Breaking Sports

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

nhl- Make Radical Changes

More from James Patrick of the Sabres
from Eric Duhatschek and the Toronto Globe and Mail (paid sub.), James Patrick, the Buffalo Sabres' defenceman and hockey theoretician, believes the NHL is on the right track when it comes to discussing ways of improving the product, but he also has a question.
What took so long?
"I want radical change," said the Sabres' 41-year-old defenceman. "We're below bowling in the TV ratings. We're below poker. Canada's always going to be there for hockey, but we're like 12th in TV in the States. Something's got to change. If you're a skilled player, you can't ply for your trade anymore."
On Monday, Patrick suggested that in any resolution to the NHL lockout, the league must give the players association something they can sell to its membership.
Patrick didn't specify what that something should be, but logically, eight-plus months into a bitter, dividing dispute, the best that they could hope for is to push the game's upside.
If the two sides agree on an economic system tied to the league's overall revenues, then the onus will be on both sides to, a) get the lockout into the history books as soon as possible; and b) tweak the product so that it doesn't alienate traditionalists, but makes the game more appealing to a broader audience.
"Three, four years ago, I started thinking, 'they've got to make the nets bigger,'" said Patrick. "I remember mentioning it to a few players and the reaction was, 'you are from outer space, not a chance.'
The larger nets will get a second look in early June when the league tries out some possible changes in a mini-tournament that they're staging in Toronto.
"I'm glad they're doing it, but I think they need a month, not three days," said Patrick.
Patrick also objected to the fact that goaltenders were allowed to deliver the definitive word on larger nets, rejecting the idea out of hand, before the concept could be tested in the kind of laboratory setting the NHL is trying to pull together for Toronto next month.
"These goalies were fighting equipment change for the last 10 years and have been cheating for 30 years, so I don't think they should have any credibility," said Patrick. "A big part of it is, the goalies are the best players on every team now. That's slowly evolved over the past 10 years. They're the superstars of the league and the highest-paid players and they're the TV announcers. They practically run the league.