Is There Concern for the Future of Hockey?

Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here? To quote the great fictional and charismatic character Maximus Aurelius, as he roared to a silent crowd of thousands of people on the field of battle. The National Hockey League is facing a plethora of criticism as the game has evolved into one with less scoring and focuses more on the defensive structure, which prevents goals. Hockey fans are fed up with the lack of scoring chances and decrease in goals scored because ultimately that’s what people truly want to see. Over the past few decades the game of hockey has seen a substantial transformation in the technology of the players equipment and the speed and pace to the game is at an all time high. Hockey in our modern day era is the most competitive, difficult and physically demanding the game has ever been. Steven Stamkos, one of the games best goal scores stated, “it definitely is harder than ever to score and put up points.” In the 2014-2015 NHL season Jamie Benn led the league in scoring with 87 points. His point totals on the season were the lowest amongst an NHL scoring leader since 1962-1963 season where Gordie Howe put up 86 points. The decrease in scoring over the past decade can be a further indication of how the game is changing and constantly getting harder for individuals to dominate the point category.

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One of the most notable differences as to why today’s NHL witnesses less scoring than in years past is the size, speed and athleticism of the goaltenders. Not only has the average weight and height seen a tremendous increase amongst NHL goalies, their stamina and quickness play a crucial factor in taking away scoring opportunities from the opposition. Recently the NHL enforced a rule change to make the goalies equipment smaller in order to create more goals although this current season has been experiencing the lowest goal per game total in over a decade. Henrik Lundqvist the goalie for the New York Rangers said in 2013, “I don’t have a problem with change, as long as safety is the main focus, you might be able to cut a few things but we are getting close to how much you can push it. Now because of the changes I’m getting hit in places where in the past I was protected. You have to remember that the game is so much faster now, and the players shoot the puck harder and with a quicker release because of the new sticks.” As someone who has been a goalie my whole life I sympathize with the NHL goalies that are being forced to reduce the size of their pads as it causes safety concerns. Clearly the reduction of the pad size does not have a direct correlation to scoring more goals in the NHL; therefore it would be an unwise decision to increase the potential harm for goalies yet again. Fans are just going to have to come to terms with the fact that goaltenders in the game today are more agile and athletic than they have ever been therefore goals are harder to come by.

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The NHL has recently been weighing their options as to what direction they wish to proceed with for the future of the sport. Potential options are to once again reduce the size of goalies equipment, make the net larger, call more penalties or to make the ice bigger. In my opinion at this point in time there does not need to be any significant changes to the sport because the problem is not generating from the equipment or rules of the game rather the physical attributes of the players. Goal scoring may be one of the main attractions but it is not the only exciting part of hockey. Real fans of the sport appreciate more than one aspect of the game and support the game regardless of if they watch a 6-5 thriller or a 1-0 game with considerably less goals in it. Sometimes a game can be just as exciting with only one goal depending on the importance of the game or action within the game. One of the entertaining changes the NHL made for this current season is in the overtime period once the game ends in a tie. The NHL decided to implement 3 on 3 competition instead of the old style 4 on 4, which results in a ton of open ice and clear-cut scoring chances to end the game. In my opinion it has brought a ton of excitement to the sport and has made watching overtime more exhilarating. The goalies may not enjoy the extra pressure and the overwhelming action-packed 5 minutes of overtime but it has been a joy for the spectators.

 

The future of the goal production in hockey is uncertain. Fans should not give up on the sport due to a marginally smaller goal scoring production rate. The athletes and specifically goaltenders should be appreciated for demonstrating generational talent that is changing the approach to the game. No rash decision or rule changes need to be rushed into by the NHL as i do not believe it will cause an immediate impact on the game. The tradition and integrity of the sport are why hockey fans have been the most loyal, dedicated and passionate sports fans over the past century. Living in Canada may result in a pretty bias opinion, but this sport represents the nation i grew up in. Its beauty is represented within the structure of the game, which is why the rules should not be interfered with. The game is changing at an immense pace, the question remains are you willing to accept these changes?

 

References:

Hughes, Travis. “Here’s exactly how 3-on-3 overtime will work in the NHL.” Broad Street Hockey. N.p., 24 June 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. <http://www.broadstreethockey.com/2015/6/24/8841353/3-on-3-overtime-nhl-rules&gt;.

Johnston, Chris. “Ryan Miller: NHL shouldn’t rush to change goalie equipment size.” Sportsnet. N.p., 13 Nov. 2015. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. <http://www.sportsnet.ca/hockey/nhl/ryan-miller-nhl-shouldnt-rush-to-change-goalie-pad-size/&gt;.

Whyno, Stephen. “Four-point finale leads Jamie Benn to Dallas Stars’ first Art Ross Trophy.” the globe And Mail. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/sports/hockey/four-point-finale-leads-jamie-benn-to-dallas-stars-first-art-ross-trophy/article23892542/&gt;.

Whyno, Stephen. “Make nets bigger? Shrink goalie equipment? Theories to fix NHL’s scoring problem.” N.p., 19 Nov. 2015. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://thechronicleherald.ca/sports/1323223-make-nets-bigger-shrink-goalie-equipment-theories-to-fix-nhl’s-scoring-problem&gt;.

Woodley, Kevin. “Time Running Short for NHL Goalie Gear Reductions.” In Goal Magazine. N.p., 18 July 2013. Web. 20 Nov. 2015. <http://ingoalmag.com/news/time-running-short-for-nhl-goalie-equipment-reductions/&gt;.

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