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Trapezoid rule retained Add to ...

The trapezoid rule stays, NHL general managers decided at their meetings yesterday, but the really hot issue - head shots - is expected to generate friction today.

Head shots are the most contentious issue around the league and there are a variety of opinions about what could be done to curb them. While some GMs are in favour of the status quo, others are anxious for change.

"I'm more concerned long-term about what's going on," said Tampa Bay Lightning GM Brian Lawton, who recently lost rookie Viktor Hedman to injury after a big hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil.

"I had raised some of the concerns long before Viktor got hurt. So I think it's very timely and I don't want to deviate from that [issue] I'm more interested in the long term, what are we going to do, because it costs the teams a tremendous amount when players are injured. That's the bottom line."

Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford also thinks it's time to institute a rule designed to help reduce head shots.

"The players are bigger, they're faster, and [the game]happens so much quicker and everything is so much harder [than it used to be]" Rutherford said. "We've got the seamless glass now, I know it's supposed to move a bit, but it doesn't move a whole lot. Everything we have is to better the game, which it has, but it also puts players in a position that they can get hurt more."

Goaltenders who can handle the puck will remain confined to the net as the general managers decided to keep the trapezoid rule.

The trapezoid is the marked area behind the net and it is the only place goaltenders are allowed to handle the puck outside their crease. The rule was introduced four years ago as part of the package designed to speed up the game.

At the time, GMs felt too many goaltenders were coming far out of their nets to field shoot-ins and quickly fire the puck back up the ice. They thought the rule would limit that and create more battles in the corners between defencemen and opposing forwards. Opponents of the rule thought it made defencemen too vulnerable to high-speed hits.

After NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell told the GMs that a league study showed there had been no serious injuries caused by the trapezoid rule since it was introduced, the impetus to drop the rule faded. This did not please at least one GM.

"I was ready to speak to it, but Colin went through the thing and how they studied it and there had been no major injuries from it," Rutherford said. "But there will be and then we'll talk about it again. And my opinion won't change from last time.

"We have a handful of goalies who can handle the puck pretty well in this league and we have 60 goalies. If you take the guys who can't handle the puck very well, they're going to give the puck away. That will still create as many scoring chances.

"My point is, if you don't have [the trapezoid] those players who are going back to get the puck and are in a vulnerable position for injury, the goalie could come out and help them out. If they see a guy two or three steps behind their teammate, they're probably going to go and push the puck up the boards and take them out of that position."

Brian Burke, president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, wanted to keep the rule. He insisted goaltenders had turned NHL hockey "into a tennis match" by constantly throwing the puck up the ice.

Burke also said the Leafs want to host an outdoor game at BMO Field, and want an all-star game and entry draft for Toronto as well. He said BMO Field is their choice for the outdoor game because of its adjacent facilities.

"For hospitality, and if it's a bitterly cold day, there are underground parking and indoor facilities where, if fans wanted to get out of the cold, they could."

Phoenix Coyotes GM Don Maloney said he plans to take a look at 47-year-old defenceman Chris Chelios, who is playing for the AHL's Chicago Wolves. That could put Chelios back in the NHL Players' Association. Some members have been questioning why he has such a prominent role in the union's disintegration even though he's not playing in the NHL.

With a report from The Canadian Press

 

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