NHL drifts toward NBA look

JOHN SHORT

, Last Updated: 7:32 AM ET

A few years ago, the NHL introduced touch fouls and took a big move away from heavy, consistent bodily contact.

A times, today's NHL game looks a lot like basketball and the link keeps getting stronger.

Now, this tough-guy hockey league is planning a shootout showdown during the all-star break. Style points will count.

In the NBA, they call it a slam-dunk showdown.

An awful thought stuck in my mind after Sheldon Souray slashed Shane Doan on a breakaway last week - how long before Gary Bettman starts a movement to have free shows (penalty shots) take the place of two-minute penalties?

The common feeling was that Souray deserved at least a minor penalty. Doan, who would still be an Oiler if not for a terrible draft-day decision by Barry Fraser and Glen Sather in 1995, was stopped on his penalty shot.

Souray was assessed a major and game misconduct, which seemed a little excessive, but Kyle Brodziak and his penalty-killing buddies survived the test.

The sequence had no effect on the game result - the Oilers won, giving more proof that their young players are headed in the right direction - so there was no lasting consequence.

The problem is that penalty shots in the NHL are a lot more common than they were when Bettman got his job. They're often awarded when a player on a breakaway is simply nudged from behind.

Oops. There's that touch foul thing again.

The NBA history of the tiny perfect hockey commissioner scares me more every day.

OFF THE RADAR SCREEN

It's surprising that bantam hockey gets so little attention from spectators these days. Canada's top bantam players are drafted at 13 or 14 to become the foundation of major junior teams and major junior is considered the last big step before the NHL.

The thought that hockey professionals are allowed to shape the future of early teens is obnoxious, but that's another subject for another day.

Almost the only time that these kids are not ignored on the ice is an all-star game such as the one staged yesterday at Sherwood Park. Not only did the kids have fun but they flashed some impressive skills.

All in all, it was quite a show.

It's only fitting that the game was staged during Minor Hockey Week. Again this year, as always, it's a great show, too.

A WISE WALK

Congratulations to Kris Andrews for walking away from professional boxing.

At best, he was a journeyman pro. A solid amateur career did not translate into success at the next level for this intelligent and decent young man.

Andrews could have fought for several more years but there were no big paydays in his future - certainly not enough money to justify the punishment that the sport guarantees to all of its participants.

But he held a Canadian title for awhile and he leaves with his health intact. A lot of youngsters who enter and leave this brutal sport can't say the same thing.


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