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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Hockey Notes

Some rules aren’t meant to be changed

Late this past week, the authoritative U.S. College Hockey Online ran a detailed lowdown on an astoundingly long list of proposed rule changes that appear primed to go into effect for all NCAA men’s and women’s leagues in 2010-11. And perhaps the only aspect tougher to digest than the quantity of amendments (25 in all, 24 applying to both genders) is the number of repulsive recommendations.

Granted, there are a few instances where the NCAA Rules Committee did not hesitate to shoot for an easy empty-netter. One would like to think that all are in favor of new contact-to-the-head restrictions. Any type of head contact with discernable recklessness or malice aforethought should be punishable by a major penalty and/or expulsion from the game. (Now let’s hope the NHL starts to pick up on this.)

That aside, USCHO visitors who scanned the collection must have reached a point where they feared they would eventually see the words “trapezoid” and “touch icing.” Luckily, that didn’t happen, but the damage akin to the Hawks’ casual dismantling of District Five was already plain.

Here are merely two fistfuls of the all but forthcoming new rules -all of which are unfavorable- and this author’s own detailed reaction.

On so-called “Shorthanded team not allowed to ice the puck.” This one seems to have coaches peeved more than any other amendment, and with good reason.

While one could make the argument that the status quo is hypocritically benefitting shorthanded teams, I argue that the proposed new rule would also take something away from the power play team. When the puck skitters behind your goal line and there is no icing, chances are your shorthanded opponent is not going to send one of its skaters after your retriever. Instead, they must brace themselves for a renewed end-to-end 5-on-4 rush. They have less time to prepare for an offensive like that than they would have for a face-off in their end.

Under the current system, when play continues after what would otherwise be an icing stoppage, shorthanded teams are allotted no time to catch a little breath and next-to-no time for mental rehearsal. Instead, the attackers are coming right at them whether they are ready or not. And if they’re not, so much the better for your chances to score a savory power play goal.

On so-called “Delayed penalty enforcement.” I definitely have to say no to this one. Usually, when a team scores amidst an imminent power play, they do so with a no-risk six-pack attack. In other words, they are playing with one extra skater than the offending team and thus, for all intents and purposes, are already on the power play. Therefore, logically, if they score, they have already earned their power play goal. You could argue that the guilty individual should still have to serve his/her two-minute sentence for whatever he/she did, but the whole team has already paid its price. And this is the ultimate team sport, after all.

On so-called “Faceoff location.” This basically means holding a face-off in the attacking zone for any routine whistle that was blown in that zone, regardless of whose stick was last to touch the puck. If a shot goes off the net and out of play, then that means a member of the offensive team was the last living thing to touch it. And in any sport, whichever team is last to touch the ball or puck before it goes out of bounds should be at a disadvantage for that. In this case, that means pulling the faceoff back to neutral ice.

On so-called “Awarding goals.” That is, awarding a goal to a puck-carrier who is about to deposit an empty-netter, but is fouled by a trailing defender before he/she can do so. But hey, for all you know, that puck-carrier might have still missed the net on a mortifyingly unfortunate twist. Just ask ex-Dallas Stars forward Patrik Stefan about the night (January 4, 2007) when he nearly nailed a dagger on the Edmonton Oilers –or just look it up on YouTube. Bottom line: every goal has to be earned by conclusively putting the biscuit in the basket.

On so-called “Holding teams at the end of periods.”
This means slapping a team with a bench minor if that team’s locker room is located directly behind their bench and a player steps onto the pond after a period ends. Well, this is certainly impossible to enforce at Schneider Arena, where the PC women’s runway is situated directly behind their cage. Seeing as not all rinks are created equal, this rule is simply unfair to those programs whose teams have the potential to mistakenly break it. So please spare us.

On so-called “Commercial logos.” No thanks. As much as this author loves to devote his free time to P-Bruins games at the Dunkin Donuts Center, one thing I cannot cope with there is the mess the corporate bug has made on that ice. Four on-ice ads located neatly within the neutral zone are enough. We don’t need any behind the goal lines or within the defensive zones. (Some buildings, though, don’t even sell all of their dasherboard ad space, so perhaps we’ll get lucky and this will go unnoticed.)

On so-called “Use of timeout to change players.” If a team utilizes its timeout after an icing, the sole purpose is to give its players –stranded on the ice by icing law- a unique chance to quickly recharge. Let’s keep it that way. Don’t let them put on fresh personnel, as this new rule would. Let them see if resting the players who iced the puck for 30 seconds works or backfires.

On so-called “Hybrid icing.” I’ve read the explanation and I still don’t quite get this one. Essentially, though, it means letting the linesman wash out an icing if a member of the offending team was closer to touching the puck before it crossed the goal line. Such an approach would do nothing but amount to a multitude of unsolvable arguments at every single game.

On so-called “Hand passes legal in all zones.” The players carry sticks for a reason. Make them use them. End of story.

On so-called “Delayed penalty situation.” Oh, come on. You’re not seriously going to make the zebra wait to make his/her call until the guilty team gains possession outside of their own zone, are you? This would do nothing except kill more clock and create more numbness in the raised arms of refs. Don’t even think about experimenting with this policy.

Despite what I or anybody else says, though, it looks like that’s just what the NCAA is going to do.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com