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GMs discuss possible rules changes

Posted: Tuesday March 05, 2002 6:30 PM
Updated: Tuesday March 05, 2002 6:31 PM

Rules changes that could bring the NHL closer to the quicker style of the Olympics were among the topics Tuesday at the league's annual meeting of general managers. Possible trades were also part of the discussions, which were described as intense and heated.

"You have 30 fairly strong-willed people in there who are very opinionated," New York Islanders GM Mike Milbury said. "Good things come out of that."

The executives spent the morning and afternoon hours at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Naples, Fla., assessing which -- if any -- Olympic rules would work well in the NHL.

They also schmoozed each other in hopes of landing the key player for a successful playoff drive. The trading deadline is 3 p.m. on March 19.

"That's part of the reason we have the meetings now," New York Rangers GM Glen Sather said. "It's a good time to talk about players and get everything out on the table."

A report out of New York said Sather was actively shopping goalie Mike Richter, who will be a free agent after this season.

"I don't discuss personnel issues," Sather said.

The meetings began Sunday night and conclude Wednesday morning. The GMs congregate around a large rectangular table with league VP of hockey operations Colin Campbell acting as the chief emcee. At different times, commissioner Gary Bettman takes the floor, but the GMs are always urged to speak their minds.

"There's an order to it," NHL spokesman Frank Brown said, "but there's not a set schedule followed."

Tuesday's agenda also included a report on officiating by Andy VanHellemond, the league's director of officiating. Many GMs offered their thoughts and suggestions.

"There are always vehement discussions at these meetings," Milbury said. "The room is full of passionate individuals who care about the game they make their living with."

Both Milbury and Sather said the success and popularity of last month's Olympic hockey tournament gave more weight to the rules debates.

"A lot of interesting things came out of the Olympics," Milbury said. "The 15-second faceoff and some other things. We had good long discussions about much of it."

The Olympics also featured a larger ice surface, no fighting, no-touch icing and no red line. The 15-second faceoff rule and the no-touch icing are likely the only two to earn votes for being adopted in the NHL. No owner would rip out pricey seats to accommodate a larger ice, fighting is too popular and eliminating the red line could cause teams to incorporate a more trapping -- and less entertaining -- style.

"A whole host of things were discussed," Sather said. "It's too premature to say one is more likely than another."

The GMs can only toss around ideas since all rules changes must be approved by the Board of Governors, which meets next in June.

Players association representatives Bob Goodenow and Ian Pulver were present, as required by the Collective Bargaining Agreement for any rules talks.

"Basically, we all recognized one thing, that we like the game a lot the way it is," Milbury said. "It's been a good season so far. If anything is changed down the road, you won't see anything dramatic.

"Some people really want to protect the traditions of the game, but all of us are open to suggestions about what will make the game better."

Sather agreed.

"It's always helpful to have some kind of rules discussion -- we do it every year," he said. "But right now, we all quite like the game the way it is. It's too early to say what will come of it."


 
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