Even the Detroit Red Wings have struggled to get fans in seats this season.
The NHL’s latest episode of Tales Of Contentment, this one coming out of the league’s Board of Governors meetings, had me laughing myself to tears late last week.
In case you missed it, the overwhelming, underlying message was positively Alfred E. Newmanesque in its simplicity: What, us worry?
“I think it's a wonderful game the way it is today,” said Rangers GM Glen Sather, who also thought his Blueshirts were a playoff team from 2000-2004.
“The game is in excellent shape,” added Ducks GM Brian Burke, careful not to mistake the game for Simon Gagne, Dean McAmmond or Patrice Bergeron.
But here’s the best/saddest part – the words of one of the league’s new breed of gatekeepers, which sounded like the words of the league’s old-breed of gatekeepers.
“I wasn't really in favor of making dramatic changes three or four years ago and I'm certainly not in favor in making any changes at the time being,” said Red Wings vice-president Steve Yzerman. “We cannot keep tinkering.”
Did you catch that? If it were up to Yzerman, nothing dramatic would’ve changed when the game returned from the lockout. Thanks, powers that be, for not leaving it up to Yzerman.
And tinkering, Steve? Shrinking goalie equipment, insisting on an end to tie games, and agreeing that the rulebook should, you know, be enforced – that’s what you call tinkering? I call that correcting.
But what else is to be expected from a league that has ridden the brakes and exercised more caution than a Bizarro World Mr. Magoo? Hell, Sabres president Larry Quinn had to plead with the BOG just to research and develop ways to improve the game.
Honestly, before the NHL establishes an R&D committee, I expect to see a committee studying the effects of an R&D committee. This league operates at the speed of smell, like a government on downers, like sap in winter. I mean, get a whiff of this:
“We need not be revolutionary, we need not be impatient,” league commissioner
Napoleon Gary Bettman said at the BOG meetings, ignoring abominable U.S. TV ratings and gimmicked attendance numbers, among other NHL problems. “We need to see how it evolves and how it all settles in.”
That’s right, everybody, the NHL has all the time in the world to figure it out. Just like the men’s tennis tour and pro boxing had all the time they needed to evolve and settle in.
• Best wishes to classy Minnesota center Wes Walz, who announced his retirement as a player.
The circumstances surrounding his retirement weren’t ideal for Walz, who left the Wild under a cloud of mystery at the beginning of November. But that shouldn’t overshadow his many achievements during his 13-season NHL career, including being named a Selke Trophy finalist in 2003.
If there was a better old-school worker bee than Walz, I didn’t see him play.