SUN Hockey Pool

NHL still will call it by book

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Although the gambling investigation took the spotlight yesterday, the National Hockey League's general managers spent most of their meeting hearing reports and discussing officiating.

That latter discussion will continue today as the league continues to wrestle with its crackdown on restraint.

Even though most GMs like the new approach, some don't. "Some people just don't like penalties, and we have had a lot," said Colin Campbell, executive vice-president and director of hockey operations.

"We've had 2,200 more hooking calls at this point this year than we had in '03-04. Hooking is the one aspect of the clutch and grab, the obstruction, call it what you want, that was really slowing the skater down."

But as fans have noticed, games are increasingly decided on power plays and in a number of quarters, there has been resistance. There's nothing new in that.

"I can understand why this always went away in November and December," said Campbell. "The pressure is there to make it go away now, and we don't want it to go away. That's why we're hitting it head on with the managers."

Campbell says he laid it on the line. His message was: "Why don't you like it? Support it if you still want us to do it. Tell us if you don't like it, and we'll tell the officials to back off."

But if there is to be any backing off at all, it will be minimal.

"No one likes penalties being called that change the outcome of a game," said Campbell, "but if you don't, it turns into chip, hack, tackle at end of the game and you've got yourself in a position where you can't call penalties."

To make sure that message is reinforced, Campbell intends to use part of the Olympic break to deliver a refresher course to his officials.

"They'll be in Toronto at the end of the break," said Campbell. "Saturday, Sunday, Monday, just before we start up."

But the officials won't be sent in a new direction. They'll be reminded of some of the interpretations and encouraged to remain firm.

"If we don't stay the course, we're in trouble," said Campbell. "We've made a commitment and we have to stay the course."


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