What I would like to see from the NHL

Going back to my post about attending the state of the Canucks franchise with J.J., I thought I would hit a few points that stuck out to me. More so, it’s something that a lot of hockey minded folks, from broadcasters to fans, have been talking about. It was the opening panel that inspires me to mention a few of the following topics.

Getting set for the panel discussion

I can’t remember who said it, but the basic jest was that we, the fans, need to speak up about what we want from the things we enjoy and love. Truly, that can go for anything you follow, sports related or not, and the truth is that fans make things like the NHL exist.

Speaking of a lack of fans making things not exist, look at the Nashville Predators. Great team, horrible fan base, and a relocation of the franchise is constant soap opera. There are about four locations being tossed around: Las Vegas, NV, Kansas City, MO, Hamilton, ON, and Winnipeg, MB. Basically, the southwest desert, midwest U.S., hockey saturated Ontario, and a return of the NHL to the Canadian prairie.

I’ve stated my feelings about KC before, even though that was about the Penguins who are staying in Pittsburgh, and I still stand by what I said. However, I will add that if the Predators are going to relocate within the U.S., then it should be to KC, not Las Vegas. Another Canadian team is something I am all in support of, but not in Ontario. Return it to Winnipeg where people are hockey lovers, and it’s a well known fact that all the Canadian teams in the NHL are making a large bulk of profits for the entire league. It just makes better business sense to move the team where hockey is loved and will make a hell of a lot more money than the desert.

If you move a team to Las Vegas, you’ll have to spend a lot of marketing dollars on teaching fans that the team exists on top of teaching the game. At least if you move the team to Kansas City, the team will be closer to the 49th parallel where hockey is more prevalent. Another team in the desert, where there is never enough ice to even skate on, is a ridiculous move.

Speaking of ridiculous, kill the television contract with Versus. Nuke it. Rip it up. There are way too many people who have a hard enough time getting NHL coverage in the U.S. with the way it stands, so something needs to change. There are those who can’t even get the network, so why would you invest in something that has lackluster exposure?

A little side note, but an interesting one, the annual Iowa vs. Iowa State football game will be on Versus this year, opposed to one of the major broadcast networks or ESPN. That even has a few people asking questions about what a Versus actually is. Being the good Hawkeye fan that I am, that article made me laugh as well as sad.

Anyway, I have liked the NBC deal thus far, and it’s even better with Brett Hull leaving to take a job with the Dallas Stars. I don’t like them leaving a game early because a game runs long, especially for a horse race that has one hour pre-show for a two minute event. I can’t think of a better way to turn off a new fan who discovers hockey in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs, much like I did in my early teens.

Lastly (because I know you’re listening, NHL), take a long, hard look at what the New York Islanders are doing with allowing bloggers access to their franchise. Not only am I a huge fan of this, but this is a remarkable step in allowing those who love their team to report on their team. It’s true that this has its good and bad qualities to it, but there is a lot of difference between sports reporting (i.e. radio or newspaper) and sports blogging.

Canucks Open Practice
Recording a podcast episode of The Crazy Canucks from the press box in GM Place.
(Photo credit: Miss604 on Flickr)

In blogging, and podcasting for that matter, we brew a community. We have comments, interaction, and other people blog what someone else blogs about. It’s a world wide conversation, and we’re talking hockey on a scale that is much different than what sports reporters do in press or behind the desk or mic. We’re not bound by deadlines or schedules, but there is precedence on being honest about what you love, which is your hockey team. True that this can be biased, but people write what they are passionate about. That’s blogging, and they post views about the team they are the fans of, expanding and strengthening the team and league around the world.

The NHL should make more of an effort to expand this concept throughout the league. Want examples of how much blogging benefits a team like the Canucks? Check out J.J., Alanah, or Zanstorm. They are fans, but they offer news, viewpoints, and a unique voice that speak to people more than a sports reporter might. At least I know that I can count on all of those folks to translate league news into something I can readily understand.

Those are the big issues for me right now, and I know that there are more that will creep up later. I’ll try to post about them when I think of them. If you have something to say, then post it in the comments. Better yet, get your voice out there, too. Who knows if we can change anything in the end, but speaking up is a start.