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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The NHL has got it right

For all the problems that the NHL has had in the past 10 years off the ice, they have come out with a superior product on the ice this season. I'm not talking about gimmicks like 4x4 overtime and shootouts, the equivalent of playing extra innings without a centerfielder, and resorting to a homerun contest to decide the game. The rules that are being called that effect the way the game is fundamentally played have had a dramatic effect on improving the NHL game. The NCAA could learn some lessons from what the NHL has learned this year, and could improve their game if they adopted some of the rules that the NHL has found in their rule book this year.

Obstruction, Interference, and Hooking have been in the rulebook for years, but their interpretation has been left up to the individual referee, and not according to the rule book. Calling these penalties opens up the game and makes it exciting. The NCAA would be much better off if they adopted the zero tolerance policy that is found in the NHL.

The rule change that has had one of the biggest effects, and gone virtually unnoticed, is the rule that punishes the team that ices the puck by not letting them make a line change prior to the ensuing face-off. This rule reduces icing penalties and/or allows the attacking team to maintain momentum, which can lead to more goal scoring chances.

The NHL's use of two referees was originally thought to cause problems with breaking up the flow of the game. But the dual use has been relatively successful with detecting penalties away from the play. The second referee would also be able to detect the high sticking occurrences that have run rampant as of late in the NCAA, but are seldom called due to poor officiating and the mandatory use of full facemasks.

Off all the rule changes that where instituted in the NHL this year these have had the most significant effect. Unfortunately the rule changes that been discussed to filter down to the NCAA are the gimmicks like shootouts. Unfortunately, you can't expect the NCAA to fix their hockey problems with any intelligence any time soon, look at how they have handled football.

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