Leafs offer selves as guinea pigs

Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel skates at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 18, 2011....

Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel skates at the MasterCard Centre in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 18, 2011. (ERNEST DOROSZUK/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:49 PM ET

TORONTO - Brian Burke’s offer to give some new rules and equipment a test run in Maple Leafs exhibition games next month could get buried in red tape.

At the end of this week’s NHL research and development camp, Toronto’s general manager publicly extended an invite to the league to use the Leafs in furthering the study of shallow nets, hybrid icing and improved video.

“We’re willing to try it in our pre-season games, the rule changes, the nets and the cameras,” Burke said. “The other team has to consent, but if (the league) needs a guinea pig, we’ll be the guinea pig.”

Leaf exhibition games are well attended and broadcast on their in-house channel, which would give fans a chance to judge the new ideas as well. But as Burke said, the other team must first agree to it, in case it feels its players could be seen in an unfavourable light.

Toronto opens the pre-season on Sept. 19, against the Ottawa Senators and then plays back-to-back games against the Philadelphia Flyers. While Ottawa GM Bryan Murray was not available for comment on Friday, Philadelphia’s Paul Holmgren wanted to speak to Burke about the content before commenting.

The league also confirmed that the players association must give its stamp of approval, in case it believes one or more of the tweaks might pose a risk.

However, concepts such as the curved glass at termination points along the benches are already going in for regular season game in response to the Max Pacioretty incident.

NHL vice-president of hockey operations Brendan Shanahan also wants to try the new nets and the goal verification line in the pre-season.

The NHLPA appears to have an open mind about Burke’s proposal.

“The NHLPA is going to review with the league the initiatives that were tested at the R&D camp, and at that time will discuss whether it makes sense to consider further experimenting with any of these changes in exhibition games next month,” said union spokesperson Jonathan Weatherdon in an email to the Sun.

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Shanahan told Yahoo Sports at the R&D camp that in his new role as league disciplinarian, every announced suspension will, when possible, be backed up with a video that details what the league saw and how it arrived at its sentence. In some cases, a video might be released explaining why no suspension was warranted.

“You might not agree with our decision, but you’re going to understand how we got to that decision,” said Shanahan. “This is not a black-and-white job. It’s not completely predictive. But over a certain amount of time, I hope that they sort of start to understand what the strike zone is.”

Drury calls it a day

Centre Chris Drury, the only NHLer to win both the Hobey Baker Award and Calder Trophy, has retired because of ongoing knee problems. Drury, who turns 35 on Saturday, had a distinguished career of 20 or more goals in nine seasons and one Stanley Cup. But his elite player status took a beating when he signed a weighty five-year, $35.25 million contract with the New York Rangers. He went from 25 to 14 goals and hardly played at all last season.

Drury compiled 704 regular-season and playoff points in 1,027 games. After being drafted by Quebec, he shifted with the franchise to Colorado and won the Cup there in 2001. He also spent time in Calgary and Buffalo.

Though not too well-known his draft year (the Nordiques’ third pick in 1984, 72nd overall, behind Wade Belak and Jeff Kealty), he had been a minor baseball prodigy. He led his hometown Trumbull, Conn., to the ‘89 Little League World Series, beating Chinese Taipei with a complete-game, five-hitter, while driving in two runs. h.

Goalies dodge trap

The trapezoid was erased for one of the scrimmage games at the R&D camp, but both goaltenders weren’t willing to explore the new freedom to come out and handle pucks.

“Interesting,” said Shanahan. “One test isn’t the end of that idea, but it’s my guess that goalies wouldn’t have a lot of time to play the puck in today’s game. That forward is coming in so fast, where 10 years ago, he was getting held up in the neutral zone.”

Puck over pigskin

Many would wonder why projected 2012 first-round draft pick Cody Ceci didn’t follow his father Parri into football. Parri was a wide receiver with the Calgary Stampeders and while playing OUAA ball at Guelph, had a record 89-yard reception in the 1984 Vanier Cup. His CFL career ended prematurely with a knee injury.

“My dad tried to push football, but my mom didn’t really like it,” the Ottawa 67’s defenceman said at the R&D camp. “She got me into figure skating when I was three. I played football in high school, was a running back for a couple of years and played lacrosse in the off-season. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as hockey.”

Ice chips

Goalie Jonas Hiller, bothered by vertigo last season that eventually forced him out of the Ducks’ lineup at playoff time has been cleared for camp ... Sportsnet’s John Shannon reports the man heading up the group to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes is former San Jose Sharks’ president Greg Jamison ... Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to attend the Winnipeg Jets’ home opener on Oct. 9 against Montreal ... Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Richard Peddie is offering two tickets to the Leafs’ exhibition opener for the first person who puts him in the dunk tank on Saturday’s Sports In The Square Day. Players and executive from MLSE’s teams will have a public meet-and-greet with fans at Maple Leaf Square from 10 a.m. until 3.

lance.hornby@sunmedia.ca


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