Monthly Archives: August 2011

Not enough hockey

We all know how drab the offseason can be; there’s not much going on this time of the year, which sucks, because it makes summer — what should be a happy time — more depressing. It took me a while to make the transition from enjoying intense, fast-paced playoff hockey to….baseball…but I got there. It was a slow process, but I finally accepted that hockey wasn’t going on right now, and I’d have to settle with baseball (oh, the Mets), the only thing going on right now (pre-season football doesn’t count because it’s pre-season football).

Whether your team has a legitimate shot next year, is just mediocre, or you’re a New York Islanders fan (those are really the only three ways to feel about your team’s chances), I’m sure you’re excited about the upcoming season. Will I be able to celebrate in the streets of my city and rag on all my friends about how their team sucks and my Stanley Cup is better than yours? Is this the year that [insert your team’s problem here] finally [comes / gets his s**t] together? Will Rick DiPietro play in more than three games before getting injured (obviously not)? So many questions and so much hope for the upcoming season. (Only 52 more days!)

But while we all [presumably] love the game so much, there are,  of course, problems with the league and the way the game plays right now that should be addressed. The league, with its efforts spearheaded by Brendan Shanahan, the VP of player safety and hockey operations, is trying to figure out what needs to be fixed, and testing the proposed ideas in the second annual research and development camp. Let’s see what they’re thinking about, as well as some other issues I think need to be addressed:

Hybrid icing: A combination between icing the way it is now and no-touch icing, players would race for the puck, and, at the referee’s discretion, icing would either be waved off (if the attacking player would win the race) or called before any contact came with the puck/at the boards (if the defender would win).

Probably a good idea. There’s no need to risk player injury by hustling to the puck and then go crashing into the boards for their effort if a  winner can be determined ahead of time, thus negating injury. HOWEVER, there are a bunch of icing calls where the players are neck and neck and a clear winner can’t be determined. Also, it takes away the potential for a player to win a battle by tying up the other player and touching the puck himself, or having a teammate do it. But if the rule does help player safety, then definitely go with it.

No icing permitted while shorthanded: Like the rule sounds, shorthanded teams would no longer be able to get away with throwing the puck down the ice and go unpenalized (if one team can’t ice the puck, why can’t the other?).

I suggest a compromise: shorthanded teams would be called for icing, but they are allowed to make line changes. It would discourage shorthanded teams from icing the puck, but not penalize them so much that powerplays become nearly impossible to kill off.

Overtime changes: The proposed change suggests four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3, and then a shootout (which would possibly include five shooters rather than three).

Just get rid of the shootout. Everyone is done with it. What’s wrong with a tie? I say one 10-minute period of 4-on-4, and if no winner is determined, the game ends in a tie. What’s wrong with a tie? Tying is like kissing your sister, as the adage goes. Better to kiss your sister than kiss your opponent’s ass in a shootout loss.

Offside changes: Amendment A) Teams that go offsides can’t make line changes. Amendment B) The ensuing faceoff will be in the end of the offsides team. (If both rules were instated, offsides would be just like icing the puck).

No, no, no. Teams are going to be offsides naturally if they’re trying to create offense. Yeah, let’s make teams AFRAID to go offsides. Don’t want to be screwed by accidently getting ahead of the play, trying to create offense? No problem! Just dump the puck in! We all know how exciting dump-and-chase hockey is. Fools.

Removing the trapezoid: Self-explanitory ( for those who don’t know, the trapezoid is the thing behind the net that indicates the only area in which goalies are allowed to play the puck behind the goal line).

Trash it. I never understood why they put it there in the first place. But while were at it, players should be able to make some contact with goalies that venture outside their crease to play the puck; I’m not saying allow goalies to be drilled, just allow players to bump them, thus discouraging goalies from going way out to play the puck but allowing them to do so in appropriate situations.

In-net goal line camera: Would place a camera inside the net that looks at the goal line to help solve any controversies about whether or not the puck fully crossed the line.

