SUN Hockey Pool

Change begets change

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:18 PM ET

Some of the concepts that are being evaluated at the National Hockey League's three-day research and development camp will be adopted.

Some won't.

But the most important aspect is the willingness of the league to finally admit its mistakes and to make some of the changes that have been suggested for years.

At last, there is an admission on the part of the league that scoring does indeed matter, and that tweaks and nudges are not enough. The game needs to be seriously revamped.

MARILYN MONROE NET

That doesn't mean it has to be reinvented. It still has to have structure and be presented as hockey, not shinny. That's why Harry Sinden's open-ice proposal did not earn a lot of encouragement.

But there are plenty of other variations that can be applied to restore the sport to the spectacle that it was when the nature of the game itself was rarely a subject of debate.

Yesterday, it was the turn of the Marilyn Monroe net -- the one with all the curves and bulges -- to be put on display. Also under consideration was a proposal by Scott Bowman that would allow legal passes from the top of the circle all the way to the far blue line.

The problem with that one is that it relies too much on the commitment of coaches to provide offence -- and we all know what a shaky premise that is.

Bowman wants to allow long breakaway passes and his rule would indeed make those passes possible. But more likely, coaches would use the rule to ease pressure and ignore its offensive possibilities.

But there is more to this camp than just the specific changes that are under consideration. Because so many hockey people are here and because the focus is on rule changes, informal discussions are being carried on that may also lead to more changes in the game.

Why not, for instance, put a sensor in the puck and a sensor in the goalposts? That concept was tossed out for discussion by one general manager. In this technological era, implementation shouldn't be too difficult. Once the puck crosses the line, the sensor turns on the red light, and those tedious and often inconclusive video reviews become a thing of the past.

What about the depth of the net? One of the prototype nets under consideration is very shallow. Why not make all nets that way? That would give back to the skaters some of the room behind the net that will be taken away when the goal lines are moved back three feet, one of the changes that will be made when hockey returns.

And maybe, just maybe, the size of the net has to be increased. Most people in the game were vehemently opposed to the concept when it was first proposed. But after seeing it in action, it seems quite feasible.

DEAD-BALL ERA

Granted, it would require fans to make statistical interpretations because goals would be easier to acquire.

But baseball had its dead-ball era and its higher pitching mounds. Football in the U.S. once had goalposts on the goal line. Soccer once had leather balls that soaked up water. David Beckham couldn't have bent those. He would have broken his toe.

Times change and sports change. Back in the 1980s, before butterfly goalies took over, a player could score on a good shot that was along the ice and just inside the post. Guys with great slapshots could score from the wing. Enlarging the net might seem radical, but looked at from another direction, all it is doing is returning the game to its former status. It will require goalies to be acrobatic instead of robotic.

The very fact that all these things are being considered has to be good news for a game that hasn't had much of that commodity lately.


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