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The countdown to 2005-06 is on

by Staff Writer / Montréal Canadiens
Bell Centre preparations in full swing for Oct. 11 home opener

Here's an exclusive look at the new reality for goalies league-wide as the NHL gets set to introduce the "Goaltender Trap-Zone Area" in 2005-06.

MONTREAL - Canadiens GM Bob Gainey and his staff are not the only ones who have been busy as the upcoming season fast approaches.  Bell Centre workers are also gearing up for the eagerly-anticipated 2005-06 season, now less than 50 days away.

In addition to carefully laying down a fresh coat of red paint on the Canadiens' famous logos at center ice, this assembly of arena staff is also responsible for making the necessary changes to the ice surface to accommodate the newly-revamped NHL rulebook.  The list of changes that will go into effect this season are a direct result of the efforts of the league's new Competition Committee, a select group featuring owners, players and general managers - including Gainey - who will help mold the future of the NHL.

Behind the net one will find two major changes to the ice surface.  The goal line has been moved back to its original distance from the endboards before it was moved up prior to the 1990-91 season.  The shrinking of the space of the rink most commonly referred to as "Wayne Gretzky's Office" from 13 feet down to 11 is geared toward increasing the area of the offensive zone in front the net.  That increased maneuvering room, combined with the advancement of the blue line by two feet, makes for a total of four extra feet in the offensive zone with which the likes of Saku Koivu, Alex Kovalev and Mike Ribeiro can work.

The most notable and visible change to the ice is also found right behind the net.  The new, freshly-painted lines behind the receded goal line will now restrict free-wheeling, puck-handling goalies like the Devils' Martin Brodeur from straying outside a designated area. The new restrictions are aptly referred to as the "Goaltender Trap-Zone Area", and are aimed at eliminating the possibility of a goalie cutting off a dump-in and safely clearing the puck from his own end.

The available area for a goalie to roam freely behind his own goal is now limited to the diagonal lines that begin six feet from either post and extend diagonally to points 28 feet apart at the endboards.

Fans will get to see these new dimensions in action starting with the Canadiens' first pre-season game against the Thrashers on Sept. 18 at the Bell Centre, and on Oct. 5 in Ottawa, when the 2005-06 season officially begins league-wide with all 30 teams hitting the ice.

Manny Almela is a writer for

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