Originally posted on Goon's World  |  Last updated 8/17/13
Ok, to lead off, I wish I could claim credit for any of these ideas, but I can't.  FULL Credit actually goes to Sean McIndoe (otherwise known as @DownGoesBrown) for his blog post on Grantland entitled "How We'd Fix the NHL".  The reason why I come on out and say it is that, with the exception of the obvious rule differences between the NHL and NCAA DI Hockey, the fixes would actually cross over really easily.  Let me break down the fixes: 1.  Fix the Standings and Kill the Loser Point In McIndoe's article, he speaks to the fact that shootouts render the loser point to be detrimental to the game stating it actually rewards a team for playing for overtime.  It inflates records and confuses all but the ardent fan (and sometimes them too).  I agree.  Why do we need 15 columns in the Standings section of the newspaper or website?  Keep it simple.  Wins, Losses, and that's it.  If you want a point in the standings for the "loser" then the only real solution is to eliminate shootouts and bring back ties as a possibility.  DI Hockey is not like the NHL yet with regards to ties, but it is readily apparent that they want to be.  So, this argument is apt. 2.  Longer OT, fewer shootouts* In his article, McIndoe makes the point simple:  Make OT's 10 minutes long and keep it sudden death.  It isn't about reducing the number of players on the ice because it ends up being just as gimmicky as the shootout. However, with no loser point and a 10 minute OT, it will more than likely reduce the number of shootouts we would see.  It doesn't eliminate shootouts, which will make the casual fan happy, but it won't promote them, which will be an adequate compromise for us strident hockey traditionalists. It's at this point in McIndoe's article that he speaks to several NHL-specific problems that the NCAA has, so I'll speak to some NCAA problems that the NHL doesn't have. 3.  Change the rules regarding helmets.  Mandate visors, recommend cages. The NCAA will never allow the freedom the NHL has at the moment regarding helmets and visor styles, but we can go a little more the way of flexibility.  The USHL requires all players wear half-shields or visors.  The NCAA right now requires full cages.  I say we go the way of the USHL and require the player to choose between the half shield/visor and the full cage.  It does not matter which the player chooses as long as one is present at all times.  This has to do with perceived security and cheap shots to the head.  Right now, the cage is pretty protective all in all so high sticking is more of a judgment call as to whether the stick actually hit the cage.  Judgment calls means the opportunity to make a situational call or non-call.  That usually exacerbates the mediocrity inherent in the NCAA Officiating Corps.  Safety is a huge issue but much of being safe is playing safe.  I do not think the players are playing as safely as they should.  They've become too reliant upon their equipment (especially goaltenders) to bail them out.  Educate and allow them the choice. Sadly, the best effect of visors over cages cannot be achieved in NCAA hockey as fighting is not allowed. 4.  Fix the Diving Problem McIndoe again hits the nail right on the head.  Every team has divers on it.  Every team does it.  Why?  Because it works.  Much of the time, officials defend it by semantics (embellishment is still diving, but it's a less negative word than diving).  The best way to eliminate diving is to develop players who naturally do not dive.  However, as McIndoe again correctly states, you cannot change player psychology.  If you do, the other guy isn't, and you will be spending a lot of time on special teams. Right now, the biggest flaw with diving is that it is RARELY called as a penalty without it being offsetting.  McIndoe suggests several fixes and I'll add one of my own: a.  No more coincidentals.  Yup.  If a guy cross checks you and you flop to the ice like you've been shot congrats.  You're going for diving and the cross check goes uncalled.  There have been several times where a team will send a 3rd or 4th liner or bottom pairing defenseman out there to bait the other team's star.  The star runs into them, they flop.  Both go.  Who loses in that case?  Not the flopper.  b.  Rep counts.  This is a contraversial one on McIndoe's part, but in the NCAA we've already seen that the officials already practice this.  I've seen many times where Matt Greene was called simply for skating too close to the other guy.  Joe Finley got called for a high elbows and we all know (haters and likers alike) that Finley is absolutely NOT a physical player.  However, if the guy has a rep of being a diver, then call it if he does.  You make the bed, you sleep in it. c.  The TV gloves come off.  McIndoe says to call it like it is, and I agree.  If the guy dives, then the commentator should cite Louganis.  Heck, cut to the commentators and they can hold up numbers grading the dive!  The NFL commentators already do it, so let's hear our guys do it too. d.  Here's my add-in.  The truth is, the game happens too fast for officials to track it all.  If diving is a problem, perhaps replays of the play in question can be sent to the head of officials for review.  If it was clearly a dive and there was no call, then the offending player can sit out a period in his next game.  It doesn't do any justice for the game in which it occurs, but perhaps the guy won't dive if he knows that doing so will only cause his team to go short handed if he's caught or he won't play for an entire period if he isn't. These changes will cause the player who dives no end of issues, but it will come with some false penalties.  