Provided the NHL and NHL Players' Association come to an agreement sometime in the next month or so, expect the rule changes under a new collective bargaining agreement to be implemented by the Canadian Hockey League.
"We are committed to provide as much the same environment for our players developing as what they will face when they move up into the NHL and the professional ranks," CHL president David Branch, also the Ontario Hockey League commissioner, said yesterday. "We're in a holding pattern right now and we're hoping there is a new arrangement with the NHL sooner so we can plan accordingly."
Among the rules which could be part of a new NHL are shootouts to decide tied games in the regular season, the return of tag-up offside, smaller goalie equipment and a more thorough clamp-down on obstruction. Branch said at least one of those changes, regarding the goalie equipment, would not be instituted next season because many junior clubs already have ordered their gear.
The CHL will meet in Montreal later this month and will discuss some of the possibilities. Also on tap -- Branch said they are "front-burner items" -- are a couple of changes to the Memorial Cup. One would be an off-day between the semi-final and final, and there's a chance round-robin matches could be decided by a shootout.
The idea of new and/or enforced rules in the OHL is being welcomed by the players, even by those who have not yet made their debut in the league.
"I like the idea of a shootout and if they could clear up the obstruction, that would be great," said John Tavares, who was the first pick overall by the Oshawa Generals last month. "You get more time and room with the puck, and it would be great for all players in the league, not just me."
Mississauga IceDogs netminder Michael Ouzas, the OHL goaltender of the year, had no qualms with the idea of a shootout or playing in downsized equipment.
"Goaltending is probably the most evolving position in all of sports," Ouzas said. "You can blame the rules, the equipment and the trap, but the bottom line is goalies are getting better and better. I'm sure we will be able to adapt (to whatever changes are implemented)."