I think every hockey fan has sat around once or twice in their lives and discussed what they would change or improve if they ran the NHL. Now I’ll take my turn.
Here are the five initiatives I would implement if I was Commissioner of the National Hockey League.
5. Move teams to hockey cities. Now I understand in this day and age corporate sponsorship is what really gets a city awarded a NHL franchise. But if I were “Commish,” I would look to move the troubled franchises or non-supported franchises (Nashville, Washington, & Florida) to cities where at the very least the arena would be on the positive side of full attendance.
4. Move one of the on ice officials up to the press-box and utilize his bird’s eye view of the game as opposed to the current set up where they are essentially in the way of the play, and it always seems like the furthest “ref” is making the call. Also, I would give the linesmen more responsibility in calling obstruction and stick infraction penalties.
3. Change the overtime period to 10 minutes of four on four play. I would allow the shootout to still remain as it has been received well by the non-fan. But if the league lengthened the OT period, we would see more games decided in a team oriented fashion. Also, any game that did make it into shootout would certainly have entertained the crowd as 10 minutes of four on four play would see numerous chances and back and forth flow, which is currently the holy grail for the NHL. Speaking of flow I would immediately have the rule which allows a player in his own zone to move a puck to another team-mate or down the ice with his hand. This to me has never made sense. If a player is down or has lost his stick, the advantage should shift to the opponent. This player should be limited to only use his feet to move the puck legally and his entire body to block shots. The minute his hand is on the puck, he should be penalized for delay of game.
2. Penalized with a major (five minutes and game ejection) for any head shot hit. Also, any and every high-sticking penalty that did not happen due to a stick being lifted into the opposition’s head area should be an instant four minute double minor. If the league is calling hooking based on a player’s stick being parallel to the ice surface, I think awarding four minutes for ANY high-stick infraction would further cause the players to keep their sticks on the ice. Again, this could help flow.
1. Finally, the No. 1 change I would push for would be the widening of the ice surface by a total of five feet on each side of centre, for a total of 10 feet. This would widen the playing surface to 95 feet. In the third year of post lock-out hockey, the coaches have found a way to “trap” once again. I fully believe that no matter what rule changes are implemented, there will always be a way for teams to “clog” the neutral zone. The plain and simple fact is that the players are too big and too fast. The best way to counter the evolution of the players is to…well, evolve the playing surface. If the offensive team had an additional 10 feet of width in which to hit players criss-crossing at top speed, I think this could/would effectively eliminate the “trap”. It would at the very least force teams to have to move and skate to even attempt to “clog” the neutral zone. So instead of thinking you can eliminate the trap, I think we need to concentrate on making it extremely difficult for teams to elect playing the trap style defense. If we exam which teams trap, it’s usually the less skilled teams, again causing them to skate and attempt to cover more ice surface while trapping could essentially cause failure, forcing the coach to change his approach, and at this point, I believe that is all the NHL can attempt to do.