Now that the National Hockey League is back in action, it would be nice if, as they did after the last lockout, they made some rule changes to improve the game. Here are some changes I’d like to see.
Go back to playing a man short for coincidental minor and major penalties
I don’t remember exactly when the rule was changed, but teams used to have to play short-handed during coincidental minor and major penalties. That teams don’t play short now means that the punishment is primarily player-oriented rather than team-oriented, which in turn means there’s very little deterrent effect.
Don’t allow shorthanded icing
Again, this is a deterrent consideration. It makes little sense to ameliorate the effect of what is supposed to be punishment for breaking one rule by allowing a team to break another one.
Changing on the fly
Forbidding teams to change players after an icing was a great rule change, but it didn’t go far enough. Teams should always have to change on the fly except when a penalty is called or a goal is scored. It would eliminate delaying tactics and generally speed up the game.
Get rid of the shootout
Would the NFL ever decide a tied game by having each team kick field goals? Would Major League Baseball break ties with a mini home run derby? No, because each of those plays is only one part of the game. The term “shootout” is itself a euphemism; they’re penalty shots, which, although very exciting, are still just one part of the game.
Get rid of three point overtime game
If the league hasn’t the sense to get rid of the shootout, at least get rid of the three-point overtime game. It’s an abomination. No team should get a point for losing in overtime. I can live with a team getting a point for losing in a shootout, because, as I mention above, the shootout is phony anyway.
If you think the three-point game has any validity, consider this: theoretically, a team could go through a whole season without winning a game and still end up with eighty-two points, which could be enough to make the playoffs.
Get rid of the trapezoid
This cure for which there is no known disease just has to go. A goalie who happens to be a skilled puck handler shouldn’t be handicapped by a spurious rule any more than a skilled defenceman or forward should be. For example, who would agree to a rule requiring backhand shots to be taken only from the faceoff circle, or that a defenceman couldn’t carry the puck past the hash marks in the other team’s end of the rink?
Introduce no touch icing
This is so obvious that nothing more has to be said about it.
Automatic misconduct penalty for face wash
Putting a gloved hand in the face of another player should result in an automatic misconduct. This would speed up the game by getting rid of most of the boring scrums that are always extended by face washes.
Introduce progressive penalties
A second major penalty in a game should carry with it an automatic misconduct, and a second misconduct in a game should automatically be a game misconduct. These changes would contribute to the lessening of the perceived advantage of having goons on the team.
Reduce the roster for a suspended player
When a player is suspended, the team’s roster should be reduced by one for the duration of the suspension. This is another change that would help to eventually eliminate professional goons from the game. It would clearly hurt the team much more than just the suspension of a marginal player who can be immediately replaced by a call-up.
Get rid of the general managers committee
General managers should have representation on committees, just as owners, players, on-ice officials and coaches should. But they should not have the power they now wield by having their own exclusive committee. General managers simply aren’t objective, with the result that they care more about their own teams than the overall benefit of the game.
The main reason most of the rule changes outlined above have not been introduced is because of the influence of a few narrow-minded GMs.
The game was never better than it was right after the last lockout when the referees were instructed to strictly enforce the rules. Because officials have been slipping back into letting things go, it’s time for the league to reinforce the edict. This “just let them play” nonsense is just that; it’s nonsense. What it really means is “don’t let the skilled players play.” And as for the lame excuse that an official shouldn’t affect the outcome of a game by calling a penalty, he’s just as apt to affect the outcome by not calling one. And guess where those two arguments usually come from? The general managers committee, that’s where.
Reducing anything to its lowest common denominator is never a good idea. But then, neither is a hockey team in Phoenix a good idea.