Stayin’ Alive

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We interrupt this working day to bring you news of brilliance on the internet, in the form of Nate DiMeo’s proposal in Slate, “My Plan to Save Hockey.” (He tells it in the form of a letter to the NHL, which explains why he keeps using you).

First the problem: “Thanks to a functional but deeply imperfect revenue-sharing system, you’re getting by. But you’re propping up franchises that have no business surviving. … you let salary growth far outpace revenue growth. You expanded all the way to the breaking point (if you’re looking for this point on a map, it’s suspiciously close to Nashville).”

Then the proposal: Make the NHL like The English Premiership, where “the three worst Premiership teams are kicked down to the league immediately below them. The best two teams from that lower league move up; the third team gets promoted after winning a thrilling playoff series.”

It’s no accident that English Premier League soccer is addictive. It’s great. But it takes some getting used to, because it’s geographically chaotic, and you have conversations with yourself like this:

  1. Manchester City is playing Manchester United?
  2. Cockswold on the Glen is playing Buggerborough? Oh, like I’m going to tune in for that — oh wait, doesn’t Buggerborough have that amazing Nigerian striker I saw in the last World Cup? I take it back. What time is it on?

But back to the ice. Is relegation for NHL a good idea? Yes, it’s unalloyed genius. Here’s why:

You’re not just rooting for your own favorite club and watching what happens at the top of the league. You’re also watching teams duke it out at the bottom as they fight for survival. Plus, it means that there aren’t perennial basement dwellers. Team owners have to keep investing in their team if they want to stay in the spotlight (and stay where the money is). If baseball had this system, the nation would have been rid of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays a long time ago.

Not only that, the league contracts (which it needs to), and other hockey hotbeds, which now have great owners and fan bases, get a shot at the big time:

If the Halifax Mooseheads are slugging it out with the New York Rangers for the 2012 Stanley Cup, then all the better. That will mean the Mooseheads can draw 18,000 rabid fans and have owners who’ve invested in building a great team.

And damned if I wouldn’t be first in line to buy a Mooseheads jersey.

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