Q: What's the second-coolest part of the deal?
One word: Shootouts!
No more ties, no more standings that look like Lotto numbers, no more kissing your sister. Some purists are dead-set against the shootout concept, which is perplexing to me. Why would you be against something that makes the sport more exciting? I'm going to apply my time-proven "Channel Flick Test" introduced last February, when I was arguing the merits of a "Teammate Half-court Shot" at NBA's All-Star Weekend. Forget about how dumb it would be to watch teammates like Shaq and D-Wade launching as many half-court shots in 90 seconds for a second, desperately trying to top Kobe and Odom's score of eight. Would you turn the channel? Of course not.
The same goes for shootouts. If I'm flicking channels and stumble across a random hockey game, only four things are going to stop me in my tracks: A penalty shot, a fight, a shootout, or a mullet. And I don't think I'm alone.
Q: Wait, shootouts? How does this affect gambling on hockey games?
The team that wins the shootout will be credited with one more goal. So if you have the Islanders in a parlay with the over of six, and it's 3-3 heading into OT, and they win the shootout not only is the final score "4-3 Islanders" but you just covered your bet. See, aren't you glad I'm here?
Q: What's the worst part of the deal?
For whatever reason, they didn't jettison any franchises (even though they overexpanded in the '90s faster than Krispy Kreme, one of the main reasons we're in this mess). If I were running the NHL, I would have insisted on dumping our franchises in New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Atlanta, Florida, Nashville, Columbus, San Jose, Anaheim, Sacramento, Fresno, Omaha, Ithaca and Anchorage -- that's more than one-third of the current league. Then, I would have given back teams to Quebec and Winnipeg (if Degrassi High can return to Canada, so can the Nordiques and Jets) and added one in Vegas (under the "every league should have a team in Vegas" corollary). That would have given us 24 teams, including eight in Canada (the only country on the planet that cares about hockey). Perfect number.
Q: What's the second-worst part of the deal?
As the owner of eight hockey fight tapes from the '70s and '80s, as well as someone who still regards Stan Jonathan's beating of Pierre Bouchard as the highlight of my childhood, I was outraged with the new fighting rules. Not only will anyone who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game receive a game misconduct and automatic one-game suspension, the length of the suspension doubles for each additional incident. Basically, they're imploring us to turn the channel with five minutes left if either team is up by three goals.
(It's almost like they're openly taunting Vince McMahon to start the XHL at this point. I know I've written this a million times, but if the XHL goes head-to-head against the NHL on Tuesday nights well, which league would you watch? I know where I would be.)