UPDATED:August 1, 2005

 EURO-FOCUS

By Danny Pugsley.

 

The lockout is over. The NHL is back up and running, now signalling the drafting of the future face of the NHL and a mad rush of buy-outs and free agent signings. The wagons are hitched and superstars of the NHL are making their way back across the Atlantic to the all-new, all-shiny NHL.

Well guys, to those that came over to Europe, we hope you enjoyed it. As the NHL will surely never let another lockout happen in our lifetime (they can't can they?) it will be the one and only time we got to see not all, but a lot of the cream of the NHL talent.

Personally, the closest I got to watching the NHL players live was when Manchester qualified for a European tournament and we got to see a young Ari Ahonen, Toni Lydman and Jan Caloun light it up. This year, as the lockout dragged on into the winter months, the UK saw the likes of Rob Davison, Wade Belak and Nick Boynton on the ice.

I had no desire to see the lockout stretch into a second season. It gave me an interesting opportunity to cover the game here for Spectors Hockey and hopefully it raised some awareness and interest to hockey fans in North America, but without a doubt the hockey world needs a strong NHL.

The NHL though needed to change though and interestingly for me, has it managed to learn anything from the game and Europe as a whole? With the changes in store for the NHL, what has the NHL taken and what could it learn from Europe to make it better as it looks to establish a successful new era.

The shoot-out: Apparently, this idea has gone down a storm and everyone loves a winner but I just cannot warm to this contrived way of producing a 'result'. It is something that has been tried in Europe without success and for me ties can conjour up as much excitement and emotion.

Three points for a win: This is neither an original suggestion by myself, or something that has come directly from European hockey but would go along way to removing some of the negative coaching and play in the NHL. Tied game with five minutes left? Do you think both teams would be so cautious and try to head to overtime? European soccer leagues have opened up so much over the last fifteen years or so since they switched to three points for a win. That one point would make such a difference.

Two line passes: I've seen this argued against as it may encourage defenders to play even deeper to counter the breakaway threat that will be there. I'm all in favour of it and can't wait for speedsters to be able to take off and take advantage of the two-line pass being launched across the ice.

World Championships: With no NHL playoffs, it gave all players an opportunity to participate this past season. It is Europeans showpiece tournament and hopefully participation will be as good as it was this year for future tournaments.

Rivalries: Mainly due to expansion, I feel there are more established and historical rivalries in European hockey. A good move by the NHL then to increase the number of division and conference match-ups to generate an extra 'edge' in games. I would have liked to have seen them reduce the number of regular season games to around the seventy mark as eighty-two is way too much and leads to a lull in excitement during the regular season.

Compensation for European players: A big disappointment for me this one. I felt the previous arrangement in place offered little in the way of compensation for European clubs. With the new agreement in place, teams have a deadline of July 15th to sign European players and the only compensation to be paid are certain financial penalties if a player fails to make the roster for 30 games during the season. I am in no way suggesting that Europeans shouldn't go over to the NHL but surely teams should be awarded some level of compensation for the time and development they have given to player? I'm very surprised that the Russians have agreed to this as it was rumoured they would try to negotiate their own separate deal.

Russian owners: If all else fails, why not attract a load of Russian oil billionaires in? There'll be no arguments over revenue sharing, salary caps or cost certainty if that happens - well, as long as one of them buys your team anyway. If not, then they are likely to just come and snap up your best players whenever they want. Damn you Roman Abramovich…

I would be interested to hear any comments or views at the usual email address: DannyPugsley@Hotmail.com

Danny Pugsley is a contributing writer for extrapoint.net, allsports.com, and the soccer magazine 'City Till I Cry' and now has his own blog. Danny resides in England and is a Boston Bruins fan.

 

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