I don’t know how many of you have been following the Therma Blade story but it smacks me as yet another stupid thing done by the NHL. A Therma Blade is a hockey skate with a heated blade which in theory melts the ice allowing the blade to cut through the ice easier and thus allowing the player to skate faster and possibly give the player enhanced endurance. We can all argue whether making this really big really fast players even faster and whether that is a wise thing for the game or for the number of serious injuries it may or may not cause but my problem is with how the NHL is going about testing them.
In the past when the NHL wanted to test stuff, particularly rule changes, it worked with the AHL and tested them there first. Most of the major rule changes that have occurred in the NHL were tested in the AHL first. It seems like it makes perfect sense to me because it doesn’t make sense to make the best league in the world a testing ground. But when it comes to Therma Blades testiing in the NHL is perfectly fine.
The NHL is currently allowing four unnamed players to use Therma Blades as a test. It may sound like I am nitpicking but since Therma Blades are essentially supposed to enhance performance doesn’t allowing some players to use them and others not to harm the integrity of the league by giving certain players/teams an unfair advantage? I will accept that the advantage is probably small but an advantage is an advantage and this is yet another sign that the NHL cares very little about the integrity of the game.
When the NHL brought in the overtime loss extra point it harmed the integrity of the game since the fact that some games are worth three points and others are worth two points is just plain stupid. When the NHL brought in the four on four hockey it hurt the integity of the game because it gives an edge to teams that might be better at four on four hockey but in the playoffs four on four hockey is not used so in theory you may not get the best teams making the playoffs. The same thing, though with a much more significant impact, can be said about the shootout. The Tampa Bay Lightning are a perfect example. They are a weak team that solely made the playoffs because they were really good in the shootout (and at participating in OT games) which allowed them to garnet a significant number of extra non-hockey points allowing them to make the playoffs. But since they were very weak regular play team they looked completely out of place in the first round in each of the past two playoffs. This is not good for hockey nor is it good for the integrity of the game.
But when it comes to the Therma Blades this harms the integrity of the game in a whole new way becaues the NHL is admitting that they are knowingly giving certain players, and thus teams, an unfair advantage. It really doesn’t matter to me how large or small that advantage is, or even if in reality it is an advantage. The belief is that it is an advantage and the NHL should be ashamed of itself for taking the best hockey league in the world and making it a testing ground for products all while harming the integrity of the game in the process. Again, it may seem minor but if the big wigs running the NHL don’t believe that the NHL is too good to be a product testing league then what else are those big wigs going to do to harm the league.
Oh yeah, there was also that whole new jersey fiasco as well where the NHL imposed subpar Jerseys on the players solely for the purpose of extracting more money from Rebok and from the fans (yes those sub-par Jersey’s cost more). Until the NHL puts the quality and integrity of the game ahead of being a corporate product testing ground/marketing system and ahead of gouging every last penny out of their fans they are doomed to failure.