TORONTO - Think of referees gabbing via helmet radios, hand passes in the offensive zone, the death of the trapezoid and repeat shootout contestants in overtime.
Yes, itís time for the National Hockey League to put white mice on skates and turn the rink into a 200 by 85 foot experimental lab, with the noble intent of streamlining the game and boosting offence.
The leagueís second research and development camp, to be held at the MasterCard Centre in Etobicoke Aug. 17-18, seeks to continue the flow re-created after the 2005 lockout. Many of the campís more far-fetched ideas wonít go further than this study phase, involving two teams of 2012 draft eligible players, coaches Dan Bylsma and Dave Tippett and an audience of league brass and media.
The concept of three primary faceoff dots instead of nine and red-meshed nets didnít survive this year, but some holdover experiments, such as hybrid icing, shallow nets and gradually reducing overtime manpower from 4-on-4 to 2-on-2 will be getting a second look.
Hereís a look at some of the rule tweaks to be evaluated during the camp:
Referees with head-sets
Would be useful for staying in touch during hectic action as it moves up ice. Ideally, both refs would make sure to be in the best possible position to judge goals or call penalties, as the official who is the furthest away often makes what can be a controversial minor call. They could also relay the linesmenís comments or stay in touch when one ref is with the timekeeper and the other at the team benches.
No line changes after an offsides
Currently in effect only for a team that ices the puck, this would have the dual effect of discouraging offsides and trapping tired players, leading to scoring chances.
Only on-the-fly line changes permitted
Coaches wonít like their matchups being messed with, but this would restrict stop-time changes only when goals are scored or manpower situations arise.
In the continuing effort to stamp out delays caused by encroaching centres and wingers, misbehaving centres will have to move back a foot, while another variation will allow the other team to pick the next man to take the draw. Faceoffs will be restricted to the five circles, erasing the neutral zone dots. One linesman will be designated for almost all faceoffs to create consistency.
Hand passes permitted
North Americans who played baseball will have an advantage here. Just donít close your hand on the puck.
Trapezoid out, red line in
Two ďroll-backĒ experiments. Goalies can once again roam to their heartís content to play the puck, but be warned, they will be penalized for freezing a puck without at least one skate in the crease. They will likely be considered fair game for forecheckers if they get too adventurous when stick-handling.
With the red line active again, two-line passes will be restricted in the hope more players get touches in the neutral zone.
A Brian Burke initiative, this allows players to wrap up an opponent going into the boards to lessen impact and avoid a holding call.