SUN Hockey Pool

GMs get down to business

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

HENDERSON, Nev. -- For the most part, the National Hockey League's game is where the general managers want it to be.

But that doesn't mean that it's perfect. Far from it.

Radical changes were introduced to start the season and need some fine-tuning. Other matters had been allowed to slide while the league devoted itself to economic issues.

They, too, need attention.

So yesterday, the general managers, gathering for their annual meeting, split into four focus groups to discuss aspects of the game.

KEY ISSUES

Today, they'll offer opinions to Colin Campbell, the league's executive vice-president and director of hockey operations. Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly had been scheduled to provide a sounding board but they went back to New York to deal with the Rick Tocchet gambling situation.

Some of the key issues under consideration yesterday:

- The delay-of-game penalty for defenders who shoot the puck over the glass from the defensive zone.

Campbell said half of these calls have been made while a team is short-handed. Because a five-on-three is such a high-percentage scoring situation, some general managers are wondering if the standards for the penalty could be lowered.

- Scheduling.

The problem seems to be that there is no unanimity of purpose. The Los Angeles Kings, for instance, want frequent visits from U.S. East Coast teams because they draw well in Los Angeles. But down the road in Anaheim, that doesn't seem to be a factor.

Some teams have preferred dates -- Saturday night in the Canadian cities for example -- that impact on the team's availability elsewhere.

The GMs made it clear they didn't like the way crossover games were scheduled this season. The GMs want the crossover games spread out.

And when you get right down to it, they don't like the concept of being visited only once in three years by teams in the other conference.

The emergence of young stars Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin made them aware of the inherent problems in that system.

- Curved sticks.

You can usually get away with them in the first half of a game, even though they're illegal.

For the rest of the game, you're liable to be penalized.

But in the shootout, they're legal.

The GMs are of the opinion that the stick-measurement issue needs to be revisited and revised.

- Exhibition games.

There had been a strong movement to reduce the number, a move that was supported by the players. But now the players share league revenues so, if anything, the number of exhibition games will increase.

- New uniforms.

The GMs went to see an exhibition of the new tight-fitting outfits that met with universal disapproval when they were introduced at the Olympic orientation camp last summer.

The players' disapproval probably will continue, but since the NHL has entered into an agreement with the manufacturer, it won't matter.


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