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NHL 'improve-the-game' camps underway


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NHL 'improve-the-game' camps underway

Mark Brender

June 6, 2005


The NHL is kicking off three days of experimental scrimmage hockey in Toronto today with a radical proposal to improve the game.


First up in the morning session is a look at the Boston Bruins? ?open ice? concept, under which the only relevant line on the ice is drawn above the faceoff circles in the defensive zones. Once a puck-carrier crosses that line, everything would be allowed ? i.e. no icings will be called, no passes would be called back for being too long and there would be no such thing as offside.


The NHL says it will watch for promising trends over the three days in what is being billed as a ?research and development? camp. There will be two scrimmages a day and all of the ideas that have been tossed around to boost excitement and scoring chances ? smaller pads, bigger nets, two-line passes, new lines in different places ? are on tap. Players recruited to participate include overage juniors and Canadian university players.


The afternoon session on Monday features larger nets and no red line. Tuesday is set to be the testing ground for zero tolerance on infractions against the puck carrier, plus more liberal passing rules using a new line across the top of the faceoff circles that would modify icing and offside rules, as advocated by Scotty Bowman.


No-touch icings, no icings on penalty kills and overtime experiments with 4-on-4, 3-on-3 and shootouts are also planned for study. All of the sessions are going to be filmed for later review.


?Some of them might gain a bit of a foothold because you say hey, this works, it looks pretty good,? said Mike Murphy, NHL vice-president of hockey operations. ?Then I think it might get directed to the competition committee where it can get debated and looked at a little more intensely than it is right here.?


A competition committee made up of players, GMs and other representatives from the league and the union is expected to be formalized within a new collective bargaining agreement. If the CBA gets completed in time, the committee could decide to hold more on-ice sessions this summer or try favored changes in NHL pre-season games, Murphy said.


The American League could again serve as a testing ground in 2005-06. The shootout, restrictions on goalie movement and other changes tested in the AHL last year are likely to be adopted by the NHL.


?I would predict that almost every one of those things will come into our game when we start,? Murphy said.



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