Saw a very interesting bit in a piece by Mark Everson today in the New York Post.
In order to heighten interest midseason, Everson smartly advocates in-season holiday round robin play built into the regular season schedule.
Even though I do not necessarily advocate the greater theme of his article, that being that the NHL is "lifeless," the league itself has deemed rivalries important and his idea is one of the more unique suggestions I’ve seen.
Buy, build or sell sponsorship rights to 10 trophies and play home-and-home round-robin tournaments among geographical rivalry groups of three. The points count in the standings since they’re regular-season games, and the team with the most points in the quick "tourney" wins the trophy.
One possible bunching: Boston-Montreal-Ottawa, Toronto-Buffalo-Pittsburgh, Islanders-Rangers-Devils, Philadelphia-Washington-Carolina, Atlanta-Tampa-Florida, Nashville-St. Louis-Columbus, Detroit-Chicago-Minnesota, Colorado-Dallas-Phoenix, Anaheim-Los Angeles-San Jose, Edmonton-Calgary-Vancouver. It’s almost a natural, and some are merely very good, others great.
Christmas is the obvious time, since teams are CBA-obligated to come home at that time and everyone can restart with nearby games. As it is, most games between Christmas and New Year’s are against area foes, and it would just be a case of setting it up. The league almost did it by accident, with the Devils playing the Isles home-and-home and playing host to the Rangers tonight, needing only a holiday visit to the Garden to complete those two slates.
Divisional foes already play eight times, so two during the holidays wouldn’t be unfair, and those teams meeting outside their divisions would still only devote half their mutual matches to such a tourney. If it’s too hard to do them all consecutively, all the league need do is specify the tourney games in the schedule they’re already playing anyway.
Ok, my turn.
I’d like to put a similar idea into this interesting blue-sky brainstorm session -- and obviously my thought is more Bruins centric.
Why not have the NHL’s Original Six teams (Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal, NY Rangers, Toronto) play for their own trophy during the regular season?
Hopefully, future realignment or scheduling might allow for the six teams to play at least a couple of games against each other (one home, one away).
Just count up the points on these "throwback" nights (and for teams like Montreal and Boston, who play more than twice, designate just two dates for this purpose), and name a champ.
Have the teams wear throwback jerseys, invite alumni back, maybe even have an alumni game.
In short, celebrate the history and rivalries that made the NHL great.
In my mind’s eye, this would work out like the Ivy League Hockey title.
For those of you outside of the northeast United States, all of the Ivy League’s collegiate hockey teams play in the ECACHL (Eastern College Athletic Conference Hockey League) and are playing their regular season games for seeding in that conference’s tournament -- just like the conferences in the NHL.
But several teams (you guessed it, six squads) in the ECACHL are members of the Ivy League (Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Yale).
So, for instance, Harvard’s games versus Princeton, Yale and the like are deemed slightly more important by fans and players thanks in large part to the Ivy League match up. And this is so even if both teams happen to be at the bottom of the ECACHL conference standings.
And I believe the Ivy League teams even have banners depicting their Ivy League championships right next to their conference and national championship flags.
Those rivalries, just like those of the Original Six, go back a very long time, and are continuously heightened by the Ivy League championship. And those hard feelings even cross over into the most benign regular season meetings.
So, for my heretofore fictional Original Six Championship, the team with the most points out of those 10 special games gets to keep a trophy (call it the Patrick Trophy, named for the very important, especially in terms of NHL and hockey history, Patrick family) and put a year up on a banner.
My thought here, in conjunction with Mr. Everson’s, is that in-season tournaments are found in nearly every level of hockey.
Why not give the fans something to look forward to earlier in the campaign, especially around this time of year?