Despite what internet people sometimes think, websites aren't confessional booths or support groups. That said, let's all just admit that we did watch a little bit of the World Cup over the past month. It's okay, this is a safe environment. Hands up, everyone. There, that's better. Now, let me be clear: I will watch a hockey game over a soccer game all the time, usually, unless it's this one. There is more flow to hockey in general, less diving (if that's a good thing), and tons more to break down. Also, I am not writing for whatever the big soccer blog is. I think it's hosted on Angelfire or something like that.
Now, let me also be clear: I can only watch so many different teams' development camp YouTube clips before I start contemplating eating my shoes like those monks in Futurama. So this week, while I was watching soccer players cry because they were close to winning a semi-final game, I began to wonder what soccer actually did well that might be able to be ported over to the NHL. We've already seen that the AHL is a proving ground for possible NHL rule changes, and if they're fine with doing seven-minute OT with 3v3 full strength, then why not get even more radical than that?
A bonus: the Dallas Stars already play soccer to warm up for games, so any changes along these lines would probably see us dominating in the weird new rules of the league, at least for a season or two just like we did with the shootout.
So, here are
Five Things the NHL Could Learn from the World Cup
5. Everyone Hates Shootouts.
Are you listening Mr. Gary B.? Even though we had to suffer four of them this year, everyone agrees that penalty kicks are a distasteful way to decide games of such import. In fact, FIFA even has the decency to abstain from shootouts for all but the final sixteen games or so of the Final.
Look, the fact of the matter is that some games just don't deserve a winner. We've all seen those ponderous matches where regulation ends with a 1-1 tie thanks to a couple of power play goals on deflected point shots, and overtime slogs by with five minutes of low-percentage wristers from the circles succeeded by a meandering line change. Yes, sure, it's probably nice for all those people at Staples Center who swear at me when I walk back to my car to have bragging rights after their team has "won," but come on.
That said, 95% of these grotesque games usually involve the Coyotes and the Devils, so maybe we could just really sternly ask them to stop it?
(sorry for creating the first hit for "FIFA decency" on Google.)
4. The Trapezoid is the Worst
During all the times a goalkeeper sprinted out to the edge (or beyond) of his box and played the ball, I did not once think to myself, "Self, this is not good. This is ruining the game. They should make a rule that prohibits the goalie from abandoning his goal to risk running out to save his team from a corner kick like he just did with that awesome sliding move." Do you know what I thought instead? (Of course you don't!) I thought, "Holy Bojangles, what if he gets burned and they score into that massive empty net? Everyone will see, and that will be ridiculous!"
Because you know what can happen when goalies wander out of their net? All kinds of awesome. Also, who seriously wants to reduce the amount of real estate goalies have to do this?
3. Let the Coaches Rant
There's nothing more cathartic for a fan of a losing team than seeing their team's coach go completely nuts. Sure, class is important, and we always want to set a good example For All the Young Hockey Players Out There, but if we want to hold officials accountable for their calls, then maybe we should allow coaches to really say what they think about them.
I will say that Patrick Roy is doing his best to make up ground in this department.
Take Mexico's coach, Miguel Herrera for instance:
Herrera blamed the officiating for Mexico's challenges throughout the tournament.
"It seems to me that the reason was the referee, he left us outside the next stage," Herrera said. "If the referee starts marking faults that don't exist and in the end if he invents a penalty of that size you leave the World Cup because of circumstances that are not in your control.
"I repeat: In four matches that we played, in three -- I repeat: three -- we had referees against Mexico," Herrera said. "Two goals against Cameroon, two penalties in one same play against Croatia and today a penalty against us. That at least we expect that the referee will take a look at that and that this gentleman goes home just like us."
Addendum: can we please make allowances for the phrase "Invents a penalty" at least once per season?
2. Players Can Lie about Having Concussions
News flash: when a professional athlete is in a really important game and gets knocked on the head, they are probably still going to try to play. Heck, if Peverley wanted to know how much time was left after undergoing having his heart zapped back into order, there's no question that these players are going to do everything in their power to stay in the game until they are unable to move, even if it puts their life at risk.
