This NHL thing is a mess.
And both sides are to blame. Yes....the players make more money than the means of the league are. But, the owners are the ones who gave them those contracts.
CONTRACTION. The NHL has been living off all this expansion money. Money gained from expansion in San Jose, Miami, Tampa, Ottawa, Columbus, Atlanta, St. Paul, Nashville and Anaheim. Also money gained in franchise relocations in Phoenix, Denver, Dallas and Raleigh. That money is dried up. And it is obvious that expansion may have killed the league. The "sun-belt" boom that hockey felt when Wayne Gretzky made Los Angeles into a hockey town ushered in these teams. These cities will support winning hockey [see 2004 Lightning and 2002 Hurricanes]. But if it isn't the place to be....the no one wants to come. There are half-empty arenas all over the league. Two teams were on the verge of going out of business. Recently, Winnipeg asked if it could buy the Pittsburgh Penguins and move them up to Canada. They were told NO.....but then Sun Belt teams started inquiring about Winnipeg's interest. It is rumored that Nashville would sell it's franchise for $40M.....half of the expansion fee paid by each of the 4 newest teams.
LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION. The problem with some NHL clubs is they cannot compete for the almighty sports dollar. Going to a hockey game is pretty expensive. So casual fans probably are priced out. And when you are #4 of the Four Major Sports Leagues....you need to find ways to gain new fans. If you live in Atlanta....you would rather save your money and get a Falcons ducat. Or Braves. Or G-Tech. If you live in Miami...you would rather have Marlins, Dolphins or Heat tix before the Panthers. Yeah, the Original Six towns will always adore their teams. But these newer franchises don't own a firm fanbase. One thing the NBA did SOOOO well was incorporate non-professional cities into the mix. Cities like Orlando, Portland, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Memphis, New Orleans, Sacramento, Indianapolis and, San Antonio either have just the NBA franchise or maybe one other pro sports team [usually NFL]. So those cities tend to embrace their clubs. But the NHL has abandoned that theory by letting Hartford, Quebec City and Winnipeg leave. They did make a turn by netting Raleigh, Nashville and Columbus....but it may be too little too late. Maybe move teams to Seattle, Portland, Boise, the Dakotas, Providence or back to Hartford would help.
CANADA. The problem with dumping clubs is that the Canadian teams may all go. Only the Toronto Maple Leafs stand to lie in the wake. I mean, how can cities like Edmonton and Calgary compete if cities like Quebec and Winnipeg couldn't keep their teams. Even the Mighty Montreal Canadiens are struggling. That's like saying the Yankees, Celtics or Cowboys may fold due to low revenue. Impossible to fathom!
POPULARITY. Honestly....the Arena Football League enjoys more popularity than the NHL. That is sad. We all know that hockey isn't a great TV sport. But, neither is baseball....but it still chugs along. If you blame the fact that there aren't many well known Americans in the NHL....you may have a point. We don't care about a bunch of Euros and Canadians. But, how many kids have Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks jerseys?? Or Peja Stojakovic?? Or Steve Nash?? Yao Ming?? Exactly. And there is a lack of name recognition. Who are the teams shown most frequently?? The Red Wings, Rangers and Penguins. Why? Offense, New York and Mario. That's all most people know about the NHL.
RULES CHANGES. We all know that the NHL has turned defensive. Basically, players are bigger and faster....but the ice size has stayed the same. So, in turn, areas of the ice are choked and cluttered so it becomes unwatchable.
GET RID OF TIES. Look, there is nothing stupider in sports than a tie. The entire concept of pro sport is to determine a winner and loser. So if you must sit thru 65 minutes to watch a meaningless game....why go back to the arena?? The ol' saying "A tie is like kissing your sister" I guess would hold true. Get rid of the ties!! Have a sudden death like the playoffs [which is what makes hockey great] or just hold a shootout.
REALIZE YOUR PLACE. No offense, but the NHL is not at the level the NBA, NFL or MLB enjoys. So they cannot ask for the same amount of money per ticket. The NHL isn't as down as the other pro sports leagues [MLS, WNBA, AFL]....but they aren't as high as the Big Three.