Campbell tired of 'knee-jerk reactions'

Updated: February 12, 2004, 4:42 AM ET
Associated Press

HENDERSON, Nev. -- Martin Brodeur, Trevor Kidd and other NHL goalies are unhappy with the general managers' plans on how to create more offense.

Colin Campbell, the league's hockey operations director, is tired of hearing the complaints.

Reducing the width of goaltenders' pads and prohibiting them from going behind the goal line to play the puck are not good solutions to those who play the position. That small group, however, is in the minority.

"I might seem a little aggravated, but every time we do something to do the right thing for the game, we get knee-jerk reactions from some aspect of our business," Campbell said. "We're just trying to do the right thing."

These were part of the solutions the GMs are proposing to add scoring to hockey, a sport in which goals per game have dwindled to five.

As general managers hurried from the board room to the airport after a three-day meeting outside Las Vegas, most talked about Tuesday's significant announcement.

Pads would be reduced from 12 inches to 10 and goalies wouldn't be able to play pucks behind the line if the changes are approved by a panel of hockey experts and then the board of governors this summer.

The proposed adjustments drew the ire of Vezina Trophy winner Brodeur and Toronto's Kidd.

After practice Wednesday, Kidd held up 11-inch pads used in developmental leagues and was incredulous that the NHL wanted to make them even smaller.

Campbell was not impressed.

"Trevor Kidd can say that, but if I were him I'd work on my game," Campbell said. "We work hard. We don't just grab things from our back pocket and say, 'Let's try this.' We do a lot of work on this."

Brodeur has made an art of getting to pucks behind his net and then acting like a third defenseman to get them out. That skill would be taken away from his game.

"Seeing a goalie handling the puck, that's pretty exciting," Campbell said sarcastically. "I thought it was pretty exciting seeing Mike Gartner and Guy Lafleur going down the wing and scoring. Now we have to go down and shove it through the side of their pads or jam it in at the side of the net."

Brodeur, a cornerstone of New Jersey's three Stanley Cup titles in nine years, was upset by the thought of being penalized for adding a dimension to his position.

"With the equipment, whatever they want to do is fine with me," he said. "But preventing somebody's talent and somebody's reaction, I mean I'm not hurting anybody. I'm not setting a bad example for kids by playing the puck behind the line, so I don't know if this is something I should be penalized for.

"But the league is at a state right now that it looks like they don't know what they're doing and they're just looking for ways to try to improve the game. Coming from people that know hockey, it's amazing that they're about to come out with these things."

Campbell's rebuttal was that goalies were never intended to be puck handlers. The pads are there for safety and not to block shots, and their sticks are solely meant to stop shots.

"We had suggestions like, 'Let's give them two blockers, not a catching mitt,"' Campbell said. "So we looked at everything."

The general managers also agreed that the tag-up offside rule should be reinstated; that nets be moved back 3 feet toward the end boards to 10 feet; and that blue lines would also move in 3 feet to keep the distance the same between the blue line and the goal, and increase the neutral zones to 60 feet from 54.

After a one-year experiment in the AHL, the shootout might be added to NHL play to eliminate ties.

"Over the next three or four months some of these things are going to be refined and thought about," said Detroit GM Ken Holland, a former goalie. "It's a great game, but we've got to figure out how to make it better."

Campbell expressed confidence that the work done this week produced changes that will be approved.

"Everything from my point of view is hard and fast with the exception of the interpretation on the goaltenders not handling the puck," Campbell said. "We'll meet again in six to eight weeks with the definitions on how this will be put into use."

During the final day of meetings, the group was given an update regarding the collective bargaining agreement that expires Sept. 15.

Arthur Levitt, the former chair of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, will present results of his study into the NHL's finances during a news conference Thursday in New York. Levitt was retained by the NHL a year ago.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press