Why wouldn’t you? Even if it doesn’t work great, it certainly wouldn’t cause any more problems. It eliminates the problem of the crossbar getting in the way on the overhead shots we currently see.

Bear-hug against the wall rule (not in TSN article): Would allow players to hold the player against the wall instead of hitting them, in an attempt to prevent hits from behind/hits in vulnerable positions.

Well, it worked 80 years before the lockout, I suppose. It should prevent hits from behind that can really cause damage to players.

Those are the proposed changes the league is considering. But I think there’s a few more problems that need to be addressed:

Diving: One of the biggest problems in ALL of sports is when players try to trick the refs into believing that an infraction was committed when, on further review, there clearly wasn’t anything (see: professional soccer). Instead of just playing the game, players will fall to the ground, or jerk their head back, or grab their face, or roll around being unable to decide whether it’s their face or ankle that’s hurt, all in an attempt to draw a penalty.

While it can be very difficult to tell whether a player is faking it or not in real-time, it’s much less difficult to do so with slowed-down footage after the incident. I can’t get mad at all refs for not always calling dives, but I do get mad when the league does nothing about it. The solution is simple: Address each potential dive as you would a dirty play that warrants a suspension; review the tape after the fact, determine whether the player dove/faked something to trick the refs, and hand out a penalty (fine/suspension) if warranted. Since a dive is a dive, and there’s really no different levels of it, there’s really no room for case-to-case infractions (as there is with dirty plays), so penalties should be progressive and go something like this:

First offense: fine (I’m not an accountant, so we’ll say somewhere in the $20,000 range)

Second offense: one-game suspension

Third offense: three-game suspension

Fourth offense: ten-game suspension

Fifth offense: 30-game suspension

Sixth offense: Kicked out of the league

Harsh? Hardly. The game should have some integrity, and players shouldn’t be worried about trying to fool the refs. They should instead focus on playing the game. Strict penalties would greatly discourage people from doing something that shouldn’t be a part of the game.

Referee consistency: I’m not sure how one would go about fixing this problem, but, especially with the strict enforcement of minor infractions, there needs to be league-wide consistency on rules calls; specifically, hooking. Players don’t know what a hook is. The fans don’t. And it doesn’t seem like the refs do either. Is it lightly touching a player in the midsection with a stick, or is it going waterskiing on another player? I’ve seen it enforced both ways. These penalties, along with all others, need to be more consistent from ref-to-ref and game-to-game, and preferably, from an official’s call to his next (consistency within games).

Player safety: I’m really not qualified to offer a solution, so I’ll just mention that players’ safety, the head/brain area in particular, needs to be protected on a higher lever. I heard the idea of softer shoulder pads being thrown around (thus reducing impact of accidental shoulder-to-head hits).

Suspension consistency: We’ve all joked about how the suspensions handed out are ridiculous and make no sense, and come up with great ideas such as Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice, and hopefully that will change now that he’s stepped down. We all got our panties in a knot (for good reason, I might add) over Burrows’ bite and non-suspension in the Finals and have probably pretty much been upset with every suspension ever handed out. It’s tough, NHL, but fix it.

MORE GAMES ON NATIONAL TV: Not really a rule change, but it would help the game thrive, as it would my blood pressure. We don’t all get VERSUS (soon to be NBC Sports Network) or have the cash for NHL Network. NBC airs, what, 15 games during the regular season? It’s simply not enough for crazy hockey fans (you’re a hockey fan? Yes, you’re a bit crazy). Do something about it. I don’t care if it’s on a cable network like Spike TV or Oxygen (even if I have to sit through hours of tampon commercials), just show games that everyone can see on the air on a regular basis. Clean up your staff while you’re at it (i.e. Mike Milbury and the rest of those clowns).

 

I’m sure there are more issues that need to be addressed in order to ensure a better level of both play and consistency, but there are definitely some easy solutions for the game right now. Unfortunately, we’ll have another 52 days to think about it.

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