The league's rule changes emphasize offense, but will fans care?
NEW YORK (AP) -- Jarome Iginla and Martin St. Louis will love the new-look NHL. Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco? Not so much.
When Gary Bettman brought the NHL out of its yearlong slumber on Friday, he did so with a smile. The commissioner put a fresh face on the league he shut down in September.
New rules came flooding out of Bettman, and every one meant good news for guys who carry and shoot the puck, and bad news for those paid to stop it.
"We are implementing rule changes that will emphasize offense and flow," he said. "We are going to let our offensive players, our skilled players do what they do best."
He didn't say anything about having goaltenders like Brodeur and Turco show off their talents. All he said about goalies was that their equipment was going to be smaller and their puck-playing skills were going to be harnessed by limiting their skating space.
After all, fans want to see the pucks in the net, right?
Now, if enough shots don't go in during regulation or overtime the NHL has guaranteed that they will later on.
Ties are things of the past. After 65 minutes, if a regular season game is still deadlocked, it will be decided with a shootout. One on one, players against goalies in a penalty-shot tiebreaker.
Throughout games, skaters will have more room in the offensive zone. They will be able to camp out at the opposing blue lines for long passes from defensemen that previously would've been whistled offsides.
The red line has been removed, in terms of offsides, and passes can now be completed across what would've been two lines.
"I was anti-red line for a long time, I really was, and I changed," Columbus general manager Doug MacLean said. "I watched the Olympics, which was one thing, but I felt 'OK the skill is so high let's take that out of the mix.'
"Then I go to Austria this year [for the world championships] and that was really the change for me. I really liked what I saw."
In conjunction with that change, linesman will have the discretion to wave off icing if the puck is sent from one zone across the opposite goal line because a home-run pass missed its target. Players will still have to touch the puck on traditional icing calls, and teams called for the infraction will not be able to change lines before the next faceoff.
The offensive zone will be 4 feet larger, as the blue lines have been moved out by 2 feet and the net was pushed 2 feet closer to the end boards. Wayne Gretzky doesn't play anymore, so he doesn't need that room behind the goal.
Goalies have to stay in a trapezoid-shaped area back there, too, creating more and scoring chances in front. Plus, the netminders won't be able to intercept some dumped-in passes.
And forget about throwing those big pads and blockers in front of the whooshing forwards, Garth Snow, get used to equipment that is now 11 percent smaller.
So skate away, Martin St. Louis, and keep shooting.
The NHL says it is really going to eliminate obstruction, too, leaving St. Louis and his 5-foot-9 frame lots more room. He already had 38 goals and a league-high 94 points under the old system.
A new league logo was also unveiled. It resembled the old one, using the familiar shield, but it's black and silver and more hip -- the letters NHL now slanting the opposite way.
Nice, but not enough to win over disenchanted fans or, more importantly, impress people who never cared about the game before the lockout.
The product has to be better. That's one thing never disputed across the negotiating table.
The league really got this ball rolling right after the All-Star game in 2004. General managers went to a resort just outside Las Vegas and rolled the dice on some radical changes they thought would make the game better.
Some stood the test of time and were made law, some need more work, and some might never see the light of day.
But the new NHL officially returned to business on Saturday as the six-day window for clubs to buy out players began.
This is a new hockey world, one in which the lid came off the lockout and was refitted with a cap.
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