Net gain? That's the goal

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Don't be the least bit surprised if the new NHL includes oversized nets when the puck drops for the start of the 2005-06 season.

While it's no secret that the NHL's competition committee, chaired by director of hockey operations Colin Campbell, has been contemplating several rule changes and innovations - many of them tested this spring - there's persistent chatter that the possibility of implementing bigger nets is gaining momentum.

Aside from shrinking goaltenders' equipment, adopting a variation of no-touch icing, removing the red-line for off-sides and instituting a shootout, indications are that draping more twine to dent at each end of the rink is a recommendation that will be forwarded by the committee for a vote by governors within days.

And, if the buzz has any merit, expanding the trusty, time-tested four-by-six has at least a 50-50 chance of flying.

Talk is there's a push to have several changes to the NHL rule book passed in time for them to be unveiled along with the announcement of ratification of the new CBA next Thursday. It's the yawning cage, however, that's got my attention.

To borrow from soccer: gooooaaaaaallllllll!!!!

"There's obviously a lot of issues," said Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, who is member of the committee. "We've got some big decisions to make. Hockey, in general, has some big decisions to make.

RULES FINALIZED

"It's not only everybody trying to decipher this CBA, there's the rules of the game and how the game will be played. There's an emphasis to get these decisions on rules finalized."

Lowe sits on the committee with Campbell, Atlanta GM Don Waddell, Bob Gainey, Nashville GM David Poile, Philadelphia governor Ed Snider, Mike Gartner, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla and Trevor Linden.

While Lowe declined comment on specifics about recommendations the committee intends to put forward to governors, he admitted discussions about going to bigger nets have held some intrigue.

"There's considerable debate about it," Lowe said. "Especially with anybody who was at the development camp in Toronto.

"I'd have to say a majority of people, maybe in the 80 or 90% range, who were there and went in thinking they wouldn't accept the bigger nets, came out thinking differently. That's why there's debate."

It's not difficult to imagine NHL governors running from the room screaming in cold sweats at the sight of one of the prototypes that's been looked at, namely the bizarre, bowed-post model with the Butch Goring stance.

It's more likely the committee will opt for another prototype - an expanded version of the existing rectangular model, which adds two inches in height and width and measures 74 inches by 50 inches.

That should make for some lively debate between traditionalists and trend-setters around the table.

WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE?

Given that there'll never be a better time to unveil innovative ideas, not to mention the league's lust for increased offence, what's not to like about it? Unless you're goaltender, that is.

"Soccer is the most popular sport in the world and it's either a 1-0 or 2-1 game," Sean Burke told The Canadian Press in March before the bigger nets had been tested.

"Just to create more goals and think that is going to solve all our problems, to me, it's really near-sighted. It doesn't address our real problems."

No, it doesn't. Many of the other changes that'll be recommended might do the trick, but let's face it, another crackdown on obstruction (version XXIV) isn't nearly as captivating as forcing puck-stoppers to squeeze into Speedo-sized equipment and crouch in front of cavernous cages.

Right now, captivating counts.


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