New rules should help Wings
July 23, 2005
BY ESTHER GIM
FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER
Game on, but not the way you might remember it.
Tie games are out in the NHL and overtime shootouts are in.
Two-line passes across the red line will be legal, but oversized equipment for goalies won't be.
And the offensive zones will be larger, with the neutral zone smaller.
Those are among the rules changes announced Friday, when commissioner Gary Bettman promised "an era of unparalleled excitement and entertainment for our fans."
The idea is to increase offense and the flow of the game.
Teams that rely on skill and speed, such as the Red Wings, likely will benefit most. Fast skaters now can get up the ice to take a pass that travels from the defensive zone across the red line. That might stretch defenses.
"We're such a high-skilled team, we're looking forward to keeping the game moving," said Wings assistant general manager Jim Nill.
Among the changes:
?Overtime: If a game is tied after regulation in the regular season, a five-minute overtime will be played with four skaters on each team. If the game is still tied, a shootout will be held with three players from each team getting a shot each. If the score still remains tied, a sudden-death shootout will be held. Teams will get two points in the standings for a regulation, overtime or shootout win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss.
?The neutral zone will be reduced from 54 to 50 feet long. The goal lines will be two feet closer to the end boards. That means each offensive zone -- from blue line to goal line -- will be increased by four feet.
?Goalie equipment will be smaller.
?Referees are supposed to have zero tolerance for interference, hooking, holding and obstruction.
?Goaltenders are allowed to play the puck behind the net only in a trapezoid-shaped area.
?A team that ices the puck can't make a line change before the next face-off.
Of all the changes, Nill said the biggest impact could come from the smaller goalie equipment and calls for obstruction.
Gone are the days when goaltenders like Jean-Sebastien Giguere may wear pads as wide as a bus. And New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur's specialty -- playing the puck along the boards -- now may become a penalty.
Icing the puck is a bit more gray. Red Wings forward Brendan Shanahan called the change a "safe hybrid" between the old way of icing the puck and no-touch icing implemented in the American Hockey League and the Olympics.
The NHL still will require a defensive player to touch the puck before icing is called, but linesmen will have the discretion of waving off apparent icing if it's ruled an attempted pass rather than a delaying tactic.
"If there's a race for the puck, or there's a bad pass or the puck jumped over the stick, then the linesmen have the discretion of calling it, to keep the play moving," Nill said.
A competition committee of four players, four general managers and one owner will keep tabs on the changes. The players are Shanahan, Colorado's Rob Blake, Calgary's Jarome Iginla and players union president Trevor Linden of Vancouver.
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