During a recent interview with Paul Kelly, the NHL Players Association's newly crowned executive director said he was not a fan of continual tinkering with the game.
And I agree with him. Sort of.
See, whereas Kelly wants to scale back the changes to the rules and structure of the NHL, I'd rather give the league the mother of all makeovers. I'd prefer a whirlwind, multi-faceted, floor-to-ceiling reno job that allows hockey's biggest stage to grab the attention of the sports world and never again loosen its grip. And yes, I've concocted some fairly detailed notions of what that reconstituted NHL would and should look like.
You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one. In fact, I know lots of hockey obsessives who have detailed blueprints already drawn up and in secret storage, awaiting just one opportunity to overthrow the Bettman Regime and reclaim the NHL for the people.
Besides, if stat geeks can prop up the fantasy hockey industry, surely there's room for a fantasy league in which the remodeling of the league itself is the contest. With that in mind, here's what my NHL would look like:
(If you get a similar inclination and want to wow the hockey industry with your innovation, email a description of your ideal league to email@example.com or post it below; we'll print the top submissions in my Screen Shots column in the coming weeks.)
• 30 teams -- in other words, no more expansion!
• Dissolve divisions altogether, leaving two conferences only.
• Florida Panthers franchise relocated to somewhere in Southern Ontario.
• Atlanta Thrashers franchise relocated to Winnipeg, shifted to Western Conference.
• Detroit Red Wings shifted to Eastern Conference.
• Regular season begins in mid-September, ends in late March; preseason begins after Labor Day.
• Four preseason games per team.
• An 86-game regular-season schedule that sees each team play 14 conference opponents four times each, as well as a home-and-home series with all 15 teams in the other conference.
• New point system to decide league standings: three points awarded for every regulation-time win; two points awarded for every overtime win; one point awarded for every shootout win. Zero points for losing.
• First team in each conference receives a bye to second round; ninth and 10th-seeded teams in each conference play one game at conclusion of season for final playoff berth.
• Games televised on ESPN, Versus and NBC.
• Blackout policy on NHL's Center Ice package abolished.
• No-touch icing rule adopted.
• Visors made mandatory via grandfathering process.
• Teams no longer allowed to legally ice the puck when they've been penalized.
• Trap system punished by two-minute illegal defense penalty.
• Shootouts extended to five shooters aside; all skaters must take off helmets before shooting.
• Goalie equipment shrunk 15 percent and/or custom-fitted in every area except skates, helmet.
• Any player guilty of applying two dangerous hits from behind is automatically suspended five games; each additional incident caused by player tacks on 15 more games to subsequent suspensions.
• Hits-to-head policy adopted mirroring the OHL's (meaning contact with the head, incidental or not, is a two-minute penalty; five minutes if it's with an intent to injure or results in an injury).
• Abolition of the instigator rule, but any fighting major includes automatic ejection from game; repeated fights/ejections punished on a sliding scale of suspensions and hefty fines (four games and $15,000 fine for second fight, eight games and $30,000 for third fight, 16 games and $60,000 for fourth fight, etc.)
• Egregious incidents of violence receive season-long suspensions.
• Drug testing random throughout calendar year, not just during season.
• Continued league participation in Winter Olympics beyond 2010.
• At least one outdoor regular season game each year, with the possibility of staging the game in Europe two years prior to every Winter Games.
• At least two European-based regular-season games in every non-Olympic year.
• New individual trophies honoring the league's most improved player, defensive defenseman and comeback player of year.
• White jerseys for all home teams.
• Mandatory media retraining -- emphasizing frankness, good humor and creativity in dealings with reporters -- for all players and management.
• Full media access for qualified bloggers.
• Mandatory organ music in all arenas.
Adam Proteau's "Screen Shots" appears every Thursday only on thehockeynews.com. Want to take a shot at Adam Proteau? You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or through out Ask Adam feature. And be sure to check out Proteau's Blog for daily insight on the world of hockey.
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