Ten Ways To Make X Better: Hockey Comment Count

Brian May 25th, 2016 at 2:15 PM

An irregular series in which I fix all of a sport's problems.


[Patrick Barron]

10. Get rid of the penalty for flipping the puck out when you're in the defensive zone. This is exactly icing and should be treated like icing. The only competition for worst rule in sports is what happens when a football player fumbles and the ball goes out of the endzone.

9. Non-shootout wins are three points. The NHL is the only league in any sport in the world in which some games are worth more than others. This is so very dumb. College hockey uses a model where you get three for actually winning a hockey game, two for winning a shootout, and one for losing it. It is not an offense to God and math.

8. Widen the blue line. The blue line is a lovely demilitarized zone that is both offensive zone and defensive zone, so you can touch it and not be offsides. The puck can touch it and not exit the zone. Both of these things are good. No offsides whistle in the history of hockey has improved the experience of a neutral fan. Widening the blue line reduces these whistles.

7. In fact let's get rid of offsides whistles (almost) entirely. Instead of stopping the game, you can just continue playing hockey. An offsides team can't score. Game continues. Once team ceases being offsides you can go score.

6. And add passive offsides. If you can't tell already, I hate offsides in hockey. It boggles that if one guy is offsides then everybody is. If you're on a rush and one guy is a hair over the line, he and only he is offsides. Let him tag up; let everyone else continue playing. If an offsides player does anything other than try to get onside, I guess you can blow the whistle, you game-stopping ninny. But if offsides guy is headed for the blue line, let him get there.

5. Gradually introduce Olympic ice. Olympic ice is a lot of fun, but currently impractical for buildings not set up with a 100-foot-wide sheet already. The NHL should force new buildings to be Olympic-sized, leading to a transitional period where some rinks are small and some are wide and there are all kinds of home/away effects, kind of like baseball. Also there will be an increasing number of big rinks on which standing a guy up at the blue line is super difficult and skill is more important. College hockey already has a number of Olympic sheets, and the transition is both jarring and fun.

4. Just embiggen the goals already. Goalies won. Whether it's equipment size or improved technique, the fundamental truth about hockey over the last 20 years is that goalies win and we give up and to restore the proper tension of a hockey game we're going to admit they win and tweak the size of the goal.

Most protests about this are luddite or ludicrous. One common protest is that expanding the goal invalidates records going forward. It does not, at least any more than the various equipment advances have done so. Ken Dryden versus any modern NHL goalie is QED here:


Dryden's pads are not only smaller but infested with mice and 10-20 pounds heavier. Also he doesn't know about the butterfly. Goalies win, expand the net by the width of the posts, all CLANG events now are goals, add 2-3 per game, it's a good time.

This is important. The current state of hockey is too close to baseball, which is dumbly random, because the goalies can cover up big differences in team quality.

3. A team doesn't clear the offensive zone until the puck gets over the red line. Michigan actually experimented with this in an exhibition a few years back. It was deeply weird but it rewarded teams who could actually get ahold of the puck in the defensive zone and increased the number of shifts where one team was scrambling around defensively and it felt like the team with the puck absolutely had to score.

2. Force teams to change goalies on the fly once a period. This would be awesome.

1. Teams have the option of putting a guy on the ice without skates. Offsides does not apply to him. Goals he scores count double. The thing that hockey has lacked for far too long is a broomball player. What does the world's best broomball player look like? I don't know. You don't know. We've waited far too long to find out.


Michigan Arrogance

May 25th, 2016 at 2:26 PM ^

So much to add here

1) he looks like me, that's right I'm the best broom all player in the world.

The off zone expanding to the red line once the zone is obtained is called the Berenson blue line. Name after some college hockey coach somewhere.

Why would goalie change on the fly be awesome, seems like just more randomness artificially added to the game.

Why can't equip for goalies be regulated? It's not that hard. Tho I agree that widening the goal is ok by me- but I'd get estimates of the addition x-sectional area goalie equipment has compared to the past, and make sure that the goal area increases by that amount. Likely not too far from what u suggest, but it's a simple study and calculation

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May 25th, 2016 at 3:24 PM ^

Yes. They either need to modify those restrictions (strictly reduce pad size) or widen the goal. Hockey now feels more plinko than sport. Most goals are scored off screens or deflections. Honestly this change, along with the Olympic ice and blue line modification need to happen to put some semblance of structure in the competition. Maybe others find it thrilling, but to me it's just makes the game lose credibility. There's no upsets in hockey, lower seeds consistently beat higher ones in any tourney format. It's really made me lose interest in the game.


May 25th, 2016 at 3:43 PM ^

I have mixed feelings about this. Obviously, making the sport less random could have led to a couple more national championship banners at Yost, considering all those top teams M had in the 90s and even since that were eliminated in a flukey loss. OTOH, the inherent randomness of hockey was why I liked M's chances heading into the ND St. game this year. I guess you need a balance; too much predictability can make a sport boring (think of the NBA when Jordan was around, for instance) just as not enough predictability can undermine its credibility.

King Douche Ornery

May 25th, 2016 at 5:26 PM ^

For fuck's sake, every sport doesn't have to be a pinball game just because people have the attention span of a gnat.

Either makes the pads a wee bit smaller or expand the width of the goal by about 5 inches


Either you like the sport or you don't. Many of us suffered through the steroid era of baseball. Well, that wasn't just steroids, it was a strike zone the size of a dixie cup and pitchers being forced to throw down the middle of the plate to get a strike called. It not only ruined the game, but probably also ruined MANY pitching careers, often before they got started.

Either watch the sport or don't but QUIT FUCKING CRYING because it doesn't exactly fit your special desires.


