The NHL has been trying since the lockout to get scoring totals closer to the so called golden age of Gretzky and his contemporaries. Some of the measures that have been enacted to little or no effect include shrinking the neutral zone, moving the initial faceoff to the defensive zone of the penalized team, and of course the oh-so-beloved shootout. This year they’ve reduced the size of goalie equipment. I’m not actually in favor of that one overall, not because I don’t acknowledge the contribution of padding spread to the reduction in goals, but simply because of the number of guys who can and do fire the puck at very high velocity. Chara won the last fastest shot competition, but three men broke 100 miles per hour. Given how few quality goal tenders there ever are, can we really afford the broken bones that too small equipment would cause?
One of the things that the NHL can not afford to do is to further alienate traditional hockey fans. The crack down on fighting has done this, the shootout has done it more, and the “wimpification”* of hockey as a whole has created unneeded, unhealthy space between the National Hockey League, and people who grew up watching and worshiping “The Broad Street Bullies”, and “The Big Bad Bruins” and individual men who’s ruggedness and skill were awesome to behold like the late and much missed Bob Probert, the legendary Gordie Howe, Eric Lindros and many, many others. Another hit to perhaps the most traditional of North American sports fans might be fatal to the NHL.
What any new rules and alterations for creating goals must do is, allow players, coaches and officials to only slightly alter the way things are done. They should be changes that produce goals that will be a result of natural game play. They must be very easily implemented. They must be done in a way that continues to emphasize team over individual. These new changes must not, require much higher risk to players, require complex decision making by officials as to what is and isn’t allowable on the ice, and they must not greatly disrupt the flow of game play.
A few possibilities:
- Restore the goal crease to it’s former size, giving the goalie more room to roam in their own space, and by doing so increase the opportunity for them to be out of position.
- Eliminate the trapezoid. I’ve never liked this and always thought it was silly, the more opportunities the slowest, clumsiest skater has to handle the puck, the more opportunities can be created for mistakes.
- Allow the team going on a power-play the choice of taking the power-play in the traditional form or adding an extra skater and taking half the penalty time.
- Make the penalized team have to clear the puck from beyond their own blueline to avoid an icing call.
- Put players that draw matching penalties immediately into the penalty box without stopping the play.
- Return to the system where even on minor penalties they run their full time and are not terminated by the team on the power-play scoring.
- Penalize diving/unsportsman like with a five minute major even when a hooking or other call is made with it.
- Penalize diving/unsportsman like more.
- Eliminate phantom hooking calls, phantom tripping calls, and other no effect contact penalties to keep the flow of the game going.
- Fine teams who give guys like Peter Schaefer and Wayne Primeau contracts while guys like Bill Guerin remain unsigned.
- Allow players who are completely outside the crease to kick a puck in if they do not have a stick for a goal.
- Remove players like Steve Ott and Matt Cooke from the NHL for their repeated attempts to be injure better players.
Got an idea? Comment below.
* Thanks Mike Milbury