There will be no “major changes” to the NHL’s rulebook, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.
“There will be some recommendations, some things people will look at, there will be some more homework done, but you should continue to enjoy the game principally the way it’s being played.”
And for most hockey fans, that’s fine. The NHL is in a good spot right now. There’s labor peace. More and more people are watching — in rinks, on TV, and on the internet. And hockey fans are traditionally averse to change anyway. They wonder why people are always trying to mess with their game.
Which I guess puts me in the minority. Because here are three fairly major changes I’d like to see the NHL consider:
1. A revamped points system
Something that gives teams an incentive to win in regulation time, not play for a tie and hope for the best in overtime or the shootout. In the Olympics, it was three points for a regulation win, two for an overtime or shootout win, one for an overtime or shootout defeat, and none for a regulation defeat. A system like that could be especially effective down the stretch, when there’s desperation to make the playoffs and the difference between winning in regulation and winning in extra time could be the difference between making and missing.
Granted, lots of people have suggested this, so here’s a more dramatic idea to consider: a bonus point for scoring a certain amount of goals in a game.
Before some of you faint at the mere suggestion, they already do this in rugby, as Wikipedia explains:
It was implemented in order to encourage attacking play throughout a match, to discourage repetitive goal-kicking, and to reward teams for “coming close” in losing efforts. Under the standard system, points are awarded as follows:
—- 4 points for a win.
—- 2 points for a draw.
—- 1 “bonus” point for scoring 4 tries (or more).
—- 1 “bonus” point for losing by 7 points (or fewer).
No team can get more than 5 points in a match.
The “encourage attacking play” is the big part for me. It’s not so much I need goals, but I at least need the attempt to score goals.
Look, obviously there are drawbacks to a system like this. It would penalize teams whose best players are goalies or defensive-minded skaters. I appreciate defense. It takes a total team commitment. Frankly, at the end of the day, I probably wouldn’t even want this system. But it does make me laugh thinking about an idea like this even being broached by the NHL, and what the response would be. People would go ballistic. Why is that?
All I know is the NFL has never been more popular. Just a coincidence that the league has also seen a dramatic rise in scoring in the last two decades? Why are hockey fans who want to see more goals treated with such disdain? Were people who watched hockey in the ’80s wrong to like what they saw? Can you not want to see more attacking hockey, on average, and still appreciate the occasional 1-0 game?
2. Bigger nets
Before you rip the stupid blogger in the comments section, you should know that you’d also be ripping Mike Babcock.
“If the goalies [are] getting bigger, then the net is getting smaller,” Babcock said last year. “By refusing to change you are changing. Purists would say you can’t do it because you’re changing the game but by not changing you are changing the game.”
I’m old enough to remember the time when, if you were a small kid, they’d throw you in goal. Hence, the diminutive retired goalies we see working in TV today, like Darren Pang and John Garrett.
The small kids don’t become NHL goalies anymore. And let’s not even get into the size of pads those big, tall goalies wear now compared to back in the day.
At the very least, I’d like to see what bigger nets would look like in a real-game situation. I mean, wouldn’t you? Play a few exhibition games with them. What would be the harm in trying? Green eggs and ham, etc.
3. No more icing allowed during penalty kills
For as long as I’ve been a hockey fan, I’ve always wondered why a team that’s been penalized suddenly gets to do something it normally wouldn’t be allowed to do. Does that make any sense? It’s like being thrown in jail for assault, but because you’re in jail and being in jail is hard, you’re allowed to — I don’t know — engage in tax fraud or something.
Again, I’d just like to see how this looks. I’m not saying put this rule in right now. There are always unintended consequences. But I think the new icing rule where the offending team’s players have to stay on the ice has been fairly received. This would be an extension of that, because tired players don’t make for very good defenders, and if you can’t ice the puck on the PK, you’re going to see a lot of trapped, tired defenders on the ice.
“The overwhelming sense of the group is you don’t make change for the sake of change,” Bettman said after the general managers’ meetings. And he’s right in saying that.
But he’s also making a bit of a straw-man argument, because nobody’s suggesting change for the sake of change. People who want change are trying to make the game better, and there’s nothing wrong with that.