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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Let the NHL die

As a lifelong Habs-hater, I never thought I'd be writing this. But I'm with Guy Lafleur on this one:

Hockey legend Guy Lafleur believes the National Hockey League should declare bankruptcy and start over again.

The former Montreal Canadiens great says it doesn't look to him like either the players or the owners are trying to settle the NHL lockout.

"Hockey's sick and they have to solve the problem. They have to go back to basics," Lafleur said Wednesday during a promotional stop in Nova Scotia for a non-profit cellphone recycling company.

"I feel very sorry for the fans that there's no hockey today and that both sides are not talking to each other."

One of the problems, said Lafleur, is that there are too many teams in the league and that's complicating matters.

"I really believe they should cut back to 24 to make hockey better," he said of the current 30-team league structure.

Lafleur said consideration has to be given to the fate of teams in the smaller Canadian markets, noting that Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa and even Montreal are all struggling in his mind.

The fundamental problem with the NHL is that the players are making NFL salaries while its U.S. popularity is closer to Arena Football. Outside of the Original Six cities and a few others where the NHL caught on, hockey is a cult sport in America. Of course, the league survived for decades with only a cult following, but for the last fifteen years or so, things have been spiralling out of control. (The turning point, I think, was when the league expanded to San Jose.)

Perhaps it would be best if the whole thing just collapsed, and hockey started all over again with a few clubs - no more than 20 - in cities with particularly loyal fan bases. And as long as I'm dreaming, I'd love to see teams relegated and promoted between major and minor leagues, like in European soccer. Wouldn't you love to see the AHL teams in Hamilton and Winnipeg play their way into the NHL?

Posted by Damian Penny on October 27, 2004 in Sports | Permalink


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