Answering your rants on schedule, jerseys and NHL

Updated: January 26, 2007, 5:26 PM ET
By Linda Cohn | ESPN.com

I don't know about you, but I just couldn't get it out of my head. An affliction that began after watching the battle of the NHL YoungStars on Tuesday night. I kept humming this tune …

Gary Bettman
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezLinda's a fan of the NHL's new jerseys.

Duh, duh, duh, duh, da, da … duh, duh, duh, da, DA, DA, DA …

You're humming along now as you're reading this, aren't you? Remember? After every one of the 17 goals was scored, the same musical tune was blasted out in American Airlines Center in Dallas.

Duh, duh, duh, duh, da, da … duh, duh, duh, da, DA, DA, DA …

Just when I thought it went away, it came back Wednesday night during the NHL All-Star Game.

Duh, duh, duh, duh, da, da … duh, duh, duh, da, DA, DA, DA …

Yup. They brought it back, enough times for me to conclude that I prefer goal horns.

During the All-Star break, we also learned that the NHL and its owners voted to leave the unbalanced schedule as is for at least one more season.

As you know, I recently criticized the unbalanced schedule and, as I found out from my readers, I am far from alone with my concerns. Not only did the majority of you agree that the current schedule was boring and hurting hockey, but some of you also had insightful ideas. Here are some of your thoughts on the schedule, and other league issues.


Linda,

I could not agree with you more on your recent article about the NHL's schedule. I grew up in Detroit and now live in L.A., and I am fortunate enough to see the Wings play the Kings a couple of times a year. But I am also an avid Montreal Canadiens fan. They never come here and they are part of the Original Six and it seems absurd we only see them once every couple of years. I feel the NHL should embrace more of the Original Six rivalries and spread out the divisional rivalries so they actually have some merit.

-- Bob

Bob, you hit on two great points. First, if we, the hockey fans, are going to be forced to endure another season of eight games against divisional foes, can we concentrate more on spreading these meetings out more evenly throughout the season? That way, we have something to look forward to. I am also in favor of making four of those eight meetings home-and-home series in an effort to get some of the intensity back, or at least create some heat if we do have to see the same teams so often.

I couldn't agree more on the Original Six scenario, as well. I received several letters on that subject, like this one:

Hi Linda,

I agree completely on the schedule and I think that the league blew it again. … What's even worse than the unbalanced schedule is the unfair advantage Eastern teams have with their lack of travel. Here is a more rational division of NHL teams taking travel and schedule balance into consideration:

Original Six Conference (10 teams): Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Rangers, Islanders, Toronto, Montreal, Nashville, St. Louis, Columbus.

Eastern Conference (10 teams): Buffalo, Philly, Carolina, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Florida, Devils, Pittsburgh, Ottawa, Washington.

Western Conference (10 teams): Dallas, Colorado, Phoenix, L.A., San Jose, Anaheim, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Minnesota.

Each team plays 5 times against each team in its conference (45 games), twice against every team in the other conferences (36 games), with one game left over at the discretion of the NHL.

-- Ken MacLean

Nice work, Ken. I just don't think the NHL would make such a drastic change. It's not in their nature.


Linda,

I have two solutions in mind, and I'd really love it for you to take either one, or both, of these ideas and make them your own:

I think the NHL should, at the very least, swap the Bruins and the Penguins, divisionally speaking. This would still leave the historic Montreal/Toronto rivalry completely intact, while giving the NHL some much-needed New York/Boston (and additional Original Six) appeal. At the very least, each O.S. team should have one other O.S. team as a divisional rival.

Or, the NHL should take a SERIOUS look at reinstituting a division comprising just the Original Six teams! Can you imagine the jump start that this would give the NHL? Those are the rivalries that would make the country take notice of hockey. No more "regional" games, just a "Hockey Night In Canada"-type nationally televised game.

