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Latest round of changes to NHL aren't so hot

By Norman Chad

A HOCKEY FAN since birth - upon delivery, I likened being in the womb to being in the penalty box - I spent most of my adolescence yearning for an NHL that expanded beyond the original six teams, dreaming of realignment, a longer season and outdoor games played on aircraft carriers, oil rigs and in Walmart parking lots.

Frankly, my childhood dreams have turned into adult nightmares.

The 2013-14 NHL regular season begins this week, with a cacophony of change that Couch Slouch can only question, ridicule and deride:

  • The Oct. 1 start date is the earliest ever for the league. I'm sorry, didn't summer officially end, like, a week or so ago? It's bad enough the NHL plays out its postseason almost into the summer; now it has to drop the first puck right after summer? Next thing you know, these jokers will be scheduling games on the beach.
  • I comprehend the concept of, say, Starbucks being open all the time because people like to drink coffee year-round, but nobody - NOBODY - is fantasizing about watching Blue Jackets-Predators games year-around.

    Maybe the NHL is trying to compensate for the fact that it had its latest starting date ever last season - Jan. 19 - due to a minor misunderstanding between players and owners.

  • In the newly realigned NHL, there will be 16 teams in the Eastern Conference and 14 teams in the Western Conference. Okay, what am I missing here? The league did not add any teams - it's still at 30. And 30 divided by 2 equals 15. (I'm having Nate Silver double-check my sabermetrics as we speak.) So why would the NHL intentionally create unbalanced conferences?
  • Because they're morons on skates.

    The league decided it wanted four divisions instead of six - we'll get to that momentarily - so it now has two eight-team divisions in the East and two seven-team divisions in the West. This is akin to the Kardashians buying Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan with Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob occupying 31 floors while Kris, Kendall, Kylie and Bruce Jenner occupy 27 floors.

  • The new Western Conference divisions are the Central and the Pacific, the new Eastern Conference divisions are the Atlantic and the Metropolitan. Yes, the Metropolitan. I'd call it the Amtrak Division before I'd call it the Metropolitan Division. How much weed do you have to smoke before you sit in a room and say, "All right, our new divisions are the Central, Pacific, Atlantic ... and Metropolitan!"
  • Division names rejected in favor of the Metropolitan: Urban, Suburban, Tri-state Plus Another Area, Turnpike, Legends & Leaders, Megalopolis, Norris and Carlos Danger.

  • There will be six outdoor games this season. All of a sudden, outdoor hockey is all the rage. Baseball's been playing outdoors for generations - what's the big deal?
  • This is an overreaction to the success of the annual NHL Winter Classic. Don't get me wrong: I like the Winter Classic as much as the next guy. But I also like the Fourth of July and Arbor Day, and those celebrations would lose their appeal if they came every other month of the year. My other problem with outdoor games in the dead of winter is simple: It's cold out there, man.

    Two of the outdoor games are going to be played at Yankee Stadium; at least that gives Alex Rodriguez a couple more shots to make his way there before he retires.

  • The league will take an 18-day break in February to allow players to participate in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Let me pose this: What if none of the players come back? That's right - what if they all defect to Russia? What, it couldn't happen? Heck, Edward Snowden spent 40 days in the Moscow airport alone - that city IS HAPPENING.
  • I also think you take the risk - as the league does nightly with its two in-game intermissions - of fans just wandering off to the NBA or "Duck Dynasty" during such a long hiatus.

  • Due to the Sochi Olympics, there will be no NHL all-star game this season. Now we're talking.
  • Ask The Slouch

    Q. Tonight I walked into my son's room and found him watching an NHL preseason game. As one father to another, how do you think I should handle this? (Jeff Dent; South Charleston)

    A. Frankly, I believe you need to look inward - socially deviant behavior doesn't happen in a vacuum.

    Q. Will you always remember where you were when you heard that Oracle Team USA completed its historic comeback to win the America's Cup? (James Jensen; Indianapolis)

    A. I think I was in the bathtub playing with my Fisher-Price Float Boat.

    Q. Ever bump into Tony Kornheiser around town - you know, maybe at Wells Fargo or Whole Foods? (J.R. McGuire; Oxon Hill, Md.)

    A. No, because I run to the bank every week with my ESPN paychecks while he has somebody deposit them for him.

    Q. Was the fan able to make an appearance at Miami Marlins Fan Appreciation Day or was he too busy to get there? (William Murray; Chicago)

    A. Pay the man, Shirley.

    You, too, can enter the $1.25 Ask The Slouch Cash Giveaway. Just e-mail asktheslouch@aol.com and, if your question is used, you win $1.25 in cash!


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