Yesterday I wrote an article describing how hockey would be better of doing away with offsides. My long-time friend Rhett the Jet, who is a hockey expert, lambasted me on Facebook with why that wouldn’t work.
“This flat out doesn’t work. Hockey is one of the most dynamic contact sports in the world. Players move at 30 mph, the puck is passed at upwards of 80 mph, and is shot at around 100 mph (wrist and snap shots; slaps are around 120). You get rid of offsides, and forwards will just camp their opponent’s zones.
I have personal experience with a no offsides rule. I have reffed games where we haven’t called offsides. It made the game nearly static and lost the speed and mobility. You say the lack of high scoring is the issue? I doubt that. Look at the number one sport in America, with the highest paid athletes, and the most merchandise sold; it’s baseball. People LOVE baseball. I LOVE baseball.
But scoring isn’t the issue, my man. It’s because how many American kids lace up in the winter on ponds and lakes? As compared to all those kids (we spent many an hour doing this at your house) shooting hoops, lining up on an imaginary line of scrimmage at recess, or re-enacting the World Series with a mitt substituted as home plate? It’s because hockey, like rugby or soccer, is not ingrained into American culture.”
I definitely see RTJ’s point. As a hockey purist, he believes the game will not speed up with the offsides rule being taken out, but instead slow down, because players will not be in motion, but instead cherry-picking on the offensive end.
The part I disagree with is that scoring isn’t an issue. I think we love to see that and that’s why the NFL has neutered defenses. We want to see touchdowns and big plays.
I also don’t believe baseball is the top sport in America. I love baseball too, but the NFL is king in today’s world. My esteemed colleague Ari Kaufman will battle until he’s blue in the face to note that it’s just due to fantasy football and gambling. But regardless of HOW it gains popularity, the numbers don’t lie and more people watch the NFL every week than watch baseball.
When I asked RTJ what he thought about widening the field to create more space or making the goals larger, he seemed intrigued.
“As for larger rinks? Hell yeah, I’d love to skate a larger surface. Larger goals would result in higher scoring, but there would be more trash goals…”
So I leave it to the casual fan… what do you think would help hockey gain more popularity? Is it fine the way it is, or do rules need tweaking?