So when a soccer player heads back out onto the field after suffering an apparent concussion and elicits serious criticism, this should be a wake-up call to the NHL. If soccer players without "armor" who run much slower than NHL skaters can move are in serious jeopardy, then what on earth are we doing letting Dale Weise make his own decision about playing through an obvious concussion?
I would normally say that it will probably take a player suffering a serious or fatal concussion-related injury to change things, but Derek Boogaard's sad passing apparently isn't going to be enough. What other tragedies need to happen for the NHL to start pushing past the "tough it out" mantra and taking brain injuries seriously?
1. If You Want to Grow the Game, then Show People the Game
There's no point ranting about ancient blackout rules here (this is a good start, though). Let me instead share an anecdote which will serve as foolproof evidence that I am correct:
I was sitting in front of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf a few Saturdays ago when a random guy behind us suddenly jumped up and starting shouting like crazy. We looked over and saw a grinning man with earbuds holding his phone and pumping his fist. The reason? This goal. The people I was with promptly started asking him about the game he was watching, and he explained a little bit about Messi, Maradona's legacy, and the importance of not tying with Iran in that situation. Those people were not soccer fans, but they proceeded to pull up that goal on the computer when they got home, and I know for a fact that they watched more World Cup games after that morning than they had ever watched in their lives.
To be fair, the NHL is working on this, and the only kind of awful NBC Sports Live Extra app is one newer option for watching playoff games. But local blackout rules can still prevent casual fans from watching the really big games, and guess what? A large chunk of the future viewers the NHL is hoping to hook are not going to be watching games at home on the couch with a satellite or cable television subscription.
We can compromise, NHL. Make it an extra $10/month for the Blackout Package or something. Make it $20 and give the local team half of that fee to help compensate them for the ticket that I totally would have bought otherwise. But let people see your product. Don't make me keep begging.
And really, it's the least you can do for all those times I've had to patiently instruct a server/bartender/Carl's Jr. attendant that OLN/Versus/NBC Sports is indeed a real channel with real sports on it, please check again. Actually, may I just have the remote, please?
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Monday Links are here just for you. You deserve them. You work so hard.
Devin Shore has no regrets about his decision to play college hockey instead of fleeing to the idyllic land of the OHL. [Stars Inside Edge]
Missed this last week. Apparently Nashville is still in the throes of Grief stage one, as On the Forecheck considers whether the Preds would be better off signing Derek Roy. Intervention! [On the Forecheck]
Mile High Hockey takes a look at Colorado’s summer thus far, which is really just so nice for them and their adorable new Jarome and Daniel that they see competing with Dallas for the third spot in the division. [Mile High Hockey]
Reminder: Jori Lehtera is going to be good. Maybe even as good as Fabian Brunnstrom, but let’s see him reach three goals faster than Fabs did before we decide that. [St. Louis Game Time]
Two Sharks links here: Is San Jose in deep trouble? Well, yeah, probably, but at least they are proactive, e.g. their protest against the protest against their ice girls! [Puck Daddy]
Raw Charge has a post up about the Morrow signing. Guess if the word "veteran" is mentioned more than three times. Guess "yes." [Raw Charge]
Here’s a deeper look at the situations surrounding Vladimir Sobotka’s possible exodus to the KHL. [Russian Machine Never Breaks]
Ted Leonis thinks that the Capitals’ defense is the "deepest" it’s been since he took over the team. Perhaps a good choice of words when you consider other deep things like big holes, and how easy it is to get out of them. [Pro Hockey Talk]
The AHL and the PHPA agreed to extend their CBA for another year. Yes, that’s right – they negotiated a CBA without a work stoppage, and players are saying nice things about the league president. Also, did you know Maxime Fortunus has been a PHPA player rep for five years? Now you do. [Hundred Degree Hockey]
For my fellow jersey nerds, Icethetics had two worthwhile posts over the last couple of days, one about the letters and symbols hidden inside logos, and another post on the launch of 3rd jerseys in the 90’s. (I still love that Penguins sweater.) [Icethetics]
Switching gears now to commemorate that little soccer camp that just wrapped up down in Brazil. If you haven’t seen this, Seth Vertelney did a fantastic in-depth look at the wonderful 1994 summer that got U.S. Soccer off the ground, kick-started (oh ho!) MLS, and made Tab Ramos a household name for a season. Also, watch that Balboa bicycle kick a hundred times. [SB Nation]