SUN Hockey Pool

Every new rule must be clarified

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 12:51 PM ET

Now that the board of governors has approved the National Hockey League's new rules, it's time to take the next step.

Figure out how to implement them.

To that end, NHL executive vice president Colin Campbell will be convening his competition committee in Toronto this week to work out the whys and wherefores.

It's not as easy as it seems. The intent of each new rule is clear, but the way it will be imposed and enforced has to be determined.

Take, for example, the shootout. The league confirmed on Friday that it will use that method to settle games that haven't been decided in overtime.

It's a popular decision. As Brendan Shanahan, one of the committee members explained, "Nobody said he wanted a shootout, but everybody said he didn't want tie games. This seemed to be the best way to do it."

But what shootout format makes the most sense? Each team will use three shooters, but how do you decide which team shoots first?

If the score remains tied after those three have taken their shots, the shootout moves to a sudden-death stage. But as recently as Friday, the governors were still debating whether, if a team scored on its fourth shot, the other team, which had shot only three times, would have another chance.

It appears that it will. In fact, no other format would make sense, but then again, this is the board of governors we're talking about.

And what about helmets? At the moment, players are required to wear them. But the television producers would love to see the rule waived for the shootout so that they could focus on the drama on the faces of the shooters.

Campbell and his committee agree, but knowing the way the New York office thinks, the lawyers will have to be brought in on this one, so who knows what will happen?

Maybe there will be a delay before the shootout while each player signs a duly witnessed waiver.

Do the shots all take place on the same net? That's what happens in soccer, but with a hockey rink being much smaller than a soccer field, it doesn't seem likely that they'll shortchange the fans at one end.

NAMED FIRST?

Another question involves the procedure for designating the shooters. Does a coach have to name all three before the shootout starts? Does he have to include an extra on the list, as is the case in international play?

There is another international rule which says that if a goalie commits a penalty during a shootout, one of his team's designated shooters must be removed in favor of the extra shooter. Does the NHL want to incorporate that rule?

Campbell favors just letting the coaches decide on the fly. The coach points to one player, then another, then the third.

Logistics come into play. By the time the shootout starts, the ice will not be in great shape. The two teams will have played 25 minutes of hockey -- the third period plus the overtime -- without a resurfacing. But fans won't want to sit for 10 minutes while the Zambonis are brought out to do their work.

Campbell has done tests and found that the Zambonis can do a dry scrape in a little over a minute -- just time for the TV people to insert a commercial and the coaches to huddle to decide their strategy.

The better the ice, the better the entertainment value of the shootout. Studies of other leagues have shown that if the ice isn't in good shape, the shooters tend to move in a straight line and blast the puck, which isn't much of a spectacle.

But if they feel they can handle the puck without having it bounce over their sticks, they'll use their moves and try to deke the goalie.

All these considerations have to be brought into play for just one rule. And Campbell has over a dozen to implement.

So much for a relaxed summer.


Videos

Photos