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the Death of Hockey: the NHL then and now

It's a Canadian Game


blog-0101542001395968008.jpg“If it aint broke don’t fix it.” Unfortunately, this is not a tune people were singing about the National Hockey League back in 1998.

Among those people were Jeff Z. Klein and Karl-Eric Reif, the authors of the influential book the Death of Hockey.

In their book the authors clearly layout problems that they have noticed with hockey, problems that have plagued the NHL from standing among the other elite sports in the world. They touch on things such as the league’s overexpansion, the lack of control towards violent play, the removal of classic arenas, and more. While pointing out the flaws, the authors also suggest ways in which NHL could make adjustments to help bring the game back to the competitive nature that made it so great in the past.

The Death of Hockey is a monumental piece to sports history because it really helps to see where the game has come after almost 16 years and helps to provide a historical context to the game that millions still have a burning passion for.

So, how bad was the game at this time really? Well as Klein, now a sports reporter for the New York Times, put it, the game was in such turmoil that after the book was written both him and Reif stopped covering the sport for a bit.

“Karl and I we both gave up on hockey a couple years after,” says Klein. “Karl still hasn’t started watching again, he’s still out of it.”

While writing their book the two hockey fans also discovered that nearly twenty years prior a book of the same name had been produced on similar grounds to theirs.

“We picked that title of that book, unaware that two Canadian authors back in 1968-69 had written a book with the same title,” says Klein. “Their big argument was that the game had expanded too quickly, with six new cities all in the US and they were undermining senior hockey. So this idea had come up before.”

One of the biggest problems with the NHL 16 years ago was the belief that the game had gotten away from its rich history and that the league had forgotten to embrace its roots. However, Klein believes that this is where the NHL has made vast improvements, especially in the last six years and Klein believes that the Winter Classic and the outdoor games have played a large part in that.

“That was the real turning point and I remember the first one in Buffalo and the snow and Penguins white and blue jerseys it was perfect,” says Klein. “I remember all the people around me were not hockey fans, but they were all like ‘wow look at that’ and that moment, that was a turning point.”

Klein likes where the game is now and what the league has done though he still believes that the length of the average season remains too long.

“I think the season is still too long and with so many teams it’s sometimes too hard to keep track,” says Klein. “That’s the biggest problem and then the playoffs go on forever.”

The Death of Hockey will really help readers and hockey fans to greatly appreciate the game for what is now by learning about the state that it was once in. As for Klein, he believes the game has finally strung the right tune with a lot of people as he says, “I’m awfully glad that we’re no longer having to deal with these stupid questions about what does hockey have to do.”


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