Hockey fans are notoriously protective of their game, I think to a fault. We're not talking about dramatically changing the game so that every team is scoring 5+ goals per game; we're talking about adding an inch or two to the outside of the nets so that goals go from 4 per game to 4.5.
Here's why this is important - not because people can't enjoy 1-0 or 2-1 games, but rather because higher scoring means more involvement from your star players. Imagine if scoring were to go up a half a goal per game, on average. Who is going to be the primary beneficiary of that extra half a goal per game? It's going to be the Crosbys, the Ovechkins, the Kanes of the NHL. The star players on the highest end of the skill bell-curve who, currently, are limited by the defensive nature of the game. And let's not forget - "the game we love" is at a scoring low that hasn't been seen in decades. Today's hockey is NOT the hockey you grew up with.
Getting the high-skill players more involved in the game is a good thing. It means higher profile, more valuable star players. That helps grow the game. You want increased separation between the best players and their more average counterparts, because the average fan doesn't see how, say, Stamkos is more valuable to his team than, say, Tatar is to ours unless he's scoring more goals. Experienced fans recognize how the more skilled players generate more chances and play better two-way games, but it's not the same, and catering to the hard-core fans doesn't grow the game. Boosting the profile of the highest-skilled by rewarding their talents with an extra few goals per month helps the casual fan understand the contributions of the top-end guys. That matters.
No one is saying 1-0 games can't be great. But too often 1-0 games are master classes in poor passing, shots that never make it to the net, and scoring chances that fall an inch short of panning out. Do I enjoy 7-6 games? Not particularly. But I'd rather watch a game with no defense than no offense.
You want to go back to the good ol' days of 80s and 90s hockey? You're not going to see the fights and injury-ending hits come back. Those are gone for good. The only way to bring back "the game I grew up with" is to increase scoring.
Now, how do you do that? There are a few ways:
1. Increase the size of the ice: Opening up the ice will generate more scoring chances, but at what cost? Three rows (at least) would disappear from every lower bowl in the league. There would be less physical play along the boards and more passing back and forth in open ice. And 3v3 overtime? Forget it. The game is already open enough in 3v3, can you imagine playing that same game on Olympic ice? If we're okay with going back to 4v4 OT, then I would see this as, possibly, a viable option, but there's not a whole lot of evidence that opening up the size of the ice will even do that much to affect scoring. Certainly not enough evidence to justify the massive financial costs that would be incurred not just to NHL arenas, but arenas around the country.
2. Call more penalties: This just trains fans to watch for scoring during PPs, and to tune out the rest of the game. We need to increase the scoring on 5v5.
3. Make Power Plays a 4-on-3 situation rather than a 5-on-4 situation: Same problem as above, and this is a FAR more drastic change to the game than tweaking net size.
4. Move the blue lines/eliminate the trapezoid: These changes fall under the "making defensive zone players put their sticks down second" category. That is, the category of changes that make it look like you're addressing the problem without actually addressing the problem. Moving the blue lines isn't going to notably increase scoring, same with getting rid of the trapezoid. Oh, and both of those suggestions impacts the way the game is played much more dramatically than a little net size tweaking.
5. Decrease the size of goalie equipment: I understand the sentiment behind this change, but do you know what happened the last time we tried this? Goalie equipment actually got bigger. Here's why: Bigger netminders still need to be fully protected. So when we last tried shrinking goalie equipment, goalies across the league had their equipment redrawn to dimensions that more closely fit their bodies. This gave a more distinct advantage to larger goalies. People figured this out, and started looking for big, athletic bodies to fill the net. Smaller goalie equipment really just means a bigger difference between the size of goaltending equipment for smaller goalies and bigger goalies. So as a result, shrinking the size of goalie equipment just means giving bigger goaltenders a larger advantage, which means more big goaltenders, which actually means bigger equipment on average.
6. Increase the size of the nets: Move to soccer sized nets!!! Fundamentally change the game!!! Really? Here's my suggestion: Make the nets two inches taller, and four inches wider. You don't think that will change scoring? Imagine if every shot that has rung off the post this season for Detroit had gone in. You're talking about an extra goal per game, no more no less, and without changing anything about the nature of the way the game is played. The only change is that an extra half a shot to a shot per game is going to go in, rather than ringing off the post. The nice thing about changing the size of the nets is that there's actually a few ways to do this. You can make the nets themselves larger, OR you can do what Patrick Roy suggested and just make the goalposts smaller. Instead of, what, 2" goalposts (?), you make goalposts an inch or an inch and a half smaller. Nothing about the nets themselves has to change. Or you can make the nets like 3% bigger and not have a panic attack about it. This is a gimmick, but going to 4v3 power plays isn't? This is a fundamental change to the game, but changing the location of the lines isn't? It's too difficult to replace all the nets in the NHL, but not to do renovations on every arena in the league to increase ice size?
I don't get it. Increasing the size of the nets by an inch will bump up scoring without fundamentally changing the way the game is played. And bumping up scoring will grow the game by letting star players do their thing. Give players a realistic shot at getting to 100 points in a season again. We're not asking for every game to be 7-6. We're saying maybe a few more 3-2 games than 2-1 games. Oh, and we're also talking less overtime, fewer shootouts, and (best of all) fewer loser points. I don't see the drawback. Maybe I'm still in love with the hockey of the late-80s and early-90s, because THAT'S the hockey that I grew up with, and increasing the size of the nets takes us the tiniest little tip-toe back in that direction.
I suppose when it comes down to it, I just don't understand people who insist that increasing scoring is a fundamental change to the game. The game IS fundamentally changing. We're at lower levels of scoring now than we've seen in DECADES. And we're apparently willing to move around the blue lines, make our goalies less safe, or, hell, even force every rink in the league to change its dimensions and eliminating seating before we're willing to say, "Uhhh, hey, what if we made the nets like an inch bigger?"
Someone explain to me why I'm wrong.
- derblaueClaus likes this