Friday, October 5, 2007

All Hockey Needs is More Soccer

Relegation is a new idea to America, but it's the standard in many sports leagues around the world.
AP Photo/Martin Rickett

This is really something that I've thought about for a while, but has never been verbalized so eloquently.

Now, a lot of what Nate DiMeo had to say in Slate this morning may make some of you cringe, but approach it with an open mind. What DiMeo says is that the NHL needs to adopt a relegation system similar to what is used in international soccer. How it works over in England, for example, is that the three lowest teams in the 'A' league get demoted to a 'B' league and the three best teams in the 'B' league switch places with those three relegated teams. Picture the Coyotes, Kings and Flyers switching places with the top three AHL teams because those six teams finished either at the bottom of 'A' or the top of 'B'. The Coyotes, Kings and Flyers could make it back to the NHL, but they would have to finish in the AHL's top three next season to do so.

"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."

Consider it like a playoff race for the worst teams in the league, except they're not trying to make the playoffs; they're trying to not be one of the three worst teams. Certainly, if your team faced the prospect of being demoted, you would still be interested late in the season even if they're at the bottom of the league. Under today's system, you'll probably just give up on the team in December. Essentially; every team will have something to play for.

Obviously, the NHL owners would never go for this, and I'm not sure how wise Nate's idea of having a 20 team NHL is, but it would certainly increase fan interest astronomically (ignoring for a second all of the shock waves it would send across the sports media landscape... instant front page news). Why risk losing your status as an NHL club? Why risk letting the little guys have a shot at the big time? They don't deserve it! And I don't blame the owners for that response. You know that's how they would react, and I know that's how I would feel in their shoes.

If, by some miracle, they did institute such radical change, it could mean more tickets sold across the board. It would take some getting used to, but it's a sure fire way to keep fans interested even when their team is horrific.

h/t First Person Irregular


  1. so an NHL team could have the prospect of facing their farm club?
    And his plan to "save hockey?" Hmm...I think a viable TV deal would be a good first step, not a European soccer model.

  2. I've always supported this idea for baseball. It seems logical more so for MLB than the NHL. If there was one thing I though would be better for hockey if they wanted to do something they do in European Soccer, I think it would be something like the Champions League, in which a tournament is played involving some European Teams as well as top NHL teams, or a North American tournament featuring teams from all levels, not necessarily just the NHL.

  3. I like the idea of relegation, but it really would have to be in the original concept of the league. I could never see it being administrated to a league already in existence. Not to mention the myriad legal hassles that would happen by breaking the CBA in a jillion ways.

    Of course, you could try and start a new league, but ask the USFL and XFL how that worked out.

    These kinds of articles are mildly entertaining, in a unicorn-fantasy
    kind of way. It doesn't take a genius to come up with ways to improve the NHL if contracts, unions, and hockey are disregarded.

  4. How would this increase ticket sells? It would kill ticket sells for all teams put in the lower division as no one is going to want to see a team that literally is prevented from winning the top championship. If they did minor league sports would have strong attendance numbers (they don't).

    It would hurt the sport of hockey.

  5. That's the stupidest thing i've ever read. it's almost as stupid as selling the NHL's tv rights to the Outdoor Fucking Life Channel. Or opening the season in that hockey hot bed, England. Or making sure no one West of the Mississippi sees Ovechkin and Crosby. Oh wait all those things happened. Fuck off, Bettman.