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Novel concept suggested to regulate two-line passes

by Dan Rosen
BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The idea of re-inserting the red line was shot down by the majority of the NHL's 30 general managers on Tuesday.
"The game is in an excellent place as far as speed and competition," NHL Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said after Tuesday's GM meeting at Boca Raton Beach Club adjourned. "There wasn't a real taste for putting the red line back in."
However, the managers came to a consensus on Tuesday to ask the American Hockey League to test a concept that would redefine the center-ice line and its place in the game. The line, known as the ringette line -- or Bowman line -- would regulate the legality of two-line passes.

"The game is in an excellent place as far as speed and competition. There wasn't a real taste for putting the red line back in." -- NHL Senior V.P. of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell

The ringette line, which comes from the Canadian game of ringette -- a derivative of hockey -- would be painted across the ice at the top of the faceoff circles at each end of the ice. The team with possession of the puck in its own end would have to gain the ringette line in order to make a legal pass across the center red line. Passing the puck across the center red line from behind the ringette line would be considered an illegal pass.
Several managers said they are curious if the ringette line would create the need for more skill, in terms of advancing the puck out of the defensive zone by eliminating the ability to fire the puck up the boards to the center red line. The managers also believe it could encourage teams to forecheck harder because of the potential for turnover opportunities as the defensemen skate or pass the puck deep in their zone.
"We have too many young defensemen now that are just hammering the puck up the wall," Toronto GM Brian Burke said.
Campbell said the AHL's Competition Committee would have to agree to use the ringette line next season, but AHL President Dave Andrews, here at the meetings, said he would expect it to pass.
"If this group of NHL GMs think this is worth trying, than I don't have a problem with it and I don't think there will be a problem trying it," Andrews said.
The potential reintroduction of the red line to govern two-line passes was a hot-button issue heading into the meetings, but it did not get the necessary support in large part because the managers like the speed of the game and are reluctant to tinker too much with what they believe is a solid product.
Similarly, the idea of removing the trapezoid behind the goal line had no traction among the managers.
"I think it's a sense that the game is in great shape right now," Burke said. "The product we have put on the ice is the best product we have put on the ice in terms of speed. I think it's a great broadcast product. And I think there is a strong sense that this thing is working right now, let's leave it alone and see where it goes."
The idea of making hand passes in the defensive zone illegal and punishable with a two-minute minor penalty, introduced by Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, did create a lot of discussion, but Campbell said there wasn't enough support to make a recommendation for a rule change.
Instead, the managers would like to see the rule on handling the puck (Rule 67) more strictly enforced.
Players are allowed to stop or bat the puck in the air with an open hand, as well as pass it along the ice to a teammate in the defensive zone. But players are not allowed to close their hand on the puck and skate with the puck in their hand, or make a hand pass to a teammate in the neutral zone or attacking zone. A penalty shot is awarded if a defending player, other than the goalie, covers the puck or picks up the puck in the goal crease.
"Gillis made the point that if you have to hand pass the puck in the defensive zone it's a defensive team trying to get out of a tough situation and we should not be allowing that," Campbell said. "We discussed it and it almost got there, but it didn't. The result was just to make sure handling the puck was called properly with hands on the puck, covering the puck."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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