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Shanahan interested in seeing ideas brought to life

by Dan Rosen
TORONTO -- Brendan Shanahan is right in the conservative middle when it comes to the debate on no-touch icing. He'll have a better idea by Thursday afternoon if he's for it, against it or at least willing to see some modification on what currently exists in the NHL.

Examining the way icing is called in the NHL is just one of several items on the agenda over the next two days at the 2010 NHL Research, Development and Orientation Camp Fueled By G Series. The on-ice testing will happen at the Toronto Maple Leafs' practice site in suburban Etobicoke, Ont.

"I'm like everyone else here -- I'm not going to guess because I want to see it play out," Shanahan, the NHL's Vice President of Hockey and Business Operations, told Tuesday. "I'm going to take the information and process it before I decide which I like better."

With all of his ducks lined up perfectly in a row, Shanahan is ready to see his first project as an NHL employee come to fruition over the next two days. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman assigned Shanahan to be the project leader for this camp, and he was able to secure 33 of the best 2011 Entry Draft-eligible players to be guinea pigs for testing out 28 potential rule changes and modifications.

Shanahan said the success of this week's camp will not be measured when the players leave and the lights go dark in the rink. Instead, it will be measured in how the information gathered effects the NHL down the road.

"There is not a finish line that you cross on Thursday afternoon or Friday morning," Shanahan said. "The ripple effects of a camp like this, I hope it serves as information, and we don't know where that information may come in handy. This is not a finish-line project where you throw up your arms and say we're done. It's accumulating knowledge."

Shanahan said he's particularly interested in seeing Thursday morning's session, when the teams will switch ends for overtime to create longer line changes. Currently goalies stay in the same net where they finished regulation, but this change would have him move like he does after the first period, which could create more scoring opportunities.

The NHL Hockey Operations Department found that over the last 10 years more goals (37 percent) are scored in the second period than in any other period. Thirty percent of goals are scored in the first period and 33 percent in the third, but the latter total includes empty-net goals.

By creating the long change in overtime it also could create more odd-man rushes. Right now more than 60 percent of tie games after regulation go to a shootout, and the idea is to cut that number down while still keeping the shootout in the rule books.

"To have four-on-four with a long change could create more of a challenge for coaches and for players," Shanahan said. "It's the end of the game. They're tired, mental mistakes can happen and that long change could create more out-numbered attacks."

From a visual standpoint, the biggest change is down the center of the ice, where there will be three faceoff circles. They will be the only areas where a faceoff can be taken. The center-ice circle remains, but the other two are inside the blue line, directly at the top of the high slot.

The idea behind this modification is to keep the play within the middle of the ice and also limit whistles. For fear of having a faceoff occur right in the middle of their defensive zone, the thought is teams will want to keep the puck moving.

NHL Facilities Operations Manager Dan Craig has been working on one sheet of ice at the testing site to create this modification, as well as several other minor changes.

"I'm curious to see how players and coaches react to those faceoffs in the zone when the faceoff is happening right in the heart of the slot," Shanahan said.
"The ripple effects of a camp like this, I hope it serves as information, and we don't know where that information may come in handy. This is not a finish-line project where you throw up your arms and say we're done. It's accumulating knowledge." -- Brendan Shanahan

Icing, of course, will always be a target for debate, and two variations will be tested over the next two days: Regular no-touch icing (the whistle blows immediately when the puck crosses the goal line, which is used in international play and the OHL) and Hybrid icing (the linesman has the option of calling icing before a player touches the puck, which is used in the USHL).

No-touch icing is self-explanatory and is being tested because it would eliminate dangerous collisions in a race for the puck. Hybrid icing is a bit different and requires awareness by the linesmen.

"He uses his judgment at the faceoff dots on who is going to win the race," Shanahan said. "If he feels the advantage is with the offensive player he allows the race to continue. If he feels the advantage is slightly with the defender or tied, he immediately blows the whistle (to rule no-touch icing)."

There will be several other rules and modifications tested, such as eliminating the chance for a line change by a team that is ruled offside and adding a yellow verification line parallel to the goal line. The line would be set back slightly more than three inches to aide off-ice officials during goal reviews determine if the puck had crossed the goal line.

If anything tests through the roof over the next two days, it's possible for the Board of Governors to implement it for the 2010-11 season, but that's not the goal of this camp, Shanahan said.

"Whether that happens or if it doesn't happen, that's not a reflection of the success of this camp," he said. "At a time when hockey is universally thought of as going in the right direction, it's a success in itself to just know that the hockey world is still pushing itself to be better."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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