30 Thoughts: NHL tightens collar on dress code | Hockey | CBC Sports

Hockey Night in Canada30 Thoughts: NHL tightens collar on dress code

Posted: Monday, September 16, 2013 | 09:45 AM

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Alexander Ovechkin and others will likely be penalized for tucking in hockey sweaters, a violation of NHL uniform guidelines. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images) Alexander Ovechkin and others will likely be penalized for tucking in hockey sweaters, a violation of NHL uniform guidelines. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

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The NHL is enforcing stricter uniform guidelines this season, opting to dress for safety rather than success.

Alexander Ovechkin is not a happy man. And it's because of the diagram below.

It's a reminder of how every NHL player is supposed to look in uniform (NHL Rule 9, if you are so inclined) and it will be posted in every team's dressing room. It means Ovechkin cannot tuck his jersey into his pants.

And he doesn't like it.

"I'm the guy who love that kind of stuff," Ovechkin told The Washington Post's Katie Carrera in Capitals Insider.

"I'm kind of upset about it. But most important thing, nobody talk to us, the players.

"They think it can be dangerous for somebody. I think it's kind of stupid ... If I'm going to put jersey normally, I'm going to skate and it [flies] back."

300-uniform-guidelines.jpgA generation of Canadians who imitated Wayne Gretzky's jersey tuck would agree. But there's a bigger picture to all of this, much of it safety related.

There have been some bad skate-created injuries over the past few seasons -- those to Kevin Bieksa, Erik Karlsson, Zach Redmond come to mind -- and while none of them occurred on exposed skin, there was concern about how many players were inviting similar injuries. It's not uncommon to see skaters with their sleeves pulled back over their elbow pads (eg. Todd Bertuzzi) or purposefully tearing their pants. The unencumbered padding was also considered dangerous.

But yes, some of this is about aesthetics.

"This was a GM's initiative," NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Kris King said. "Some of them [general managers] came to us last year and said they didn't like where it was going."

The ripped pants were probably the biggest complaint. The problem is you can't call that particular violation and not call all of them, including jersey tucking. Apparently, in last season's playoff series between Ovechkin's Washington Capitals and the New York Rangers, the two teams were more than happy to point out each other's uniform faults. So the crackdown will be all encompassing.

Ovechkin is incorrect about one thing, though. The players were consulted, through their representatives on the competition committee.

"This has been in the rulebook since 1964," King said. "We just haven't called it.

"When we talked about it, we said, 'We can do this. Call the rulebook.'"

The way it works is this. The first offence is a warning. After that is a two-minute penalty for delay of game. Should someone still not get the message, the penalty is increased to a misconduct and then a game misconduct.

The NFL has a strict uniform code, as does the International Ice Hockey Federation. King points out that a player like Keith Tkachuk, who wore ripped pants in the NHL, followed cleaner protocol while wearing the Team USA jersey.

As does Ovechkin. Watching some of his Team Russia highlights online, the jersey tuck is much less pronounced than when he dazzles for Washington.

30 THOUGHTS

1. The aforementioned Washington Post article raised the question of whether Ovechkin was specifically targeted. He wears a special back pad to protect against all of the cross-checking he takes and it showed when he tucked in his jersey. "We don't have any problem with him wearing the pad," King said. "We just want it under the uniform." But it sounds like there were many video examples of offences, not just Ovechkin's. 

2. Equal time. In my interview with Ovechkin from Kraft Hockeyville this past weekend, he said about Dale Hunter: "My last coach before Adam [Oates], I don't have that kind of support, I don't have that kind of trust. Sometimes, when you don't have it, you just don't want to play hockey. You just want to sit and that's it." Hunter declined to comment about Ovechkin. But a friend of Hunter's said the former Capitals head coach judged that playing it carefully was the best way for Washington to win. And winning is Hunter's sole motivation.

3. The other big equipment changes involved the goalies. There was some disagreement between the NHL and NHL Players' Association on this one as the league, under the leadership of senior manager of hockey operations Kay Whitmore, pushed for greater change than the players were willing to accept for now. There is a 10 per cent reduction in the height of goalie pads.

4. Whitmore said both sides are monitoring one of the ideas that was (temporarily) rejected, ie. reducing the size of a goalie's knee pads. That's a separate piece worn underneath the main pads and supposed be a nine-inch "contour" fit to your body. There's been a bit of cheating with some goalies making them thicker. The advantage is he can be a split-second slower getting down to the ice and still have a piece of equipment to slow down or stop the puck.

5. Both the NHL and NHLPA have asked team equipment managers to photograph each goalie wearing these pads. If both sides agree there is too much manipulation going on, there is the possibility of a change this season.

6. While some goalies have reacted angrily, the possibilities with the knee pads show others are willing to listen -- providing they are properly consulted. Whitmore went to the U.S. Olympic orientation camp and met with any goalie who wanted to talk. Of all the ones I've had a chance to speak to, the one whose opinion seems to be shared the most is Henrik Lundqvist. "I agree that we should not be in a position to use [pads] to be bigger than we have to be. Absolutely not ... But it's not like the 80s. We need the protection," he said.

7. If you want to get an understanding of what Whitmore would still like to do with a pad, grab a photo of one and divide it into four parts: boot; shin; knee; thigh rise (the critical area above the knee). Some goalies, Corey Crawford being one, have a thigh rise that stands straight up. Whitmore would like to mandate it be pre-curved with at least one break above the knee to force it to bend. That would make it harder to obstruct the five-hole and, in theory, increase knee protection because the pad would be closer to the body.

8. Whitmore would also like to limit the thigh rise to eight inches above the knee. How long is it now? "We've measured anywhere from seven to 13 inches."

