What do you expect from ice hockey in Florida?

Jan 2, 2001 12:32 AM

While most of the nation is frozen in snow and ice, the Florida Panthers’ offices are hot. The Brothers Murray were fired as coach and g.m., and the elder administrator Bill Torrey is trying to pick up the pieces as acting g.m.

Bill Torrey? My mind wandered back to when he was general manager of the Champion Islanders and my old boss was talking about saving the sport of hockey on TV.

"I begged Torrey to talk to the owners around the league and change the hockey format," said Bob Williamson ("Willie," to his friends).

Willie had been g.m. at WOR-TV (Channel 9) in New York. The station carried the Islanders games.

"I told Torrey," said Williamson, "The ratings drop right through the floor when the intermissions start. The people tune out and many don’t come back. Two intermissions is one too many. Why can’t hockey do like the other sports and just play two halfs?"

Hockey people change their precious format? For TV? Not a chance!

The NFL has geared its game for TV. It’s a major reason why it’s head and shoulders above all the other sports put together.

Hockey? It’s worse now on TV than it was before television. Hockey’s old plus was its speed. A goal is scored and bingo the puck is dropped, and off we go again.

Up and down the ice they went. Now the commercial breaks have changed the game from two hours to at least two and a half hours. And still two intermissions.

Helmets went on the heads so you can’t tell Pierre who from Pierre whom. And they refuse to have the shootout, which the fans love, to decide games. They still have too many ties.

The fans be damned. This is the way hockey always was and it’s staying that way!

Er, not quite. You see, there’s no team in Quebec City — in my opinion, the best hockey town I’ve ever been in. But there are teams in Florida and Arizona. What the hell is going on here?

The ratings are in the dumper despite the fact that ESPN shamelessly promotes the games. I say shamelessly because, although I can’t prove it, I suggest that more hockey stories are used during Sportscenter than the fans’ interests truly deserve.

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of hockey people and rink rats that I love. But most are on the college level. The college game is better. And the women’s college game is terrific. And improving by the year.

Maybe the NHL will finally think about some of the ideas Williamson thought of and I’m repeating 20 years later.

Williamson had some good ideas. When he first came to Boston to head Channel 7, he told us he’d have an "open door policy".

"My door is always open to everyone," he said as he addressed us for the first time. "But anyone who comes in with questions had damn well better have some answers," he growled.

I’ve always wondered how many people went in to see him.


The best performance in the NFL on the final weekend of the regular season was turned in by Doug Flutie: 20 for 25 passing for close to 400 yards and a perfect QB rating (off the scale). And on the road and in the rain. That-away to take it to them, Doug. All the way up!

If you gambled and lost on sporting events in the year 2000, at least you got to watch the games. How about the suckers who lost on the NASDAQ, which turned in its worst year ever?…

Anyone who voted for a player other than Giants QB Kerry Collins as Comeback Player of the Year is wrong. Wager against him at your own risk…

The Dallas Mavericks are the best team in the NBA…

Tommy McNeely, who you may know from the Shogirl in Las Vegas, has expanded to the East Coast. He put on the best holiday party I have ever attended…

No one deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame more than former wideout and place kicker Gino Capelletti. Gino is still kicking them perfectly.

Onward to victory!