5 ways I’d change the KHL…

added 8/28/08 – writers note:  I have changed my focus from the NHL to the KHL.  “F” it.  If I can’t change the NHL, maybe I can change the KHL and lead it to world domination.  My league would devour the NHL.


This has been a good ongoing topic on yahoo’s NHL blog.  The comments being posted leave a lot to be desired, as do the ideas of the writers.  Mine are revolutionary and I think they would improve the game and take hockey to new heights in popularity. And, I believe they would create a better league for established hockey fans.  My ideas are strongly influenced by the structure of world football leagues and may sound odd to those who know nothing about those league-structures.  I do my best to succinctly explain what I mean, but if you don’t understand post a comment or look some of them up.


First – Institute “Promotion and Relegation” into North American Hockey.  If you don’t know about “promotion and relegation,” its a system of leagues that are stratified.  The top league is the premier league and draws the television contracts.  Basically, the premier division would be composed of 20-25 teams and at the end of the year three would be relegated down, and three would be promoted up.  No more rebuilding in the NHL.  If you’re not good enough to keep your spot at the premier level, go back down and fix things in the second division.  The NHL is supposed to be the best hockey on the planet but I seriously doubt if the Kings could defeat the Calder Cup winners in a series.  Or their AEG owned european cousins: Sparta Prague.  Hockey fans want great competition every game.  “Promotion and Relegation” would ensure a playoff atmosphere all season long.  The end of the season would also be enhanced as the “relegation battle” would be epic, perhaps even better than the league winner battle.  I’ll go more into this, but imagine the Spokane Cheifs or the Ottawa 67’s (teams I’ve never seen play) working their way into the premier league and competing for supremacy, and even the Stanley Cup.


Second – Automatic ejection for brawling/fighting.  In the current regular season format, I’d also suspend for 1-3 games.  I know this one will be unpopular with many, but its time to start weeding this out of the game.  The fact I think many overlook is that automatic ejections won’t mean that there won’t be fights.  Simply put, it will force teams to sign “players” instead of “enforcers.”  A meaningful penalty for fighting would severely curtail fighting but guys like your Shanahan’s, Thorntons, and Lacavaliers would still be able to fight if they really felt it necessary.  They’d just have to weigh wether it were really worth it to the game and the team before going in.  I’ve cheered for McSorley to destroy in the past, but think the sport would be better served if fighting became more of an aberration and the quality of the games escalated.  I love the playoffs, the world cup of hockey, and the olympics.  Fighting is almost non-existent in these tournaments because it hurts the teams chances for victory.   Yet, you could still see a game like the epic Colorado/Detroit battle because in terms of “need,” the fights were necessary.  I also think its time to stop setting the example for kids that fighting is a part of the game.  Its one thing to have well monitored fights between professionals making millions, and another for uninsured young men to be risking seriously injuring themselves or others without medically trained personnel on hand.  


Third – International Club Competition.  I want to see the leagues of the world begin competing.  I’d love to see the best 4 of North America against the best 4 of Russia, or Sweden.  This would require a rule-set that was universal, and I think that’s possible.  This idea comes from the European Champions League of football and I think it would be awesome.  Not only would the games be epic, but the marketing for all the leagues would benefit.  You’d have more Russian Redwings fans and more North American CSKA fans buying jerseys, going to pubs to watch, and funding television contracts.  I can’t see how this isn’t Win/Win for everyone and better for hockey.  It also requires a move towards getting fighting on the back pages and great, competitive games on the front.  Another aspect of this idea is that the Stanley Cup would become a prize any club in the world could conceivably vie for.  Many have no idea, but the Stanley Cup is a “challenge cup” that was originally awarded to amateur clubs.  The rules for challenging allow for non-NHL teams to compete for it under a challenge system.  The NHL is only a steward of the Cup and the Cup Trustee’s give them the right to manage the competition for it.  In the 70’s the WHA sued for the right to compete for it but were somehow absorbed into the NHL.  There’s more to it than that, but I need to do more research.


