|NHL Hockey - Under Seige
February 26th, 2002
As a Canadian hockey fan I can sit back and make comments about other sports without hesitation.
The NFL should move to a one-foot inbound rule like the CFL.
Major League Baseball should use computer chips in base bags to avoid the use of umpires on the field getting in the way of line drive hits, or double plays.
Makes sense to me.
Ask a major NFL or baseball fan their opinion, however, and you may get a reaction similar to Don Cherry's when the topic of Olympic vs. NHL hockey rears it's head.
LEAVE IT ALONE!
To me, Grapes has a point.
Coming off a very emotional, action packed tournament many a writer or radio host have been quick to jump on the Olympic hockey bandwagon.
The argument goes that a larger rink, no center red line, and a more open game leads to a much more exciting brand of hockey.
What they forget is the quality of player.
Picture if you will a big match-up at the Saddledome this Saturday night. The Calgary Flames break all NHL precedents by taking advantage of their retractable ice surface to rip out 1500 seats and play the Predators on Olympic sized ice. The Calgary ice maverick's melt the ice and erase the centerline, making the stage set for some of the most exciting hockey ever to be played in Calgary!
Then the game starts with Jeff Shantz centering Jamie Allison and Craig Berube. On the point the Flames have Petr Buzek and Igor Kravchuk. Across the line they see Greg Classen between Reid Simpson and Steve Dubinsky - Karlas Skrastins and Mark Eaton man the points.
Go get 'em!
Fast paced, up and down, no holds barred offensive artistry right?
Not a chance.
Short of dropping the NHL to an eight team league, comparing last week's Olympic hockey to today's NHL is like comparing the proverbial apple to the proverbial orange.
It just isn't fair.
The Olympics featured six teams consisting of roughly 120 of the world's best 150 hockey players. The NHL features 690 of the world's best 700 hockey players. Head to head the NHL doesn't stand a chance. You may as well compare a preseason game to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Final.
Therefore, the altered rules used in the Olympic games must be considered in a practical fashion.
The Swedes used the Torpedo to rip Canada apart in the Game's first hockey game. At that point it looked like the big ice was a catalyst to a free flowing defenseless, fast paced game. Later in the tournament the Russians ground the Czecks into the ice on way to a 1-0 victory.
Overall goal scoring was actually down when the big six played in comparison to the NHL games played this season.
With big ice you still have an NHL sized slot, the portion of the ice where the lion's share of goals are scored. It just takes longer to get there.
When you see players like Steve Yzerman say that you can't go full out on the large ice surface or you get caught, you know it isn't the way to go. Sitting back isn't the component that has made the sport of hockey so popular.
Flat-footed teams were caught early in the tournament, but then everyone adjusted and the odd man rushes all but dried up. Imagine the effect over an 82 game schedule.
Toni Lydman put it best when he described the effect of this rule change in the Finish Elite League, "I hated it because, personally, I wanted to jump into the rush. Especially the teams that weren't that good on paper, they used to have two guys at the back blueline just waiting for the breakout pass. So the defencemen had to stay back. It was boring."
The fear of getting burned can actually lead to less chance taking, and an offensive team with three attackers getting dominated by five defensive minded players.
No Touch Icing
I'm changing my mind on this one.
As much as I've always loved the fact that a swift footed forward can alter a game by out racing a defenceman on an icing call, it just doesn't seem worth it given the high risk of injury in doing so.
It's a move that is likely well past due for the NHL.
15 Second Face-offs
All for it.
The television issue in the NHL will have to be dealt with, as they play a significant role in NHL revenues, but it's a move that has to happen.
Our AHL friends have pointed out that it's already being used in the AHL, a league that does have a sampling of t.v. coverage, and could therefore act as a model.
One of the best facts of the recently completed Olympic hockey tournament was the avoidance of any one game being decided by a side show.
The NHL has altered the number of games settled in overtime through the change to four on four hockey, there is no need to take it any further.
Hockey is Hockey
In the end the players on the ice determine how good a hockey game is played.
The Canadians and Americans could have played on a surface of any size on Sunday and the world would have loved the outcome.
The game's only two-line pass was to American Tony Amonte, who scored to put the U.S. up 1-0 early. After that there wasn't a single attempt.
It was, however, over in just over two hours, something the NHL has to take a long look at.
Hockey needs to find ways to speed itself up, not make changes for the sake of making changes.
Let the players entertain not the rule makers.