The NHL Needs to be Creative to Win Back Fans

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by Ryan Isley

The NHL lockout just keeps dragging on and on and on…and may end up costing the league fans.

Despite lockouts in both the NBA and NFL before last season, fans came back and the leagues were as popular as ever. Unfortunately for the league and the teams, the NHL is not the NBA or the NFL and will not just automatically regain all of the fan support they had prior to the work stoppage.

The NFL was able to get their situation settled just in time for a shortened training camp and a full regular season while the NBA reduced their regular season to 66 games from 82.

For the NHL, that won’t happen. Nor will it help. As Chris Barron wrote for MTAF on Tuesday, people are just not caring about the NHL. What the NHL needs to do is come up with a creative way to win back not only the casual fans, but their diehard fans as well.

I think I have a way they can do just that. While I know this is an idea the NHL would never have the balls to try, it is one that is worth looking at anyway. Instead of trying to end the lockout, shorten training camp and fitting in a shortened season, the NHL should think completely outside the box.

What the NHL should do is end the lockout, go with a regular training camp and then go straight to the playoffs. How do you have playoffs without a regular season? You include all 30 teams.

Hear me out…

There are 15 teams in each conference. You would make the Los Angeles Kings (West) and New Jersey Devils (East) the top seeds and award them a bye in round one by virtue of making the Stanley Cup Finals last season. For the rest of the 28 teams, they would be seeded according to the regular season standings from last season.

That would give us these match-ups:

EAST:

No. 2 New York Rangers     vs.      No. 15 Montreal Canadiens

No. 3 Boston Bruins              vs.      No. 14 New York Islanders

No. 4 Florida Panthers        vs.      No. 13 Toronto Maple Leafs

No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins  vs.     No. 12 Carolina Hurricanes

No. 6 Philadelphia Flyers    vs.     No. 11 Winnipeg Jets

No. 7 Washington Capitals vs.     No. 10 Tampa Bay Lightning

No. 8 Ottawa Senators          vs.     No. 9 Buffalo Sabres

WEST:

No. 2 Vancouver Canucks   vs.    No. 15 Columbus Blue Jackets

No. 3 St. Louis Blues              vs.     No. 14 Edmonton Oilers

No. 4 Phoenix Coyotes         vs.    No. 13 Anaheim Ducks

No. 5 Nashville Predators   vs.    No. 12 Minnesota Wild

No. 6 Detroit Red Wings       vs.     No. 11 Colorado Avalanche

No. 7 Chicago Blackhawks  vs.     No. 10 Dallas Stars

No. 8 San Jose Sharks          vs.     No. 9 Calgary Flames

The first round would be a best-of-5 and could begin in the final week of March which would put the rest of the playoffs on pace to run during their regular schedule. The second round would start on or around April 10th with each round becoming a best-of-7 as usual.

This would give fans of all 30 teams a chance to have optimism that their team could make a run through the playoffs and hoist the Stanley Cup. It would also give the NHL a chance to reconcile with fans after this work stoppage – the third lengthy lockout since 1994 for the league.

Again – I know this is an idea that the league would never consider. But we can all dream can’t we? We just want hockey back.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net

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Ryan focuses on NASCAR - bringing readers stats, news and his opinions on the multiple series of Stock Car Racing.

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