Gloves, corners et al...

Tretiak on possible hockey reforms

23.05.2014
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Vladislav Tretiak visits the Latvian dressing room with the Athletes Committee and the Player Safety Consulting Group. Photo: Christian Hofstetter

Russian Hockey Federation President and Chairman of the IIHF Athletes Committee, speaks about the proposals voiced in Minsk and possible changes that may ensue.

The IIHF Athletes Committee, chaired by the legendary Russian goalie Vladislav Tretiak, was created in order to give players themselves a voice within the IIHF and an opportunity to influence its work and propose reform to the sport. The Committee’s area of competence includes the player safety, rule changes, player conduct, equipment issues and similar matters. In other words, the areas in which a hockey player knows much more than a mere bureaucrat. That is why the Committee members are people of much renown.

Besides Tretiak, they include a star of women’s hockey, Angela Ruggeiro, a four-time French Olympian and an IIHF Hall of Fame inductee, Philippe Bozon, a veteran of 13 NHL seasons, Jaroslav Spacek, a famous Canadian goalie, Sean Burke, and a great Russian NHLer and three-time world champion Sergei Fyodorov.

According to Tretiak, the Committee members approached representatives of all the hockey federations present in Minsk with proposals aimed at increasing player safety and making the game more interesting.

The committee members met together with the Player Safety Consulting Group in Minsk.

“One of the proposals was to reduce the size of the goalie glove,” said Tretiak, whose own history as a goaltender apparently does not prevent him from scrupulously judging the legitimacy of modern equipment tricks.

“It is much more difficult to score on today’s goalies, who are often two meters high, have a much longer blocker than before and a bigger glove. There are parts of the glove on the top, which serve purely for deflecting the puck and can be cut down.”

More radical proposals were also on the table, such as, for example, the oft-surfacing idea of widening the nets, but it’s the more moderate reforms that stand a realistic chance of being adopted in the near future. There is, for instance, the rule change that would require the goaltender to play the puck after a shot from the blue line or beyond. Holding on to it would result in a two-minute delay of game penalty.

“There was also a proposal once to cut down the corners of the rink,” added Tretiak. “It was my own idea, but it wasn’t approved. We have also received one from the Swedes to move the goal closer to the end boards and increase the space of the offensive zone.”

To be fair, not all proposed reforms are aimed at making the poor goaltenders’ lives harder. There is one potential rule change that would punish goalie interference with a double minor penalty. But this is from the area of player safety, which is the other major direction of the two committees’ work.

“Concerning safety problems, we have talked about the materials used to make player equipment,” said Tretiak. “It has become very hard lately and many use their shoulder pads, for instance, as a weapon. Safety, overall, is the number-one problem of modern hockey. The game has become much faster after we got rid of the two-line pass rule, and this leads to more injuries.”

This, of course, highlights the main problem the Committee faces, which is the inherent conflict between making the game more dynamic and safer at the same time. The two goals can be mutually exclusive and finding the delicate balance isn’t always easy. The athletes, for example, have already rejected a proposal from another committee to reinstitute the red line, as, in Tretiak’s opinion, this would slow the game down too much and make it less interesting for the new fan.

The Committee also plans to create an educational video of dangerous hits in order to show it to youth and junior players in an effort to raise awareness of what such tactics may lead to. All of the proposals created by Tretiak’s Committee and other proposals will be discussed at the upcoming IIHF Annual Congress.

“It’s important to remember that we are all athletes and we must respect each other,” he said. “We will create a message to the players, a Code of Honour of sorts, about rejecting doping, and respecting fans and teammates. They must know that cheating and rough play does not only put them in a bad spot, it lets down the entire team.”

SLAVA MALAMUD

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