It’s hard to believe that it was only last year that we were praising the NHL for reducing the intensity of its games. Back then we were saying how wonderful the league was for taking the pace out of hockey. Well, it turns out we were right. After a string of exciting finishes to the season, the league took a step back this year to try and figure out some ways to make the games less intense for the fans. Naturally, they didn’t want to take the pace out completely, but they did want to dial it back a bit.
This year’s playoffs were particularly exciting for fans of the sport. The matchups featured some great games that kept the pace but also allowed the fans to really appreciate the talent of the players. Even when the game was relatively slow, the skill level of the players ensured that everything was entertaining. It was like taking sugar out of candy.
Now that the season is over, we can take a step back and examine how hockey has changed. It may not seem like it at first, but there’s a lot that’s different now than there was a year earlier. Here are just a few of the ways that hockey has changed since last season.
A staggering number of goals were scored this season, with the total amount of goals eclipsing the previous record. It’s the product of more skilled players and new gadgets that make the sport more appealing to audiences. Thanks to instant replay, fans are able to keep track of plays that lead to goals. This adds an extra element of skill to the sport and encourages players to work harder for those sweet, sweet, net goals.
The NHL record for most goals in a season is 221, set in 2008-09. This year’s total of 363 goals is likely to go down in history as one of the greatest scoring seasons in the history of the league.
Through most of the season we saw some of the most dramatic scoring duels unfold as players fought for every inch of ice. The fighting was certainly a spectacle to watch, but hockey is a much easier game when there aren’t any penalties being called. The fighting did serve a purpose as it forced some defensive hunching which led to more open ice for the players who did spend the majority of their time there. The majority of fights this year didn’t even end in penalties being called; they were mostly fought by players who were trying to stop their opponents from scoring.
More Opportunities For European Players
The last couple of years have seen a steady stream of European players moving to North American teams. This year was no different as there were more players born in Europe than ever before. The NHL featured its first ever all-star game which took place in London. The game is now an annual event and was a great showcase for the best European players. Thanks to the new NHL-Euro Cup tournament that was launched this year, the opportunities for European players to come over and play in North America has increased.
More Opportunities For Canadian Players
Every year the NHL makes it easier for Canadian players to come over and play for their home team. This year the league decided to go a step further by giving out exclusive deals for home game attendance for those Canadian players. The incentive was to give Canadian players the chance to see the games from an entirely different perspective. While the deals might not sound very appealing, they can definitely be a good motivation for players who are desperately trying to make an impression and stick with the team for the whole season. The new NHL Canada Goose game jersey also makes it easier for players to identify with their nationality. For years the only way Canadians could identify with their nationality was through their name on the back of their jersey.
The First International Game
Last year was the first time in history that an NHL game had been held outside of North America. The Minnesota Wild played against the Chicago Blackhawks in front of a full house at London’s O2 Arena. The game was close throughout, but the end result was a stunning 4-3 victory for the Blackhawks. While this was a landmark event for the players, it was a whole different story for the fans who had to travel across the pond to see a game that wasn’t being held in front of them.
Increased TV Coverage
Another interesting development this year was the increase in television coverage. For years the major networks only covered major sporting events like the Superbowl and the World Cup. This year they adjusted their focus and decided to become more involved in local sports, particularly hockey. The result was a record-breaking number of people watching and/or following the NHL through their television sets.
The last time the NHL saw this level of viewership was during the 1994-95 season when a record 14.2 million people were tuning in to NBC for the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the game now in HD, the television viewing public can now get even more out of their NHL fix than ever before.
More Personal Stereos
A lot of changes have happened in hockey over the past year. While it may not seem like it at first, there’s a lot that’s different now than there was a year ago. The one thing fans will remember most about last year is how exciting the games were. Even when the action was relatively slow, the skill level of the players ensured that everything was entertaining. It was like taking sugar out of candy. This year’s hockey is in a different place. While it’s still entertaining, it also makes you appreciate the talent of the players all the more.