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Thursday, August 18, 2011
NHL could test new nets in preseason

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Nets used in NHL games could be changing as soon as this season.

While the size of the nets isn't going to be altered, the depth is likely to undergo a makeover. After using a shallower model over two days at the research and development camp, NHL executive Brendan Shanahan indicated that the new nets might be tested during the preseason.

"I think that the shallow nets are something that I'd really like to try in at least an exhibition game and see how players react to it," Shanahan said Thursday.

The new design is 40 inches deep as opposed to the traditional 44 inches. It also features a clear plastic strip along the top, thinner mesh and a built-in high definition camera -- changes intended to make video review decisions easier.

Shanahan also is in favor of a new "verification line" that runs 3 inches behind the goal line and can be used in video review to help determine if a puck completely entered the net.

Since the changes being discussed won't impact the rule book, the procedure for implementing them is still being ironed out. They will likely be used during training camps and preseason games before the hockey operations department makes a decision on whether they will be used during the regular season.

"We're talking about the process and the steps that would go forward for that," Shanahan said.

Some teams have expressed a willingness to take part in further tests.

"We told the league, anything you want to try in the preseason game we're willing to try," Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke said. "If this is a first look at it with 17 year olds -- albeit highly skilled 17 year olds -- and the league feels like they need to look at it with NHL players, we're willing to try it in our preseason games.

"We'll try the nets, the cameras, any rule changes they want to try. The other team has to consent, but if they need a guinea pig, we'll be the guinea pig."

The two coaches working the benches at the research and development camp both liked what they saw from the new nets. Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes and Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins had players commenting on the extra room the thinner nets create behind the goal, in front of the end boards.

"It's a small variation," Tippett said. "What you're doing is giving players more space to play. I don't think it has a negative effect on the game whatsoever. It's only a positive."

Another change likely coming to NHL arenas is a spring-loaded piece of curved glass near the benches designed to protect players from the stanchion. Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty sustained a concussion last season after taking a hit from Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara that slammed him into a post.

"The curved glass, I think there's a really good chance we're going to see that in NHL games this year," Shanahan said. "I think we all agree that the curved glass makes the playing environment safer for our players, so we want to have it in the game."

During the two-day camp, coaches oversaw a group of 36 top-rated prospects for the 2012 draft. They held three scrimmages featuring a variety of different rules governing power plays, faceoffs, icing and other infractions before wrapping up Thursday's final session with a skills competition.

It was an intense couple of days for teenagers looking to make an impression on the numerous scouts and general managers in attendance.

"It was pretty tough to adjust (to the different rules)," Ottawa 67's defenseman Cody Ceci said. "I've been playing the same game of hockey since I've grown up. Just to see all these rules change -- you've just got to stay on your toes and think a lot more than you usually do."

None of these rules changes are expected to be adopted by the NHL anytime soon.

However, the league wants to continue testing new ideas and gathering information. Commissioner Gary Bettman expects the research and development camp to be held at least every other year, and teams appear quite willing to show up.

"I think any time the league is looking at doing some things that impact the game, I think it's important that you show your support and have an educated opinion on it," new Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "So that when we do talk about things in the (GM) meetings, you can talk about actually seeing it yourself and forming your own opinion.

"I think it's an important process."