GLENDALE -- The 2013-14 hockey season is finally upon us and, with it, some new rules. As I've noted in the past, this isn't college football where ideas take a decade to implement. This is the NHL, so these are literally going into effect as I type this...
Streamlined Goalie Equipment- It's hard to oppose this one. I'm all for any rule that promotes athleticism between the pipes over a competition of who can tape the most couch cushions to their body. And that's essentially what this rule says. Without going into complete detail, just know that goalie pads are being regulated and can't exceed a certain size. Interestingly enough, many netminders voiced their approval of such regulations. Safety isn't in jeopardy here - it's not as if they're suddenly dressing like soccer goalies. But we won't be on the fast track to having sumo wrestlers in net anymore either.
The No Tuck Rule- Normally, I'm opposed to all tucking. Jersey tucked into your jeans? Only a select few can pull this off, and I'm not sure I've met any of them yet. Old guy tucking his t-shirt into his tan shorts that are riding too high on his waist? I shouldn't even have to comment on that. In fact, I probably shouldn't have even brought it up. But the hockey player with the sweater tucked into the hockey pants is an exception. My earliest memories are watching Wayne Gretzky skate around with the left side of his jersey jammed into his pants. It was part of his identity - you know, along with putting up 2,857 points. For today's generation, Alex Ovechkin has become synonymous with the jersey tuck.
That's all going to change though, as the League has made it clear they're pushing for, well, uniformity in how players are wearing their uniforms. That means equipment like elbow pads, shin guards and random laces can't be exposed. Instead, they must be completely covered by the outfit. And jerseys must be set free. As George Costanza once taught us on Seinfeld, "That's one tuck, and one no-tuck.” Side note: this means I've finally found something I can do on the ice that no NHL player can do. Hence, you can bet I will be tucking my jersey at all times from here on out. I consider this a win.
Shallower Nets- The goal frames have been cut by four inches on each side, taking a total of eight inches off the entire width of the bottom. That means more room for wraparounds, passes from behind the net and missed shots from the point bouncing off the boards to land right back in front of the goal mouth. It does not mean the actual scoring area of the goal has been decreased in any way. In other words, more possibilities for creative offensive players, and more angry netminders.
Hybrid Icing- This was clearly done with safety in mind. The thought being that there's no point to having players risk injury while getting tangled up at high speeds chasing after the puck if it's ultimately just going to end up in an icing call anyway. So now it's up to the referee's discretion. If the puck is dumped into the zone and the defender crosses an imaginary line by the faceoff dots before an oncoming attacker does, the plan is to call for icing without anyone actually touching the puck. Admittedly, I'm a little concerned anytime the phrase "imaginary line" is used. And I sincerely hope this is never implemented in rec league hockey because it would lead to more confusion and chaos than the plotline of Sharknado. But, at the professional level, it makes sense. There's millions of dollars on the line every time someone hits the wall, and there's no point in having guys sustain avoidable injuries. I want to see this rule in action before I fully develop my opinion to make sure there's no grey area leading to a questionable call in a key moment of a game. But the ultimate goal here is a good one, assuming it can be put into practice effectively.
Visors on Helmets- If you're on the ice with less than 25 games of NHL experience to your name, you're wearing a visor. This is eventually leading to a league in which everyone has a visor down the road, and that's probably not a bad thing. Will this protect everyone from every possible injury? Um, no. This is still hockey. But it certainly has the potential to minimize risk. It's a tough issue to tackle around the league though. Many players see the value in the visor and have made the switch in recent years. Others don't necessarily want to change anything because they've grown up playing the game without a visor, and it's worked for them. If nothing else, legislating it into the rules makes for a relatively even playing field.
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