Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we ask our roster of hockey writers to weigh in on a hot topic from the world of puck.
Today we give them the power to change one thing about the game they cover.
The question: If we gave you the power to immediately change one NHL rule, which one would you alter and why?
That's a no-brainer. I would make fighting a penalty. Plain and simple. To pretend it is a "penalty" under today's rules is an absurdity. It's a "reward," plain and simple. You and I drop our gloves, stop the game, disrupt the flow, flail away at each other for a while, and then we both head off to sit in the penalty box to count up our majors and the game goes back on as if nothing in the world happened. No one is shorhanded, neither team is down a player -- nothing, absolutely nothing.
But what's worse is that these enforcers and fighters get to tally up their "majors" as if they are somehow equal to goals and assists or shutouts, the measures of excellence that apply to the other players on the ice. If I accumulate more majors than you, I will get more money come contract time. We have even seen actual filmed documentation of this happening, back when Tie Domi's agent was renegotiating his deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the agent argued, successfully, that Domi's large penalty minutes where equal to the 20-plus goals scored by a now-forgotten Russian.
If fighting were made a true penalty -- the teams now playing four skater a side after the fighters are sent off with majors, the "staged fight" would vanish overnight and most other fights would stop. Yes, fights would continue in hockey -- there will always be temper flashes, revenge, etc. -- but they would be, as the rulebook now only pretends, truly penalized.
It would change the game for the good.
It would, however, put all sorts of enforcers out of work -- and I'm not sure there are enough panel seats on HNIC, Sportsnet and TSN to accommodate them in their retirement years......
Roy, don't waste good columns on blog questions!
I'd like to see the NHL's CBA allow teams to re-sign their own players even if it means exceeding the salary cap, with the dollars over the cap taxable and distributed to other teams. Point being when you are fortunate to draft well and build an exciting young team, your first concern shouldn't be how to keep it together under a hard cap.
I'm with Grange, seems to me the first place to start is with off-ice rules. His is a good idea to allow teams to keep the young 'uns, but it also seems to me that the NHL should adopt the Burke Rule and allow teams to trade cash and cap space along with players. It wouldn't cure Sather-itis or forestall dumb Lecavalier and Kovalchuk-type deals, but it would it would give everyone a mulligan or two and make trades possible, which they don't really appear to be at the moment. And as far as on-ice rules go, I'd get rid of that stupid lozenge behind the net, let the goalies roam! Not especially original or as ambitious as Roy's desire to penalize fighting, which is laudable but nigh on impossible until the old-time hockey guys who run the game totter off into the twilight.
I'd make all hits to the head a penalty. Under the current half-in, half-out rule that's on the books (where blindside hits are punished, but not those delivered straight on), there is too much confusion about what does and does not constitute a penalty; and more than anything else, still too many concussive blows delivered to the heads of unsuspecting players. Yes, I get the fact that players are, to some extent, responsible for their own safety on the ice, but even the most savvy, diligent and careful of players still find themselves vulnerable on the ice far too often. If the headhunters can't police themselves, then somebody else needs to do it for them.