The NHL's long delayed season is nearly upon us. And while some of us missed it....others could care less.
I'm not a hockey purist. I do watch the NHL on occassion...but it usually is during the Stanley Cup playoffs which, to me, is one of the most exciting events in sports [even though it takes 3 months]. Being from Charlotte, hockey isn't injected into your bloodstream as it would be in, say, Canada, Detroit, Boston or Philadelphia. But, ESPN brought in into my home...and I've enjoyed watching the "4th major" sports league play.
This season, the NHL is trying to get me to watch again. Like I said, I'm bored during the regular season because (a) I have no idea who 75% of the players are...(b) the regular season doesn't really matter....(c) because of that, my interest level is gone. The NHL is trying to address those concerns....and made some rules changes that, hopefully, won't alienate their rabid fan base.
*SHOOTOUT. The biggest, and most welcome change, will be a shootout to end regular season ties. The old adage "ties are like kissing your sister" I guess is true. All I know is that the NHL is Americanized now...and we don't go to "freindlies" like in soccer. We want to either go home a winner or a loser. No ties.
*NEW RINK DIMENSIONS. The neutral zone is shortened and the goal lines are pushed back. This allows more offensive play and the possibility for more goal scoring. The league has become a trapping game where offensive players rarely have room to operate. Now, they can.
*NO CENTER LINE. It will be there...but it is rendered useless. This allows "fast breaks" and less two-line pass calls.
*TAG UP. Players who entered the attacking zone prior to the puck entering used to have to completely leave the zone before an offensive player could touch the puck. Now, those players just have to "tag up" on the blue line to eliminate the offsides.
*ICING. It's still illegal...but the linesman can wave it off if the perceived intent of the icing was a legal pass. Also, if a team is called for icing....they aren't allowed to change lines prior to the faceoff. This eliminates a tired team icing the puck just to get off the ice.
*OTHERS. Goaltender's equiptment and uniforms have stricter limits, and stricter penalties if this rule is broken.......Players who start fights in the final 5 minutes of the game are given a game misconduct and are suspended for the next game. This eliminates incidents like what happened during the Sens-Flyers game last season....Obstruction rules will be, supposedly, enforced. If they really do this, then it allows those skilled players to use their skills and create a much faster, more exciting game......The most interesting new rule is a crackdown on "diving", or what NBA fans call "flopping". It penalizes players who exaggerate contact to try to draw penalties. Hmm. Thank God Vlade Divac isn't a hockey player.
NHL PREVIEW SOON....