Two Changes the NHL Has Overlooked

Nelson SantosCorrespondent INovember 6, 2008

There has been one constant since the NHL resumed play after the locked out season of 2004-05—never-ending changes aimed at making the game more exciting.


It’s great that the National Hockey League was willing to look at itself in the mirror and make some much-needed changes. Unfortunately, the NHL has erred in that before they allow the changes to take effect other changes are implemented.


For the most part, the changes have been introduced to help inject more flow and scoring back into the game. Some of the changes implemented over the last three seasons have been stricter officiating on infractions such as obstruction or hooking, andhe downsizing of goaltender equipment (although in my opinion, they could downsize much further yet).


These are two of the main changes.  There are many others, too numerous to list.


A competition committee was created to gather and brainstorm changes and ideas to improve the game. This committee, made up of hockey minds, has come up with many ideas, and yet—unbelievably, to me—they have overlooked two blatantly obvious opportunities that would greatly increase flow and scoring chances.


Some may have heard Bob Gainey’s suggestion regarding players dropping to the ice surface to block shots. His "radical" suggestion is that players should not be allowed to do so. Gainey is one of the most respected hockey minds around, and yet he is at least a decade behind yours truly.


The second suggestion I would propose to the competition committee is not allowing players using their hands to play the puck. I can remember a time when if a puck was played anywhere on the ice surface by a hand and that player’s team mate then played the puck the whistle would blow. Of course in desperate times players would purposely play the puck to garner a whistle and a stoppage of play.


So the NHL decided to eliminate this rule, and allowed players to play a puck with their hand and move it to a teammate, as long as the puck was played within the defensive zone the play could continue. Am I the only one who sees this as maybe the dumbest “solution” to a problem?


I have taken much abuse in bar-room chats over the last number years whenever I've brought up the suggestion to not allow players to “sacrifice” their bodies to block shots. The goalie wears proper equipment to stop pucks; let him handle it.


This is another instance whereby the NHL has not adapted to the ripple effect of other rule changes. Because the NHL is far more stringent on obstruction-type infractions, defensemen are otherwise handicapped to clear opposition forwards from in front of the net.


So coaches have once again proved very adaptable. Coaches now emphasize to every player the importance of not letting shots get through to the goalie. Unfortunately, the "skill" of blocking shots is a complete and utter hindrance to goals and scoring chances in general.


I propose that any player dropping to the ice in any way, shape, or form to block a shot is penalized for delay of the game. Blocking shots while standing upright would still be allowed.


The second rule change is not really a change at all. Playing the puck with your hand should go back to how it was originally called. A player was able to use his hand to control the puck and play it himself. He was also allowed to bat the puck away.


The very fact that the NHL allows players in the defensive zone to use their hands to clear a puck out of danger or move it to a team mate is ridiculous as it is so obviously a violation against the end goal of creating flow and scoring chances.


If a player loses or breaks his stick, the advantage should move to the opposition, shouldn’t it? Yet, because players can use their hands to play the puck, you see more and more desperation moves.  Players literally lunge or dive at the puck, and slide it to a teammate who is better suited to get the puck out of danger.


Can someone please explain to me how Colin Campbell hasn’t ever come to the conclusion that this kills flow and scoring chances?


Controlling of the puck to get it back to one’s self is required for both flow and safety. The batting or swatting of the puck should be abolished entirely. 


I propose that any player guilty of batting or swatting a puck out of the air or along the ice surface with their hand be assessed a two-minute penalty for delay of game. Also, if the puck is then played anywhere on the ice surface by a teammate, that team would be charged with a penalty, guessed it. Delay of game.  


One of the major issues with the NHL is that they are really the only major sports league that allows for variations on the rules within the sport. In soccer, you are not allowed to play the ball with your hands at anytime or any place—plain and simple. In basketball, if the ball is kicked, the whistle is blown. They do not make exceptions if the ball is them retrieved by a teammate.


More variations of the rules provied more wiggle room for the ever-adaptive coaches.