Hockey

NHL confident about crackdown on obstruction

Commissioner Gary Bettman gathered many of the NHL's movers and shakers in Toronto on Tuesday to discuss the league's latest efforts to speed up the game.

Joining Bettman, were NHL vice-president Colin Campbell, all 30 head coaches and 25 of the league's general managers.

NHL director of officiating Andy VanHellemond and 84 referees also attended the briefing at a hotel near Pearson Airport, where the NHL outlined rule alterations for the upcoming season, including the new Olympic-inspired hurry-up line changes.

But the main focus of the gathering was obstruction, or more accurately, how to cut down on the holding, clutching, grabbing and interference that has plagued the game.

The three-hour meeting was designed to get everyone on the same page. The league will show explicit examples of what players can and can't do and what referees will call.

GMs and coaches will take that information back to their respective teams.

"This will allow us as coaches to take a lot more risks, especially on the forecheck," Philadelphia Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock told the Globe and Mail.

"But the biggest reward here is the continuous play. It will reward teams with quickness."

It isn't the first time the league has tried to enact rules to curb obstruction and speed up the pace of the game.

In the past, similar rules were strictly called through the regular season's first few months, but as the campaign marched toward the playoffs enforcement became lax.

Because of past failures, some are skeptical that rule changes will work.

"They always meet about the rules and stuff and it doesn't seem like much changes," Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Wade Belak told the Toronto Star.

"It always seems like, in the beginning, they are strong on obstruction for awhile. Then it fades out. Who knows what's going to happen now?"

Bettman is confident the changes will stick.

"In all the other times when the standard has eroded, it's happened over time," he said.

"We believe the way the standard has been articulated and how it's been implemented, we can hold it.

"We want the best hockey every night."

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