Listening to a recent conversation between media personalties Tony Marinaro and Brian Wilde about why the goals per game in the NHL are at historical lows, the solution is simplistic. The NHL does not want to make the big meaningful changes required.
Unlike the National Football League, who monitors the points per game and penalties per game on a regular basis, then holds regular meetings to advise and adjust accordingly. The National Hockey League prefers to remain dogmatic and do very little until a situation is totally out of control. It would be to the benefit of everyone, especially league’s pocketbook, if the NHL would just make exciting and entertaining hockey their number one priority.
The only solution required to guarantee a significant increase in goals per game in hockey, would be to make the nets bigger.
In the last 20 years alone, the physical size of the goalie and his equipment, combined with the increased technical skill levels, has dramatically decreased the space available for shots to pass over the red line. Although goalie pad sizes have been reduced this season, having bigger nets remains the best solution to increasing the space to a more productive ratio.
The argument that making the nets bigger would forever alter the integrity of the game is a red herring and a last gasp crutch to hold on to outdated viewpoints.
For starters, why view making the nets bigger as a negative instead of a positive? Isn’t that just a normal psychological response to a fear of change?
Secondly, would anyone really visually notice a few extra inches from the first row seats or on television? For example, just extending the length and height by the size of the puck, would make all shots previously hitting the post, in theory, goals. Assuming an average of three posts get hit per game on average, then assume at least 2 out of those three shots go in with bigger nets. Voila! Problem solved.
Finally, has the game already been forever altered with the introduction of 4-on-4 OT, and shootouts? Or did changing the rules to end a power-play when a goal is scored as opposed to spending the full 2 minutes in the box do that? What about the removal of the red line, or moving the blue line back a few feet?
I don’t know anyone who watches hockey who considers a defensive team exciting or entertaining. Ask yourselves, “Who want to pay a week’s salary to see so few scoring chances in a three hour show, and even fewer climatic results from those limited scoring chances?”
By increasing the size of the hockey nets in the NHL, shots once not worth taking, will now have a better chance to go in. From a strategic perspective, collapsing in front of the goalie and blocking shots become less efeective. Players will need to chase pucks rather than cover zones, and goalies will need to see the shots rather than focus on being in a good technical stance.
Why not let the AHL, a great place to test new rules, start with the new bigger nets and see what the results turn out to be?
All this to say, the NHL will change any rule, except the only ones that will directly impact goals scoring and change the entertainment value of the game. In my opinion, that change is simple, and hardly noticeable.
MAKE THE NHL HOCKEY NETS BIGGER!