New rules in time for
By Mike Hawk
On Friday, the NHL players’ union and the league agreed
on several new rules changes expected to make this year’s
playoffs the most watched edition ever.
There’s been a lot of bitchin’ and complainin’ in
the media about the style and speed of Canada’s most popular
game, but now, because of pressure from U.S. television stations
in the United States to increase ratings, the NHL has instituted
some new rules.
One of the most popular changes to the game will be the acceptance
of wrapping the hands with tin foil before the game. This strategy,
best seen in the movie Slapshot, will ensure there are no more
boring draws in hockey fights. As well, to keep American viewers
from losing interest, fighting will be encouraged by only penalizing
the loser of the fight. As a result, Senators forward Chris Neil
is not expected to play the remainder of the season.
Another change expected to draw a greater share of the U.S. market
is the introduction of the Zamboni Grand Prix between periods.
Since NASCAR draws more viewers in the U.S. than hockey ever will,
the NHL has agreed to host Zamboni races between the first and
second periods. This event is expected to replace the Super Bowl
half-time show as the most watched intermission in sports. A spokesman
for a major U.S. network is excited about the new plans.
“The Zamboni Grand Prix will combine the excitement of watching
left hand turns with the anticipation of seeing more left hand
turns,” he says. The spokesman went on to say that his network
has already sold all the advertising spots for the playoffs.
Another change receiving mixed reviews among the players is the
introduction of a shot clock into the game. The shot clock, similar
to the NBA, will force players to register a shot on goal within
30 seconds of touching the puck. This rule change is expected to
result in a drastic increase in scoring and will hopefully eliminate
the need for passing. Maple Leafs’s goaltender Ed Belfour
believes the shot clock will do more harm than good.
“This is only forcing players to take shots from centre
ice,” says the visually disgusting Belfour. “I haven’t
stopped a shot taken from behind the blue line all year.” Belfour,
who is 0 for 78 on shots he should have saved, plans on issuing
a complaint with the league.
Finally, as a reaction to many complaints U.S. viewers have logged
regarding the players’ appearance during games, the NHL has
instituted a self-dignity rule. This rule will require that all
players pass an appearance test administered by the league prior
to each game. Maple Leafs forward Bryan Marchment, whose face is
currently not allowed to be shown on network television before
9 p.m., has already made plans to purchase a tinted visor.
Despite the efforts by many players to accommodate the new rules,
there are still many who reject the notion the game needs to be
changed. Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson, who was seen making
reservations for a golf course in early April, believes the rules
are not helping the game.
“The league wants me to cut my hair and shave my stupid
mustache,” says the single-and-not-looking Ottawa captain. “Next
they are going to tell me I can’t wear a skirt to the games
The new rules are expected to attract a record audience to this
season’s playoffs, and commissioner Gary Bettman has stated
that if the season is a success, he will consider implementing
further changes for the 2004/05 season.