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NHL Rules Changes Worth Considering

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No goal. (AP photo)
NHL referee waives off a goal. (AP Photo)

Former NHL player Mike Johnson, on a recent segment on NHL Network, proposed three interesting rule changes.

The on-screen title read: New rules we would like to see.

Johnson’s Twitter handle is @mike_p_johnson and his bio reads: Former NHL player and current NHL analyst.

Johnson, a forward, played 11 NHL seasons for Toronto, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Montreal and St. Louis. He scored 129 goals and 246 assists (375 points) in 661 NHL games.

The Proposed Rules

“We’re going to allow hand passes by every player in every zone,” Johnson proposed to his NHL Network audience.

“So, there’s no reason why a defensive team, if the puck’s in the air, I can grab it and give it and break it out. But an offensive player, I can’t grab it and give it to an opponent in the offensive zone.

“Why would I not have the same rules for the offensive team as the defensive team? You can’t pick it up and you can’t put it in the net but you can pass it to a teammate.”

My view: This is a great idea. Agree with Johnson: The rules should be the same here for offense and defense.

Johnson’s Next Suggestion

“Any goal off a skate counts, no matter what. Here’s my safety amendment — except in the blue paint.”

My view: Again, I agree. The replays on pucks that go off skates into the net are ridiculous. Was it a kicking motion? Did we know the player’s intent? Did the player twist his skate ever so slightly to get the deflection?

I always think these off-the-skate goals are inaccurately called 50 percent of the time — in both directions. Good goals are waived off. What look like obvious kicking-motion goals are allowed. Let them all in!

Johnson’s Final Suggestion

“There is no high-stick rules for goals. If I do it here [waist level] and that’s how high the net is — brilliant, skill play. If I do it here [raises hand slightly higher], now it’s illegal?

“People don’t swing their sticks around at pucks. And if you do and you hit them in the head, guess what? You go to the [penalty] box and you don’t get to come out when they score two goals.

“So, don’t swing your stick around … They put that rule in place, swinging at the puck, because no one wore helmets. Now they have helmets and visors. So you’re not going to take anyone’s eye or nose out, just some teeth. 

“Plus you can’t review high-sticks [goals]. The angle never quite works out.”

My view: Noooooooo. The league shouldn’t want players taking red-blooded swings from any angle at the puck. I can find some common ground if a player’s stick is above the crossbar and the puck deflects in without a swinging motion.

“Just some teeth,” should be a deterrent, not a reason to consider.

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