HHOF Welcomes Third Minnesotan!

Marc Elliott

Do NHL Nets Need To Be Enlarged To Aid Scoring? Here Is My Answer!

ST. PAUL… In the early eighties I was a young man diligently working as a materials estimator for a company in my hometown. Occupying the desk next to mine was one of two company artists. This gentleman hailed from the hockey hotbed of South Saint Paul. His son had come up through the SSP youth hockey ranks with a burgeoning young player named Phil Housley. In the recent past the NHL Buffalo Sabres had drafted  Housley and time was drawing near for him to head east for the upcoming 1982-83 NHL season. In his last season of play for the Packers High School team Housley tallied 65 points in 22 games. It was widely acknowledged that Housley had the goods to become an NHL player, at least in Minny.

What no one knew or could gauge was just how good he would be. Minnesota hockey was starting to get some props but by and large the NHL was still a bastion of Canadian dominance. It didn’t take long for him to show the hockey world outside of Minnesota what he could do. As a rookie he got 66 points in 77 games playing for the legendary Coach Scotty Bowman. That would be a great indicator of what would turn out to be a 1495 game career that saw Housley amass 1232 points on 338goals to go along with 894 assists. Housley was the highest scoring American born player to ever play until the Dallas NorthStars Mike Modano passed him during the 2007-08 season.

I can distinctly recall my colleague smiling from ear to ear one morning during our coffee break that Phil had signed his Sabres contract a few days earlier and then cashed his bonus check, went to a local car dealership, bought a new Camaro sports car, packed it to the gills and then headed out for Buffalo and the beginning of his dream career. One of the most amazing things about Housley was his skating ability and that he could play defense or up on the wing. When Bowman noticed other teams starting to key in on him, he began to shift him back and forth between ‘D’ and wing, he was that good.

Housley will take his place in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto and in what is a bit of an unbelievable stat, will be just the third Minnesotan to gain entrance into the hallowed hall as a player. Wow. That is an indication of how good you have to be to get into the Hall. I got to see Housley play many times over the course of his career and he was one of the smoothest of the smooth. Congrats to you Phil from all in the State of Hockey…

IT MUST HAVE BEEN A boring day because during a press scrum last week, Toronto Maple Leafs Head Coach Mike Babcock dove in to the “lets increase NHL scoring by making the nets larger” hooya. This is a topic of much discussion at some points of NHL seasons going back years. It never seems to get enough traction to become a realized rule change, and that’s ok with me. I am dead set against it.

First off I am against changing any long held standards in any sport where major records have been established utilizing those set standards. Every scoring and goaltending record in hockey has been set using a 4’ by 6’ cage. Are you going to shorten the length of the basepaths in MLB to increase base stealing? But let me step back. First off, I always hear this refrain’ “fans want to see more scoring”. Do they? Is there some factual, empirical data that proves this as a matter of fact? I mean, I have been observing the NHL since the early sixties and there have been many changes and “eras” to the game. I have seen the all-offense-no-defense era, the all-defense era and blends of the two. How about the all-fighting era?

But regarding scoring levels, how many times have you seen a 1-0 or a 2-1 game and hear fans on the way out of an arena stating, man, that was one of the best games I have ever seen? Or at the end of a 7-6 game, for crying out loud, that game was a regular slop fest!
Sure, I am familiar with all of the complaints, goalies are bigger and more athletic then ever before, their equipment is better and perhaps bigger then it needs to be. The counter to that would be the usage of today’s composite sticks, which enable skaters to shoot harder and faster then ever before.

Soccer, or “football” depending where you are from, has an incredible 24’ by 8’ cage! Many soccer games are low scoring affairs, 1-0, 2-1, etc… Are soccer fans the world over in a tizzy because there aren’t enough goals being scored? Are they calling for bigger sized goals? What would those monsters be? 30 feet by 10 feet? I don’t follow the sport save for some World Cup events so I don’t know, but I have heard nothing to the effect. So what’s the reality? Is this a real problem or is it a perceived problem? Online polls are all over the place if you can even find one that has any semblance of a well thought out professional opinion poll.

I had to give this some thought, but the opinion I have arrived at is this; perhaps we are in an era whereby the game is finally being played at as close to it’s maximum potential as is possible. MAYBE what we have been witness to over the decades is poorly played hockey. Perhaps what we have watched over the many seasons is the natural human transitional improvement in the way we approach and do a particular thing. Yes, there have been some extremes in this process, but considering the progressions of facilities, athletic training and ability, equipment, strategy and structures, maybe, just maybe we have finally arrived at a place where the game is being played as it should be. It isn’t easy to hit a homerun, or get a touchdown, and by god it’s not easy to score a goal in hockey anymore. That’s what makes it so exciting when it does happen…. PEACE