NEW YORK — Although the cry for a rule banning hits to the head was the focus of the recent National Hockey League general manager’s meetings, other rules were proposed that were designed to improve the game and, most notably, the fan experience.
Perhaps the most controversial rule proposed was to restrict the changing of line combinations during the season.
The proposed rule change would limit teams from changing established line combinations, barring injury, to no more than six different line combinations for each of their forward lines and defensive pairings.
Constant changing of line combinations by NHL head coaches has been a frequent complaint by fans across the league for many years.
“Our fans have told us that they are sick and tired of constantly having to figure out who’s playing with whom on a given night,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “We monitor the media and web sites dealing with all of our teams, we’ve talked directly with fans and this is the most frequent complaint we see and hear across the league. We’ve heard our fans loud and clear. They’re fed up. Now we’re trying to come up with something to address this issue.”
“Our players seem to like the idea as well,” added Bettman. “They get used to playing with certain teammates, they instinctively know their linemates’ habits, etc. We think it could improve our game immensely.”
To the surprise of many observers, a large majority of general managers agreed to implement the rule on a trial basis during the 2010-11 NHL season.
“I have to admit, the constant line changes do bog things down, both for fans and for our players,” said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. “I’m very, very concerned that this will take away a lot of the flexibility teams need to compete on any given night, but I’m all for experimenting with it for one season.”
“I don’t care much for it, but what the hell, give it a chance for a season,” said Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi. “It just might work. If it only causes minor problems, all teams would have the same problems so it would be fair and equal, and if it improves the game overall and puts more butts in seats, why not give it a shot?”
But head coaches railed against the idea.
“This proposed rule will tie our hands and take away the coaches’ ability to put his personnel in the best position to win a game,” said Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock. “This will be detrimental to the teams and to the game.”
“Bad, bad idea,” said Phoenix Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. “Coaches need to have the final say regarding what happens on the ice in terms of their personnel on any given night. This will prevent us from doing our jobs properly and to the best of our abilities.”
“Coaches generally are the ones who have the best read on who’s playing well, who isn’t and who should be put together on a line or defensive pair,” added Tippett. “And that changes frequently. We should not be bound and gagged by a silly rule like this just because the fans don’t like particular line combinations or that they change.”
But a few head coaches welcomed the proposal.
“Let’s give it a try,” said Kings head coach Terry Murray. “I’m constantly changing up my line combinations. This could make our jobs a lot easier. It would be one less thing to worry about and we can concentrate on more important ways to improve our team.”
The next step for the proposed rule is the NHL’s Competition Committee, which must also approve.
“I’m not all that thrilled with it, to be honest,” said Kings right wing Jeff Halpern, a member of the committee. “I think it could take away flexibility teams need in terms of their personnel, but then again, I’m probably the wrong person to ask, since I’m generally not a first or second-line player. It usually doesn’t matter who I’m playing with.”
“That said, maybe we should give it a try and see if it works,” added Halpern. “If it makes the game better, I’d be all for it.”
If the Competition Committee approves, the National Hockey League Players Association and the NHL Board of Governors must also approve it before the rule change goes into effect.
Both bodies are expected to go along with the proposed rule for the 2010-11 season. The league and the NHLPA will then evaluate its effects at the end of the season and decide if they want to adopt it permanently during the 2011 off-season.
Tippett had one final thought for the league and their fans about the proposal.
“Here’s some food for thought,” he said. “No offense to our great fans, but fans are fans. We shouldn’t be acceding to their every desire, every whim, especially when they don’t know all that’s going on, like in this particular case, simply because they’re screaming about it.”
“If they always knew what was best on the ice, they’d be playing or coaching in this league, and they aren’t.”
Food for thought, indeed. Even more food for thought is the fact that this news came out on April 1.
If you haven’t already figured it out, this is an April Fools Day gag story, a tradition I started long, long ago over on the Online Kingdom and it continues here on Frozen Royalty. Nothing stated above is true and the quotes attributed to people mentioned in this story are fabricated. My apologies to Gary Bettman, Brian Burke, Dean Lombardi, Mike Babcock, Dave Tippett, Terry Murray, Jeff Halpern, the NHL, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, the NHLPA, the NHL Competition Committee, and anyone else who may be directly or indirectly affected by this story. No malice was intended. This was nothing more than an attempt at satire/humor on April Fools Day.
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