League May Consider Penalty Quota

The NHL should set a quota of 30 minor penalties per game, according to an Institute for Hockey Affairs proposal, which attributes a 25% increase in scoring this year to a 50% increase in the number of penalties called.

“We believe that by setting the 30-penalty quota, the league will finally be able to attract the fans who disregard hockey because of its low-scoring games,” said Dr. Freddy Shero IV, director of the Institute. “And after all, isn’t that what its all about, attracting know-nothing fans?”

The proposal analyzed play in the first three days of the current season and compared the data to the similar period last year.

In the first three nights of regular season play this year, the zeebs called an average of 13.1 penalties per game, compared to 8.1 penalties/game last year. The additional penalties produced 2.1 power play goals per game (1.3 ppg/gm last year) and 5.5 total goals per game (4.6 g/gm last year).

“Simply by calling 30 penalties a game, the league can increase scoring to an average of 10 goals per game,” according to the proposal’s executive summary. “This should be sufficient scoring to attract football, baseball, and basketball fans who are already completely conditioned to accept a stoppage in play every couple of minutes.”

To illustrate its point, the report produced a minute-by-minute comparison of Thursday’s opening night game between the Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars and the American League Divisional playoff game between the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics.

Hull gets stitches over left eye six minutes into an 82-game season [change channels] … Appier looks in, O’Neill steps out, O’Neill steps in, Appier gets the sign, the pitch, low and away, ball one, Joe Torre smoking in the dugout, Appier asks for a new ball, O’Neil steps in, a beach ball is loose in the outfield … [change channels] … Forsberg goes behind the net, shrugs off a check, tries the wrap-around, Belfour — great save! [change channel] … Appier looks in … the pitch … foul ball … 2-2 on O’Neil ….

“Anyone who would intentionally watch a baseball game instead of hockey only because there is not enough scoring in hockey would certainly make the change if hockey could regularly produce scores of 6-4, or 7-3,” Shero said. “And don’t get me started on football, where it takes three hours to get in about 1 minute and 45 seconds of action.”

A penalties-per-game quota is the next logical step in the league’s pandering to a wider audience at the cost of alienating its core constituency, Shero said. Even though fighting is an integral and respected part of the game in which the players police themselves, the league has buckled under to criticism that fighting is ruining the sport, he said.

“Obviously Gary Bettman has never been in an arena when two boys decided to go,” Shero said. “Either that, or he’s not listening to the paying fans.”

The quotas also give the on-ice officials more opportunities to even-up their calls during a game, Shero said, noting that the Institute’s analysis looked at the pattern of calls, as well as the number.

“Pick a game, any game, and you’ll see some sort of pattern,” Shero said, flipping at random to the page that contained the data on last Saturday’s Buffalo vs. Los Angeles game, which the Sabres won at home, 5-3.

“Los Angeles got the first two calls — tripping at 2:47 and, as soon as that expired, slashing at 4:53 — and converted both power plays,” he said. “Then, six of the next eight calls went against LA, and Buffalo converted twice. The next three calls went against the home team, and the last two against the visitors,” the final one resulting in an empty-net power play goal.

“Maybe penalties do run in streaks like that, or maybe the refs — consciously or not — try to keep things even, but two things are certain: the referees’ new vigilance makes for a higher scoring game, and we think the league should capitalize on that to draw in new fans,” Shero said.

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