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NHL Rule Change Talks Should Stop

Victor Decolongon, Getty Images

Why can’t we just leave well enough alone, anymore?

The NHL GM meetings are under way, and already in discussion are numerous rule changes to the overtime and replay systems with the league, apparently, in favor of fewer shootouts and more replay – exactly what a league starving for attention needs, less drama fans like, more video of referees making a collect call to Toronto.

New proposals would expand replay to offsides and “puck in the netting” plays, and would change the overtime format in yet unspecified ways – though two ideas have already garnered some support.

The first is one that would simply switch ends before the OT – creating a longer line-change for both teams, potentially increasing space and opportunity for the offenses. The second is more drastic.  It would eliminate the current 5-minute period of four-on-four play in lieu of two periods of four minutes each – the first with four skaters aside, and the second with three.

Again, I ask, why can’t anyone just leave well enough alone anymore?

Fans like shootouts.  They’re dramatic.  They’re fun.  They draw in the eyes that the league desperately needs.  Why try to eliminate them because some old-time stuffed-shirts want the game to be played like it was in 1942?  It’s not 1942.  Goalies wear face-masks, now.  The sport evolved.  Get used to it.  Shootouts are great, leave them alone.

And while some expansion to replay is acceptable – namely, the rare “off the netting, off the goalies back, and in for a goal” boundary play that actually cost the Kings a lead a few weeks ago – there’s no need to start reviewing offsides calls.  For years now, the NFL and NBA have tinkered with their systems and the MLB has denied replay’s existence – much to fans of all three’s dismay – while the NHL has consistently been the world’s best with regard to on-field/court/ice reviews.  Leave the system be.

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  No one wants to watch Don Van Massenhoven make a phone call.

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