Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bruce Campbell gets it. The NHL doesn't

B-movie God (And Detroit area native) Bruce Campbell talks of "IT" in this brilliant Old Spice ad.

Thing is, Bruce is not just necessarily letting us know who wears Old Spice, he could easily be talking about the National Hockey League. They don't have it, they don't get it, and most likely never will.

The reason I'm agreeing with Bruce is due to some of the strange decision making coming out of the NHL meetings during the All-Star break. (Quick aside... Why on earth is the NHL playing their showcase for their best players, the All-Star game, in the middle of the week? Let alone on a channel no one can find? There is absolutely nothing going on this weekend, and NBC could carry the game on a Saturday afternoon. Instead, the NHL would rather go up against the ratings juggernaut that is "American Idol?" Smart thinking, eh? But I digress...)

The schedule has been a hot topic amongst puck fans recently, especially we fans of the Red Wings. If there is one team that is constantly screwed over in the schedule making process, it's Detroit.

I listed the Red Wings Western Conference conundrum as one of my biggest sports pet peeves very early on in the life of TWFE. As an eastern time zone team playing the vast majority of their games with teams well out of their own time zone, they have been at a competitive disadvantage for years. The Red Wings get jet lagged, while the teams in the east have leisurely commutes in comparison.

Due to the Red Wings being stuck in the west, some of the most loyal and knowledgeable fans in hockey are also screwed over royally by a league that lacks many things other than "IT," including common sense. Their unbalanced schedule denies Wings fans from some seeing the best players in all of hockey.

In Detroit, we hear rumors about mysterious young players who can do amazing things. But they only do so on the Eastern seaboard. I believe their names are Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. Not that we Detroiters would know.

I also hear that there are teams that were once fierce rivals of the Wings, who play in such exotic cities as Boston, New York, Toronto, and Montreal. As we NEVER actually see these teams come to town, I honestly think they are just figments of my overactive imagination.

Instead of allowing teams in the west to see some of the great players and legendary teams, the powers that be in the NHL voted to keep the status quo. Wonderful, just wonderful. Another year of seeing Columbus and Nashville 16 God damn times.

What's even stranger is what comes out of the NHL's mouth in regard to the Red Wings schedule. This quote from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly is utterly flabbergasting in its total cluelessness.

"I think in a perfect world, they wouldn't want their games starting at a time that's different than the time zone they're in. But that's something they've been dealing with for quite some time now. So it's not as if it's a new burden."

So it's obvious that the NHL realizes that the Red Wings have to deal with more adversity in their schedule than most every other team. They have for years. But since the Wings have had some of the hardest travel requirements in all of sports for so long, the NHL says it's something that they can just "Deal" with? That makes no sense.

I wonder what the Toronto Maple Leafs would say if they had to travel cross country in every playoff series. Let alone the bitching and moaning from a bleary eyed fanbase that would have to stay awake till the wee hours of the morning to just watch their team play. Welcome to Red Wings fandom, folks. If numerous other eastern time zone teams had to travel like the Red Wings (And the Columbus Blue Jackets as well), things would quickly change.

But the cluelessness doesn't stop there. Here's Daly on the idea of the Red Wings moving to the east.

"Detroit would clearly have a strong case, but by the same token, there are other teams in the Western Conference that depend on Detroit being in the Western Conference."

What? The west "Depends" upon the Red Wings? Just read between the lines. I'd interpret that as Daly admitting that many of the teams in the west have such a limited fanbase, they would have trouble surviving without the Red Wings filling their building 4 times a season. If that isn't admitting that your league isn't in the best of shape...

There is an opportunity for the Red Wings to move to the Eastern Conference, but it would be at the expense of another established fan base. Pittsburgh Penguins fans are desperately hoping against hope that some sort of arena deal can be brokered that will keep the Pens from bolting to greener, and likely warmer, pastures. And those pastures are west of the Mississippi.

If the Penguins move west, that opens the east facing door for the Red Wings. It would be necessary for the NHL to realign. There's an easy solution, as you would think that the Red Wings would just trade conferences with the Kansas City/Houston/Whomever gives Mario Lemiux an arena Penguins.

So I have to root for another team to leave their their loyal fans in the lurch, in order for the team I root for to have a fair schedule? That isn't right. I would never want to find myself in the same situation as the Pittsburgh fan.

But...From reading the quotes about how important the Red Wings are to the attendance starved teams in the west, there is no guarantee they go east. Despite what Jimmy Devellano might believe, I'd venture a guess the NHL would have something else in mind. It's even money that the Columbus Blue Jackets would be the team to go east, despite what might be best for the Red Wings. Columbus would then be supported by cornerstone franchises like the Bruins and Rangers, and the Red Wings would continue to be the tent pole in the west.

No matter what happens, could you picture any other supposed major league treating one of their most storied and influential franchises with such a lack of respect?

No. Only in the NHL. The league that'll never have, or get, "IT." Or for that matter, a clue...

1 comment:

  1. If you watched the CBC's broadcast of the All-Star Game, you saw a truly scary Ron McLean interview with Gary Bettman. The Commissioner was thoroughly in denial about the fact that his league is on the brink of permanent second-tier status. I realize he has to talk up the game, but he went way beyond that. I suppose he has a strong incentive to be in denial: it was his own strategy that caused many of the NHL's difficulties. He wanted to make hockey a national sport in America; that led to overexpansion and the abandonment of strong Canadian markets; it led to unreasonable revenue expectations that helped fuel the salary explosion; and that ultimately led to the lockout, which has had the same effect as baseball's 1994 debacle. The NHL would have been much better off remaining a northern-tier sport, emphasizing its strengths, and growing naturally instead of trying to force-feed hockey to the Sunbelt.

    Re: ASG on Wednesday... I heard someone on the CBC broadcast say it was scheduled in midweek so the teams wouldn't lose any weekend games. (Attendance is much stronger on Fridays and Saturdays.) That just about says it all about the NHL's desperation and shortsightedness.