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Enhance the Experience: Simplify

Around the SBN hockey blogs today, we're talking about ways to enhance the fan experience for the great game of hockey, eh. They range from the semi-serious (get rid of dopey fans) to the silly (giant bubble over the rink) to the painfully obvious (more beer!). Since I exhausted my humor well on Thursday with my dating game preview, I decided to play this one kind of straight (but don't worry - we've got two more of these to do).

What I'd love to see is to make the game just a little simpler. That doesn't mean dumbing it down, but there are some things that have never made a lot of sense to me.

Number one on the list is things that are legal or not legal depending on the situation. For example, you can move the puck to a teammate with your glove in your own zone; anywhere else on the ice, it's a stoppage in play. You can't close your glove around the puck anywhere on the ice (faceoff), but if you do it in your own crease, it's a penalty shot. Kicking a puck to a teammate is just fine...unless it goes into the other team's net, in which case it is not a goal. Of course, it does count if it goes in off your skate if you don't make a distinct kicking motion - angling your skate to deflect the puck in is legal. And then there's the high stick conundrum. You can knock down a shoulder high puck...but only to yourself or someone on the other team (who will sometimes stand around comically avoiding such a puck which is oh, so awesomely exciting); if one of your teammates is the next one to touch that puck, the play is over. And, boy, there really is nothing that enhances the hockey experience less than sitting around watching replay after replay to determine if a puck in the net was hit by a stick a millimeter above the crossbar or below the crossbar.

These little discrepancies are kind of annoying when watching from home (I've never really understood why a beautiful shoulder high deflection shouldn't be a goal, for example). But it's even worse when watching the game the way it's supposed to be watched: live and in person. How many times have you been sitting in the not-so-cheap nosebleeds and wondered why there was a whistle on the ice? You look around to the folks sitting near you and everyone has a clueless look. That's some fun, ain't it? But hey, you can't have those people passing pucks around with their gloves, can we?

Seriously, if I have to hear "distinct kicking motion" one more time while watching a hockey game, I may go crazy. Let's just make it a little easier. Decide if kicking, gloving and hitting a puck with a shoulder high stick are okay or not okay and just make it apply everywhere. Personally, I think it's so hard to score in this league that if you find a creta way to get it into the net you should be rewarded with a goal, not a 10-minute consultation session with the refs.

Oh, and while we're fixing things, this thing where the refs "explain" the results of a goal review? Nix it. Please. This works in the NFL. It does not work in the NHL where the explanation always boils down to one or two answers: goal or no goal. I have yet to witness a referee explanation that needed to be more in depth than that. Let's go back to the hand signals on this one, okay? It's more exciting that way anyway.