NHL GMs debating return of centre-ice red line

NHL general managers are debating whether to reinstate the center-ice red line in an attempt to curb concussions.
Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs President & General Manager Brian Burke at a news conference to announce the NHL Winter Classic. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

NHL general managers are debating whether to reinstate the center-ice red line in an attempt to curb concussions.

The GMs began three days of meetings Monday. Several have said they would like to see the red line and two-line passes return in an effort to slow the game in the neutral zone, which might reduce the rate of concussions by making collisions less violent.

There is opposition, however, with many arguing that the removal of the red line in 2005 made the game more entertaining.

"We're looking at ways to make the game safer without taking away the physical nature of the sport," Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "It's a balance you're always trying to strike."

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said another topic of discussion will be curbing fights to reduce concussions.

"Fighting is totally different from any of these other hits to the head, because fighting is consensual," Rutherford said. "It's not like you're going out on a shift and you're getting blindsided by somebody and you get a concussion. You're not asking for that. You don't have to fight if you don't want."

Other subjects discussed Monday included hybrid icing, hand passes and changing on the fly.

Hybrid icing is a mixture of touch and no-touch icing. The combination would give a linesman the discretion to blow his whistle and stop play if he determines that a defending player will reach the puck first. If that isn't clear, he will let the race to the puck play out the way it does now.

This also could limit collisions and perhaps avoid some concussions.

As in other sports, awareness about concussions has been on the rise in the NHL, with Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby sidelined by concussion-like symptoms for much of the past two seasons.

At the meetings a year ago, general managers decided against recommending major rule changes to curb concussions, opting to push for tighter enforcement of charging and boarding penalties instead. 

 "We'll have discussions, we always do," Florida Panthers general manager Dale Tallon said. "We're always trying to make the game safer and better for everyone."