If general managers get their way goaltenders’ pads are going to shrink next season and the NHL Players’ Association is going to explore mandatory visor use (with a grandfather clause).
Those were the two most important developments to come out of the annual general managers’ meeting Wednesday, which was shrunk from the usual three days to one due to the lockout.
The GMs also passed along to the NHL competition committee a recommendation to adopt the hybrid icing rule, but NHLPA representatives told them the players do not support it – they prefer the status quo or no-touch icing – so the measure is certain to die at the 10-member committee, which is made up of five players and five representatives of NHL management.
The hybrid icing rule is designed to prevent the serious injuries that result from collisions in chasing the puck when it’s fired down the ice. If the defenceman had the lead when the puck reached the hash marks on the faceoff circles, the linesmen stop the play. If the forward is leading, the play continues.
Colin Campbell, NHL director of hockey operations, said the GMs will keep pushing for the rule.
The idea of an NFL-style coach’s challenge to calls by the on-ice officials was also subject to much discussion, but it died when it became apparent to the 30 GMs it would slow games down and too many video replays would be inconclusive rather than decisive. But the GMs did recommend adding four-minute high-sticking calls to video review conducted by the league’s hockey operations department.
This is the first departure from using video review only to determine if goals are legal. But the review will be confined to determining if a player was struck by the stick of an opponent.
The competition committee will study the recommendations at its June meeting, and any that are approved will go to the NHL board of governors for formal acceptance.
Campbell said the GMs are in favour of making visors mandatory for all players entering the league, with a grandfather clause allowing current players a choice. But since equipment matters fall under the collective agreement, the approval of the players is needed.
Mathieu Schneider, special assistant to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr, said the union will discuss the visor issue this summer.
If enough support is shown, perhaps after a poll of the union’s 740 members, the NHLPA may present the league’s competition committee with a proposal. (About 73 per cent of NHL players wear visors but historically they have insisted it should be the player’s choice.)
“That’s something we’ll talk to the players about,” Schneider said. “I’m certainly an advocate [for wearing visors] and I’m also a hypocrite because I never wore one during my playing career. We’re going to talk about grandfathering them in.”
Schneider said the last time the players were polled by the union was in 2009, and a majority was “heavily” opposed to making visors mandatory with a grandfather rule for current players.
The details of the changes to goaltenders’ pads have not been decided other than the height of them above the knee will be reduced and the bulk of the knee pads will also be reduced so they are tighter to the knee.
Former NHL goaltender Kay Whitmore, a member of the NHL’s hockey operations department, will work with the union, goaltenders and hockey manufacturers to come up with a standard acceptable to all parties by June.
The concern is goaltenders used a loophole on the size of kneepads to make them bigger so they could close the gap between their legs. This increased what NHL officials call the “stopping area” on goaltenders, who used the advantage of knee pads and long goalie pads to close off the bottom of the net. This, in turn, prompted players to shoot high, which exposed them to more danger from flying pucks.
“It’s a project for goalies to get bigger,” Campbell said of the need for changes.
Schneider said adding a meeting for the competition committee was discussed. Some want the committee to meet at the NHL all-star game, which is usually held in February, so it could form the initial suggestions for rule and equipment changes which would then go to the GMs at their annual March meetings.
Then, anything approved by the GMs would go back to the competition committee for its June meeting and finally to the governors for formal approval.