9. Previously, Whitmore did not do a ton of travelling. This is going to change. "It was made very clear that is going to be a priority," he said. So Whitmore will often show up to arenas with about 10 minutes to go in the game -- any earlier and teams will have warning -- and let the equipment guys know there will be an inspection and sequester the goalies post-game.

10. The penalty if caught using illegal equipment? A two-game suspension for any offending netminder, a $25,000 fine to the team and a $1,000 fine to the equipment manager. That last one is tough as a lot of them are underpaid for the hard work they do. But I see what the league is trying accomplish with that.

11. Final note on goaltending equipment: Whitmore received more than 100 packages of it in four days at the end of August. How much was rejected? "About 25 per cent."

12. It's easy to get carried away with prospects in exhibition games. A true indication of how ready a young prospect is comes next week, when the games get a little faster and more NHLers are in the lineup.

13. One guy to get excited about: Seth Jones. "He will play top four very quickly" was a thought shared by several people at the Florida Panthers prospect tournament. 

14. I will be curious to see how hard Vancouver Canucks head coach John Tortorella pushes his best players in pre-season. Everybody knows the shot-blocking, grinding style he wants the Canucks to play. But will he wait to demand it at its hardest? Full-season, Olympics and, perhaps most importantly, a team with much harder travel than the Rangers. Does he relax a bit early?

15. Think Patrick Kane's stickhandling was pretty good in his recent Bauer video? Of all the things you think he wouldn't need to strengthen in a summer, this was it. But it was a point of emphasis. "I know it's one of my strengths," he said. "But I feel I can get a little bit better at it." Kane does both "wide-range motion" drills and others that force him to pull the stick close "because I tend to pull it to my feet."

16. Very shrewd of the Toronto Maple Leafs to give Nazem Kadri an "A" for the opening exhibition game in his junior stomping grounds of London, Ont. Kadri made it very clear that he was upset with reports of his asking price ($6 million per season). With 20/20 hindsight, I think he knew pretty quickly he was going to get a bridge contract. But he and agent Brian MacDonald swung for the fences early like a lot of players do. When it took a while to settle, that initial try became a big part of the story.

17. Second theory: Toronto indicated the pitch that led to a settlement came hours before it was signed. Conclusion: Kadri was never going to miss training camp.

18. The belief is the Rangers remain approximately $1 million apart from Derek Stepan on a two-year bridge deal. If you believe the surest predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, Stepan should switch to defence. New York has been much tougher on its forwards.

19. After their entry-level deals, Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan both got two years from the Rangers. Dubinsky's total was $3.7M; Callahan's was 4.6M (I expect Stepan's total to be higher). Now look at the defence. While Dan Girardi and Michael del Zotto also received bridge contracts, the team made exceptions for Ryan McDonagh (six years for $28M) and Marc Staal (five at $19.875M). 

20. Is there a more polarizing free-agent-to-be than Dion Phaneuf? There is such a wide range of opinion. But here are the facts from last season: 48 points pro-rated over an 82-game schedule, while playing some of the NHL's toughest minutes in terms of opposition and zone starts. His invitation to Canada's Olympic orientation camp was on merit yet it would not be a surprise if some of those coaches and GMs -- who need defence -- wanted to get to know him.

21. Kirk Muller finally gets a full pre-season as head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. He was a mid-season hiring and last year, of course, was the lockout-shortened rat race. Now he gets an extended period to prep his group in an important season for the franchise.

22. Before Carolina signed Ron Hainsey, Toronto fans wondered if the Hurricanes would have interest in John-Michael Liles. They did, three years ago, his final season in Colorado. But Liles vetoed a trade to the Tar Heel State, so it's hard to see a second attempt.

23. Hainsey pitched himself to several teams in the off-season at a salary of approximately $2 million. Some of those teams thought he was crazy to ask that much in a depressed market with so many guys available. He held firm and received it in Carolina. The man's got big brass ones.

24. Teams can re-sign any player who is on a one-year contract after Jan. 1. Would it be any surprise if the Detroit Red Wings and Daniel Cleary work on something for then?

25. A few tweeters asked about when teams have to get down to the salary-cap limit. The answer is Sept. 30 and players can be put on long-term injury the next day. So if a club like the Philadephia Flyers sends a player like Sean Couturier to the minors, it's just a paper move (he is technically still on a two-way contract) until Chris Pronger can be put on the injured list.

26. One note about hybrid icing: it is too simplistic to say (as I did last week) that it is simply a race to the dot. The linesman can decide that a player losing the race can get to the puck first if, for example, it is going behind/around the net and the trailing player has a better angle.

27. The one question I hope I get to ask Miikka Kiprusoff now that he's retired: "What exactly was your summer workout routine?" Teammates on the Calgary Flames and in his native Finland used to joke that he was the hardest worker during the season, not so much after it. It certainly didn't affect his game, though. 

28. I forgot to mention last week that the players who won Olympic gold with Team Canada in 2010 yet were not invited to 2014 Olympic orientation camp were all notified in a phone call from Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman. That was a pretty important thing to do. A few non-medallists who weren't selected (Jason Spezza, etc.) also received calls. But Yzerman himself took care of the potential returnees.

29. I was flipping through Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story and noticed the actor portraying Marty Howe was named Dylan Playfair. He'd know about being a second-generation player. His father, Jim, and uncle, Larry, were both NHLers (Jim is presently the associate coach for the Phoenix Coyotes). Good luck to Dylan. That's got to be pretty exciting for the family.

30. Anthony Brodeur's stall in the New Jersey Devils dressing room was between his father's and Jaromir Jagr's. That's like being Luxury Tax on a Monopoly board -- right between Park Place and Boardwalk.

Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC

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