Ziegler. It's probably as important psychologically as it is financially. People say, "You don't have a TV contract and therefore...." A lot of "therefores" follow. It's a psychological downer. On Madison Avenue it's the numbers that count and we have to overcome that.
SI: But doesn't the NHL have a long history of burning its bridges with the TV networks? Even last year Chicago refused to switch any Sunday night games to Monday night so the NHL's own network could show Bobby Orr in action.
Ziegler. Possibly we didn't always deliver the right games. Maybe our owners didn't recognize the importance of a national TV contract. There were some who said, "I won't do anything that would take away seats or change my schedule."
Eagleson: Like: "I always play Saturday night at 8 p.m."
Ziegler. Hopefully, that is changing.
SI: One network has suggested—not entirely facetiously—that you change from three 20-minute periods to two 30-minute periods to eliminate one intermission and make the game better for TV purposes.
Eagleson: We'd play nonstop.
Ziegler. We've got to keep an open mind. But there is some purity in the sport that we hope to maintain.
SI: Let's touch on some changes that might make the game more palatable for the fans. Right now you've got four meaningless divisions—not even the players can tell you which teams are in which division—and an unfathomable playoff formula. Why not promote divisional rivalries and identities the way baseball does with its American and National leagues? Say, by going to two nine-team divisions with each team playing most of its games within its own division. Say 64 games within the division and 18 outside.
Eagleson: The players are for that. In fact, two of them, Phil Esposito and Jimmy Rutherford, did the league's work for it and came up with a two-divisional plan that makes sense geographically and competitively. For example, Montreal and Los Angeles have a rivalry that ought to keep them in the same division. That's because the Kings have so many Montreal graduates—or failures.