- Chris Sprow, ESPN Insider
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When Ernie Banks used to say "Let's play two!" at least we were comforted in knowing:
1. It wasn't because he thought he could use the exposure.
2. He actually wanted to play.
3. He wasn't throwing his injured teammates under the bus.
If only we could say as much about the NHL, and it's commish, Gary Bettman.
Frankly, if the NHL really wanted to get the attention it so dearly craves, why not just play a double-header anyway? Then at least the league's decision to cram three Stanley Cup games into four days -- not enough time to add even a new whisker to Sid the Kid's playoff patch -- would seem novel. Instead it just looks like a league brought to its knees because it drove itself, to quote Iron Mike, into bolivion.
Worst of all, the NHL gets nothing from NBC in terms of rights fees. This is just a quick grab at a larger audience (and a new TV contract, one would think), forget the fact that it clearly affects the competitive balance of the series. It's not like watching the Indy 500 in this format, but we know it's affecting performance.
Hopefully for the NHL and its fans, the gamble works. Hopefully a few new fans are minted. It's a great league, over-expanded and under-exposed as it is. But this isn't the Winter Classic, which never felt gimmicky. This is just pandering to a new fan base while ignoring the knowledgeable, passionate one you have. That the NHL for so long made that philosophy a rule makes this a smaller story than it is.
But that Detroit, the league's model franchise, is being dinged by the decision only reinforces the issue.
The NHL seeks exposure in the worst possible way.