Monday, February 04, 2008

"This isn’t House League hockey"

Many in the world of hockey will have questions regarding Mike Milbury’s judgment while he was running NHL teams as a coach or General manager, but as an observer for NBC’s Sunday hockey telecast he hit the nail on the head on Super Bowl Sunday as part of the networks Rangers Canadiens broadcast.

During a discussion with Pierre McGuire in the second intermission about the sudden revival of the careers of Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne by the Anaheim Ducks, Milbury pointed out that having players sit out the first half of the schedule before deciding they’d like to play again, doesn’t paint the NHL as a particularly professional enterprise.

The Burke Strategy will soon be adopted by some other NHL team (maybe even by Burke himself) as Peter Forsberg offers up his now well rested body for a stretch drive and potential playoff run.

A situation which should normally make NHL fans wonder why it is exactly they’re paying full season prices if the GM’s, teams and players seem to think that it’s pre season until New Years Day.

It’s a percolating problem for Gary Bettman who if he wants his league to not resemble beer league drop in hockey, had best get busy putting together a new set of protocols for NHL rosters.
It’s not particularly fair to those players that have worked their tails off for the first four months of the season to start seeing players with separation anxiety, start to show up in the locker room to take away a roster spot. Even more so, its not fair to the fans who are shelling out top dollar for what seems to be an extended break in and exhibition season.

If left unchecked, there’s a good chance that a few more players may decide that it’s really not worth all that hassle to get ready for a grueling training camp, or to waste your time skating in circles from September to December, not if the real money and real interest won’t come along until January.

What the NHL needs to do is fix a firm date before Christmas that is a cut off for any returning players or European imports to make a decision one way or another. As it stands the ability to pick up semi retired NHLers for a little post New Year's shinny seems just a little Mickey Mouse.

Now more than ever it seems that the regular season really is as suspected virtually pointless, instead it’s the post all star break run that counts. It’s something that perhaps the fans could also put to good use.

Maybe if the arenas across the NHL sit empty until the first week of February, the fans too could deliver a message to Mr. Bettman and the thirty team owners.. If the games don’t really count as seems to be the impression we are left with, then why bother showing up to watch them?

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