The real culprits are the players who trespass. Through Sunday 123 goals had been disallowed for crease violations this season—about one in every nine games—but if skaters would simply stay out of the forbidden area, there wouldn't be trouble. Players may have been "taught their entire careers to go to the net," as Red Wings center Steve Yzerman says, but they can also stop on a dime. Crease offenders need to give up the irrelevant whine that they only had a toe over the line. It makes as much sense as pleading, I only had two fingers in the cookie jar.
The NHL will probably tinker with the rule this summer but is unlikely to go to a policy in which a referee would only disallow a goal when an offensive player in the crease clearly interfered with the goalie. Many NHL types fear that would turn the blue crease into a gray area. Our modest proposal, which has met with the in formal approval of several general managers, is to make the crease even smaller. We say narrow it by another six inches on each side and take six inches off the arc That way if a player is in the crease he's definitely affecting the play.
In the meantime, when the cold eye of the video camera catches a crease violator and a goal is lost general managers and player; must remember that they have no one to blame but themselves.
Agitator To the Stars
Mighty Ducks defenseman Kevin Haller isn't a well-known player among casual hockey fans. Nov with his fifth team in eight sea sons, the 28-year-old Haller averages four goals a year and play a chippy but undynamic style. He also has running feuds going with a couple of guys even your grand mother may have heard of: Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier.
To have the courage to tangle regularly with the bull-like Messier is one thing; to be willing to breach NHL etiquette and rough up the Great One is an other. In Anaheim's 4-1 win over the Rangers last Friday, Haller drew a two-minute interference penalty for leveling Gretzky with a check and then rubbing a glove in his face. The usually unflappable Great One was penalized four minutes for attempting to spear Haller in retaliation.
Last season a frustrated Gretzky took a wild punch at Haller (and missed) during an odier confrontation. "He was my idol as a kid," says Haller, whe grew up in Alberta when Gretzky was an Oiler. "I'd love to get a stick from him, but I don't think there's much chance of that."