Friday, December 2, 2011

Wild West Show

Step right up! Get your tickets here! See the Winnipeg Jets Wild, Wild West show. Experience high flying, fast skating feats of amazement as these young players straight from the frontiers of the Canadian north will dazzle and astound you. There will be spills, chills, feats of strength and neutral zone antics of every description! Get you tickets here!

I think every NHL city should have a carnival barker announcing the arrival of the Winnipeg Jets when they come to town, because with the brand of hockey this club is playing right now they should be the hottest ticket in town.  Don’t misunderstand me though, it’s not necessarily a winning style of play, but oh boy is it fun to watch.

Next week at the board of governors meeting every owner of every NHL team should get down on their knees and kiss Mark Chipmans ring. Not only for doggedly perusing a club in Winnipeg and showing how small passionate markets can save the business of the NHL. But also for mandating his club’s style of play not be about winning at all costs, but be about entertaining at all costs. Now as a fan you’re probably thinking that’s a bit counter intuitive, but really it has a simple brilliance to it that seems lost on the NHL braintrust. Quite simply put, this club is giving hockey fans what they want and what they want is exciting hockey.

When talking about the attendance troubles in the NHL we keep hearing a familiar refrain from troubled teams; “people will show up to see a winner”. The standard reply on the other side is that “winning is not a business plan” and if you look at it from the simplest possible perspective this is absolutely true. Someone in the league at some point in time needs to be losing. Thirty teams can’t possibly end the season with a winning record , so there must be another dimension, a hidden quality, some sort of secret sauce that brings sports fans out to see losing teams , if only we could put our finger on it and nail it down.


Now I’m just putting this out there, but here’s a crazy idea and I know it’s kind of out from left field, but here it goes; let’s get the teams to play open ended exciting hockey. I know, it’s shocking! Let me put it this way, would you rather go see your team trap all night, and feel like you where attending a baseball game or would you rather see a back forth game full of hits, saves, and goals but in a losing effort. Now I know everyone wants to see their team win, but frankly, what I really want is to be entertained.  I want to be sitting at the edge of my couch watching the game, punching cushions. Not falling asleep on the couch with a cheeto hanging from my mouth watching a New Jersey trap extravaganza (How are they doing for attendance by the way…)

Now I know what you’re thinking reader; bcmike you’re preaching to the converted, we all know the trap sucks, what’s your point. Well what I’m trying to get across is that True North seems to have found the secret sauce, because really, even though this young team is slightly under 500, who walks out of the MTS centre not feeling like they just saw something cool? And if the Jets keep playing run and gun with reckless abandon how long will it be before the Jets are a sought after ticket in out of town rinks as well?

Now this may simply be one clubs long term philosophy on how to put a product on the ice, but I also think it’s a blue print to save the NHL, and believe me the NHL needs saving. Don’t believe the rosy talk from the NHL about gross revenues increasing dramatically year over year. There are no fewer than three clubs facing immediate peril and an untold number that must be straining if you look at their attendance figures. If you want to save these markets, you not only have to get people to games with free hot dogs and beer, you need to give them an experience they will remember and a staid defensive game with the occasional fight thrown in to wake everyone up is not it.

Instead these markets should look to change their philosophy from; win even if it means putting everyone to sleep, to put on a great hockey show that will stay with fans long after. Let’s open up the game and play Winnipeg Jets hockey; a fast attacking style with the defensemen jumping up into the play and the goal tenders bailing them out. Let’s see strong physical forwards cut to the net with speed, and playmakers dipsy doodle dangle in the attacking zone. And yes, once in a while let’s see a couple players (not goons) enforce the unwritten rules of hockey in a fight.  It doesn’t really take rule changes to make this happen (Although the illegal defence concept is tempting) it just takes a shift in mindset; lets pursue an entertaining exciting product. Let the young stars off the chain and give them the latitude to light it up.

Again, I think True North sees the value in this approach and has successfully resisted the urge to play conservatively and possibly put a few more wins on the board. Instead we have been treated to some rootin tootin roller coaster rides that have made us happy to pay the price of admission. So I say Buff keep pinching, Pavalec keep up the acrobatics and Kane keep scoring.  I for one am enjoying the show. Maybe it’s time for the rest of the league to follow suit.

Step right up…

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