In light of the recent Miami Dolphins bullying scandal, NHL general managers were told by league officials Tuesday to remind their own players about what behaviour will and will not be tolerated in the dressing rooms.
In the NFL incident, offensive lineman Richie Incognito was suspended by the Dolphins for allegedly harassing Jonathan Martin, a younger teammate. The league is investigating the claims of intimidation.
Once upon a time, hazing rituals were a regular part of NHL locker-room culture, but, according to Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, that era has long since passed.
"Things that were tolerated 30 years ago, when I played, aren't tolerated any more," he said. "That goes along with society. It was just an opportunity to remind us to remind our teams, 'Guys, things have changed.' I don't hear about those sorts of situations or initiations in our dressing rooms. Every now and then, we all have to be reminded about what's acceptable and what's not."
According to Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, the prevalence of social media, cellphones and even the sort of 24/7 insider shows that teams, including his own, participate in means "the sanctity of the locker room" has changed.
As a result, as an organization, "you're on a higher alert. … It's a workplace environment [issue]. It's not the same workplace as here on Bay Street [in Toronto], but there are parameters you have to stand by. It's a discussion we had – to be aware that as managers and coaches you have to be responsible."
NHL GMs waded through a long list of topics at Tuesday's meetings, including possible changes to the fighting and overtime rules.
For years, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland has proposed amending the overtime rule so there would be an additional five-minute period of 3-on-3 play tacked on if a game didn't end in the current five minutes of 4-on-4 play. Holland said he thought there was "an appetite in the room" to extend the overtime.
Not every GM liked the 3-on-3 concept, but some – including Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues – said he would consider seeing a few extra minutes of 4-on-4 overtime so fewer games were decided by shootouts.
"I'm not sure about the 3-on-3yet," Armstrong said, "because I don't see it enough in our regular games, in the 60 minutes or in the overtime, to see what effect that would have. But I like the idea of an extended 4-on-4, or [New Jersey Devils GM] Lou Lamoriello brought up the idea of switching zones, making it harder for line changes. That might accomplish things, too.
"I think we can tweak it a few different ways."
As expected, fighting was discussed, but for now, there doesn't appear to be a strong sentiment to change the rules, apart from adding a penalty to goaltenders that leave the crease to join a fight. Such a move would be a reaction to the strong negative publicity the NHL received after Ray Emery of the Philadelphia Flyers went after Washington Capitals counterpart Braden Holtby in game last month, even though Holtby had made it clear he was an unwilling participant.
"I would think, based on our discussion today, that's a direction we're going to go," Chiarelli said.