The NHL will address the always controversial state of officiating - and the perception that standard of enforcement slipped during the 2011-12 season - at a special August summit meeting featuring representatives from the league’s general managers, coaches, players and officials.
According to Colin Campbell, the NHL’s senior vice-president of hockey operations, the summer get-together will replace the annual research and development camp, and will try to clarify exactly teams want the game called.
“In March, some teams said to us that they had an issue,” said Campbell Wednesday, after NHL general managers met prior to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. “They said, ‘We think the standard’s dropped.’ Well, the standard on what? Holding? Interference? If it’s interference, is it interference off the faceoff? Is it off the entry? Is it the forward? Is it the defenceman? You’ve got to tell us so we can tell the referees how to call it.”
Campbell said he invited all 30 NHL teams to submit examples of plays they had issue with. Only nine complied - and 85 per cent of the examples centred on interference on the fore-check, said Campbell.
“We said, ‘Tell us how you want us to call it and what standard we should set and then we will set that up, as we normally do, at the start of the season, with videotape and tell people: ‘Here’s what you can do and here’s what you can’t.’”
Officiating controversies have abounded in the 2012 playoffs - and the climate is significantly different from the zero-tolerance policy on hooking, holding and interference that emerged out of the lockout.
The challenge, according to Campbell, is getting all the teams on the same page, because some promote rule changes, mostly to get a competitive advantage.
Campbell cited one example of a mixed message, whereby some GMs support the adoption of a “bear hug” rule - a means of gently riding an opponent into the boards in order to reduce the risk of injury. How, Campbell asked, could they reconcile the idea of rewriting the rules to add a legal form of interference, and then crack down on obstruction in other areas of the ice?
“Sometimes, after the season’s gone away and before you start another season, we can really get after the issues - where it’s not a competitive gripe, but where we think the game really should be,” said Campbell.
Pending approval from the American Hockey League’s competition committee, the GMs will ask that hybrid icing be tested at the minor league level to reduce the risk of injury when two players are chasing the puck.
“Personally, I’ve watched hybrid icing in college and the USHL recently,” said Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, “and I thought it worked fine. I didn’t think it had any negative effect on the game.”
Yzerman, who said he personally believes no-touch icing is “awful,” called hybrid icing “a good compromise - because we’re trying to prevent injuries.”
They will also keep talking about a radical proposal from Red Wings general manager Ken Holland that would see minor and major penalties carry over from one game to the next in a playoff series between two teams.