Gary Bettman has always seemed to be one that believes in quantity over quality. He’s a money man, so that’s not hard to understand. What these money men need to understand, however, is that there is a delicate balance that needs to be struck between quantity and quality. Quality tends to get lost when one solely focuses on quantity, and quality often is more important if you want returning customers… which means more money in the long run.
Under Bettman, the NHL has added four expansion teams. According to the Hockey Rodent’s calculations and estimations, this has diluted the NHL talent pool, which has created teams and a game of lesser quality. Sure, there may be more teams in more markets, but the product that the fans in each of these markets is being offered is not what it used to be. People aren’t going to want to watch or get into a game that is getting worse and isn’t as entertaining, especially when they’re having to pay more money for that product year after year. I mean come on, what businessman expects to sell a product for more money each year, when the quality of it goes down each year? Even the auto companies know that doesn’t work. Hockey fans may not be the smartest folk, but we sure ain’t dumb!!!
The expansion of the league brings about two other major problems, which the NHL has recently tried to fix with band-aids. First, the dilution in the talent pool and overall player skill level has changed the flow of the game. New (expansion) players can’t keep up with and can’t play at the level of the existing players, which results in a lot more holding, hooking, and grabbing. Secondly, the addition of these sub-par players has driven up the salaries throughout the league, creating more of a financial burden on the team owners and the league. See the cause and effects going on here? And just recently, the NHL and Gary Bettman have tried to fix these problems (which they created) with temporary band-aids… hello salary cap and new rules. It reminds me of the pharmaceutical industry… creating and selling drugs to treat “illnesses” and “diseases”, which only creates more “diseases” and “illnesses” later on, for which they will sell you another pill. This seems to be the American attitude towards everything… treat the symptoms for a temporary and immediate fix, and not get to the root and cause of the problems. Do whatever it takes to make money now.
What makes this such a hot and worthwhile topic right now is that the NHL and Gary Bettman are seriously considering adding two more expansion teams to the league… one in Kansas City and one in Las Vegas. I have my own issues with adding teams there based on geography and the hockey subculture, but I won’t get into that here. However, the issues that the Hockey Rodent brings up and I have discussed here should be a clear warning to Bettman and the league about the consequences of league expansion. Based on what we have seen, the most logical thing would be to reduce the number of teams, which would improve the skill level of the players, and thus, the quality of product that we the fans pay for. I do know that the Atlanta Thrashers are having tough times surviving… so who knows, maybe they will be moved to Kansas City or Las Vegas.
So please Mr. Bettman, start thinking about the future of the game, and know that fans would prefer a league of quality, rather than one of quantity. And remember like we all should, the decisions that you make and actions that you take today can have severe consequences which cannot be solved with a temporary fix or magic pill in the future.