rush, and if everything goes perfectly when you set up, you've lost 30 seconds of 5-on-4 time due to circumstances beyond your control.
Drop the puck in the offensive zone, this way if you win the draw clean, you're set up and have close to a full power play.
23) Ban the shootout. Earlier, when I said one point for a shootout win or loss, I was lying, because the shootout has been abolished and we now play 3-on-3 until someone scores. Personally, I think 3-on-3 is as dumb or dumber than shootouts, but you people seem to like it so let's compromise and play 3-on-3 until someone scores to avoid shootouts.
24) Overtime goes until someone scores. Yeah, like it says. If you can play 5-on-5 in the playoffs until 1 AM, you can play beyond five minutes at 3-on-3 in the regular season.
25) 3-on-3 wins are separated from regulation wins in tiebreaker. I quietly seethe when I see that the current tiebreaker lumps regulation and overtime wins together when overtime wins are just as stupid as shootout wins. But we don't have the shootout anymore so regulation wins are all we care about in this brave new world.
26) Organ music only during stoppages. I know this makes me seem old but they've been playing popular music during stoppages since I was a kid and enough already. Exceptions include playing "Take On Me" because it's cool when the crowd sings along and you can do a theme night if a famous musician just died. Play all their hits during every stoppage. Otherwise, organ.
27) High sticking penalties can be challenged. It doesn't happen a lot, but it happens enough where we need a safety net against guys being issued high sticking penalties when really the guy who got hit in the face was hit by his own teammate's stick. It's easily correctable and should never take more than a minute.
28) "Original Six" results in prison time. If anyone is caught using the term "Original Six" you will receive 25 years to life in a federal prison.
29) Any head contact results in an ejection and is reviewable. I understand that hockey is fast and you can wreck a guy's head with a "clean" hit that gets torso first, but aren't we at a point medically where we can say it's way too easy to destroy a brain? Do we really need a guy wiping out another guy with a "clean" open-ice hit that renders him unconscious?
The point of a check is to separate the other guy from the puck so you can take it. "Clean" hits involving the head almost always result in the receiver of the hit needing medical attention, which stops the game and defeats the purpose of the hit. There's nothing wrong with slowing the game in the context of these hits, which will all be reviewed so no one is ejected for the wrong reasons.
There's no reason to condone any head hits.
After that, let''s go to the phones one last time:
So two guys to the box for roughing and we play 4-on-4? Done. Motion passes.
This goes without saying. Motion passes with ease.
Yes, but the independent party will be me, dispensing justice free from the CBA, NHLPA or owners. I am judge, jury, and executioner. When I take over the league on Tuesday, Zac Rinaldo is out of the league by Friday. Motion passes.
Now let's wrap it up:
30) You can kick pucks for goals. If you think this is dangerous but are still steaming over me minimizing hitting in the previous rule change, take a deep breath and realize this rule is way less dangerous than mashing a guy in the head. People seem to think that if kicking is allowed it's going to result in sliced tendons, but the opportunities to kick pucks are so few and far between. Guys aren't digging in a goalies pads with their skates.
Also, one fewer thing we have to review.
31) The trade deadline is one week before the end of the regular season. You lose your star center with four games to go? Well, guess what! In my league, you still have time to trade for another one before the playoffs begin.
32) Hand passes are legal everywhere. What percentage of hand pass whistles are for actual hand passes? Most of them are just accidental deflections and redirections with the glove that happen to go to a teammate in the neutral zone. These whistles are also flow killers. I understand we have to get to commercial breaks three times per period so if we adopt all my rules we can go to commercial after goals when necessary.
33) All broadcasts need a shot total graphic on the screen at all times. I used to hate it but now I can't live without it. If I turn on a game and it's 0-0 at the 10-minute mark of the first period, seeing the shots are 8-1 tells me something about the game.
34) Linesmen can call penalties. You know what linesmen have? Eyes. You know what else? Whistles. You know what else besides that? Arms that can be raised into the air. Linesmen are basically the neighborhood kids that pretend they didn't see a crime because they don't want to be rats. If you see something, say something.
35) No more Lady Byng Trophy. Jesus, who cares? Gentlemanly play? You won't find a dumber award nobody in the world cares about than this one. "Here you go, I found a guy with a lot of points and very few penalty minutes and this is your trophy for that random collection of attributes." Let's melt it down and use it to add another level to the Stanley Cup.
36) NBC can't broadcast games anymore. We gave it a try. Time to find someone else willing to air this sport in America. Doesn't matter who. Split the package between Lifetime and TruTV. Stream games on Pornhub. I do not give a shit.
37) NHL.com’s stats page is overhauled. Sure, fixing the stats page will take 10-20 years but I will have the world's best minds on it for as long as it takes.
38) Every team needs one person wearing a 69 jersey. Someone on the roster needs this. It will boost jersey sales league-wide by about 69 percent.
39) Radar guns. The speed of every pitch in a baseball game is posted on a scoreboard, so why can't NHL arenas do it for slap shots? It's weird that we don't know how hard an Alex Ovechkin bomb is. It would be cool to look up at the scoreboard and see that PK Subban blast was 98 mph. The NHL shouldn't be behind MLB in anything.
40) You can't put the goalie back on the ice after an icing. Ever notice that when you ice the puck, you can't change personnel, but if you do it with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, you can put the goalie back out there? That bullshit ends under my watch.
41) Delay of game penalties for goalies freezing the puck outside the crease. Sometimes a goalie will be above the crease and he'll make a save that sticks in his pads. Fine. Can't penalize that. But what about when goalies come out of the crease to catch a high dump-in to avoid the short hop? That's a penalty! Why do we allow that? I hate it and it's out.
42) Puck over glass is no longer a penalty. I love power plays and goals as much as anyone, but the punishment does not fit the crime. Treat it like an icing. The offending team can't change players and the face-off is in the offensive zone.
But besides that, I wouldn't change anything.