“Is there going to be another outdoor NHL game this season?” Paddy asked as I joined him at our favorite table in the coffee shop.
“There’ll be two more,” I told him, “one in Chicago and one in Vancouver.”
“I’m getting sick of them,” Paddy groused, “aren’t you?”
“The novelty has certainly worn off,” I acknowledged, “but the National Hockey League seems to love them.”
“They’re just another damn Bettman freak show,” Paddy complained. “Just like the ludicrous three-point games and that stupid shoot-out.”
“I certainly agree with you that the three-point game is stupid and the shoot-out is nothing but a gimmick,” I said. “But I can understand why they like the outdoor games.”
“I’ll come back to the outdoor games,” Paddy said, “but before that, what’s that great example you use to show just how ridiculous the three-point game is?”
“You probably mean that, theoretically, a team could lose every game and still make the playoffs,” I suggested.
“How does that work, again? Paddy queried.
“If they lost all their games in overtime or shootouts they’d still have eighty-two points, which, with the wild card set-up could be enough to make the playoffs.
“That’s about ridiculous as it gets,” Paddy observed.
“No, it’s not,” I countered. “A team could theoretically go through an entire season without scoring a goal and still make the playoffs.”
“How the hell could that be?” asked an incredulous Paddy.
“If they lost all their games 1-0 in overtime and shootouts,” I explained.
“But, that could never happen,” Paddy protested.
“Likely not,” I agreed, “but, as I said, theoretically it could; which proves how stupid the three-point game is. But back to the outdoor games.”
“You’ve got some inside hockey contacts,” Paddy observed. “Do you know how the players feel about the outdoor games?”
“I ‘m told they like playing in their first one, for the experience, I guess, but are less keen about playing more than one,” I told him.
“And what about the owners, why are they so keen on them?” was Paddy’s next question.
“I don’t need any inside information to answer that,” I said. “It’s strictly money. The outdoor games are enormously profitable.”
“Does any of it accrue to the players?” Paddy asked.
“Indirectly,” I told him. “Under the agreement with the players’ association outdoor game revenue is included in the definition of ‘hockey related revenue.’ That increases the salary cap, so salaries will go up.”
“I watched that game the Leafs and Wings played,” Paddy said. “It was hard enough to see the game on TV; I don’t how the fans that were half a mile away could have enjoyed it.”
“They’re not there to watch hockey,” I explained, “they’re there just to be there. It’s the event that they want to experience. They don’t care if they can’t follow the game.”
“Not my cup of tea,” Paddy said.
“Nor mine,” I agreed, “but they’re not catering to us.”
“Do you think these games bring any new fans to the sport?” Paddy asked.
“Not many, if any,” I answered.
“But they’ll continue to have them,” Paddy suggested.
“Yes, as long as the big money rolls in,” I said.
“What about injuries?” was Paddy’s next query.
“Ask Sydney Crosby about that,” I suggested. “There’s no doubt in my mind that rain and fog in the outdoor game against Washington was at least partly responsible for his near-career-ending injury.”
“I was surprised the game in LA went off without a hitch,” Paddy said.
“Me, too,” I agreed. “As a matter of fact, the insiders that you referred to earlier told me the league thinks it was the most enjoyable of all the outdoor events. They even said that the ice was the best. So I expect we’ll see more southern venues now that they’ve proven that climate isn’t really an issue.”
“Would you make any changes?” Paddy asked.
“One for sure,” I answered. “I think they should limit the outdoor games to football stadiums. Baseball stadiums just don’t lend themselves to adequate lighting, decent sight lines or workable camera angles.”
“But,” Paddy said, “if it’s just the money from the live audience who come just for, as you put, the ‘event’ that matters, they’re not going to worry about the TV audience are they?”
“Probably not,” I agreed.
“So, more next year I guess,” Paddy said as he got up from the table and shrugged into his coat.
“At least four is my understanding,” I told him.
“All Bettman cares about is the money,” Paddy spat over his shoulder as he departed. “He doesn’t give a damn about the integrity of the game, does he?”
Paddy was too far away to hear my answer so I just sadly nodded my head..