I'm not going to make some big rant against all the Hockey bashers, or try and change anyone's mind. I know, and people like me know that Hockey is perhaps the best spectator sport out there - it doesn't translate well to TV, certainly, and in this era people seem to equate that to being irrelevant. It's too bad, though to be honest I don't -want- someone whose not willing to make the effort to find Hockey and watch Hockey, because the one thing I've seen of the other sports is 'Casual' spectators (I'm not going to call them fans, because FAN by it's definition cannot be casual) have ruined the experience. It's why I'll never set foot inside an NFL stadium again - with a couple VERY extenuating circumstances. Most people I've encountered at those events care about getting drunk and being ****holes more than they do the game. I've never had a negative experience in an NHL arena, and I've been to about half of them in my lifetime.
That being said, Hockey needs a little help still. The shootout thing? Nice experiment, but lets end it now. Tie's aren't bad, some days the two teams really ARE dead even. But here's what else needs to change... A regulation win should count 3 points, an OT win counts 2 points, a regulation tie or overtime loss counts 1 point. IE: Sabres beat Senators (Like that'll happen) in regulation: 3 points. Sabre's force OT with Senators and win 2 points, Senators get 1 point. Sabres and Senators play to a Tie after OT, each gets 1 point. At the moment, generating an 'extra' point in OT, as opposed to regulation has bunched things up too much and made it too easy for a bad team to be rewarded for ugly play - See... Devils, New Jersey and Rangers, New York.
Still, if anyone doubts how great Hockey is... grab a video of the last period and overtime of the Maple Leafs - Flyers game from last night (3/12/08) and take a look. THAT is what Hockey is all about.