Fourth – Abolish the Draft.  This goes along with instituting “promotion and relegation” and is fairly straight-forward.  Allow teams to sign whomever they want if they’re not already under contract.  I don’t care if they want 6 year olds under contract, let them start paying players and developing talent at the youth level.  There are 16 year olds competing in the English Premier League.  I see no reason why, if a team thinks they’re good enough, they should wait until 18 to get drafted.  Additionally, transfers would be allowed on a monetary basis.  This would allow clubs to develop players and sell them at a profit.  It keeps the money in the game.  If a club wants to take a highly valued player, say Ovechkin, and sell him to spend the money on multiple skilled players that are less valued; they just sell Ovie for 30 million and spend 6 million a piece on 5 players.  As it stands clubs continue to waste money trying to develop their draft picks, the majority of which never make it to the top.  In another sense, this idea also encapsulates “club autonomy” and instead of “franchises,” clubs would be “clubs.”  The NHL premier league would control the Premier league and not the “franchise system” they currently operate.  I really don’t understand this idea that they control the Rangers website and marketing.  Its the Ranger’s property, in my opinion.


Fifth – Set the rules of the game of Hockey and leave them alone.  I don’t care if teams develop ways to win with “boring” tactics, set the rules of competition and stick with them.  Football had no problem sticking with a dozen or so basic rules for over 100 years now.  Tweaking the rules constantly turns into crap like the NFL.  Before you reach the bottom of the slippery-slope, the game becomes almost unrecognizable.  Constant efforts to increase scoring are crap.  Leave it alone.  This whole “obstruction/interference” debacle is due to Mario Lemieux’s whining and the frustration of other teams at not being able to beat the Devil’s tactics.  Sure, subtle definitions or ammendments are sometimes necessary, but changing overtime or creating new rules for obstruction taint the purity of the game.  A big part of this would be a reduction in equipment.  I want the goalies to be protected, and Zednik’s neck, but do we need NFL style shoulder pads and ever increasing armor?  I think it leads to more reckless behavior on the ice.  Accidents will happen, and even tragedy, but that happens every day in normal professions too.  Luckily, pro sports pays well and insures the players, so there is plenty of support in these events.



Filed under NHL

8 responses to “5 ways I’d change the KHL…

  1. When Jared Cowen hit the NHL, there are going to be some scared dudes.

  2. CUP#12

    i agree on everything except of course the fighting. i would remove the instigator rule or salary cap in its place. very well done otherwise!!

  3. Ryan H

    So basically you want the NHL to be like international soccer….


  4. cristobal

    I couldn’t think of a better role model. Nearly a billion people watching a regular season game between Arsenal and Man U. I don’t think the NHL would kick half those numbers out of bed. Do you?

  5. Robert e Lee

    Wow “whd” I really liked your ideas too. As with most, I had a few tweaks, but think it would be a terrific way to help allow the sport to grow from a sovereign, snobbish game of les Habitants to a game enjoyed by a billion or two people. It’s fast, exciting and played on a limited surface allowing for all kinds of possibilities.
    Regarding idea #5, just minor thoughts. I am delighted that they went after the obstructionist game. Watching a marginal player clutch and grab was about as exciting as perhaps watched Gov. Arnold on the set! I realize you are likely right, and being subservient to a few…well, anyway, the game was really boring under the devils and I simply wouldn’t watch it. That’s not how we played when I was young. You’d get your as kicked by bigger players if you tried that, so we learned to be faster, better or be left behind. But your thoughts on padding also seem to set logical limits-maybe a “bertuzzi-proof” cloak?
    Comment #4 fascinated me but immediately I began wondring if it would help piggy billionaire owners into being able to manipulate the entire system with their cash flows already intact? Not that I care about their money, but if I’m in a city where the team is owned by-say-Bruce McNall, I will likely end up screwed over time…right? I don’t want the game to fall prey to the wealthy bastards who manipulate rather than predicate their decisions on winning for their city. But the idea has far greater potential for realistic outcomes!
    Thanks for reminding us about the “Challenge Cup” notion. I had wondered how it became THE NHL’S FAVORED CUP? I’ve read the history and cannot understand how or why it should be changed?
    The promotion and relegation concept is just awesome thinking! And point #2 about fighting is still questionable. The problem is goons could still “lure” great players into things without a ref. ever seeing it. The point would be taking a great player off the ice because of some piece a shit player is noting some $180-250.00 per ticket to watch a game. just screwed to the game, but to those of us who are pay. I think you know where I’m heading with that thought. I mean, come on…it’s still a game and it’s supposed to be entertaining. Any form of manipulation to win should still be reviewed before being allowed to stand. And yes, I so still remember the “brood street bullies”…but they also had some terrific skaters and a wonderful goaltender!

  6. I really like the idea of “promotion and relegation”, but I wonder if there’s enough money in that system to work for the NHL. What happens when a team like the Portland Pirates, who play in an arena with a capacity of less than 7,000, qualify to play in the NHL? Do they build a new arena strictly for the purpose of NHL competition? A soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 can be pretty cheap — a hockey arena with a capacity of 20,000 is NEVER cheap. And do they have to somehow squeeze 18,000 fans per night out of a city less than half the size of an NHL market? To be competitive in the NHL they’d have to bring in enough money to pay for NHL-quality players… I don’t see that happening with any minor-league or major-junior franchise.


