OHL hit by power shortage

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:25 AM ET

The OHL is constantly worried about goals.

Like the NHL, the league brass and its owners want to see those red lights shining because though it's bad for goalies, it's good for business and holds fans' interest.

But last season, pucks weren't going in nearly as often as the year before.

In 2006-07, when now Chicago Blackhawk Pat Kane led the OHL in scoring, the 20 clubs combined for 5,073 goals (253 a team). Last year, it was 4,688 (234 a club).

What's the best way to increase offence? Send more guys to the sin bin, of course.

But there's the dilemma.

Penalty calls are also trending downward. Conrad Hache knows it. He's the OHL's director of officiating and sees the statistics.

In 2005-06, OHL clubs averaged 510 power plays. At the time, coaches, players and fans couldn't believe the chintzy stuff being whistled.

A year later, power plays were down to 472 a team. Last year, OHL teams averaged a mere 397 power plays.

"The standard hasn't changed -- the videos are the same ones we showed two years ago," Hache said, "but it took a year for everyone to get used to it. Now, the players have been conditioned and come into the league knowing what's a penalty and what's not."

Hache thinks the number of power plays will start to level out even with extra sets of eyes -- 70 per cent of OHL games this season will use the two-referee system and the goal is to reach 100 per cent soon.

But if that doesn't add penalties, that means new quirks -- like the rule tweak to add more offensive-zone faceoffs this year -- will continue to be an evolving part of the game.

"Every year, there's something new put in to try to increase offence," Hache said.

That's because the trap has yet to be conquered.

Legislate against it, then, former Guelph Storm head coach Dave Barr used to say.

Much of the summer, Dale Hunter talked about the potential of a new playing style for his young, talented and fast London Knights.

But what did the Knights do to preserve their head coach's 300th victory in their home opener at the John Labatt Centre? They fell back into the tried-and-true trap.

And this was against an Erie Otters club that hadn't made the playoffs in three years and didn't dress a lot of its offensive talent because they're still trying out at NHL camps or waiting on trades.

It's early in the new season but if goal totals shrink again, fewer penalties are issued and teams resort to the trap more often, there's only one path the game can possibly travel.

The "hockey is boring" crowd will get loud once again.

And the OHL is running out of quick fixes.

LUCKY LUCIANI: Here's a way to increase scoring -- more penalty shots.

Erie rookie Anthony Luciani scored his first two OHL goals on third-period penalty shots in Saturday's 6-1 victory over Plymouth at Compuware Arena.

The 18-year-old Woodbridge, Ont., native beat Whalers goalie Scott Wedgewood twice within nine minutes in what could very well be a hockey first.

Otters media relations director Mark Jeanneret contacted the Elias Sports Bureau, who confirmed only once in NHL history has one player attempted two penalty shots in a game. Carolina's Erik Cole scored once and missed the other in a Nov. 9, 2005, game against Buffalo. The American Hockey League, ECHL, Central Hockey League and International Hockey League were all contacted and don't have record of a similar feat happening.

LYALL THE LEADER: Back in 2004, doctors told Matt Lyall his hockey days were done after being diagnosed with Wegener's Granulomatosis, an obscure disorder causing blood vessels to inflame and damage organs.

Four years later, the Richmond Hill native is in his fifth OHL season, captains the Soo Greyhounds and scored three goals and six points in his first two games. He takes a steroid and chemotherapy drug to help control the issue.


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