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Embellishment issues at forefront of Rules Summit

by Dan Rosen

TORONTO -- National Hockey League Senior Executive Vice President Colin Campbell believes that players, coaches and general managers all want the diving/embellishment rule to be called more stringently -- and more often -- in order to eliminate the act from the sport.

Campbell came to that conclusion after video proposals and extensive discussions with representatives of those three groups during the two-day Rule Enforcement Meeting, which concluded Wednesday morning.

The players in the session, including Ottawa Senators center Jason Spezza, Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman John-Michael Liles, led an impassioned discussion on enforcing the diving/embellishment rule (Rule 64.1), Campbell told He said the players want to distribute a list of divers around the League so it can be posted in all 30 dressing rooms and be delivered to the on-ice officials.

"They want to get [the list] out there," Campbell said. "They want the player to be caught, whether it's on the ice by the referee or by us on video. They are all tired of diving. The object is to make them stop eventually and, by doing that, they can get it out there around the League, embarrass them. The referees will know it, too, so the divers don't get the benefit of the doubt."

According to the NHL Rulebook, players who violate the diving/embellishment rule can be subject to supplementary discipline through fine and/or suspension. Campbell said there was no appetite among the group attending the two-day summit to suspend repeat offenders, because the players feel the punishment that comes with having your name on the divers' list would be enough to reduce the frequency with which the tactic is used.

"I talk about players being smart, they figure out when they can get calls. That's a concern," said Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, also on hand for the rules summit. "I was glad to see the players in the meeting were concerned with it also. It's an area of our game that I think we can clean up."

Tippett publicly expressed his frustration with the issue of diving during a contentious Western Conference Finals game against the Los Angeles Kings in May. He said the game "is turning a little dishonest and it's embellishment by players." Tippett added that the players doing it are putting the officials in a difficult position, a point with which Campbell agrees.

Several NHL on-ice officials were also involved in the two-day meeting and were pleased to hear the players discuss their concerns.

"The players' feedback was real good," referee Wes McCauley said. "I thought they were honest and gave us a couple of trends or tricks to the trade, so to speak. We got a better understanding of where we want to go as a group with that."

Beyond diving, Campbell said the group also held strong opinions on the interference rule, particularly when it applies to the forecheck. He said the group felt the standard should be that a defenseman get called for interference if he is holding up a forechecking forward in any way, especially if the forward has already beaten him.

"What we had to hone in on was once that play is made, the dump-in is made, the attempts to slow down the forechecker," Campbell said. "If you have a step on me as a forward, that kind of bumping to slow you down -- they want no-touch, let him go. Once you're beat, you're beat. That's what they really wanted to hit. No holdups, no interference is what they were heavy on."

Campbell said the group concluded that there are no major issues with the way hooking, holding and faceoff interference are being called. Slashing merited some additional discussion with the consensus being that any stick contact with the hands should be called. However, the referees stressed to the group that a slash that leads to a broken stick is not an automatic penalty.

"I think just consistency, that is what we were trying to establish," Spezza said. "It is just a matter of consistency and knowing what is a call and isn't a call. Hopefully, we did a good job of clearing that up today, and once the season gets started we can circulate it and guys will have a better idea of what's going to be called."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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