Think globally, not locally

Hey, listen up, hockey fans.

I know how to fix your precious NHL.

Now, before I save your sorry league, let me preface this ingenious solution with an acknowledgment that I don’t understand a word of the collective bargaining agreement, nor have I watched more than a handful of NHL games this season.

Nope, I’m just your average ex-hockey fan. In other words, Mr. Bettman and Co., I’m precisely what you’re trying to get back. So here’s how to get me watching again:

Not by eliminating two-line passes?

Not by creating weird trapezoidal areas behind the nets?

Not by making shootouts more commonplace than sunrises?

And not by making your refs prevent contact like chaperons at a fourth-grade sock hop.

Believe it or not, you can keep hockey exactly the same as it always was. No need for a two-point line, a slap shot clock or whatever the NHL was thinking of installing next.

Instead-for the first time in sports history-the phrase “addition by subtraction” seems to have a relatively logical application: I propose the elimination of every NHL franchise that is in a market where either A) there are more local cases of bird flu than hockey fans, or B) it’s so hot the freaking ice goes bad every spring (in other words, any team named after a predatory tropical cat).

That leaves twelve teams: New Jersey, New York (Rangers, no more Isles), Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Colorado and Dallas also survive the corporate layoffs, but they move back to their respective original markets and again become the Quebec Nordiques and the Minnesota North Stars (we pretend the “Wild” never existed).

The divisions? Simple: Canada and America. Seven teams each. The top three teams from each group reach the playoffs, with the divisional winners receiving byes until the semifinals.

With this set-up, the Stanley Cup would once again appeal to our national pride and not just seasonal local allegiances. Poor Canada gets to have its sport back and the remaining markets in the United States have home fans who can discern the difference between a hockey game and the Ice Capades.

With just 14 teams, TV deals will start rolling in and OLN can go back to televising parasailing specials.

Casual fans will be compelled to watch veritable All-Star teams, with Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, and a host of other superstars up for grabs in pro sports’ inaugural contraction draft.

Players will still be happy because they can play hockey the same way they grew up playing it. To boot, a more concentrated league financial base would be able to support their enormous, unwarranted contracts. For those who don’t make the cut, it’s not as though they’ll have a tough time feeding their families on six figures a year in Eastern Europe.

In short, hockey would reach its maximum potential in both exposure and long-term sustainability. The league would be saved and the only critics would be the few devotees of the fallen franchises and their owners (some of whom, however, might be happy to have these financial black holes off their hands).

To those opponents of my plan, I beg you to think not of yourselves, but of the need for the sport of hockey to survive in our national consciousness.

Forget Don Cherry for a second and take a page from the Commie environmentalists. Sure, your trash (say, the Columbus Blue Jackets) isn’t that bad for the environment, but if everybody throws trash all over the place (say, the Southern United States), the whole environment is completely destroyed.

How can you think of your petty financial investments in the face of this doomsday scenario? We need to take preventative measures, or the league will lose the few fans it has left.

In other words-there are too many men on the ice, and it’s time for a few game misconducts.

[email protected]