Sorry, Guy

I was once a very big fan of hockey; I had a quarter of season tickets to Kings games when I was down there.

Then came the strike. I actually missed some games because of the strike.

When the next season rolled around, enough bitterness remained that I did not renew my tickets. I still remained a fan of hockey, just not as much as before.

Then came the missed season. By the time the NHL skipped an entire season, I had already drifted away to other sports. But cancelling an entire season? What the…?

While waiting for the tech to finish repairing the treadmill, I found a Flyers-Avanlanche game on TV. After a few minutes of watching it I realized that I am completely over the NHL. I think I know why.

One of the appeals to me of hockey was that it was a small sport, the smallest of the “major” professional sports in North America. Because of that the players were more accessible. Psychologically the players made small salaries; most of them probably made about (aboot?) what a well-paid normal person would make. Physically the players were not trapped behind posses and barriers. Whether it was true or not, the NHL had the feeling of being a bunch of honest guys from Moose Jaw playing a game.

All that changed. Some could point to Gretzky leaving Edmonton for L.A. Others could point at the steady increase in the budgets of NHL teams. Whatever the reason, whether intentionally or not, the NHL abandoned its character of a blue-collar, working-man's sport and became an NBA clone.

Now the NHL has hold-outs, arguments over salary caps, and players being arrested. The true sign of the end was this season when the NHL changed the rules to increase the scoring. (Increasing scoring is touted as David Stern's master stroke to revitalize the NBA.) It may not seem like much but I see it as an example of the larger change.

The old rules focused on hard work and minimizing risk. It took a lot of effort to score so each goal was an accomplishment. Since you could not depend on scoring a lot of goals, you needed to play solid defense and avoid unnecessary chances including silly penalties.

The new rules focus on flashiness and activity. It is easier to pass the goal up the ice making scoring opportunities more common. Since goals are cheaper, you can take more chances, comfortable in the knowledge that you will score a couple of goals.

In addition to successfully killing my interest in hockey, I find this change disturbing. It is another example of style over substance, activity over accomplishment. I know the United States is the undisputed champion of advertising and marketing but this mutation saddens me.

As long as they do not changes the laws of rugby to allow lifting. Oh. Wait. They already did.


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