Shop Smart Sho…

May 25th, 2016 at 2:27 PM ^

I'm not kidding.  You don't have to pay me.  You don't have to add me to the masthead.  I won't complain about the content of your posts, but I'll stop stuff like this from happening.

"The current state of hockey is too close to baseball, which is dumbly random, because the goalies can cover up big differences in"

What is it that goalies can cover up?  We're dying to know!!

Yinka Double Dare

May 25th, 2016 at 2:27 PM ^

Re: switching ice size, it's not like the NHL hasn't had random dimensions in some buildings before either. The old Chicago Stadium was only 185 feet long (all taken out of the neutral zone). Boston Garden was shorter than 200 as well.


May 25th, 2016 at 2:28 PM ^

Brian, #5 should be number one. It's kind of like, "Why haven't we switched to the metric system yet?"


But that does remind me of the joke, "There are two types of countries in this world; Ones that use the metric system, and ones that land on the moon."

Chuck Norris

May 25th, 2016 at 2:43 PM ^

Quick problem with #7: When there's an odd man rush that's just barely offside, the players don't stop the rush to look left to see if the official's hand is in the air. Without a whistle, how will they know that they're offside if they're rushing in? This will lead to wasted ice time where players don't realize they can't score.


I know that #6 tries to correct this, but I feel like it will result in exactly the same thing and defeats the purpose of offsides.


May 25th, 2016 at 8:15 PM ^

but let's say 1 guy is off-side on a 3 on 2.  The linesman is screaming off-side and maybe adding a #.  The D man has about 0.3 seconds to identify and go with the onside player as the rush is going in.  Like the idea, but would be very hard to implement in a game as fast as hockey


May 25th, 2016 at 2:39 PM ^

I'm all for 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10. 6 seems too convoluted and too prone to ref error. And only embiggen the goals if it is a post width as Brian suggests.

kevin holt

May 25th, 2016 at 2:51 PM ^

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make icing only apply if you send the puck down from past your own blue line. Retaining red-line icing is a big reason why the trap is still a viable concept. I'm not sure if this is what you meant by #3 because I don't understand exactly what you're saying there. But this is my #1 desire: icing should not be called anywhere in the neutral zone.

Edit: this also fixes a lot of the problems temporarily as we introduce said Olympic ice which would take like 50 years.

Bando Calrissian

May 25th, 2016 at 2:41 PM ^

Broomball is a sport of kings. Especially at Yost at 2AM. Therefore, tweak #1 to mandate that if the broomball player scores, and said player is a girl, goal counts double.

Big Brown Jug

May 25th, 2016 at 2:50 PM ^

In my experience of nearly 10 years in Minnesota Broomball leagues, the world's best Broomball players are basically the on-ice equivalent of the best softball players. He's ex-hockey, about 40 years old, 20 pounds overweight, always in perfect position, and can crush the everliving shit out of a tiny soccer ball with a stick.  His name is Boom-Boom or similar.  


May 25th, 2016 at 2:51 PM ^

Brian, so your way to improve hockey is to basically make it more like soccer - larger goals, the offsides rules and the larger pitch (field) - all soccer-like.  Even allowing the lack of uniformity in the field, is something that is common to soccer.

As someone who, in the past two years, has become obsessed with soccer, I actually love these ideas.


May 25th, 2016 at 2:54 PM ^

For #9, almost all soccer leagues have different points for games.  Wins are 3 points and ties are 1, so a game with a winner is worth 3 total and a game with a tie is worth 2.

Wolverine In Exile

May 25th, 2016 at 2:55 PM ^

sport of kings, Broomball, as evidenced by this post. 



Former 3rd line checking right winger on UM's National Championship Winning Club Broomball Team, 1999-2002.


May 25th, 2016 at 3:01 PM ^

Respectfully disagree about the size of the goal. To show the side-by-side of goalie equipment then and now while NOT showing the differences in hockey sticks between then and now is a criminal oversight.

Or, go to a stick and puck and try the same wrist shot and slap shot with a wooden stick and then a composite stick. Or go to a hockey shop and pick up a wooden stick and the same size composite stick. The evolution of equipment has kept pace for both shooters and goalies.


May 25th, 2016 at 3:01 PM ^

Bigger ice!!!!  I've wanted that for decades!  The Olympic tourney is not only the best hockey on ice, it's the best sport to watch.  Yes, I rank it above CFB.  If the NHL could approach that level of entertainment in every game, its viewership would rise exponentially.  

I also like the bigger goal and wider blue line ideas.  The game now, as it stands, is finding it very difficult to bring in new fans.  Plenty of talent, and lots of good games with competitive teams, but the ice is so crowded and the whistles so common there is no flow to follow.  Defensive gems are fun to watch (as are baseball's pitching duels and footballs defensive stand-offs) - but only to diehard fans that (mostly) grew up with the game and can see the difference between really good defense and poor offense.  Those three ideas - bigger ice, wider blue lines, and bigger goals - would dramtically improve the product.


May 25th, 2016 at 3:30 PM ^

Olympic hockey is great, of course. Which is why Gary Bettman flirts with killing it every year. But it is great for far more reasons than wide ice.

For starters, the top level of the sport features all of the best players. Instead of 30 teams sharing the best players, you have four or five. 

And the national team nature allows for both the best parts of team-work (guys who grew up together in the same system, reuniting) and the elimination of the most frustrating aspects of team-building (sophisticated defensive systems installed by coaches over the course of multiple seasons at a pro franchise). It thus allows for both good team play and a good showcase of individual skill.

2002 was one of my great hockey years ever. The Olympics, the Yost Regional, the Wings. But I also remember, with sickening clarity, watching an NHL game shortly after the Olympics ended. Between Washington and someone like Boston or Philly. It was slow. Ugly. Horrifying. And all the worse in comparison to the brilliance we had just seen the week before.



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