SUN Hockey Pool

Simple fix could give NHL buzz

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 11:06 AM ET

It's often been said the National Hockey League missed out on a golden opportunity in the 1990s. Popular wisdom says the league should have taken advantage of all the new arenas being constructed by enlarging ice surfaces, thereby opening up the game.

If they'd been a little more forward thinking, perhaps we wouldn't have become embroiled in this debate about where all the offence went. Who knows, maybe the game would have become more popular and we could have somehow avoided this whole labour mess, too.

OK, that might be pushing it. But most hockey people agree there's not enough room on the ice for the bigger, modern player, who averages more than 6-foot, 200 pounds.

Has anybody considered the possibility the NHL is missing out on that same opportunity again, right now?

What better time to reconfigure the rinks -- take out a few rows of seats and extend the ice pad -- than during a year-long lockout?

More importantly, what better way to create some buzz around the return of a new, improved game? A move like that would prove the league means business about making hockey more entertaining.

You wouldn't need to hire a fancy-schmancy public relations firm to sell it, either. Fans would return to the game with a genuine curiosity about the effect of the bigger ice.

Get rid of the centre red-line and clamp down on obstruction, too, and you'd have a whole, new game.

Sure, the presence of the NBA means some arenas would have to wait until the end of basketball season to do the work, but they'd still have all summer.

Team owners may balk at the cost of renovations. But I'd look at it as an investment, one that would pay off as soon as they drop the puck again.

Unfortunately, they're missing out on this opportunity, too, proving not everybody learns from history.

ABOUT-FACE: So the CFL's Toronto Argonauts are suddenly interested in staying at the stadium-formerly-known-as-SkyDome, instead of helping to build a new one at York University.

After committing $20 million -- in the form of a tax deductible, charitable donation, no less -- to the $70-million project, the Argos owners appear ready to turn their backs on their "partners," the university and the Canadian Soccer Association, which desperately wants the facility for the 2007 World Under-20 Championship.

All because the owners of the dome are offering free rent?

I haven't seen commitment like that since Britney Spears said, "I do."

Makes you wonder if the whole thing was simply an attempt by the Argos to wrangle a better stadium deal in the first place, doesn't it?

EXTRA POINTS: I like the way Wally Buono is handling his quarterback controversy in B.C., saying Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers will fight for the starting job in training camp. Seems to me that's the approach Blue Bomber boss Jim Daley should be taking with his threesome: Kevin Glenn, Tee Martin and Spergon Wynn. Daley says he doesn't want his quarterback looking over his shoulder. I say that's exactly what you want in every position in training camp. Competition brings out the best in a player ... Still with pivot problems, there are rumblings out of Hamilton that veteran Danny McManus isn't happy the Ticats are pursuing Doug Flutie, and I don't blame him. The Cats should be planning a McManus farewell tour, while grooming a replacement, not going for a one-year Flutie family reunion. This could easily be McManus's last year, and it would be a shame if he spent it standing on the sidelines. He deserves better.


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