The new NHL rule book

LANCE HORNBY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:14 AM ET

SHOOTOUT

EXPLANATION: If a game remains tied after a five-minute, four-on-four overtime, each team will have three shooters. If that also results in a tie, a sudden-death shootout ensues. The winning team gets two points, the loser one.

IMPACT: The only tie you'll see from now on will wear No. 28 for the Leafs. Most fans will love it, save for some northern purists, most players are on board, but coaches who play for the interdivisional draw and playoff survival will not be enamoured. TV producers will have a guaranteed highlight from each game.

BOTTOM LINE: After so much debate, why not see if it works?

TWO-LINE PASSES

EXPLANATION: The centre red line will be ignored for the purpose of offsides. Long bomb passes to a teammate from deep in your zone to the opposition's side of the neutral zone are permissable.

IMPACT: A lot of Hail Marys might be tried at the start, but defencemen are likely to get wise very quickly and drop back, alone or in tandem. Either the mid-ice will open up, or clubs will just start to set the trap a little deeper in their zone.

BOTTOM LINE: Those used to playing with this rule in Europe or other leagues will have the upper hand.

GOALTENDER POSITION RESTRICTIONS

EXPLANATION: Goalies can only come out and play the puck behind the net in a trapezoid-defined area that begins six feet from either post and extends diagonally to 28 feet at the end boards. If caught outside the designated area, a penalty results.

IMPACT: Goalies can no longer aid their defencemen on dump-ins to the corner or get a jump on forecheckers. Defencemen getting pursued from behind should pucker up to kiss the plexiglass.

BOTTOM LINE: Goalies might have to stay in their crease and become just goalies again, instead of third defencemen.

GOALTENDER POSITION RESTRICTIONS

EXPLANATION: Gear will be reduced in size by approximately 11%. Pads will be reduced from 12 inches to 11. Sweaters will shrink.

IMPACT: The league's many Michelin Men will be butterflying in their briefs. But reflex goalies will still do well, even with the extra daylight for shooters to aim at.

BOTTOM LINE: It beats that goofy idea to curve the posts.

BIGGER OFFENSIVE ZONE

EXPLANATION: The blue-lines will be moved closer together, to create an additional four feet in each offensive zone, reducing the neutral zone from 54 to 50 feet. Goal-lines will be moved back two feet to 11 feet from the end boards.

IMPACT: In theory, more room in mid-ice to operate. In reality, close checking teams will be just as tough to battle through.

BOTTOM LINE: Power plays will get the most out of the extra ice.

TAG-UP OFFSIDE

EXPLANATION: Play can continue during an off-side if the offensive team gets back over the blue line before the puck is brought over.

IMPACT: More flow to the play, unless those vacating the zone choose to stay out and go on defence. But there should be fewer stoppages in play.

BOTTOM LINE: One less call to explain to wives and girlfriends during commercial.

ICING

EXPLANATION: Linesmen can now wave off icings deemed to result from bad passes rather than deliberate attenpts to relieve pressure. Teams which ice the puck will have to keep the same players on the ice for the ensuing faceoff.

IMPACT: Again, less stoppages in play, while a few wheezing players could end up causing more goals.

BOTTOM LINE: Why not go all the way and make it no-touch icing to alleviate injuries?


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