Thursday, 15 March 2012

WHL Considering Rule Changes

National Hockey League general managers sat down earlier this week to discuss rules changes, and Western Hockey League GM's have been doing the same over the past couple of months.

The re-introduction of the red line was one change discussed, although that doesn't appear like it will happen at the NHL or WHL level.

Wheat Kings' generel manager Kelly McCrimmon is part of the WHL's competition committee and says it's almost ironic to discuss changes that would slow down the game, and yet player safety might benefit from those possible changes.

"With the red line not in the game, teams look to hit that guy with a longer stretch pass that, prior to 2005, was a pass that wasn't attempted because it was offside, and that's where you see some of the more dangerous hits coming," said McCrimmon, "You hate to put rules in or consider changes to our game that are going to make our game slower but, at the same time, you really have to address player safeway and that has to be the number one concern."

McCrimmon feels that putting the red line back in might also lead to better skill development because it would eliminate the stretch pass, chip into offensive tactic that nearly every team employs in some shape of form.

Another change McCrimmon says could help with skill development is eliminating the tag-up offside rule, which was actually re-instated in 2005 after being eliminated in 1996.

"In terms of skill development, I've always been a big believer that when the pucks comes out of the offensive zone if I have to, as a defenceman, find that puck, find my partner and make a play, I think it develops skill in defencemen," said McCrimmon, "In turn, when that puck is then shot back in, there's a lot less speed coming in on the attack to hit the other team's defence, which is another area where we're seeing some injuries."

The hybrid-icing rule discussed at the NHL meetings wouldn't apply in the WHL because the league already has no-touch icing in place.

Meanwhile, fighting continues to be a hot topic of discussion at every level of the game and the Western Hockey League is no different.

McCrimmon doesn't believe there are any changes pending but feels the league has done a good job in trying to eliminate some unnecessary fighting in the game.

"I think what you've seen in our league and I think what any league is really trying to eliminate is staged fighting where players decide before the puck is ever dropped that they're going to fight," said McCrimmon, "Obviously, that's not a fight we want in the game. I think our league has also come down hard in multiple-fight situations."

McCrimmon adds he thinks eliminating fighting altogether would, obviously, reduce the chance of injury from that aspect in the game but he also believe there would be an increase in 'cheap shots' or questionable hits because of the lack of potential accountability when you a player makes one of those hits.

Below is my complete interview with Kelly McCrimmon regarding possible rule changes and fighting in the game.

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