Size matters for NHL

Goaltending equipment will be scaled down and the tag-up offside rule resurrected when NHL GMs...

Goaltending equipment will be scaled down and the tag-up offside rule resurrected when NHL GMs gather in Detroit Thursday to try to fix the game. (File Photo)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:30 AM ET

They won't be debating the merits of a third net or two pucks on the ice at the same time, but those are about the only proposals that won't be on the table when NHL GMs gather in Detroit tomorrow to try to fix their game.

They all agree that it's bogged down and in dire need of change, but agreeing on what the changes should be is another story - one that should make for some rather lively debate.

"There are about 17 things on the agenda list," said Edmonton GM Kevin Lowe. "Everyone is going to be bringing a whole bunch of stuff to the table."

A lot of it is pretty major stuff, like shootouts, bigger nets and three points for a win, but Lowe doubts they'll come out of Detroit talk city with any radical alterations.

"I'd be surprised if we did," he said. "There's been so much talk about it, almost to a point where everybody is expecting sweeping changes, but I don't think you'll see that."

Not that they're going to stand pat. Goaltending equipment will be scaled down and the tag-up offside rule resurrected, but the more controversial suggestions will probably have to wait a while.

Lowe is all in favour of shrinking the goalies, but will argue vehemently against enlarging the nets.

"My feelings all along have been to look at the goaltenders' equipment first before we change the size of the nets," he said.

WILLING TO VOTE

"I'm willing to vote on or recommend anything that might help the image of the game and the overall product, but let's not change the size of the goal equipment AND make the nets bigger. Do one before we do the other."

In the past, the NHLPA blocked efforts to scale back goalie equipment and traditionalists on the management side railed against changing the rules, so nothing was ever accomplished.

But with fans turned off like they've never been turned off before, both sides are a lot more open-minded. The NHLPA will make a few proposals, including a potential solution to the no-touch icing debate.

"I'm a traditionalist in the sense that I want to see hockey appreciated and respected the way it should be," said Lowe. "But I don't think you need to maintain tradition just for the sake of tradition. That's one of the reasons I was so adamant about the size of the goaltenders' equipment - because fans were screaming for it. In all the talk shows and in all the surveys, the first thing they said was shrink the equipment. And I couldn't agree more.

"So if the fans said overwhelmingly to put in shootouts, then hell, put in shootouts. If they want the red line out, take the red line out."

But first things first, he said, start with the cheaters on goalie equipment and see if that helps.

"On issues like taking out the red line or three points for a win, you have to have a lot of debate about those things because what appears to be easy on the surface can run you into trouble once it's been in place for a while and teams adjust to it. If you take out the red line does that mean that teams are going to hang back around their own blue line and play defence?"

As for shootouts, Lowe isn't opposed to deciding tie games that way, but worries they'll lose their appeal and all they'll be left with is a crummy way to decide games.

WHAT FANS WANT

"On the other hand, I think our four-on-four OTs are spectacular. You get two-on-ones back and forth, great saves. That's what fans want to see.

"So before you go to a shootout I'd rather see a 10-minute four-on-four overtime."

All of it is worth debating, which is fine by Lowe.

"I'd much rather have people talking about rule changes than about the CBA."


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