Racing For The Bottom

Living in Germany can be difficult for a hockey fan, unless you are willing to lose some sleep. The National Hockey League is far away, which means the best games start after 1 a.m., a time when I prefer to be sleeping.
As an Ottawa Senators fan that has been pretty much a blessing this season, as the team stumbles towards finishing last in the league. I haven’t felt compelled to watch their ineptitude, not if it means losing sleep. From what I read about the team occasionally online, I wouldn’t recognize many of the players anyway – there has been an almost total turnover in the slightly more than two years since I last attended a game. But there is still hockey on offer if I like. IMG_20190303_1859431

In the past month I have taken in a couple of live professional hockey games, grabbing the train to Freiburg and catching the Freiburg Wolves, who play in the second division of the Bundesliga, Germany’s pro hockey league. I see from their website that they used to play in the top division, but the club has fallen on hard times.

So much so that once again they face relegation to a lower division, with a couple of post-season games in the offing to see if they can play next season at the current level. Which has me thinking.

The NHL in some ways rewards mediocrity. Bad teams are awarded top draft picks for young players. Be bad for a few years and you can acquire some very talented players cheaply.  That gives an incentive to strive for less than excellence.

I wonder if things would be different if the NHL followed the example of European soccer (and hockey). Have the bottom dwellers each season relegated to the next level, the American Hockey League. Promote the top two AHL teams to the big league.IMG_20190303_1900135

Yes, I know there are problems with arena size and salaries, and that most AHL teams are owned by NHL clubs (or at least the players are). Still, it is an interesting concept. It would make the race for thee bottom a little less attractive.

There’s a lot I don’t care for about German professional hockey. It isn’t the same skill level as the NHL, especially the coaching. Nowhere near in fact. But I think they’ve got the relegation part right. As a fan I think it would be fun to see the NHL adopt the idea.

I just can’t see it happening.

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