If you invented a time machine, and used it to go back in time and talk to me when I was in the 8th grade, I would've told you two things.
1 - That you were a complete idiot, why are you wasting a time machine on me?
And 2 - Hockey is the best sport on the planet and the NHL is the best sports league to be a fan of.
Now fast forward to today, and I'm pretty sure it'd be third, significantly behind the MLB and the NFL. Maybe it would be four given my love for Team Handball, but it'd probably be safe at #3.
So why did this happen? What led me to go from huge NHL die-hard to a complete football maniac?
Well, apparently, the NFL is run by smart and legitimate businessmen, and the NHL is run by a group of complete managerial disasters.
I came to this conclusion over the last few weeks, as I struggled to a) watch the NHL playoffs and b) read the continuing saga over the Phoenix Coyotes, who are really really bankrupt.
Let's start with the bankrupt team, the Coyotes.
The Coyotes, with much fanfare, descended on the state of Arizona after bolting the city of Winnipeg. In case you don't know much about geography...Winnipeg is located in Canada. Canada, in case you also don't know much about weather, is freaking freezing. Phoenix on the other hand, is in the Southwestern United States, and is in a desert.
Let's not even explore why the NHL thought it was a good idea to put a franchise in a desert. Let's consider that a sunk cost. From the looks of things, the Coyotes ownership hasn't exactly made boatloads of cash since their move. I just read they've lost $73 million in the last three years. That sounds like a lot.
OK, so the team itself is bankrupt, and a rich guy who's been trying to buy a team for years has expressed more than a passing interest in buying them. He would like to buy them and move them to Canada, where we should remember, people actually would pay for more hockey.
The NHL, in its infinite wisdom, thinks that's a terrible idea. The situation has gotten to the point where the team owners (or maybe they're former owners if the team is in bankruptcy, maybe the creditors might get it, I'm no lawyer) are actually SUING the league so they can complete their negotiated sale.
Truly a world class organization, that NHL
Of course that brings me to my other gripe with the league, the fact that I can't watch the playoffs because they have an absurdly ridiculous media strategy department! Or maybe they don't have anyone thinking about this stuff, maybe they have a magic 8-ball, a Ouija board, creepy witch lady like Robin Hood Prince of Thieves ?
For some reason, the league made Versus its exclusive cable network for NHL broadcasts. That would be great, if anyone had Versus. Comcast customers have Versus, because the cable company owns the network (and owns the Philadelphia Flyers, which may have had some role in helping the network win the rights over say, ESPN, a network people care about)
RCN, my cable provider, has forsaken Versus to the hinterlands of a digital sports tier, which as a poor graduate student, I'm not about to pay for.
But that's not the worst part, that's just another poor decision.
The worst part, is that the NHL actually did something right (in my view) with its new Game Center technology available over the internet. For a fee (in my opinion, abnormally large for a league in need of widespread acceptance) you can watch NHL action over the internet.
I used the technology in a brief trial, and it was actually quite good. I think you could even watch multiple games. I thought about actually buying the service for the playoffs, but after deciding that the Flyers only had a roughly 50/50 shot of winning their first round series, and since two or three of those games would be on NBC, the $80 price tag was not worth it.
But even if I had purchased this absurdly priced technology service, I still wouldn't have been able to watch the recent Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals game, the one that features a matchup of the league's best two players in a highly anticipated duel. The series already including one game where both of them scored hat tricks, it's apparently been quite good.
But as I was saying, even if I had bought the internet service, I would've been blacked out.
Why? Because the NHL declared Versus the exclusive provider, which must extend beyond television to include the internet, teletype, satellite based kineoscope, mental telepathy, and whatever other technologies conceived across the galaxy.
Good call NHL, luck out in getting your best players against each other in the playoffs, and then do everything you can to make sure no one sees them.
That's the sound of all the non-fans clapping