OHL may adopt shootout next year

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:23 AM ET

BRAMPTON -- While the NHL is trying to find a way to get its game back on the ice, the OHL is looking at ways to make its product more attractive for fans.

The league's competition committee is studying various rule changes that may be implemented next season.

Among them are the rule experiments being conducted in the American Hockey League on behalf of the NHL: a shootout to decide tied games during the regular season, reinstating the "tagup" offside and widening the centre red-line and blue-lines.

If the OHL adopts the shootout, it might come after playing the five-minute overtime currently in place.

The AHL goes directly to a shootout at the end of regulation time.

London Knights general manager Mark Hunter, Kitchener Rangers coach-general manager Peter DeBoer, Sarnia Sting general manager Alan Millar, Erie Otters general manager Sherry Bassin and Peterborough Petes general manager Jeff Twohey make up the competition committee, which gets together again in June after meeting last week.

Besides the obvious rule changes -- all meant to create more offence -- DeBoer said the committee is also looking at the obstruction that remains in the game.

Even with an emphasis on greater enforcement in recent years, "we have a long ways to go," DeBoer said yesterday.

"We're definitely making some progress from five years ago, but I don't think there's a league out there that is where it wants to be with the interference."

DeBoer said perhaps it's time the OHL declare an all-out war on the clutching and grabbing that contribute to obstruction.

"We've been trying to ease our way into it for five years and you like to think if it's enforced on a consistent basis the players will adjust, but as the season wears on the standards ease off," he said.

DeBoer admitted coaches and general managers must accept some of the responsibility. On one hand they call for a ban on obstruction, but when they go behind the bench they complain when officials enforce it against their team.

"We're our own worst enemy," DeBoer said. "As coaches, we're the first ones to complain about it and the first ones to (complain) when we get a penalty.

"It's a pill we're going to have to swallow if we want to get it to where we want it to be."

DeBoer said the shootout would be for the fans' enjoyment, while the tagup offside would be designed to inject more speed into the game.

The tagup offside was used for a few years in major junior and the NHL but abandoned by the juniors when the NHL went back to calling the old offside rule.

"We're always following the more traditional path of letting the AHL and NHL try out new rules and when they adopt them, we follow suit," DeBoer said.

He said the tagup offside was dropped because hockey people felt the game was deteriorating into nothing more than dump-and-chase.

"Going back to the old rule forced players to handle the puck and create skills rather than just banging it in," DeBoer said.

"But the big focus today is on eliminating whistles and creating more offence and the tagup offside does create more speed."

DeBoer said the committee has left it with commissioner David Branch and director of hockey operations Ted Baker to investigate how the no-goalie zone behind the net is working in the AHL.

There's an area where the goalies are not permitted to play the puck. If they do, it results in a minor penalty.

"Dave and Ted are going to take in an AHL game or two and do some due diligence with (AHL president) Dave Andrews and (NHL vice-president) Colin Campbell," DeBoer said.


Videos

Photos