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Commissioner for a Day (cont.)

Posted: Thursday July 6, 2006 11:50AM; Updated: Tuesday September 12, 2006 6:34PM
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6. Cancel the last year on the OLN deal: I would crawl over broken glass up to Bristol, Conn., and beg ESPN to take us back, offering a similar revenue-sharing deal that the NHL has with NBC. Not even the new NHL broadcasting wizard, the estimable John Shannon, can smear enough lipstick on this OLN pig. For the $70 million in TV rights the league grabbed, the NHL moved out of the mainstream and into a sports demimonde, a quirky, unaccustomed address for fans of the Big 4. In addition to quick cash, OLN has offered the NHL shoddy production values (although they improved during the season), microscopic ratings and zero buzz. I have no idea why OLN wanted the NHL. Did it really think that having the NHL would help it land some NFL games and mount a challenge to ESPN? Or did the network hear that there's a lot of cycling down low in NHL games and thought hockey would be a good fit?

7. Return the referees' names to their jerseys: No, the game's certainly not about them. But years ago the NHL dehumanized the refs in some small way by, to paraphrase the song, giving them a number and taking away their names. This rights a historic wrong. Putting those names back makes them more like people, less like zebras.

8. Order my hockey-operations people to take a consistent position on illegal equipment: If a skater is caught with an illegal stick, he gets two minutes. If a goalie gets caught with illegal equipment, he serves a stretch in San Quentin. If the NHL isn't going to let up on goalies with fines and suspensions for illegal pads -- and in the ongoing effort to boost scoring, how can it? -- it also has to stiffen its spine against curved blades. No more wrist slaps. If you can't cork a bat with impunity, why should you be able to use an illegal curve (until the last 10 minutes of the game when, as you know, everybody changes to his legal stick). To those who argue for unlimited curve, which is another method to boost to scoring, I say the potential for injury just isn't worth it. Which brings me to ...

9. Mandatory visors: If the stubborn NHL Players Association still can't view this a workplace-safety issue instead a matter of choice, then I have to. Grandfather visors right now. Visors are not perfect -- ask Montreal captain Saku Koivu, who was clipped under his by Carolina's Justin Williams during the playoffs -- but they are better than nothing. The counterintuitive notion that sticks will come down if visors come off is debatable (although dubious) in some caveman quarters, but visors indisputably also offer protection from flying pucks. Detroit captain Steve Yzerman put one on after an eye injury in the 2004 playoffs. If it's good enough for Stevie Y, it's good enough for me.

10. I love rivalry games, but there are too many: Instead of playing eight games against each team in the division, I would pare it to six, allowing for more interconference games. You know, rivalries are not based on mere geographic proximity. (See Avalanche-Red Wings.) More flexibility in the schedule would allow Detroit to play its Original Six friends in the Eastern Conference and assure annual matchups among all six Canadian teams. Seven, with Winnipeg.

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