-- Mark A. Williams

I like the Bruins-for-Penguins swap in the Atlantic, but comprising an entire division of Original Six teams is an extreme. The league won't buy into it. Not sure I would, either. We just need more games featuring Original Six teams in general, something we'd see if the schedule becomes more balanced. Another aspect the hockey fan misses with the current schedule -- rematches of past Stanley Cup finals (Dallas-Buffalo, Anaheim-New Jersey, to name a few).


Hey Linda,

How can your All-Star list NOT include the National Anthem at the 1991 All-Star Game in Chicago? With the first Gulf War having just started, Wayne Messmer's "Star-Spangled Banner" was drowned out by 18,000 fans at the old Chicago Stadium. The place was full of American flags and signs supporting the troops. It showed how great Chicago fans are, and it was one of the best moments in the history of the Madhouse on Madison.

-- Joe Peterson

Good call, Joe! I don't know how I forgot that one, considering it was one of those moments that are so rare in sports. You remember where you were, who you were with and how you felt when it was taking place.

I also received a lot of e-mails on my omission of Mario Lemieux's performance in the 1990 All-Star Game. He scored a natural hat trick in the first period and four goals overall in front of a ravenous Civic Arena crowd. One reader, Rob Slane, also reminded me of one of the great quotes to come out of the event. Mike Vernon, the Campbell Conference goalie who faced Mario's barrage of shots, was asked when he knew the game was out of hand. He replied, "When I found out the All-Star Game was gonna be in Pittsburgh."

I thought I gave Super Mario much love in my piece (I mentioned Lemieux's six-point outing in 1988), but when you get a goalie quote like that one, you have to give it some props.


I believe more than anything else that the NHL needs to understand what its game provides more than any other professional sport: SPEED. How do you market that speed and frenzied pace? You have to let them play on an Olympic-sized rink. With today's equipment and average player strength, the North American rink contains and limits these fine athletes from really showing off their abilities. With the new rules in effect, this is the perfect time to make the switch to international ice.

-- Will Eide

Will, you make a good case. But while the NHL would gain by showing off its players on a larger Olympic-sized rink, it would not outweigh what the league would lose -- the hard-hitting, heated intensity that comes with playing on the current rink. It works in the Olympics because you have the intensity of countries going after each other. It would not work in the NHL.

I also received many notes on the new jerseys. I have no problem with the tighter-fitting jerseys as long as the players don't. And while we're talking jerseys, can we please return to the white jerseys at home and dark on the road? I don't care how many jerseys each team has or what logos are on it. Don't tell me what other sports and leagues do. This is one tradition the NHL should keep as its own.


Linda,

I, like other people, have a very keen and undying interest in the reasons for why the NHL has taken such a downward popularity spiral these past few years. I remember the heat between the Red Wings and the Avalanche, the attention the Stanley Cup playoffs received, the players that weren't the best but who everyone knew, such as Darren McCarty and Claude Lemieux, among many others. Anyway, what are your thoughts as to the reasons for the lack of caring from many people toward the NHL.

-- Brad Dahms

While the NHL did create a buzz with some of its new rules when it returned from the lockout, it still didn't look big picture when it chose not to rebuild its product on a network that is seen by the masses. Some casual sports fans became hockey fans by accidentally watching the Stanley Cup playoffs late into the night on ESPN2. I'm speaking as a hockey fan first, not as an ESPN employee. If the NHL was still on ESPN or just ESPN2, the visual exposure of promotion and highlights could have been much more valuable.

Thanks for writing and rising above the madness, hockey fans. We're in for a great second half!

Hooked on hockey, Linda Cohn is an anchor for ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNEWS. She has been with the network since 1992 and promises a gluttony of glove saves in her weekly column. You can e-mail her at linda.cohn@espn.com.

Linda Cohn

SportsCenter anchor
Linda Cohn joined ESPN as an anchor in 1992, was a SportsCenter staple and still hosts select SC shows. She has expanded her role with the network, hosting ESPNEWS' NFL Blitz and College Football Saturdays on ESPN2. She's also hosted coverage from the Super Bowl, WNBA Finals and the X Games.