Open up ice, coach pleads

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:39 AM ET

The hockey coach in Pat Quinn has tried to open up the game for a long time.

But after being sentenced to a spectator's perch for almost five months, he is even more keen to let the horses loose.

"The game is the product, the players are the show and we want a place we can highlight the great skills," Quinn said yesterday, while six other National Hockey League coaches met with league officials down the street to discuss the same topic.

The debate included obstruction, goaltender interference, slashing and channels of communication.

"Coaches have found ways to shut down the ice," Quinn said. "But if our game is a good game, it certainly would be better to take it to the public.

"We all know there are weaknesses, we're not a national sport in the U.S. as we like to think we are. Perhaps more freedom to our game will develop more interest. It is a great game, but coaches find ways to stop it."

Quinn briefly addressed his contract status yesterday, confident his new multi-year deal will be settled after he returns from a trip south, which will cover his 62nd birthday celebrations tomorrow.

CONTRACT 'WILL GET DONE'

"It will get done, I'm certain," Quinn said. "But that's the least important thing going on right now. We've got bigger things (CBA) on the table."

Watching hockey from his armchair, the seats and the press box has given Quinn more time to think. He likes some of the American Hockey League experiments and wants to see if one of old crony Scotty Bowman's proposed changes might work.

"We're not going to open up the ice as a lot of people think by taking out the red line," Quinn said. "But I think Scotty's idea about the 'ringette line' has some merit, maybe to stretch things out."

BOWMAN LINE

Bowman envisions a line running just above the faceoff circle and below the blue line. Upon reaching it, a puck carrier could then attempt a long blue line pass, but forecheckers would be enticed out of the trap to try to head off the carrier. At least it might cut down on whistles for two-line passes.

"I like the idea (that) we can go back to putting the puck in on the delayed offside," Quinn said. "But I was never in favour of moving the (goal) line out, it was never going to create room where we wanted to create it. All that did was make us cycle, to where it looked like (a panel from a Peanuts cartoon) where Pigpen and his gang had a soccer ball, playing in a cloud of dust.

"That's not the hockey I like. Maybe we can open it up, move it out of that area and get some flow."

Quinn doesn't sound impressed about what he has seen from televised club games from Europe.

"You're worried about the trap and defensive systems on the big ice and they're worse than we are," he said. "They really try to stop the game."


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