On Tuesday, November 12 the National Hockey League’s general managers got together for their annual meeting in Toronto where a number of hot button topics were discussed.
Some will see changes next season and some will not even make it to a vote needed to pass. But it certainly did provide some interesting thoughts among columnists, sports anchors, bloggers and fans.
Obviously, the main goal is to make the game more popular and attractive to fans while at the same time improving player safety. After the rash of questionable hits and now that the new rules instituted this season have had a chance to settle in, not everything is rosy in the league’s mirror.
After having ample time to digest the four main topics under discussion, was there ever any doubt that I was going to put my two cents in as well? I didn’t think so.
No European Games To Open The 2014-15 Season
This should not come as a surprise to anyone. The teams that participate have always complained of the travel regimen, in addition to the feeling of outright fatigue that hits them upon their return to the United States or Canada. With training camps and pre-season games, the feeling from the league was to maximize visibility outside of its two major markets and broaden the game.
While the European arenas looked full, it never really caught on and once the two teams departed after playing two games that counted very much against the regular season standings, their attention quickly turned back to European Football, Rugby and anything else besides hockey to garner their attention.
The league and general managers both seem equally pleased with this new rule, tested in the pre-season and adopted in 2013-14. In an icing situation, the play is ruled dead and whistle blown if the un-offending team reaches the middle of the face-off circle before the team that iced the puck does.
What is has done, according to NHL senior vice president and director of officials Steven Walkom, is cut back dramatically on injuries caused by races for the puck.
“It’s stopped that catastrophic injury along the end boards; that was the goal and objective of the hybrid icing,” Walkom told NHL.com. “And our guys have been great about going back to center ice if they miss something relative to a player racing that they didn’t see or a goaltender coming out of the crease, but there has been less and less of that.”
The impact on the game, from a fans perspective, has been minimal to be honest but as the season goes on and games get that much more important in February through April, do we really want this judgement call to be in the hands of the linesmen? We have already seen numerous instances of apparent races being won by the offending team, only for the official to blow the play dead. The better faceoff teams could really benefit from a late game draw in the offensive zone off a bad call.
I was always of the opinion and still am, that no-touch icing should be instituted and be put into effect for 2014-15, and that was discussed at this meeting. Let’s see if the league takes action or not. Either way, some form of safer icing should remain in the league, even though the incident of serious injury on these plays has been extremely low in the past.
This is a debate that could rage on and on in all circles of the hockey world, from media to players and fans. After the injury suffered by George Parros, which did not even result in a direct blow from Colton Orr, Steve Yzerman led a group of outspoken general managers in a call to abolish it from the game for good.
The league, at their meeting, did not discuss that fact, somehow acknowledging the fact that some fans enjoy it and more importantly, it allows certain players of limited skill to remain employed by an NHL club.
If fighting was to be abolished, the great fear is that players will either not be allowed to police themselves on the ice and will resort to using their sticks more to do so.
“We certainly had a bit of a debate on fighting,” Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Hollandtold NHL.com. “I think the consensus in the room is that we like it the way it is. Certainly we had a conversation obviously on the goaltenders’ fighting. We’re going to further discuss that in March.”
Rumors had the discussion on goalie fighting specifically pertaining to much stiffer penalties for when a netminder crosses the red line to partake in a brawl, or even more specifically (Ray Emery) chooses to beat up on a pacifist who is just looking to grab hold and watch the festivities.
I have now taken the angle that fighting can not, and never will be, completely eliminated from the game. As much as we all despise ‘staged’ bouts, that can never be proven when deciding to hand out stiffer penalties. I am completely in favor of suspending goaltenders who partake in brawls.
The consensus among the leagues general managers echoed what I have been saying regarding the shootout. It cheapens the game to a skills competition with the winner accepting a gracious and sometimes extremely valuable bonus point in the standings.
It has gotten to the point where opening night, as the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils headed to one at the Prudential Center, I actually got up from my seat and left the arena to head home.
There were two key items discussed, a ten minute 4 vs 4 overtime and a more enticing proposal of five minutes at 4 vs 4 and an extra five minutes of 3 vs 3.
Personally, the 3 vs 3 sounds extremely exciting and one that the league would more than likely get the most mileage from in terms of enticing new fans as well as keeping the existing ones.
We have all seen what has happened to America’s pastime, baseball, in terms of not wanting to break from tradition and improve the game for players and fans alike. This past summer, some games reached 3-3 1/2 hours in length and some even longer than that.
Personally, due to pitchers constantly stepping off the rubber and batters stepping out of the box to adjust their cup or spit on their hands, led me to watch approximately 5 innings of baseball the entire 2013 season.
With hockey already on rocky ground within the United States, it being the last of the 4 majors in terms of viewership and sponsorship dollars, they cannot afford to not make changes for the betterment of its employees and more crucially, its passionate fan base.
What do you think about the proposed rule change discussions that were had by the leagues top brass? Leave your comments below.