With the time without hockey drawing to a close, this is the perfect time for perhaps the most radical change to increase scoring. In the past each NHL rink was unique, different sizes, different angles, and board heights that varied widely. Unfortunately those days are no more, and you an hardly tell where a game is being played unless you can see the log at center ice. While I would be the first to cheer the return to unique arenas like the Old Boston Garden, the Aud, and the Montreal Forum, it just isn’t practical.

Instead, I propose moving all faceoffs not following a penalty to the home team in the third period be moved to the offensive blueline of the home team. When it comes to driving ticket sales, and viewership in each city, nothing works like winning. Supercharging the ability of the home team to score goals by giving them sixty feet of  ice will make teams that struggle to draw a bit more attractive to casual fans

There are two types of teams that struggle to score goals. Teams like the Edmonton Oilers have been in recent years that have a great deal of difficulty getting the puck out of their own defensive zone, and teams like the Saint Louis Blues or Nashville Predators who either aren’t in the top half of the league in offensive depth, or  who play a system that doesn’t lend itself to aggressive offensive pushes.

You can also read parts one two and three.

 

One of the numerous ways casual observers and mental lightweights have decided is the perfect way to make the scoring easier in the NHL is to reduce the size and protectiveness of goalie equipment. Given all the safety concerns in professional sports, this just seems like a train-wreck waiting to happen.

Today’s idea is a slightly different application of physics. From the NHL rulebook:

The puck shall be made of vulcanized rubber, or other approved material, one inch (1”) thick and three inches (3”) in diameter and shall weigh between five and one-half ounces (51/2” oz.) and six ounces (6 oz.). All pucks used in competition must be approved by the League.

This is the puck size used up and down the hockey ranks in North America. Kids use it, and your favorite NHL star probably has a couple hundred at home for shooting at their favorite wall, net or old dryer. As athletic as today’s goaltenders are, I suspect changing pad sizes and thickness would do little to increase goal scoring and might even decrease it as net minders would have greater freedom of movement.

But what if the NHL went with a puck that wasn’t the size we’re all used to? With all the technological changes to equipment in the last century of play, why are they still using the same old puck? Making the puck smaller and heavier would likely produce more goals than making changes to pads.

If the size of the puck is dropped from three inches around to 2.75 inches it will fit through more gaps in pads. The positioning of goaltenders to cover the post, close their five hole and maintain a snappy glove will become paramount. Yes the surface area of the puck does help it stay flat, but that’s why the change in weight would be the second element.

By inserting a small weight at the center of the puck you can counteract the lost mass, and increase it. Rubber isn’t the densest material in the world, and it fairly easy to mold around other materials. How far up you want to go with the puck weight will tell you what material to use. Bronze, ceramic, or nickel are all dense materials and a small disc or ball shape in the the middle of the puck would add the mass handily, but other materials are options.

With the loss of surface area, and the increase in weight pucks will have greater inertia. This means goalies with leaky pads will have to work harder. Pucks that hit the crossbar are a bit more likely to land in the net or even bounce off the goaltender and drop. There will probably be a slight drop in pucks that go just over the net as well. The lowered surface area would mean it had less ability to keep air under it, and longer shots from the tops of the circles out to the points would be more likely to stay at or below crossbar height.

Click here and here for parts one and two in the series.

Despite my frequently disparaging remarks about cerntain other major sports, hockey isn’t the only sport I like. Football (the real stuff, not the hands free nonsense) has major appeal for me. The water polo is actually pretty interestin when the Olympic roll around, and rugby either in seven man or larger teams is always worth putting on. None of those however are really comparable to hockey, and none are set up for comparisons and cross-pollination as much as lacrosse.

One of the things that struck me as I watched some college and professional lacrosse was the difference in stick sizes. Defenders have longer sticks than attackers allowing them to do their job better. Then there is the width of the stickhead, that’s the interesting part. They tend to vary. One of the most frustrating things when watching NHL hockey is how often pucks bounce over the stick of defenseman at the point. During even strenth play this is annoying, during the powerplay it is maddening.

Why not allow NHL defenseman to play with sticks with a taller blade? An two or even three inches higher blade should increase offensive zone time, and reduce the dangerous nuetral zone play.  With bad ice in numerous buildings especially late in the season pucks traveling to or near the blueline as pucks are cycled from hih to low anything that allows teams to keep the action going in the offensive zone is a plus for the team and the league as a whole. Another aspect of containing those bouncing pucks is the difference between where the blueline is now and where it traditionally had been. The extra distance means that players deep in the offensive zone have to apply more force to the the puck to get it all the way out to the defensemen. The extra force makes the puck more likely to bounce or simply travel above the ice the entire distance.

Not only will taller blades help keep pucks in, they will allow defenseman to take better shots on those bouncing pucks. As perhaps the greatest coach in hockey history discovered, some times those shots on a puck that isn’t sitting perfectly flat can have a great impact.