TORONTO– The post lock out of 2005 came with new rules to improve the game of hockey. And while the game has been enhanced from many of the changes, now in 2011 it’s time to look at what rules could in fact be restricting the game; or even worse, be leading to preventative injury.
In the National Hockey League’s official rule book, rule 1.8 relates to the playing surface and is simply titled “Goalkeeper’s Restricted Area.”
While the goalie can still play the puck in what’s now known as the trapezoid, it’s the chunk of ice in the corners of the rink where they can’t touch the puck unless they feel like picking up a two-minute minor.
While originally put into place to stop the goalies from becoming a third defenceman on the back end, teams have adapted their game to the point that members of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization believe the rule is causing more harm then good.
“I would like to see it taken out,” said Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins. “I don’t like it back there. My personal opinion is we are taking a skill away from the goalie. You see the game is so fast through the neutral zone, with no red line and with no hooks or hold; and you can’t hold up for your partner anymore. These guys are coming so fast on the D man and the hits are so hard. I think removing it would be more protective for the guys. Coupled with the fact these players get faster and faster, those hits in the end zone are real hard hits now and I’d like the goalie to help it out.”
Current Leafs goalie Ben Scrivens, who won’t shy away from leaving his crease to help move the puck, agrees that if he could go into the corners his defencemen would be better off.
“I think it helps if I can get out into the corner. Then the defencemen in front of me aren’t getting drilled as much,” said Scrivens. “We see injuries these days when D go back for dumped pucks. One of the plays for forwards is to play it soft into the corner and crash.”
Wishing he could play the puck more, Scrivens added that he still tries to help as much as he can; whether it does much or not.
“I try to give them as much info as I can when they’re heading back,” he said. “They can’t look behind them to see what is happening so if I can tell them there’s a man on it helps from them getting buried from behind.”
Marlies defenceman Matt Lashoff, who is currently out with a back injury after racing for a puck behind his net in a game on October 28th, said he has already thought about the game and the advantages it would have if the trapezoid was removed.
“It’s definitely a good point. I was thinking about it. It’s something to consider because it would alleviate the pressure,” said Lashoff. “Ken Danyeko said when he was younger, (Martin) Brodeur prolonged his career five to seven years because he was so good at playing the puck and there wasn’t so much pressure on him going back to get the puck.”
Coincidently, in 2005 it was goalies like Brodeur that played a role in the league implementing rule 1.8. But now he is nearing retirement and it’s difficult to find another goalie that can play the puck like him anyway.
Marlies Joe Colborne says the trapezoid affects not just the blue liners but forwards too, especially if they are filling in for a pinching defenceman. He also thinks the NHL has a platform to test what the game would be like with the rule removed.
“It’s not fun when you know they do a soft chip in the corner and your goalies yelling there’s a guy on you and you can’t do much,” said Colborne. “I definitely think removing the trapezoid would help. It’s something that should be looked at those research and development camps. It would be a feeling out period but I think it worth looking at.”
With so much focus being put on how to eliminate preventable injuries, it seems changing rule 1.8 would help. While it’s not the solution, it also won’t affect the integrity of the game. Think about it, this rule is only in its seventh season. it has no historical barrier up on its removal.
Perhaps it’s time the NHL admits what seemed right in 2004 doesn’t work for the player’s in 2011.