That's life.  It wouldn't be the first bad call the officials make and it would never be the last.  However, diving would truly cease... assuming that the conference head of officials is consistent. 5.  Standardization between conferences in how officiating is run and the rule book interpretted DI Hockey will never go under the umbrella of a single head of officiating for the entire DI Hockey world, but they should at least have standardized policies and procedures across the entire DI Hockey world.  In other words, if I am an official in the NCHC and I take a weekend series officiating in Hockey East, there should be no difference in how I call the game and the fans shouldn't notice it either. I know what you're thinking:  "This rule is already in place!  They all use the same rulebook and it is the same game!"  However, I've watched so many officials from every conference officiate non-conference games and notice how different it is from the conference I am used to watching.  However, when you watch in-conference games, the games are largely officiated the same way.  This needs to be eliminated. How?  I'm not sure how to make this work without compromising the autonomy of the existing Head of Officiating norm.  Maybe they can work as a committee to come up with a standardized Standards of Operating Procedures (SOP) Handbook?  Maybe they can have a standardized job description for officials and ARs.  I'm open for suggestions. It seems like the most obvious solution to this:  Having a generalized pool of officials that will officiate games regardless of conference instead of the conference-specific hired officials seems to not be feasible. 6.  Accountability is more than something held against player and coaching performances.  It's held on officials and head of officials too. Officials aren't perfect.  And Don Adam's system is great on paper.  His officiating corps, however, makes it suspect.  So, if Don Adam's system is to be taken seriously, accountability must be in place.  The HEA seems to have such an accountability program in place as far as what the fans can tell because, though the HEA has a dud or two, I've yet to see whole threads dedicated on message boards to how big of an issue officiating is (that isn't just one fanbase venting) like I've seen in other conferences.  I'm not saying that Adam come out the day after an on-ice officiating debacle and announce that he's cleaned house, but I am saying that Adam not make the same mistake McLeod and Shepherd have done year after year by announcing that the officiating isn't a problem because the ADs and coaches told them it wasn't a few months after the season has concluded.  It seems that accountability only matters during that month to those two clowns.  And those meetings are held to address far more significant issues than to think back 4 or 5 months to those two games in January or December.  If Adam and Fenton want to do this style of accountability, then they'll have to convince the ADs and coaches that an early January meeting will have to be held as well as the post season conference and the primary topic would be operations and officiating.  I don't see that happening. 7.  Make the nets bigger.  I'm not (and neither is McIndoe) suggesting drastic changes like some of the nets we've seen in the past, but I suggest 3 alternatives to the existing net:  Make the net 1 inch taller but keep the width the same, Make the net 1 inch wider but keep the height the same, make the height and width 1 inch bigger.  One inch doesn't seem like much but it was amazing last year to watch how many shots clanged off the crossbar and stayed out.  1 more inch and that puck is in the back of the net.  With goaltender equipment and the goaltenders themselves being bigger (especially since the rules are less strict in the NCAA compared to the NHL), this would give the shooter more to shoot at. 8.  Redefine late hits.  Late hits aren't as big of a problem in NCAA as it is in the NHL, but it is still an issue.  There is nothing in the NHL rulebook (I don't know if it is stated in the NCAA rulebook either) regarding how many seconds after the player gets rid of the puck would a hit be considered late, or how many seconds after the whistle would a hit be considered late, but it should be better defined.  McIndoe asks a GREAT question:  Why is it that a hit, delivered seconds too early, is considered an illegal hit but a hit delivered seconds after the puck is gone, considered a legal hit?  McIndoe's rule rewriting is dead on.  He states:  "Any hit that is initiated after the puck is gone is a late hit. And "initiating" a hit will mean actually starting to throw it, not just gliding toward a guy who's watching his pass."  The onus will be on the guy who is setting up to hit a guy to try at all costs to avoid contact late.  I also think this may eliminate much of the cheap shots if the officials would be willing to be consistent in its calling. Summary Not all of my suggestions have the greatest solutions and not all of Sean McIndoe's suggestions cross over, but his article is an absolutely SPOT ON MUST READ for those who are passionate about NHL Hockey and improving the product on the ice.  Normally he's full of tongue in cheek humor, but in this case, he's spot on.  Kudos to you Mr. McIndoe. I'd LOVE to hear solutions to the issues addressed above in the comment section.  Again, I'm not an expert and I fully acknowledge Sean McIndoe's role in the creation of this post.  If you want to speak to an expert, talk to Sean. How We’d Fix It: The NHL. (Aug. 8, 2013). Grantland.com. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/9538380/how-fix-nhl
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