For those who thought the beginning of the end of fighting in the NHL would happen at the general managers' gathering in Toronto on Tuesday, you have not closely followed the way this league conducts its business
Change does not happen swiftly in the NHL. Instead, change tends to move at a pernickety pace.
Plus, the fall GM meeting
rarely results in rule changes. It may fan the flames for further discussion, but it's a one-day get together. There's usually plenty on the agenda. There's a lot to discuss in rapid fashion. This assembly is more about setting the table for the 2 ½-day GM gathering in March.
For example, take the nasty blindside headshot from Mike Richards on David Booth that took place 17 days before the 2009 NHL GM gathering in Toronto. It was discussed, but there was no immediate plan formulated.
Then, on the eve of the March GM get together in Boca Raton, Fla. a few months later, Matt Cooke delivered an even more ghastly headshot on an unsuspecting Marc Savard. Not only was Cooke not suspended the NHL didn't get around to implementing a penalty against headshots (Rule No. 48) until the next season.
There were two fighting incidents that caught the attention of the news cycle this fall. First, Montreal Canadiens enforcer George Parros toppled awkwardly over his opponent, Colton Orr of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and fell face-first
into the rock-hard ice surface on opening night.
Calls to get rid of fighting
The likeable Parros was carried off the ice on a stretcher and taken to hospital for treatment. He missed exactly a month of action with a concussion
The second incident occurred when Philadelphia Flyers goalie Ray Emery and his Washington Capitals counterpart, Braden Holtby, engaged in a one-sided scrap
on the same evening Parros returned to action.
Emery couldn't wait to drop his gloves and start throwing punches. Holtby was reluctant to fight. Like I said, it was a one-sided scrap. There were more calls to get rid of fighting in hockey afterwards.
But this won't happen any time soon. There may be tweaks down the road. Maybe goalies won't be allowed to cross the centre line to fight or even exit to the crease to engage in fisticuffs. But there won't be any concrete suggestions until at least Mar. 12, after the next general manager meeting concludes.
"We like where our game is right now," Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said.
"[Fighting is] a deep-rooted part of game," Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli added.
"I'm okay with fighting, but I would like to see something done about goalie fighting," Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland said.
"Minimal discussion," was the response of another GM when asked how much fighting was debated on Tuesday.
If I had to make a prediction there will be something done about goalies fighting in March. But again, a new rule likely won't take shape until next season.
So what was discussed? The new wildcard playoff format
was explained and debated. So were hybrid icing and the possibility of altering the overtime format.
remains a work in progress. Several general managers were concerned that linesmen were calling a race to the faceoff dots instead of a race to the puck. The league reassured the general managers that it's a race to the puck.
The league also reported that the same amount of icings called per game with the hybrid rule have been called as before. There also have been zero crashes into the boards.
Player safety at forefront
Like fighting, like headshots, player safety in icing races has been an issue debated often and for a long time at the general manager level. But once finally agreed upon, it has been good for the game.
For a few years now, Holland has sought change and has offered solutions to the current five-minute 4-on-4 overtime and shootout format. He rather would have games decided in a non-shootout situation.
Ideally, he would like to see OT extended another five minutes with 3-on-3 play. There have been mixed views on this and concerns about ice conditions. There is no flood after the third period. So could there be a dry scrape? Could there be more shovelling like in regulation play?
Could teams even change ends? New Jersey Devils GM Lou Lamoriello wondered out loud about this possibility. The longer change for players on the ice often causes more mistakes and more goals.
Some general managers are open to an extra two or three instead of five minutes of OT.
"My proposal is for 10 minutes," Holland said. "But I'd take seven or eight, right now."
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