NHL, IIFH still clash
By TIM PANACCIO Knight Ridder Newspapers | November 20,2005
PHILADELPHIA — The NHL had a short Olympic wish list: full implementation of its new rules plus standardized goalie equipment.
On Tuesday, the league gained small satisfaction.
The International Ice Hockey Federation said it agreed in principle with the NHL's new ideas about what constituted obstruction — but said it wouldn't adopt the severe "zero tolerance" policy toward obstructive player contact that the NHL has.
As for the goalies, the federation said it would allow them to continue to wear whatever equipment they chose. That was an outright NHL defeat.
In Europe, the goalies still look like the Michelin Man, not the slimmed-down netminders of the new NHL. The federation will not require smaller goalie pads until next season.
Federation president Rene Fasel said, in a written bulletin: "For the first time in hockey history we have the opportunity for the IIHF and the NHL to be on the same page when enforcing the rules and calling restraining fouls like hooking, holding and interference."
But Colin Campbell, the NHL's director of hockey operations, told us Friday that the NHL doesn't expect its rules to be followed with full compliance.
"This process has and is not an easy journey," Campbell said, referring to the months of meetings needed to get the NHL clubs to agree on rule changes. Can a new obstruction policy "be applied at the Olympics with a mixture of players and officials who are, and are not, exposed to it? It will be difficult.
"I just know what an enormous job it is" in the NHL. "We have done things certain ways for 10 or so years. When you examine play in the '60s, '70s, '80s, and even early '90s, we did not have the hooking and holding we have had. ...
"We try to maintain the toughness, the physicality, yet embrace skating and skill. ... It's not easy, and you have to fine-tune referees every night. ... Is there enough time and understanding (before February) to apply it to all the ingredients that make up the Olympics? I will be in Cancun!"
Fasel said the federation would not adopt the NHL's standard of zero tolerance.
"We don't talk about zero-tolerance because it's impossible to attain," Fasel said. "There will always be incidental contact and there will always be judgment. But what we want is the offensive player skating without being hooked and held. Our objective is to have the same standards on the puck and non-puck carrier.
"Our referees will be instructed to penalize the actions of players in front of the net when one player tries to eliminate the position and movement of the attacking player using his stick (often cross-checking) or his hands to impede the opponent."
Fasel said the coming world junior tournament would determine whether the federation's interpretation of obstruction met the new NHL standards. There will be three Olympic training sessions for referees leading up to the Games.
NHL officials will gather Dec. 19 to 21 in Zurich, Switzerland, to meet with federation officials, and then will join European referees Jan. 13 to 15 to go over the rules enforcement. There will be a final meeting Feb. 13 and 14, shortly before the hockey tournament begins.
Don Waddell, general manager of Team USA, was cautiously optimistic that the NHL's rules and the federation's would blend enough to make the tournament work.
"They're not NHL officials, and European officials work games a lot differently," Waddell said. "I think it will get worked out soon. We want to see as many NHL officials as possible so we can play at these standards. The referees take the longest time to adjust to the new standards."
The federation has mandated that NHL officials work games in which 50 percent or more of the players are from the league.
New Rules II
Former Red Wings coach Scotty Bowman shared his thoughts on the NHL's rule changes.
"They got rid of the obstruction, and now they are going to fine-tune the end zone," he said. "The hardest thing before, there was a black-and-white view on penalties, and a gray area where if I committed a marginal foul on you, and the puck didn't change possession, it was no harm, no foul.
"Now that can't happen. The moment an infraction occurs, it is a penalty, regardless of where the puck is going. That is the biggest change in the game. We used to have some fouls before of a minor nature that never changed the flow of the game and never got called. Now those penalties are being called.
"The toughest part there is getting consistency from one official to another. A veteran official would say, 'I saw it, but it had no effect.' The younger official is wanting to make sure he is calling the game, and it gets hard."
Congratulations to former Philadelphia Journal hockey writer Ned Colletti, named manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some hockey guys know baseball, too, eh? ... Should we be surprised that Todd Marchant cleared waivers Thursday afternoon? He counts for $2.5 million against the cap with a multiyear deal. And he has a no-trade clause. That's two strikes against him in the new collective-bargaining agreement. ... Devils goalie Martin Brodeur is a full-time member of the NHL's competition committee. "I'm pretty passionate about the game, and I think it's important to have somebody who really cares," Brodeur told the Canadian Press. "I think it's important for goalies to have a voice, an input."
Flyers chairman Ed Snider is on the committee. Here's his view of diving: "Since I have been on the committee, I keep telling the guys that the officials have to start calling the dives and not just the penalties. They seem reluctant to call it because they are not absolutely sure that it is a dive." Snider likes the "new" product on the ice. "I love the new game," he said. "I compare the new game to football. If a receiver in football wanted to go out for a pass, he might get there, but he would be fighting the defensive back and never get open. You have to allow your skill people to get open. That's what football did. That's what we've done."
Finally, the Lightning appeared on "Hockey Night in Canada" during the regular season recently, a first for them. "Every Saturday night, no matter what you were doing, no matter how good-looking your date was, you were watching "Hockey Night in Canada," goalie Sean Burke told the St. Petersburg Times. "That's Canada. That's tradition. It's just part of your whole lifestyle. It's hockey."