SUN Hockey Pool

Shootout shutout

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

There's only one flaw to Jarome Iginla's love of shootouts. His track record. Four times the Flames captain has lined up for a showdown.

Four times, he has been denied.

Yet that ultra-positive personality has him excited the NHL will turn to shootouts to decide regular-season contests.

"I know my record's not good but I believe I'm due. I'm excited for my next shot because I know I'm due," Iginla said amidst the excitement of the NHL officially ending its lockout yesterday at 310 days.

"I'm going to look forward to watching guys take shots and leaving the rink with a win instead of a tie. Plus, it'll be good to see the goalies."

The decision to use shootouts if necessary after a five-minute, four-on-four overtime period is only one of the many ways the NHL hopes to draw back fans after wiping out the whole 2004-05 season.

One of many ways the league hopes hockey will be exciting and entertaining again.

Though the Oct. 5 season opener is still a ways off, Iginla is already looking forward to seeing the differences.

"I'm back. I'm excited again," he said.

As a member of the league's new competition committee -- which also includes league executive Colin Campbell, players Rob Blake, Trevor Linden and Brendan Shanahan, GMs Bob Gainey, Kevin Lowe, David Poile and Don Waddell and Philadelphia owner Ed Snider -- Iginla will have a hand in ensuring fans' entertainment dollars are worth every penny.

"It'll be more fun to play and I hope it shows," Iginla exclaimed. "With the more fun we have, it'll make it more entertaining and more fun for the fans.

"I'm excited there are some steps being taken to try and improve the entertainment value of the game."

Another noticeable change will be a reduction in goalie equipment, not just leg pads but also blockers, trappers, pants and chest protectors. There will also be limits on where goaltenders can play the puck, a return to the tag-up rule when a player is offside, a reduced neutral zone (down to 50-ft. from 54-ft.) and eliminating the red line for two-line passes.

Iginla is not completely sold on the idea of taking out the red line but said it's worth a shot.

"You've heard it talked about for so long, 'What if you took the red line out in a smaller surface?' and we've never tried it. I'm excited to take the bold step and try it," he said.

"Talking to some people that played in Europe, they said the hooking and obstruction was worse than here, substantially worse, but if we can cut back on that, it will change that.

"It's the whole combination of the rules. You have to cut down on the obstruction, so you can't hook that guy who's taking off down the wing for that two-line pass.

"Hopefully that combination will benefit the game."

Oh yes, the league is once again vowing to crack down on obstruction, something pledged for several seasons with only minute success.

Flames GM/head coach Darryl Sutter warned if obstruction isn't eliminated, the other changes will have minimal impact.

"What we need for more offence is an unobstructed forecheck," he said. "It's not so much what happens in the neutral zone, it's what you're allowed to do from the red line to the opposing net. How they implement that will determine how much forecheck you do.

"You don't score from centre ice, you score from being allowed to skate with and without the puck."

And if you score, you create excitement.

Certainly we can't expect to see the wild games of the late 1980s but all parties vow the new NHL will highlight the skill of players like Iginla.

Plus, market them better, a process Iginla -- one of the handful of stars the league must make into a household name -- can expect to have a hand in.

"The game has a lot of interesting personalities and that hasn't always come across. I hope there is a way to get more players out there for the fans to know.

"There's a lot of personalities and fans will relate to them," he said.

"I watch other sports and there's certain players you're not thrilled about but that makes you watch. I think we need more of that, some more edginess. It'll be more entertaining."


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