July 28 - The New NHL
So the hockey is back, along with several new rules. I hope the sport thrives again, but I
think what it really needs is Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy.
I guess the NHL is trying to produce exactly that from the current crop of Sandy
McCarthys and Donald Brashears, having introduced its new rules designed to speed
up play, add scoring, and make defense as obsolete as wooden sticks. I guess I am in
the minority of those who actually enjoyed a hard-fought 2-1 game with hard-hitting,
relentless fore-checking, and organ music.
I think some of these rules are a good idea; others seem to have been cooked up by the kind of
people who call All-Sports radio stations. And I don't believe the media has been exactly helpful,
either. One report I read referred to a new goalie-restricted area behind the net as a trapezoid. I went
to the NHL web site. It looks like a wedge of pie, which last time I checked was called a triangle.
(A trapezoid, by the way is a quadrilateral, with one pair of parallel sides. Trust me, I flunked enough
geometry exams before I finally got it right)
Reduce the dimensions of the goalie equipment so Martin Brodeur doesn't look as stuffed as the
Pillsbury Doughboy, fine. Get rid of the red line, which is about as helpful to the flow as a tractor-trailer
in the left lane, okay with me.
But I draw my own red line when you start adding gimmicky shootouts to decide a game better ended
on skill, determination, and tenacity. Besides, no one has ever explained to me why the idea of a tie -
a tie! - is about as welcome in hockey as ballet slippers. Cheesh, these guys play for 60 minutes,
skating, shooting, checking, and fighting, and a tie, even after overtime, still isn't good enough?
What do we do after the shootout? Play jacks?
Great, cut down on the obstruction, but don't lengthen the offensive zone to the size of a parking lot, so
the player who has the puck can hide behind a post, a bush, or an old Dodge. Let players earn their
goals and assists; let's not tilt the advantage too far, as baseball did in lowering the pitcher's mound,
juicing the baseball, squeezing the strike zone, and compacting the ballparks, so that now 40 players
drive in a 100 rounds every year, instead of the five or six when I was young, back in the Jurassic Era.
I think we can now safely assume that the average number of goals in a game will increase, that
goals-against averages will soar, and that many fans will be happy when their team wins 15-12. I
won't be one of them.
I've played that game. It's called softball.