TORONTO — The nets used in NHL games could be taking on a different look this season.
After using a shallower model over two days at the research and development camp, league executive Brendan Shanahan indicated that the new nets will likely find their way into NHL arenas soon.
“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 liked a new “verification line” that runs three 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 rulebook, the procedure for implementing them is still being ironed out. They’ll likely be used during training camps and exhibition games before the hockey operations department makes a decision on whether they’ll be used during the regular season.
“We’re talking about the process and the steps that would go forward for that,” said Shanahan.‘
Some teams have already expressed a willingness to take part in further tests.
“We told the league, anything you want to try in the pre-season game we’re willing to try,” said Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. “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 pre-season 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 they create.
“It’s a small variation,” said Tippett. “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 springloaded piece of curved glass near the benches designed to protect players from the stanchion. Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty suffered a concussion last season after taking a hit from Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara and slamming in to one of those at the Bell Centre.
“The curved glass, I think there’s a really good chance we’re going to see that in NHL games this year,” said Shanahan. “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.”