Rulebook overhauled

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Not all of the rule-change recommendations sent out by NHL executive vice-president Colin Campbell last month survived yesterday's final stage.

But most of them did, and with a few modifications to others, fans can expect a radically altered game when the league returns to action on Oct. 5, a night on which all 30 teams will play.

Commissioner Gary Bettman used the opportunity provided by yesterday's board of governors' ratification of the new collective bargaining agreement to unveil the new rules and several other league changes.

He confirmed that the NHL will take part in the 2006 Olympics in Turin, Italy, and the 2010 Games in Whistler, B.C.

He said that in Olympic years, there will be no NHL all-star game. Next year's game, which was to have been played in Phoenix, will be rescheduled for another year.

As reported earlier, the schedule will be revamped to increase divisional rivalries. Clubs will play eight games against each divisional opponent and four games against other teams in the conference. It will also host one non-conference division and go on the road for a swing through another.

The governors ratified the new CBA unanimously.

But most of yesterday's focus was on the new rules, some of which were slightly modified from their recommended form.

The shootout will, indeed, be introduced, but will take place immediately following the four-on-four overtime. There had been a strong movement for an extra three minutes of three-on-three.

The precise format will be determined next week, but three shooters will be used.

In an attempt to give the offensive players more room to roam, the goal lines have been moved two feet closer to the boards, as expected.

But in addition, the blue line has been moved out two feet, thereby shrinking the neutral zone by four feet.

Goaltender's equipment will be reduced in size by approximately 11%. Pads will be reduced from 12 inches to 11. To encourage complicity, the league will impose a two-game suspension on goaltenders who are caught cheating. The team will be fined $25,000 US and the trainer will be fined $1,000.

The league did not accept the proposed "puckless" icing which would have required players to merely put their stick across the goal line first to win possession. But it did modify the old rule to allow linesmen to wave off icing if they feel that an honest attempt was made to complete a pass.

A number of other rule changes were adopted as proposed.

Teams which ice the puck will have to keep the same players on the ice for the ensuing faceoff.

The red line will not be considered as a factor in two-line offside calls.

Any player who shoots the puck over the glass in the defensive zone will receive a two-minute penalty for delay of game.

Goaltenders will be allowed to play the puck only in designated puck-handling areas.

Goaltenders who freeze the puck unnecessarily will be assessed a two-minute delay-of-game penalty.

TAG-UP RETURNS

There will be zero tolerance on interference, hooking and other forms of illegal obstruction.

The tag-up rule will be reinstated. It allows play to continue if players who preceded the puck into the offensive zone "tag up" by coming back across the blue line.

A player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game will receive a game misconduct and a one-game suspension. Suspensions double with each subsequent incident. The coach is fined $10,000 and that amount also doubles with each occurrence.

The league will crack down on diving with a series of graduated punishments, starting with a warning letter and moving up to suspensions. The league's hockey operations office will have the authority to impose those penalties through the use of video replays.


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