Stupid Things About Hockey
I’ve been playing hockey for about 40 years. That’s not the stupid part. Well, maybe. But these definitely are:
Using shootouts to decide a game is an embarrassment to hockey. It should be changed to alternating powerplays. The powerplay is a genuine demonstration of the skill and dominance of a team, and its use would be consistent with the spirit in which the overtime rules were created: not overworking players in a long, grueling season.
- Visiting team gets a full 2-minute, 4-on-3 powerplay. If they score, the home team must match them — also score on a powerplay — to stay alive.
- Home team gets a full 2-minute, 4-on-3 powerplay. If they score and the visitors haven’t, they win. If both have scored, round 2 is played.
Round 2, if necessary:
- Alternating 2-minute, 5-on-3 powerplays (again visiting team first) with the team scoring unmatched by the other team winning, or if both score, the team scoring in the shortest time winning.
Delay of Game, Hitting the Puck Out
This call is ruled idiotically, at the expense of the game’s credibility.
It is currently ruled a delay of game when the player hits the puck out of the rink (over the defensive boards) irrespective of whether he controls the puck or not.
There are two separate issues, intention and control, and they are getting mixed up.
The intention of a player is always to prevent possession by the other team; we never have to guess about it. We shouldn’t be guessing whether he is trying to hit it over the glass. That’s immaterial.
As for control, that’s another matter. The penalty should be assessed only and whenever the puck goes out of the rink solely in the control of the player. And for an NHL player, that will sometimes include swiping wildly at the puck; if no one else caused the puck to rise, the control — -or lack of it — is entirely on the player of the puck. Intention has nothing to do with it.
Add a Warning Track to the Goalie Crease
Hockey tried having a zero-tolerance attitude toward interfering with the goalie. That failed when Brett Hull scored a walk-off cup-winning goal a long time ago, and it would have been embarrassing to undo a cup-winning goal in a referee review. So they walked back the zero-tolerance idea, and returned the matter of goalie interference to its previous, natural state: a mess.
Add a warning track line outside the current crease. And restore zero-tolerance inside the inner line.
Then, if a defensive player checks someone from outside the outer line into his goalie it will be more obviously a penalty. If an offensive player makes a power move toward the goal and goes into the inner line it will be more obviously his fault. In either case the refs will not be on the hook.
There was a time in the NHL when misconduct penalties were a way for the refs to control the game — the snippiness of the players — without having to put themselves in the position of being perceived as controlling the score. They would call 10-minute misconduct penalties, sometimes without even a manpower infraction being called, and players would have to sit out the action. Return to that time.
The offsides rule was changed a few years ago, to allow delayed offside calls, with the intention of creating fewer unnecessary stoppages. If the puck was hit into the offensive zone when an offensive player was already in the zone, it wasn’t ALWAYS called offsides. Instead, if the attacking team backed out of the zone, play kept going. This prevented the occasional UNINTENTIONAL offsides from slowing the game down.
But I doubt it was imagined that players would intentionally send the puck into the zone to allow their teammates to clear the zone, and give their team a 5-second, unhurried breather… and in the process escaping any risk of turnover.
But that’s what’s happened. Players will now shoot the puck INTENTIONALLY into the offensive zone to protect against a manpower or positional advantage that is possibly developing for the team defending the blue line. For example, a team has most of its players attacking the net; the puck comes out of the zone and a lone defensemen, perhaps facing pressure, throws it back into the zone offsides, knowing the new rule seems to allow more allowance against intentional offsides. It should not; the new rule should cause more — -not less — -stringent interpretation of intentional offsides. When a player throws the puck into the offensive zone when his team is already established there, it should be a faceoff deep in the player’s defensive zone.
The breakaway pegs make a laughing stock of the league whenever players pretend to run into the nets. Engineers are capable of much better. A solid polyethelene post that is tapered above and below the vertical point where it meets the ice surface, but also extends a foot above the ice, would prevent the abuse. Coiled, spring steel could also do the job. Both would give horizontally without breaking legs on serious impact. Another option is an actual spring loaded retractor.
Several options are possible that could be modular devices that could be removed and replaced with no mechanical dependency or connection to the goal posts.
Hockey has the two most exciting plays in sports: the penalty shot and powerplay. Only soccer’s penalty kick even comes close, and that a joke, with the goalie having only as much chance as he has in betting red-black in roulette.
Call a penalty shot much more aggressively and stop it with all the ridiculous hair-splitting judgment calls: whenever a player who is the last line of defense commits a penalty against a breaking away player, call it. Players will accept this because in their minds they know it should be called — -all hockey players know it has nothing to do with being free-and-clear by a body length! — -and it will be great for the game. And unlike shootouts to decide a game, which is a travesty, this is a legitimately exciting part of the game.
The Goalie Equipment Has Enlarged But Not the Goals
Look at the following two pictures, one showing a current goalie and one an old timer. Of course it’s not a perfect comparison, having different angles but that’s not the point.
The size of every part of the goalie’s equipment is much bigger now, including how his jersey is suspended further away from his body by the shoulder pads, and how the pants are bulkier… even the mask having an inch of padding on each side makes it bigger. It’s not just about the pad sizes. And in addition to the size of the equipment, every single aspect of the technology of the equipment is better. The glove is a lot more solid, and the pads form a brick wall, especially impenetrable when ‘butterflied’ on the ice.
Yes — as you might be thinking — there are other countering factors in the game that give the players advantages… mainly carbon sticks that shoot faster. But there’s a bigger point that calls for more scoring:
The lower the scoring is in any sport, the more the game is determined by the officiating instead of the athletes!
This is my real argument and it is critical. There’s no reason that low-scoring games are inherently right. And arguments about the sanctity of the historical record — comparing new players to old — is so lame, please stop it. Times change and if you fail to change with them you die. Hockey is a great game and it shouldn’t be so routine to have shutouts. What has happened in all sports except basketball is that the intense monetizing has led to increasing conservatism: protecting leads because, frankly, in a world where it’s hard to score, it would seem irresponsible to let a lead go. But if scoring simply can’t be shut down so easily with a defense-only style, then you’d have to stay on the offensive.
If the average hockey game had 3-4 goals per period that would be great, and exciting, and put the game more in the control of the players. Yes, there would be the rare game with 6 or 7 goals per period, which would currently seem obscene to many. That’s called aging. And this is not about ‘schoolyard’ carelessness about defense, or overreliance on 3-pointers that has, in the eyes of many, made watching the NBA unbearable; that’s 200 points per game… scoring every other time down the court. That’s not what I’m proposing. I’m proposing that the goalie not be allowed to be a brick wall.