I was once a devoted fan of the Washington Capitals and the NHL in general. Long story short, numerous actions by the Caps and the league chipped away at my enthusiasm until the day came when I just walked away.
…But the thing is, I still enjoy watching hockey, I just don’t follow any team in particular and tend to prefer watching NCAA Hockey when I get the chance. People sometimes ask me what it would take to get me back to the NHL.
I could talk about things like cleaning house in the league’s HQ, or getting rid of the first round of playoffs, but that by itself wouldn’t make for a terribly interesting post, so I’m going to go big.
For this exercise, I’m going to have Franklin Richards create another pocket universe (a reference for those familiar with Marvel comics of the 1990’s). In this universe I am one of the wealthiest people in the world, so insanely rich that I can solve almost any problem by throwing cash at it… In fact, in this alternate universe, I am one of those people on the clickbait links:
…Which is why the owners and players will accept my plans… because I will give them enough money to get them to shut their faces.
I’ll start with expansion. As many of you know, the NHL is expanding to Las Vegas for the 2017/18 season. This will not fly in my NHL. You know why?
…Because I’m going to expand to Las Vegas and nine other cities.
“Whaaaaaaaaaaat?”, I hear you cry, “A 40-team league? Are you insane?”
Dude, I’m just getting started… and there is a method to my madness.
In the West, we’ll add Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland and bring back the Kansas City Scouts and WHA’s Houston Aeros. Houston did a nice job of supporting the Aeros, but the NHL has never given the city a chance.
In the East, along with Milwaukee and Hamilton, Ontario, we’ll revive the Cincinnati Stingers, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques.
I’m also going to refund $400M of Vegas’ $500M expansion fee because they’re not going to be quite as competitive as they had been lead to believe they would be. And here is why…
I love the European soccer idea of promotion and relegation, where at the end of each season the bottom few teams in the top tier get relegated to the lower tier, and the top few teams in the lower tier get promoted to the top tier.
I’m going to duplicate that with the NHL. After the 2016/17 season, the top 20 teams will form a Stanley Cup League (similar to the English Premier League), which is further divided into two 10-team divisions (East and West).
The other 10 teams will join the 10 expansion teams to form a “Championship League” (also East and West).
As you might guess, Only Stanley Cup League (SCL) teams compete for the Stanley Cup, while Championship teams compete for promotion to the SCL. Each Championship division champion and two additional teams from each division get promoted to the SCL, the bottom three teams from each SCL division get relegated to the Championship League. Nobody’s gonna tank in this scenario!
Stanley Cup Playoffs will be shortened to three rounds. Four teams from each SCL division will face off in the quarterfinals, winners go to the semis and then to the Stanley Cup finals.
In the Championship League there will be only two rounds because there is no “Final”, only East and West champions who get promoted to the SCL along with the two non-champion teams in each division with the best records.
Other less-radical modifications:
Goalies have long been able to paint their helmets… But why is that limited to that one position? I remember a 1970’s New York Ranger named Ron Duguay who was well-known for having long, curly hair.
You couldn’t miss him on the ice, his hair blowing back as he skated full speed… but that individuality has been lost since helmets became mandatory. If the players want to leave their helmets as standard team colors, that’s fine. If they want to enlists their friendly neighborhood airbrush artist to customize their helmets, then why the hell not?
The Calgary Flames will go back to red and yellow as their primary colors, they will adopt the name of their Canadian province and become the Alberta Flames. Why Alberta? Because it allows the return of this logo:
As a child of the 1970’s, I’m biased… but I love this logo and think it’s waaaaay better than the lame flaming “C” they currently use.
The Kings will revert to their original purple and gold.
I’m indifferent on the logo, but the colors have to change.
The Minnesota Wild will change their name and logo to the North Stars.
The Dallas Stars will change their name to the Texas Lone Stars, which it should’ve been from the start.
Home teams will go back to wearing white, and all hockey cards manufacturers – there will be no exclusives, by the way – will be required to use only photos taken at Washington Capitals home games.
There are two other things I would appreciate but I don’t know of North American fans in general would like these. First off, I want rinks to be International sized (i.e. larger) so that there’s more passing and less hitting. Second, I want a 20-minute penalty for fighting. Yep, an entire period. You want to see fighting, go to a UFC match.
Those are my plans to date. There are still things which need to be worked out, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.
I am an open-minded and fan-friendly commissioner… and I’m sure there are other things that should be changed which I didn’t think of. If you have any suggestions for additional changes, I’d love to hear them.