NHL general managers meet to discuss rule changesThursday, April 12, 2012 By Kelsey Surmacz
On March 12, general managers of the National Hockey League began their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. to discuss rule changes regarding player safety for next season. The main topics of discussion concerning rule changes included the removal of the trapezoid behind the goal crease, the instatement of hybrid icing and the reinstatement of the two-line pass back into hockey. “There’s a real intent that we want to keep pushing the rules, broadening the language,” Edmonton GM Steve Tambellini said. “We don’t want to change the nature of the game, but we want to protect players in a bad situation.” Analysis of the issues? The trapezoid, well, it’s understandable. Why should a goalie be confined to a mere trapezoid when playing the puck? The game is getting faster and goalies are going to need to become better at handling the puck, and the “no-play” zone does not allow enough space for the goaltender to efficiently assist his team in starting the rush to the other end. So the trapezoid is a dumb rule, anyways. Hybrid icing? I’m all for it -- this rule would certainly reduce the number of injuries due to the race to the puck on a soon-to-be icing call. In short, if by the time the player who is on the offensive to beat out the icing call is clearly going to lose the race by the time he reaches the faceoff circle, icing would automatically be called. However, if it is still not clear who will win the race to the puck by then, the referees will let the play proceed. This would not only make the game safer, but it would also preserve the excitement of the speed and intensity of the game. As for the bringing back of the two-line pass: What? This is the one thing that cannot be done. Just think: When the NHL came out of the lockout in 2005, the game was evidently faster and more exciting (and not just because Sidney Crosby began his career). Well, this was because of the removal of the two-line pass, which allowed for defensemen to join the rush and make exciting tape-to-tape passes to their forwards or teammates bailing out of the penalty box, who were all the way on the other end of the ice. Offside will obviously still be in effect, so it’s not like anyone can make a three-line pass. Another problem with putting the red line back into effect is the initiative that would be recreated for teams to play a trap-style defense, since the game would be slower. The trap is notorious for boring spectators, so why watch hockey attendance and NHL TV ratings go down? Just ask the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers, two teams who were both well-known for two decades to play this style of hockey. They finally decided to reform their defensive approach a few seasons back, and it seems to have positively influenced their fan bases. Ticket sales have gone up, and it is noticeably a decibel or two louder in their respective arenas during home games. Aside from rule changes, what the GMs should really focus on is the fact that NHL officiating has put away its whistles this season (aside from some dirty hits, which are sometimes on the opposite end of the spectrum). There is drastically more clutching and grabbing, and the amount of power play opportunities per game for every team has taken a downfall. This has led to a lot of controversy, from fans and even players and coaches. “[The NHL] didn’t tell us they were going to go easy on us,” Pens defenseman Brooks Orpik told the Tribune Review of the amount of penalties being called. “But it’s pretty obvious that it has changed. “We aren’t getting to our special teams. We aren’t getting power plays. It’s pretty tight right now. There aren’t a lot of scoring chances. There probably should be a lot more penalties than are being called… Our team is built for the new rules, not the old rules.” Whether the main focus of the meetings is rule changes or evaluation of officiating, NHL fans should perhaps expect some drastic changes ahead, for better or for worse. “Good rules evolve,” said Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s top disciplinarian. “We felt we could do a little more, go a little further. We’ll see if the [NHL Players Association] and the competition committee agree with us.” Let’s all just hope that the NHLPA and the competition committee make the right decisions through the eyes of hockey’s diehards.