Winning goalies like the shootout

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:26 AM ET

Of all the new rules, the one that seems to be creating the most controversy is the shootout.

Although it is highly popular among American hockey fans, a lot of Canadians still don't like it.

Strangely enough though, a highly unscientific survey -- a series of chats with the players themselves -- would indicate that the players enjoy it.

The goalies? Reviews are mixed. They tend to say that they like the shootouts when they win, but for the most part, they accept it as a form of entertainment that is necessary to help the game recapture its fan base.

"I'm one of the rarer guys in the league who played in the IHL," Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco said. "There aren't too many of us. I know what comes along with the shootout.

"There's a lot of pressure. You're playing in the NHL and every team has got great players and you know what? It's not just the great players who are good shootout players.

"You don't always know who the good shootout guys are because it's probably guys you've never seen before because you've never seen them on a breakaway unless you live with them in the summertime."

But in general, Turco said, NHL goalies have to be able to handle pressure or they wouldn't be where they are.

Tomas Vokoun of the Nashville Predators sees it as a matter of mindset.

"It's all about mental toughness," he said. "I've been part of some shootouts that were do-or-die in international competition, and that was really tough.

"It's definitely a skill, and you have to work on it. You have to read what the shooter is going to do. There are signs. Usually when you make the save, it shows you what he was trying to do."

Those who oppose the shootout say it's like settling a baseball game with a homer-hitting contest or a basketball game with a slam-dunk contest.

But those analogies do not hold. In those circumstances, there is no defender. In hockey, it's a head-to-head matchup of two guys who continue doing what they tried to do during the game.

Even those who say it makes the game too much like soccer don't have it right. If the puck were placed on the hash marks for a one-timer, and the goalie had to stand on the goal line, they might be right. But in hockey, it's just a formalized breakaway -- and breakaways are part of the game.

Writing the book on refs

Tampa Bay Lightning coach John Tortorella is keeping a book on the referees.

As anyone who has watched a number of games this season knows, the new rules are not being applied evenly. Some of the veteran referees still tend to be more lenient than their more youthful counterparts.

"It's our job to understand how the refs are going to call it each and every night," Tortorella said. "I'm not picking on the refs, but we have to measure how the standard is being kept up through this process.

"We would be remiss as a coaching staff if we don't continue to monitor how the standard is being called."

It's a sensible approach but there's nothing new in it. Serge Savard hired consultants to create a book on officiating tendencies when he was general manager of the Montreal Canadiens.

One Hull of a teammate

Brett Hull, the human quote machine, will be missed by the media, but some of his former teammates remember that Hull's acerbic wit was occasionally unleashed in their direction.

There was, for instance, the time in St. Louis when coach Mike Keenan had the players do a drill in which they had to hold their sticks by the blade. "As if it makes any difference to the way you handle the puck," said Hull to a teammate. When told that a certain teammate had done well on the conditioning tests, Hull's lightning-quick response was, "How did he do on the IQ test?" And then there was his famous suggestion during his Stanley Cup run with the Dallas Stars that both Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk clearly deserved the Norris Trophy because night after night they shut down two top lines -- the opposition's and the Stars'.

Players still aren't happy

The turmoil within the NHL Players' Association continues, even though some players -- and media people -- are trying to downplay it.

The players should have known what to expect, but even so, it came as a shock to many when they got their first paycheque on Oct. 15 and discovered what had been pointed out on a number of occasions.

Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the players have to subsidize the owners.

Apparently, some of them had thought that the escrow amounts were a form of RRSP. In fact, they are a donation to the team owners.

Out in Los Angeles, Jeremy Roenick pointed out that whenever owners give away tickets to promote their team, the players have to subsidize that generosity because it decreases revenues.

One of the more outspoken players is Minnesota Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson. "The thing I'm upset about," he said, "is a lot of guys weren't educated enough to make the decision to vote no on the CBA. I blame the union for that. I blame the executive committee and the union heads for not keeping us informed. That was their job and they didn't do it."

The point must be made, however, that the leadership which started the lockout was relieved of duties long before the settlement was reached.

The players originally voted unanimously to follow a course of action, then staged a mutiny in mid-voyage. No wonder the ship ended up on the rocks.

Here and there

Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis predicts "long-term success on the ice" for his team. If Ted says it, it must be true. Is there a sharper hockey mind anywhere? ... Why are so many Maple Leafs fans suggesting that Paul Maurice is Pat Quinn's replacement-in-waiting? Are they overlooking Rick Ley? ... And for that matter, why do fans complain that Jason Allison is too slow to be used in the shootout? Do they think there are points for speed? The prettiest shootout goal by any Leaf this year was the one Allison scored in the final pre-season game ... Vancouver Canucks coach Marc Crawford wasn't excited by referee Mike McGeough's repeated explanations to Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky during Thursday's game. "Would you wait until after the game to get his autograph?" he snapped.


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