So both sides have voted the deal has been ratified and hockey is back, but with unprecedented levels of anger and disgust from fans during the lockout the NHL will have it work cut out for them if they want to win those fans back. Here’s a few suggestions how to do just that:
1. Three Words: Human Growth Hormone
It worked for baseball, after the ’94 strike everyone started juicing it while the league turned a blind eye and home run records starting falling like Jenga blocks. Two National league batters broke Maris’ 35-year-old record. Two! From the National League! I’m not sure what kind of records HGH’d up hockey players would brake, but I’d be way more excited for the hardest shot contest and faster skater at the skills comp next year.
Oh, and harder hits wouldn’t hurt either — unless you’re on the receiving end.
2. Morgana: The Kissing Bandit
You know, the woman with the ridiculously huge rack who would run on the field and kiss baseball players. What ever happened to Morgana anyway? She got old, I suppose, which was inevitable, so maybe they won’t want her per se, but surely there’s another buxom lass who would like to run on the ice and kiss hockey players.
I’m sure the fans would tolerate a pair of pendulous breasts bouncing their way out to meet the players. Again, it worked for baseball.
3. Fights, and Fight, and Fights. Plus Some Fights for good Measure
I know there’s an ongoing debate on this topic, and I know the NHL has been down on fighting for a while (while never eliminating it), and likes to pretend it cares about head injuries and eliminating goons from the game; but the fact is fights bring crowds in non-traditional hockey markets and the NHL needs asses in seats in those markets more than any.
I predict a violent lockout-shortened season is one option that will definitely be tested. Lots of ole fashioned donnybrooks. Line brawls. Maybe a goalie fight or two, anything that will get fans buying tickets.
4. Eliminate the Shootout
Alright, this probably won’t help bring more fans out, but us purists would love to see it go and as it was brought in after the last lockout, why not use this chance to eliminate it? A penalty shot was once “the most exciting play in hockey” but the proliferation of shootouts means that it’s now routine, mundane, almost boring. And it sure ain’t hockey. It’s pure gimmick, and one that distorts the stats, manipulates the standings, makes them appear closer than they are. At least in international hockey they award three points in every game so there’s some consistency — not that I like given Europeans credit for anything — but they do get some things right.
5. Lower Ticket and Concession Prices
If you can count on anything post-lockout it is that this will likely not happen. If anything they’ll raise the price to compensate for their self-imposed loses.
But the fact is that these should happen, and to any owner out there who feels like revealing himself as less than an asshole should consider them. In fact, owners ought be so happy anyone want to come back at all, so why not make that $125 ticket $100 — scratch that, make those tickets $15! Foam hands should be $10, and luke-warm beers $7 instead of $10.
Cut the little guy — some might say, the sap — a break for once in your miserable, miserly life.