Volume 97, Issue 3
Thursday, June 5, 2003

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Hockey fans losing interest

The Point After
Ian Denomme
Sports Editor

I will admit I am a biased, die-hard Leafs fan. Therefore, anything that doesn't involve the blue and white will have a hard time grabbing my attention.

However, I am still a hockey fan, and even with my bias I have always enjoyed watching the Stanley Cup finals – that is, until this year.

There's definitely something lacking in this year's final and it's called offense. The New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Mighty Ducks are locked in a battle that lacks the entertainment factor of years past.

Hockey has become a game of systems and for the most part defensive systems are prevailing. The days of high scoring, offensive hockey are long gone.

Never again will we see the Edmonton Oilers win the Cup with an 8-3 victory. Instead, we're left watching the Devils and the Ducks play low scoring, low chance, low emotion games.

Watching the Devils has always been like watching paint dry. They sit back and play their "trap" system, waiting for the other team to make a mistake first and therefore force millions to change the channel to American Idol.

The Mighty Ducks have been an incredible Cinderella story this year, overcoming all odds to make it to the finals for the first time in their 10 year history. Yet, they have done it much the same way the Devils did. They rely on their strong defense and goaltending and wait for their chances – the Ducks are 7-0 in overtime so far this playoff.

The NHL has expanded to so many teams there aren't rivalries anymore. How are these two teams supposed to develop a hatred for each other when they only play once or twice a year? A Stanley Cup final without emotion or bad blood is like a hippie who doesn't protest – it's just not as entertaining.

Ratings for this year's final are way down compared to last year in Canada and the United States (where professional bowling is getting higher ratings than the NHL). This is a very blunt sign that people are simply not interested.

In last year's final between the Detroit Red Wings and Carolina Hurricanes there was a total of 17 goals scored and one shutout in four games. In this year's final there has been 12 goals scored and already three shutouts in the same amount of games. The Ducks have scored just four goals, but have won two games.

The problem may not lie with just these two teams, but with the League in general. For years, commissioner Gary Bettman has been trying to increase scoring, with little success. The debate on how to make the game better has been raging for years.

In 1980 Hockey Night in Canada commentator Danny Gallivan said the league should be cut down to fewer teams in order to make the play better. That was 23 years ago when there were only 21 teams. Since then expansion has increased the league to 30 teams – Gallivan may have been on to something.

Regardless of the reasons or solutions, something should be done to improve the game. The Stanley Cup playoffs are the best time of year and should stay that way.

My solution: bring back a Leafs dynasty.

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2002 THE GAZETTE