Bringing Back the Red Line and 5 Other Safety Proposals

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistNovember 14, 2012

Bringing Back the Red Line and 5 Other Safety Proposals

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    The speed of the game is one of the most enticing and exciting aspects of hockey.

    However, with that speed, players often pay a price. The faster they are skating, the harder the hit they may take when they make contact with an opposing player.

    Normally, it's fine to ask an offensive player look out for his own safety when he is skating with the puck. Players are taught from the earliest days of youth hockey to skate with their heads up.

    However, when a player must turn his head to accept a pass, he is in a vulnerable position.

    Players are at greater risk since the league eliminated the red line when it comes to two-line passes.

    Former Flyer Eric Lindros said bringing back the red line would slow the game down enough to help reduce head injuries (source: Philly.com).

    Lindros, of course, suffered significant concussion issues throughout his career.

    Here's a look at five other proposals that could make the game safer.

Get Rid of the Trapezoid

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    The NHL put in a trapezoid behind the goal line to keep goalies from skating into those areas to retrieve the puck.

    This is often referred to as the Marty Brodeur rule because the Devils goalie had the tendency to skate out of the crease and play the puck in the corners.

    He did this because he had the skating ability to leave the crease without putting his team at risk and relieve pressure on his defensemen.

    The trapezoid was put in to increase scoring. The thought was that if goalies could not skate in the trapezoid area, offensive players would be more likely to win the battle and create more scoring opportunities..

    If goalies were allowed to retrieve the puck in the corners again, it would relieve pressure and help reduce collisions that result in serious injuries.

Bear Hug Rule

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    The Bear Hug rule has been proposed by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke.

    This is designed to prevent serious injuries that result after the offensive player retrieves the puck near the boards and the defensive player follows him, and the result is a hard hit.

    Instead of blasting the offensive player into the boards, Burke suggests (in video above) that the defensive player should be allowed to wrap the offensive player up with both of his arms to prevent a major impact that could result in a serious injury.

    The proposal has been referred to as the bear hug rule because the defensive player would be allowed to wrap his arms around his opponent—in bear hug manner—without a penalty being called.

Smaller Shoulder Pads

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    Larger shoulder pads give players more bravery when players are in the process of lining up an opponent for a big hit.

    A player who knows he can create havoc with a shoulder check is not going to hold back. Especially when he knows his shoulder is protected by a huge pad.

    However, if the player was wearing a smaller shoulder pad—and not the hard, plastic body armor that many players wear today—they would be less likely to take a dangerous run at their opponents.

Larger Ice Surface

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    A larger ice surface would slow down the pace of the game and help prevent head injuries.

    The European ice surface is wider than the typical NHL rink (200 feet by 85 feet). As a result, the ice is less "crowded" with skaters.

    This would take a considerable capital investment by NHL owners who would have to provide wider ice surfaces.

    NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire told Sports Illustrated that while a wider ice surface could help reduce serious injuries, he does not advocate the full international size of 200 by 100 feet because "there would be no hitting."

Tight Helmets

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    Players must wear helmets that fit snugly and must wear mouth guards if they want to risk the likelihood of concussions or other serious injuries.

    Loose helmets or helmets that are not strapped on properly won't help a player protect his head during a collision.

    This is on the players, and they have to take some responsibility for their own safety.

    Players who do not wear helmets in the proper manner because it's somewhat less comfortable need to be on notice for that issue.

    Officials could issue penalties to players who are not wearing their helmet properly or their mouth guards.

    This would help drive the point home.