Are you old school or new wave on these NHL issues?
Posted: Thursday January 18, 2007 1:42PM; Updated: Wednesday January 24, 2007 6:12PM
In the NHL, there always seems to be a tug of war between fans who long for the traditional days -- when fighting was in vogue and the NHL had yet to migrate south -- and those modern fans who favor a player's grace and skill, and don't mind attending games in T-shirts, shorts and flip-flops.
Next week during the All-Star festivities in Dallas, the league will unveil its latest modern fashion, a new-style jersey that, if scuttlebutt is correct, will be sleeker and tighter-fitting than the current version. It will once again raise the debate on old vs. new. To get you prepared, here are a few other categories (some serious, some not) to evaluate:
Debating the NHL's Values
Back in the day, NHL players didn't worry if they were photographed without their false teeth. Losing your front chicklets, in some ways, was a badge of honor. But through the miracle of modern dentisty and improved protective measures, today's NHLers have a chance to avoid looking like an extra from the movie Deliverance. For the NHL, it's a lot easier to sell the game when the players flash a healthy smile.
Yes, the NHL has taken steps to limit (and reduce) the size of a goalie's equipment -- a necessary move since some of the padding should have been tested for steroids. But as Brett Hull said during his debut as an NBC analyst, there is still work to be done. Jerseys should be tightened up, especially under the arms (perhaps the NHL's new style of sweaters will address that). Gloves and blockers also should be downsized a little more. As Hullie said, the nets don't need to be bigger -- the goalies just need to be smaller. (And we also agree that the diameter of the goal pipes and crossbar should be reduced too.)
PRINCE OF WALES CONFERENCE Patrick Division Adams Division
WESTERN CONFERENCE Central Division Pacific Division Northwest Division
Honoring hockey's past with conference and division names set the league apart. But fearing the old conference names were too confusing to non-traditional fans, then-new commissioner Gary Bettman switched to geographical names in 1993. Big mistake. He upset the NHL's traditional fan base while insulting new fans by suggesting they weren't smart enough to figure out their favorite team's division rivals. Our suggestion: Honor legendary players with new designations -- the Howe Conference, the Gretzky Conference, the Orr Division, etc.
FANS WEARING SUITS & TIES
FANS WEARING JERSEYS
Uh, this is the MySpace/YouTube/Video Game age. Nobody wears a tie anymore (unless you're Donald Trump, and even then it's usually some shade of pink). Whether it's a home, away or alternate jersey, fans don't mind shelling out hundreds of bucks to show their true colors -- and the NHL certainly doesn't mind taking their money (otherwise, would it ever have allowed Boston's gawd-awful Bear-head jersey?). Oh, and speaking of ties ...
Ties stink. They don't happen in basketball or baseball (except when Bud Selig wants one) and they're practically non-existent in football. Obviously, we prefer shootouts, but with a kicker: Winner take all. Maybe then teams will try harder in the five-minute overtime (although why not extend it to 10 minutes?).
The Maple Leafs' switch from a 35-point Leaf crest to the modern 11-point design prior to the 1967 playoffs was jarring to the senses. But the Leafs won the Cup that year, so the new logo must've been good luck, right? Well, Toronto hasn't won another Cup since, so maybe it's time to change the luck and go back to the old look for every game.
ORIGINAL SIX Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, New York, Toronto
Yes, some fans in Montreal, Chicago and Boston might long for the good ol' days. And yes, the NHL has gone overboard on expansion. But having too many teams certainly beats having too few.
Hey, we love the old painted warriors look as much as the next fan (and where would Jason of Friday the 13th fame be without his mask? Just another horror movie wacko!). But let's face it -- the more recent masks designs are better and safer for the goalies. Plus, the art work remains just as outrageous.
TWO MINUTES IN THE PENALTY BOX
TWO MINUTES IN THE PENALTY BOX ... unless the other team scores
Due to the Canadiens' potent power play in the '50s, then-NHL commish Clarence Campbell pushed through the rule of allowing players serving a minor penalty to return to the ice when the opponent scores. If the NHL wants to continue cracking down on obstruction, why not re-institute the old rule?
From 1976 to 1988, exactly three different organizations won the Stanley Cup. Since 1994, the Cup has been claimed by seven different clubs, and no one has won back-to-back titles since the Red Wings in 1997-98. While it might seem unfair that cities like Raleigh, N.C., and Tampa, Fla., have enjoyed more Cup success than Toronto the last few decades, we like spreading the wealth.
Does using NHL players in the Olympics increase the league's popularity? We don't think so. What little upside the NHL gets is overwhelmed by the downside (potential of injury, no potential of Miracle on Ice repeat, etc.) Wouldn't the NHL benefit more from having the youngsters -- in essence, its future stars -- gain some exposure?
Stan Mikita and Bobby Hull used to soak their wooden blades in hot water before wedging them under doorjambs, thus creating the NHL's first weapon of mass intimidation. The NHL eventually outlawed that exaggerated curvature, but the league seems to be loosening up, having recently raised the limit to 3/4th-inch blades. That seems about right, although allowing another 1/4th inch wouldn't displease us.
We'll let SI.com hockey columnist Allan Muir have the final word on this issue, which may be the most divisive of all the traditional vs. modern debates. CLICK HERE FOR MUIR COLUMN