Looking into the NHL’s future

By on April 20, 2005

Goaltenders in the NHL have long been the target of blistering slap shots. Now, goalies are the primary target in proposed rule changes to increase offence once the league lockout ends.

In a meeting in Detroit two weeks ago, NHL general managers, executives and players agreed that goaltending equipment will be smaller when the league resumes play. Goal-scoring is down by over 20 percent in the past five years, with 11 teams scoring fewer than 200 goals last season.

“We talked at length about goaltender’s equipment and there was a presentation of (smaller) equipment by CCM,” Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said to the Canadian Press. “Certainly the goaltenders are on board on reducing the size of their equipment.”

According to the CCM models, pads would be 10 inches wide, two inches narrower than the pads currently used. The blocker would be an inch shorted and narrower. The catching glove would have a smaller circumference, the goalie pants would be narrower and the chest protector rounded to cover less space.

The NHL had developed three models of enlarged nets, but they were not discussed at the meeting. One of the proposed nets featured goal posts that curved outward to give shooters a larger target.

“I think that is a last, last resort,” Colorado Avalanche defenseman Rob Blake said. “There are too may other things that can be improved before that would come into effect.”

Both the league and the NHL Players’ Association understand that steps must be taken to make the sport more entertaining and appealing to fans, especially in the United States.

“We have to get out of our normal thinking if we are going to break down some of the codes and traditions to reflect a new millennium with the size, skill and ability of the players today,” Montreal Canadiens GM Bob Gainey said.

The league is expected to eliminate ties by implementing a shootout for regular season games. The NHL’s top developmental league, the American Hockey League, is using shootouts to determine games tied after overtime this season. A poll on the AHL’s web site in March showed that 75 percent of fans were in favor of the shootout.

The NHL has also discussed bringing back up the tag-up offside rule, which helps reduce stoppages of play. No-touch icing, larger red and blue lines as well as limiting where the goalie can play the puck are all rules currently used in the AHL and that could be implemented in the NHL.


About Doug Manners