|A Change of Heart|
The NHL is clearly a league out of control, can it be saved?
|A Blessing and a Curse|
How the NFL has done things right... and how it may threaten labor relations in other sports
|Marge Madness — The Marge Schott Memorial Tournament|
The ultimate tourney.
|Contract The NHL|
Why the NHL should contract some teams for the good of the league.
By Adam Conn, Founder
How to Save Hockey Introducing the Hockey League of the Americas
The National Hockey League is over, buried under the weight of overpriced player contracts, underpriced revenue streams with broadcast, small stadiums, limited marketing, poor expansion choices, and general mismanagement. To solve hockey's woes, I propose disbanding the NHL and replacing it with a new league, the Hockey League of the Americas (HLA), and will set it up in the following manner.
Franchise List: There will be 16 major HLA teams, and 16 minor HLA teams, plus two more levels of junior/minor league hockey that currently exist with the AHL and ECHL. Here is the suggested division structure:
Every three years, two teams finishing dead last in attendance cumulatively may be swapped out with a minor league affiliate by a 2/3 vote of the owners. Players assigned to the roster of the major league team will be transferred, and vice versa. If a minor league location is suffering from low attendance, it may be replaced by a lower level minor league franchise.
Schedule: All teams will play an 80 game schedule, facing each team within its conference four times (64 games), twice at home, twice away, and facing each team in the other conference once. Teams will play seven games in a two-week span, except for a week off for the All-Star Break. The season will be 24 weeks long, running from October 1 to the middle of March. Minor league teams will play a 64 game schedule, facing each team in its' conference four times, with no games across conferences. Teams will play six games every two weeks. The East minor will have games on Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday of each week. The West minor will have games on Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week.
Playoffs: The top four pointed teams in each division make the playoffs. The first round will be a best-of-five series; second round best-of-seven. The finals will be held as a best-of-seven, with the higher pointed team holding home ice advantage in game seven. This finishes the season in April, not June. June is summer in most of the current hockey world ice is not nice. Minor league franchises will play a similar schedule, but will start earlier because of the shorter schedule.
Player Contracts: All NHL contracts will be null and void, largely because the NHL is null and void. Players contracts may not be guaranteed for more than three years; fourth year and beyond must be option years. Teams will be able to use a "franchise" tag to hold a player after a contract's expiration.
Salary Cap: There will be no salary cap, per se, but there will be a luxury tax for each contract over $4 million a year, which includes bonuses, at 10 cents per dollar over. An additional luxury tax of 15 cents per dollar over will be imposed on teams over $45 million in salary. No player at the major league level will be paid less than $500,000.
Minor league players will receive no more than $500,000 in salary while in the minors. Players with fewer than 120 games on a major league roster may receive no more than $1 million until the season after exceeding 120 games.
Revenue Sharing: Revenue sharing for broadcast rights will be shared, with a set percentage going to the players. Playoffs will bring additional revenue sharing to players. Hockey will also work with ESPN (or another major sports outlet) to have a basic cable channel that is devoted to hockey and will carry a major league hockey game each night from each conference and replay at least one minor league hockey game each morning.
Additionally, gates must be shared in some manner, not just between the teams in each contest, but league-wide, and perhaps with the minor league clubs as well. Perhaps forty percent of the gate will go to the home team, 35% to the visiting team, and the remaining 25% will go into a collective pool at both levels. The collective pool will then be split 70/30 between the major league and minor league HLA franchises (since a minor league franchise should have a much lower salary requirement than the majors).
"Entry" Draft: A special re-entry draft will be held for players who have been signed to NHL and other professional contracts (European leagues, etc.), but not players currently in the NHL minor leagues. The first four rounds must be from the location's current roster (so for example, Boston would select Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov, Glen Murray, Andrew Raycroft). Players drafted in the first ten rounds are guaranteed one-year contracts of no less than $850,000. The major league entry draft will proceed for 15 rounds. The minor league draft will then begin, with 15 rounds as well. Players selected in the first ten rounds are guaranteed one-year contracts of $500,000.
Rule changes: Gooning in hockey lessened after numerous rules changes and sanctions during the 80s and 90s. While gooning did detract from some of the beauty of the sport, it escalated what happened when violence did occur on ice. Todd Bertuzzi and Marty McSorely took revenge on Steve Moore and Donald Brashear for on-ice conduct not by fighting like the used to, but attempting to maim. While gooning was out of hand in the 70s, it did allow for some steam to be released. Letting it build up too long results in higher stakes and more serious repercussions. Hockey is a physical sport and needs to be so. Otherwise, it's figure skating with a puck. It needs a little bit of the NASCAR "trading paint" back in it.
New commissioner: A three-person committee consisting of a representative from the owners, a representative of the players, and perhaps Gary Bettman or an arbiter such as Peter Ueberroth will select commissioner candidates. The new commissioner may not be a majority or minority owner in any franchise or business with a contract with the HLA, nor will Gary Bettman be the commissioner. The HLA ownership must approve of the commissioner by a 2/3 vote. Additionally, a player representative from each team will be granted a vote and must approve of the new commissioner by a simple majority.
Collective Bargaining Agreement: At least three representatives each from the new players union and the owners will meet on a weekly basis between the end of the final championship game until a collective bargaining agreement is completed in the year in which a CBA is to expire. Individuals on both sides will face fines of $10,000 per meeting missed.
Marketing: The HLA will vigorously market itself as a good action-packed night out for the family. Perhaps a "Real Men Skate" type of theme, with HLA players doing figures while crashing one another into the boards.
Camera Work/Technology: Hockey has always been frustrating to watch because of play in the corners. In no other sport does the "ball" disappear quite the way it does in hockey. To aid in this, four cameras will be placed on top of the glass pointed at opposite corners to assist folks in catching the ice action. Additionally, a chip will be placed inside the puck that will allow a camera or two to "catch" focus as well as allow stats such as puck speed be displayed on screen. The glowing puck had this concept in mind, but people needed raw numbers, not a streak that obscured their view of the play.
Community Outreach: Right now, hockey is in danger of become as professionally irrelevant as soccer is in the United States. Soccer is widely enjoyed in this country, but solely as a youth sport. Hockey is hugely popular in the northern states as well; it's immensely popular as a youth and college sport. Here in Minnesota, it's equally popular among the girls as the boys as a sport to play. But there exists a seeming lack of passion for the professional game. The professional players need to get out and skate with the amateurs and youth players and rebuild the fanbase in the little crowds to help hockey regain its popularity.
File last modified May 15, 2011
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