Skip to main content

Cheer up, it's the holidays...

Why is it that various media outlets continue trying to put their own spin on the "what's wrong with the NHL" story? Our latest example comes from The Hockey News, in a piece by Jay Greenburg entitled, "Excitement Level On The Decline."

Take the opening sentence:
Attendance is down and yet still up from before the lockout, leaving it arguable whether buildings in New Jersey and Florida are half-full or half empty.
It's no surprise that attendance is down from last season, particularly if you compare the first half of 2005-06 to the first half of this year. Coming out of the lockout, there were legions of fans starved to see the on-ice product, particularly in light of the massive rule changes. This year is more indicative of business as usual, so the fact that the league is above pre-lockout levels is a positive. Toss in the projection that overall revenues are increasing despite a 1% decrease in attendance, and I'd say that paying fans have come back to the game. Yes, there are certain trouble spots that need to turn things around, but the league as a whole seems healthy.

Frankly, I wonder if some of these critics who harp on attendance figures expect the numbers to grow by leaps and bounds every year. Considering that almost 2/3rds of the league is playing to over 90% capacity for their home games, it's not like there's a huge amount of room to grow that that number. The three best candidates to improve their situation would appear to be...

1) the Nashville Predators, which, once football season is over, will have the undivided attention of local fans and will be vying for their first Central Division title,
2) the New York Islanders, who aren't just surging on the ice under Ted Nolan, but are perhaps working harder than any team in the league right now to win back fans, and
3) the Chicago Blackhawks, who are off to a promising start under new coach Denis Savard, and have a huge fan base to draw from. In a city of 9.4 million, it shouldn't take too much to fill the United Center more often. Then again, they do have Bill Wirtz at the helm, so perhaps I'm being optimistic here.

But back to Greenburg's column, which appears determined to paint a picture of a failing league that's headed back to the defensive, clutch-and-grab days of the 1990's:

Since the NHL does not keep decibel levels, all we have to go on are goals, which are what people most cheer. There were 6.05 scored per game in the first 296 contests this season, down .23 from the first quarter of 2005-06, when the final regular season average was 6.05, up almost one per game from the pre-lockout season.
So goal scoring is equal to last season's overall total? Boo-hoo! He seems upset that the pace from the first quarter of last season hasn't been equaled, but again, coming out of the lockout with numerous rule changes, those initial months don't make a good basis for comparison. Besides, if you think about what Greenburg wrote there, it suggests that scoring is actually on its way up:

If the rate from the first quarter of last year was 6.28 (6.05 + 0.23), and the overall figure for 2005-06 was 6.05, that means that for the last three quarters of that season, scoring was around 5.97. So if you look at this year so far (6.05) compared to that figure, it appears that scoring is increasing. You had an early breakout of goal-scoring as teams tried out new strategies, then as defensive schemes adjusted, those numbers dipped. This season, they appear to be up again, slightly. Certainly, we don't see a host of 2-1, 1-0 trapping affairs like we had in the past. Did Greenburg even notice last week's thriller in Edmonton, with the Avalanche winning a 7-6, "last goal wins" scoring fest over the Oilers?

Speaking of the Oilers, I don't quite understand this assertion:

The horse got out of the barn when the league grew from 21 to 30 teams, putting more franchises into survival mode, diminishing the chances of spectacular accidents like the 1980s Edmonton Oilers. Now, the cap has closed the door on a team with a lot of horses ever getting back in.
I would submit that the pre-salary cap days were more conducive to "putting more franchises into survival mode," as teams like Calgary and Edmonton cried poor and bemoaned any chance of prolonged success. As to assembling a team like those 80's Oilers, yes, you won't see those teams stick together for 10 years anymore, but that's a fact of modern professional sports more than any particular NHL issue. And it's not like the pendulum has swung completely to the mercenary world where the roster changes over wholesale year after year. Look at the current Detroit Red Wings, for example, and you can still find 5 players from their 1997 Stanley Cup roster, 25% of the nightly lineup.

I just wish we could go a couple weeks without another screed from the mainstream media about how lousy the NHL is. If you can't see the difference between today's NHL and the pre-lockout action, perhaps you shouldn't be writing about it.

Popular posts from this blog

How I'm Trying To Make Money Sports Blogging

To kick off this series of articles general sports-blogging articles here at OTF Classic, I think it's best to start with a comment that Brad left here last week, after I shared my goals for 2012, which include specific revenue targets:
I considered diving into the world of internet marketing myself, but I felt that my friends would hate me for bugging them about stuff. I mean, it's pretty low-risk high-reward, so it's tempting. I wouldn't mind reading about tips on how to maximize impact of blogging in general to make it a legitimate income source. Trying to make money at sports blogging can be a very touchy subject - for the vast majority of us, this is an activity we pursue to both exercise our creativity and share our love of the game, whether it's hockey, football, badminton, whatever, with fellow fans. Mixing that personal conversation with a commercial message can turn people off, especially if it becomes too intrusive for the reader.

It's not unreasonabl…

Get Your NHL Super Schedule 2008-9 Right Here!

Click here for the 2009-10 NHL Super Schedule, at my new site,!

The NHL announced the 2008-9 Regular Season schedule today, so of course, it's time right here to publish my very own NHL Super Schedule 2008-9 as well.

For those unfamiliar with what I did last year, the NHL Super Schedule is a spreadsheet that I put together and make publicly available via Google Documents*. It includes an entry for each game in each team's 82-game regular season schedule, with additional information such as how far that team has had to travel since its last game, how many days have passed since that previous game, and various statistics relative to the opponent that evening, such as 2007-8 Winning Percentage, Goals Per Game, Goals Against Per Game, etc. For example, you can total the distance that each team will travel during the upcoming season, or find who plays the most back-to-back games. Check out which team faces the toughest opposing offenses, or which power plays…

Canadian Baloney, starring James Mirtle

A tireless refrain from the Canadian media is that Nashville is an absolute failure as a hockey market, and failing to move the team north of the border is an exercise in folly by the NHL.

Our latest exhibit comes from James Mirtle, usually one of the more thoughtful hockey bloggers extant:
But Nashville, quite simply, has proven it cannot sustain an NHL hockey team. Even with the lowest ticket prices in the entire league (I know: I've looked into flying there for a game or two) and a ridiculously forgiving arena lease, the team has had attendance issues despite having one of the best records in the league.

It's not a matter of Canadians not wanting teams in the southern U.S.; I've argued time and again in favour of teams like Dallas and Tampa Bay that have supported their teams and really brought something to the table in terms of bringing news fans and new energy to the game. That's a good thing.

The Predators, however, are not that, not in the beginning and certainly no…