Going through Olympic withdrawal, anyone? Not sure of what to watch on non-Rangers game nights? The 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City have come and gone and the sport of hockey is currently at the forefront of the sports world because of them. The on-ice battles were passionate and exciting and have many hockey fans craving the NHL stretch drive, which is now upon us. In watching the nearly two weeks of Olympic hockey, many topics have been debated comparing the current NHL style of play with that of the Winter Games. While it is difficult to compare a once-in-four-years tournament with an 82-game season, many interesting questions have been raised about the future of the sport.
While games remain the same throughout the years, adjustments are always made to better the quality of play for the players as well as the fans. During the Olympics, players were dealt slightly different cards regarding the rules that govern the NHL.
In international hockey, the center red line is taken away, thus allowing two-line passes. Teams have only 15 seconds after a play stoppage to change lines and prepare for the next face-off. Icing is called and the play is whistled to a stop when the puck crosses the end line rather than requiring the defending player touch it. Off-sides is not automatically called, allowing players to ‘touch-up’ and re-enter the offensive zone once it is completely cleared. International ice surfaces are 15 feet wider than NHL surfaces.
These and other slight rule adjustments adopted in international play as set by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) were positively embraced by players and fans alike. Which rules are better for hockey, or is there a compromise between the two that can be made? That exact question has sparked interesting debates around North America.
“Having no red line, quick face-offs, no TV timeouts … it keeps the game moving,” said Rangers winger and Canadian gold medal winner Theoren Fleury
. “The different rules keeps everyone on their toes and into the game. Some of these rules might benefit the NHL, especially during an 82-game schedule.”
Rangers and Team USA forward Mike York
thinks the 15-second face-off rule would be beneficial to adopt in the NHL. “I liked it. It sped up the game, but more importantly, it kept the players focused and into the game.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman witnessed the Olympic Games firsthand and is quick to point out that it’s more than the rules that created the exciting brand of hockey that was played.
“I know there’s been a lot of talk about how good the hockey has been (in the Olympics) – and it was terrific. But I would respectfully suggest that the biggest reason for that has not been the nuance difference of a couple of rules. It’s because you have 120 of the best hockey players in the world playing in a relatively brief tournament – and that’s why you saw what you saw.”
This is a debate that will surely continue into the future, although a definitive answer may be almost impossible to come by. So we ask you … what do you think? Which of the international rules that were a part of the Olympic Games would you like to see incorporated into the NHL and why? E-mail your opinions to www.newyorkrangers.com
and share your thoughts with us. Randomly selected e-mails will be posted within the Rangers Olympics section.