Friday, March 4, 2016


     Great God Almighty, enough about the campaign already! There’s too much being said about it by too many people, and ultimately none of it will matter. The country is going to Hell in a handbasket, everyone knows it, we’re all hunkering down in our various ways and trying to wait out the rest of the electoral charade without losing our BLEEP!ing minds. It’s high time we looked at some other pressing problem – something we might have a Chinaman’s chance of solving, or at least ameliorating – so we can regain a sense of accomplishment, however little.

     For instance, is anyone out there seriously addressing the scoring drought in the National Hockey League, other than myself and the C.S.O.?

     (crickets chirping)

     I thought as much. Well, what’s a Certified Galactic Intellect for, if not to tackle the tough ones?

     The National Hockey League reached its zenith of popularity during the 1980s, when Wayne Gretzky, Marcel Dionne, and Mike Bossy were tearing holes in goal nets from coast to coast. Then came the neutral zone trap, and the enlargement of goalies’ pads, and the enlargement of goalies, and the ever-increasing reluctance of referees to call penalties on players two to three times their size who are wearing protective equipment, are armed with sticks, and have had their moral codes surgically removed. Scoring went into a slump from which it has not recovered, despite the league’s many rule changes meant to address the problem. With the scoring went the attention of the public, which found the game about as interesting as soccer (which you’ll notice still hasn’t caught on despite several decades and billions of dollars of promotional efforts).

     The economics of the game are becoming critical. Franchise owners are now caught in the same sort of revenues-versus-costs squeeze that ruined the baseball season a few years back. Unless they can find a way to bring back popular attention to the game, it’s likely to go back to the status in which it languished in the Fifties and Sixties, when a local television station might televise a game if it couldn’t sell the time slot for “paid programming.”

     But to bring back the fans, the league must bring back the scoring. Few persons outside our correctional institutions take much interest in the sight of huge, heavily padded men crashing into one another pointlessly for an hour. It’s not like NFL football, where things actually happen. There’s fighting, true, but it makes waltzing bears look graceful by comparison.

     I may have arrived at a workable approach. Consider the rink itself, which defines the outer perimeter of the game:

     The players skate back and forth in a free-flowing sort of opposition where playmaking is nebulous, puck possession is always tentative, and a well-coached team can usually collapse on its goal in time to prevent an adverse score. Most games end with fewer than four goals scored in toto. Nothing much happens unless someone catches a stick blade across the chops. Keeping your attention on the contest is difficult even for a major enthusiast.

     I toyed with the notion of changing the shape of the rink, but all the really interesting changes seemed likely to depress scoring still further while increasing the chance of serious injuries. Can’t have that. What we want is an alteration that would make scoring more likely, albeit without giving the players a case for demanding hazardous duty pay.

     And on this fine March morning in the Year of Our Lord 2016, I believe I have found it:

     What are those strange little oblongs I’ve added to the rink, you ask? What do you think they are, doofus? Have you never played pinball? They’re flippers. Two per defensive zone, to be operated by the attacking team. Thus, if the New York Rangers were playing the Montreal Canadiens – Original Six matchups are still the best – the flippers in New York’s defensive zone would be operated by Canadiens players, while those in Montreal’s defensive zone would be operated by Rangers players. To keep the rink from getting unduly crowded, the flipper operators would be off the skating surface.

     Think of the possibilities! Each team would have a kind of numerical superiority in the other team’s end. Moreover, the fixed position of the flippers would greatly improve the chances for real playmaking. And two of the players each team refrains from dressing to skate would have something to do.

     There are details yet to be worked out. How long and how high should the flippers be? How quickly should they respond to a command from the operator, and should they endure a few seconds of “dormancy” after being used? Should they slide along the ice surface? I favor it, but a small gap, such that inaccurate passing to the flipper would be ineffective, might be interesting as well.

     Rule changes would be required, of course. It would be illegal to send one’s “healthy scratches” (or more ardent fans) to “check” an opponent’s flipper operators. “Flipping” an opposing player would be penalized by five minutes’ loss of use of the offending flipper. And of course, putting spikes or blades on a flipper would be right out.

     (What about “flipping” a referee, you ask?)

     I expect the introduction of flippers as delineated here would soon double scoring, as teams and players learned to work them into their playing patterns. Perhaps we could try it out for a season or two. What do you think, hockey fans?


Adrienne said...

The reason no one cares about hockey anymore is because they can't afford tickets.

I grew up on hockey. My family held 6 season tickets for the St.Paul Fighting Saints of the World Hockey League. Four tickets for us and the other two for friends. Then it morphed into the Central Hockey League and the prices started going up. After years and years we finally relinquished our season ticket due to price increases.

Now the cheapest ticket to see the Minnesota Wild is about $55.00. Not many families with a couple of kids can afford over $200.00 to go to a hockey game.

And, yes, the games could be really brutal. I remember one game against the Minneapolis Millers that a fight broke out that was so huge they had to take a break for the Zamboni to clean the blood off the ice.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the election is meaningless; and the incessant chatter about it, maddening.

However, about the only thing I care about less than the election hysteria is hockey.

As a science fiction writer, you are familiar with the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics.

I, on the other hand, am Schroedinger's Dog.
No matter how many times you explain it to me, or how many times you open the box to find a dead cat, I always have the same response:

What I want to know is: where is my time machine? Who is concentrating on developing one so I can get the hell off this slippery time-slope?

joetote said...

I love my hockey and of course original six matchups are the best. While I love the idea of flippers, I really think the best thing would be to get rid of the asinine salary cap! Just imagine what the Bowmans could do then. scoring would soar (at least for the only team that really matters, the Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

Seriously though, the price of tickets is now out of reach of the common man and in turn interest is waning because of that. The same is true for the other so called major sports.

Akaky said...

Flippers are nice, but the way to boost attendance is get rid of the sticks and let the guys use modified scythes instead. Of course, the Zambonis will have to be modified to pick up blood and body parts, but I'm sure that this is an easily solved technical problem.

Bruce said...

Would be nice to experiment. Agree with many that prices are out of control. Not sure it would help my Flyers though. they need more than Giroux for offense.