  7. worldhockeydaily

    robert e lee –

    Regarding #5 and the rules changes, there could be some real tinkering with the rules that would benefit the game. I think the hooking/grabbing game might lose a bit of its bite if the Olympic sized rinks were made standard. What do you think? I also think that it would be good for the game if penalties were re-thought. It seems harsh to get 2 minutes for a borderline hooking call in the offensive zone, when a borderline boarding call can be the same 2 minutes. Really, that’s hard to control, and I’m sure that anything that increases scoring would not be considered a bad thing.

    Regarding the draft, I’m not sure if I understand the concern you were stating? If you’re referring to owners overspending and then coming up lame and broke down the line, I think that is a risk. But with promotion and relegation they are able to remain solvent, they’re just dropped down and have points taken away. It does happen in English Football. Leeds United was a top team in the Premier League, but the overspent and over borrowed on future money, and are now in the 3rd or 4th division. It suck for the team, but there spot is just filled by the next team. I’m glad you like the idea of promotion and relegation. It was an eye-opener when I first learned that its the way leagues around the world operate, not only in football, but in basketball, and hockey. Unfortunately, I don’t think the new KHL is going to keep that system. I think they should. If they want to eclipse the NHL, they need to operate like football does. (i’m referring to soccer as football, of course)

    The fighting thing I feel necessary to the expansion of the game of hockey. I really want the NHL teams to start playing outside of the NHL. I don’t want NHL europe. It would be a horrible failure, I hope. There’s just no way forward with the mentality that guides the NHL. It should either be kept in the marginal realms, or really change to fit in the the world. This arrogance of America knows best is really getting old. As far as I’m concerned, American ideas are ruining sports. At least Football is a game of tradition and over 100 years of success. I hope the AEG mentality never gets its foot in the door over there. But, like I said, stiffer penalties for fighting don’t necessarily mean that fights won’t happen or be a part of the game.

    What do you think?


  8. worldhockeydaily

    bostonblueline – Its great that you thought of that, its something that would naturally occur and it shows you really have some amazing critical thinking skills. Actually, there are at least a few instances of this happening in football. If you check out my book list there’s one about a team from a very small town in Italy going from the depths of what amounts to ameteur leagues, all the way to the second division (Serie B) of Italian football. The team name is Castel Di Sangro (castle of blood) and their stadium was too small. A local godfather type owned the team and was building a new stadium, but the season had begun and they had to play their home games a few hours away in a different city. Castel’s “village” was only about 5,000 strong, but to play in Serie B you had to have a minimum capacity greater than that. It’s a very interesting story and somewhat mythical when considered from and American sports-fan perspective.

    To try and solve that problem Portland would have would be interesting too. Would it be ok for a Premier League club to play in the NHL in a building that small? The owners of the building would be the only one’s hurting as it would be money lost, since they couldn’t fill 20,000 tickets. Or, would they play in a different arena for their home games that season? Things get tricky, but If I were right in my ideas, I think hockey would see much more money start to flow in, and promotion would be worth something. You wouldn’t just go in to the Premier League without receiving the benefit of the Broadcast revenues. This would present problems to be solved, but I think they’re the type of problems the NHL needs – i.e. – “how do we accommodate the demand for tickets?”

    “To be competitive in the NHL they’d have to bring in enough money to pay for NHL-quality players… I don’t see that happening with any minor-league or major-junior franchise.” – To this I can only sadly respond, “have you seen our team the Kings lately?” Tell that to management and ownership. They’re currently 10 million under the salary cap floor. But seriously, the team would be remiss to entirely scrap the team that got them there. With profits and money from broadcast rights upon entry to the Premier League, teams could bolster their rosters with some signings and spending. The goal, of course, would be to maintain its place in the Premier League that first year. Take the earnings, and improve the team again. Sunderland FC in England are doing just that. Although the building is already there, the team moved from the bottom of division 2 (the Coca-Cola Championship is what they call div. 2) to earn promotion by the end of the ’06 season. They maintained a spot in the league (16th?) and this year have brought in some good players and are looking to move up the table. There are at least 6 or 7 european spots to be won in the EPL, and all offer monetary reward. Manchester United, for instance, I believe earned 100 million Euros or Dollars for winning the European Champions League last season.


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