Saturday, February 24, 2007

NHL Needs a Few Good Fights

At least that's what Tim Dahlberg, from SLAM, is saying. A couple nuggets from his story:

Nothing like a little blood on the ice to get people to start paying attention to hockey again.

Anyway, pretty soon 12 different players were squaring off and fighting. As an added attraction on the undercard, the goalies even took off gloves and masks and tossed punches at each other.

The fans, of course, loved it. So did the television announcer, who seemed almost giddy about the prospect that someone might forget going for another Molson's and could actually be watching.

People sure seem to like it, though. Go to any NHL game and the buzz level picks up quickly when players start throwing down.

Have a drink in any bar, and suddenly people start paying attention to what's on the television screen above.

With U.S. television ratings sinking faster than Britney Spears' Q rating, this is a league that needs all the help it can get.

Its all-star game last month on a channel named Versus drew a paltry 691,000 households, about a tenth of what the game got 11 years ago when it was televised on Fox. A lacrosse game
drew more viewers one night a few weeks ago in New York than the Islanders did.

And, while 18,136 fans watched in person in Florida last month, only 736 out of nearly 7.4 million households in the New York area tuned in to see the Devils play the Panthers.

But relaxing the rules so goons can carry out their enforcement more easily would send a message that the NHL isn't really serious about cutting down on violence in the sport. It would
signal that the league was merely paying lip service to critics when it tried to curb fighting.

Then again, it might do something the NHL needs even more desperately than a new image.

It might get a few more Americans watching.

No comments: