The NHL’s general managers are meeting this week. Instead of weighty issues like getting better TV exposure in the US, or figuring out a way to keep players from “un-retiring” two thirds of the way into the season, the game’s best and brightest are…debating the size of the net (again). Because the old 4′ by 6′ is so totally old-fashioned.
Ostensibly, the goal is to increase scoring by making the nets bigger. Even though they legislated away the mattresses that Patrick Roy used to strap to his legs, there is some sentiment that goalies’ equipment is still too big, preventing an untold number of goals from just pouring into the nets, thereby sucking millions of fans away from NASCAR and the NFL and into hockey’s creamy and waiting bosom.
Sometimes, you hear something stupid. OK, that’s not so unusual. Sometimes, you hear something really stupid coming from someone who you would think, by virtue of the position to which they have risen in life, would know better. And you wonder: how have humans survived the millenia with idiots like these in the gene pool?
And I’m not talking about your garden-variety mongrels, morons and hicks. No, we as a society need those people to work at carwashes, buy all those generic cigarettes, and round out the casts of daytime talk and “court” shows. But people who are actually in charge of things…I’m absolutely gobsmack, as our pals across the pond are wont to say.
Say you make the nets a few inches wider. How many goals does that add? Well, it probably means that shots that now hit the post would theoretically go in. How often does that happen? Once a game, maybe? And, of course, that assumes that the reason that shots that currently hit the post are due to shooters trying to get around massively oversized goalie pads and not, say, just being crappy shooters. You probably see 10-15 shots a game that hit goalies squarely in the chest, from hockey players who shoot at the net like I shoot at deer: aim at the middle, close your eyes, and pray. Why don’t we ban goalies from having chests? Then all sorts of goals would go in!
The other big issue the GMs were tossing around was a so-called “Tkachuk rule” or “Weight rule” to prevent teams from trading UFAs at the deadline and then re-signing them in the offseason. The gang over at St. Louis Game Time has already done a bangup job of describing how wrongheaded this is. I would just point out that re-signing Tkachuk and Weight after renting them out didn’t exactly propel the Blues to the top of the NHL heap. It seems like this is a solution in search of a problem.
At first I was surprised that the people running the league could be so dim. But then I remembered listening to ex-GMs like Mike Milbury, Neil Smith and John Ferguson, Jr. providing “analysis” on hockey broadcasts. Suddenly, the fact that a fast, physical, emotionally intense sport like hockey can’t crack the US sports consciousness was not so inexplicable.
Keep tinkering with those goalie pads, boys. You’ll get it right one of these days.