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Let me start with an unpopular opinion: I totally understand and support the NHL’s pre-season crackdown on faceoff infractions.
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, on most nights,
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, it’s true there’ve been hiccups in the league’s attempt to break from tradition and actually enforce its rulebook. Fans have booed. Players have expressed disgust. And the whole fiasco of watching draw-taking lawbreakers skate a trail to the penalty box has taken,
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, a ridiculously long time.
As Leafs centreman Nazem Kadri was saying on Thursday,
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, “I felt like I played a 3 1/2-hour game.” (The game actually took 2 hours, 33 minutes to complete, speaking of the Tuesday pre-season game in which the Leafs were tagged with three minor penalties for faceoff transgressions and were booted from too many draws to count, way too long considering no overtime).
there’s always a chance the whole schmozzle could get worse. A season after hockey lovers were driven to tears by the NHL’s sudden obsession with frame-by-frame video analysis of suspected offsides,
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, one can only hope the boardroom powerbrokers don’t eventually push for the ultimate torture — video review of faceoff infractions. That’d be a new kind of purgatory.
All that said,
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, everybody who’s upset about this ought to breathe a bit. Let’s not forget we’re in the opening few days of the pre-season. Nobody’s soiling sacred ground here. And even if the league’s execution has probably been lacking — veteran veteran centreman Dominic Moore said he didn’t know anything about the new push by officials until the moments before Tuesday’s game — the essence of the undertaking is hard to criticize.
was saying in an interview on Thursday,
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,As Stephen Walkom, the new emphasis is meant to ensure the faceoff is ultimately a competition of stick-on-puck skill rather than a body-on-body free-for-all. For most of the past decade, the NHL’s director of officials,
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,Walkom said, the faceoff had devolved into a “rugby scrum.” And Walkom said the complaints from players were too loud to ignore.
because the players were right on top of them. Too often the linesmen were getting slew-footed off the draw,
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,“It was becoming so the linesmen couldn’t even drop the puck anymore,” Walkom said. “We weren’t enforcing the existing rules.”
For that sin against the rulebook, Walkom pleaded guilty.
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