Shootouts, smaller goalie equipment coming to NHL.
Tuesday, June 7, 2005 Updated at 4:24 PM EDT
Toronto Ties could be broken by shootouts after regular-season
games whenever the NHL restarts.
It's not official yet, but club executives agree they need a more
entertaining product, says New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury.
"If they don't have a shootout, I'll be shocked," says
Milbury. "That's an easy one.
"The fans want it, and it's the least we can do after spitting at
them for the last 12 months."
Fans in the AHL and elsewhere have grown to enjoy shootouts, says
Steve Tambellini, director of player personnel for the Vancouver
Canucks. The trend is obvious.
"It sounds like most people want a definite outcome a win or loss
one way or the other," Tambellini said during a break on the second
day of the three-day NHL research camp Tuesday.
Shootouts would be used to decide a game if it remained tied after a
five-minute overtime period.
After watching free-agent junior and college players test on Monday a
radical plan by Boston Bruins president Harry Sinden that allows
passing from the top of the faceoff circles to anywhere on the ice,
and the use of nets four inches (6.5 centimetres) taller and eight
inches (20 centimetres) wider than normal, club representatives took
in scrimmages Tuesday to test zero tolerance on obstruction fouls and
weird-looking nets with arced posts.
The most likely changes in NHL play for the next season are
shootouts, smaller goalie equipment and tag-up offsides. Some of the
radical stuff being tested is too over the top for many GMs.
"We have, traditionally, been very conservative as a group," said
Milbury. "There isn't any doubt about that.
"We've tried to be respectful of the game's history and heritage but
the coaches haven't. They've coached the hell out of it. They've
coached defensive hockey and worked the trap and angles and crowding
in front of the net, and goalies have cheated like a son of a bitch
over the last number of years.
"We've got to respond. Other sports respond."
To Milbury, the essence of an NHL game is the players' passion,
skating, speed and aggressiveness.
"It's not the rules," he said. "The rules have changed all the time,
and I don't think we should be afraid of that."
The no-tolerance obstruction scrimmage saw a parade of players to the
penalty box for interfering even in the slightest ways with opponents
who didn't have the puck. There were constant whistles and, it
seemed, power plays most of the game.
It's only a start though. Players will adapt, said Milbury, adding
that the next crackdown on obstruction during NHL games will succeed.
"There's more resolve on the issue this time around," he said. "You
could see in this scrimmage they were picking it up little by little.
"Over time, players will get it and stick with it."
The camp is all about opening minds to changes that will make the NHL
brand more fan-friendly.
"My definition of that is more entertainment through scoring
chances," said Milbury. "We want to change things to make it more fun.
"That's all we want to do. We want to open things up. I love the
game. It's a great game. But it's been coached and goaltended to a
point where it needs to be adjusted."
There's no time to hesitate.
"We've been categorized publicly as being nothing short of being
neanderthals over the years when it comes to change," said
Milbury. "Hockey is revered in Canada but we're in trouble south of
He suggests a committee that has authority to make decisions on rules
changes. As things are now, the NHL holds meetings with
representatives from the 30 clubs and things get bogged down. Often,
nothing gets done. A committee of five GMs, a coach and a player
would be more effective, Milbury said.
"One with teeth," he said. "Not one that comes back and says, 'Gee,
we want you to consider this.' I want it to come back and say, 'Here
it is. We're going with bigger nets, we're going without red lines.'
Tambellini is not as adamant as Milbury in seeking changes, but he
loves what he's been seeing.
"The intent of the whole few days is to see things that everyone has
been talking about for some time, and I think it's been great," said
Tambellini. "It gives you a chance to actually see the changes we're
"We're trying to do things that show how great our players are. It's
the responsibility of everyone in the game to explore ways to see how
great the game can be."