No More Pandering
"The NHL and its marketing minds are more concerned with the visual impact of a potential change. I had dinner with a high-level member of the NHL front office a couple of years ago, and I remember that person lamenting the fact that the players' bodies were not on proper display. NBA players wear shorts and tank tops, baseball uniforms show off players' bodies, and NFL players wear spandex; some believe this assists in boosting the female fan base."
Can you imagine if this was being said about the women's game? "Tighter-fitting uniforms will really show off these women's bodies, and will boost the male fan base!" I think it goes without saying that the women would be better off without those fans.
"The lockout exemplified that the NHL is not concerned with the hardcore fan, because they know they'll always stay. You are in love, and you are loyal. The NHL is looking to grow its market share. ...the future of the NHL should not be left in the hands of Bob Pulford, Harry Sinden, John Muckler and other members of the Charles Montgomery Burns Fan Club. They will always stay with the status quo because that has kept them employed for 100 years."
I am so sick of every product trying to be everything to everyone. If I want to hear ear-shredding pop music, I'll go to pop concerts. If I want to win prizes, I'll go play Bingo. If I want to get extreme I'll watch the X-games. If I want to look at buff dudes, I'll go see the Chippendales.
While the NHL can attract some fans by adding these marketing elements, it comes at the expense of the hockey experience. Fans attracted by this bunk will be the first to get bored and move on to something else. It will be the hockey experience that will build hardcore fans, the fans that will pass their passion onto others and onto the next generation.
By sticking with the simple elegance of the game, you can build institutions like the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins - institutions with roots that can weather bad times and remain successful. Of course, the marketroids don't care about this - their success is measured by the number of bums in the seats for the next home date.
There is something to be said for tradition. It's what has made the Rochester Americans and Hershey Bears stable and successful in the notoriously volatile AHL, while franchises like the X-Treem Ice MegaStarz appear and disappear every season. It's why MLB teams still wear pinstripes and leather belts. Baseball respects it's roots, and it respects the fans that are fond of those roots. The day I see David Wells in spandex is the day I'll tolerate RBK's new allegedly skin-tight marketing abomination.
Oddly, Bucci later contradicts himself:
"The NHL is a niche sport in the States and it always will be. But that's OK. I like niche things."Agreed. Unfortunately, the league would rather hand the marketing reins to whoever can promise the widest appeal right now, future of the game be damned.
Last night saw the Habs throw away another point in the standings on special teams. Montreal marginally outplayed the Sabres, but incurred seven minor penalties to Buffalo's three. A virtually-unheard-of 5-on-3 PP in OT led to Afinogenov's winner.
Looking at the Canadiens' roster, you would think the small, fast Canadiens would be one of those teams that would benefit from stricter calls this season. They should be thriving just like the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, they're 27th in PP opportunities (303) and are 16th in PKs (338). I bet the number of 5-on-3's is even worse.
The Habs are also 27th in PIM differential per game. They are racking up 15.6 PIMs/game to their opponents' 13.4. That's a big difference. The only clubs worse in this regard are Chicago, Florida and Washington. Montreal is slightly better than Columbus, the Isles and Pittsburgh. That's a lot of stinky teams.
Out of curiosity, I checked the correlation of the PIM/game differential with team ranking, as per Jes Gőlbez's recent post, and came up with .429 - a stronger correlation than PK%, hits, FO% or SOG.
I just can't think of a good explanation for their PIM differential. The Habs don't seem like a clutchy-grabby bunch. Like I said, they are a good skating club as a whole, and should be drawing more penalties than they are receiving. After Ribeiro's dramatics in the '04 playoffs and Markov (who has also been known to embellish) shoving a linesman this year, I wonder if the Habs' reputation has cost them the benefit of the doubt with the zebras this year?
Conspiracy theories aside, it's clear that the Habs have to find a way to even up the calls, or get more to swing the other way.