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Walkom Talks New Rules

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
On Sept. 14, NHL Senior Vice President & Director of Officiating, Stephen Walkom a NHL official for 15 years who worked the 2002 Winter Olympics, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey and the 2002 and 2004 Stanley Cup Finals, fielded questions from the media about the new League rule changes.

The NHL referees have been in camp just like the players, studying the new rules in game-like situations.

Many hockey fans have heard of similar changes in the past, but with Walkom in command of overseeing the project, most believe the old tendencies will not creep back into the game.

"This is a new standard on the existing rules," said Walkom. "We need to create more offense and more offensive opportunities. The players, general managers, coaches and referees were involved. We've also focused on the puck carrier and the non puck carrier."

All 30 NHL teams have received DVDs of the new rules and their expected enforcement for the coming season.

"This is not just for the players and the coaches, the referees have to change their culture as well," said Walkom. "We're going to use all our resources to keep the standard from slipping 100-200 games in."

In the past, the pressure seems to have been on the man in the striped shirt to determine if he wants to influence the game. With a higher standard applying to all, that burden has now shifted.

"When a player is beat by the guy with the puck, he has to make a decision to let the player go or to hold," said Walkom."Sometimes they will grab the player, but we will enforce the fouls.It doesn't matter what team or player it is, the standard is what matters and if we enforce it, the fans will be rewarded."

Most presume there will be a parade to the penalty box early in the season as coaches and players test the new playing conditions. However, Walkom doesn't see it that way.

"Guys who are highly skilled should be able to adapt quickly," said Walkom. "By the end of the exhibition season, we feel they will understand how the games will be called

The success of the rule enforcement should not be judged by the amount of whistles blown in the beginning.If the players catch on quickly, there could be fewer penalties than in the past.

"It would be really easy to look at statistics, but we'll be looking at whether there's more offense and more offensive opportunities," said Walkom."I don't want our guys thinking they have a quota for penalties."

The NHL will also pair referees together, similar to what has been done with linesmen in the past, to secure more continuity among referees.

To view a video on the new rules, click to: http://www.nhl.com/news/2005/09/234088.html
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