Game must change: Shanny

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:24 AM ET

After the National Hockey League's players ratified the collective bargaining agreement yesterday, both Bob Goodenow and Gary Bettman spoke about a new sense of co-operation.

But really, it no longer matters an awful lot whether they co-operate or not.

The players' union head and the league's commissioner will be involved in some issues, but what the league needs more than anything is co-operation from the players themselves.

It's the only way to make the game a better spectacle.

As far as Detroit Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan is concerned, that co-operation will be in abundant supply. He is a member of the competition committee which has drawn up the new rules that are expected to be approved by the league's board of governors today.

But perhaps just as importantly, he is demanding a new approach from the players and coaches, one that will give the game a chance to regain its lost popularity.

Shanahan was present when the ratification was announced yesterday, even though he had no direct involvement with it. But he wanted to be front and centre to make some points about the changing face of the NHL.

He wants, for instance, to implement the type of changes to which hockey old-timers like Leafs coach Pat Quinn have been violently opposed.

"There are things that the fans want that are very exciting parts of hockey that we choose not to do enough," Shanahan said. "In hockey, we've always been a very modest group where we don't want to wear microphones. We don't want to let cameras in the dressing rooms.

"We don't want the fans and media to see us at the highest of our high emotions and the lowest of our low emotions. Fans are telling us that's exactly when they want to see us, not 15 minutes after the game is over when we've already been in the back room and broken some chairs. They want to see us break the chairs."

He also wants co-operation from the league in the marketing of players, a move he feels will be good for the game.

'It used to be," he said, "that you didn't want to invest money in marketing the players because the more you marketed the player, the more money he got in his salary."

But now, player salaries are limited by a cap and the more money the league makes, the higher the cap will go.

"The team now has incentive," Shanahan said. "The league now has incentive to make stars.

"Other sports do it. I want to see guys like Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla become household names."

But the most important area of co-operation, Shanahan said, has to be an acceptance of the new rules, especially the crackdown on obstruction.

"We get out there in the first few games and we get 14 penalties and we ... blame the refs," he said. "As players, we know that by November we're going to beat these guys up so badly that they're going to back off.

"We're going to have to re-educate players on how to play the game of hockey. We have to get away from the idea that the referee decided the game with the call.

"In baseball, if a guy doesn't get to first base, but he's close, they don't call him safe because he's down a couple of runs."

And if the promised zero tolerance on obstruction is enforced, it will make the game better.

"It will really hurt the trap," Shanahan said. "If you sit back and stand still and you've got a guy like Marty St. Louis coming at you at full speed and you can't reach out with your stick and tug him or grab him, I don't know how you're going to play defence."

Still, the idea is not new and Shanahan admits to being as frustrated as the fans.

"We've heard it before," he said, "but its time to put up or shut up."

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RULE CHANGES

Some rule changes likely to be adopted by the NHL board of governors today:

- Allowing the two-line pass (no red line) like international hockey.

- Reduction in goalie equipment.

- Using the AHL crease with limits on goaltender puck-handling.

- No tie games; using a penalty shootout after overtime.

- No-touch icing.

- Bringing back tag-up offside.

- Moving nets back two feet toward end boards.


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