April 07, 2020

More goals needed in the NHL> Lots of scoring aids basketball popularity

He is probably best remembered for his stint as a goalie in the University of Maine’s two-games, total-goals NCAA Tournament series against Michigan State on March 20-21, 1987.

Junior tri-captain Dave Nonis was the defenseman who, with his team trailing the series by three in the third period on the second night, was told to mind the net as Maine coach Shawn Walsh lifted goalie Al Loring in favor of an extra attacker.

“Those were great days,” said Nonis obviously sporting a grin at the other end of the phone line from his Connecticut home.

Nowadays, the 31-year-old Nonis is in his fourth year as the manager of hockey operations for the National Hockey League.

It is an interesting time to be an NHL administrator.

The league is flourishing with four new franchises coming on board within the next four seasons: Nashville, Atlanta, Columbus and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

New minor leagues are busting out everywhere.

The interest in the NHL will be significantly enhanced by the inclusion of NHL players in the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.

Salaries are also escalating (see Mr. Kariya and Mr. Lindros).

The only thing that isn’t on the rise is goal production. That trend has prompted a committee of general managers to probe ways to increase goal production.

Nonis blames the goal scoring drought on two things: 1. the crease rule which protects goalies thus allowing them “to see the puck better than ever” and 2. the quality of goaltending.

“The goalies now are as good if not better than when it was a six-team league,” said Nonis.

He also said power plays aren’t as good as they have been in past years.

Whereas I take the typical American the-more-goals-the-better approach and am intrigued by discussions involving eliminating the two-line pass; wiping out offsides altogether and even enlarging the goals, Nonis is the Canadian purist.

“You don’t need to see goals to see a good hockey game. What I want to see is scoring chances. The best game I’ve seen this year was Pittsburgh’s 1-0 win over the Rangers. If I took somebody who had never seen a hockey game to that game, they’d go back the next night and the night after that,” insisted Nonis.

But I worry about hockey becoming too much like soccer. Why is basketball so popular in America? Points, points, points.

Nonis maintains that goals don’t need to be enlarged and pointed out that goalie’s pads are allowed to be 12 inches wide now. Years ago, they could only be 10 inches wide.

Incidentally, one of Nonis’ duties is to occasionally measure a goalie’s pads after a game to make sure he is conforming. He hasn’t caught anyone yet. If caught, the goalie is given a one-game suspension without pay.

We did agree on a number of topics including allowing Major Junior players to play college hockey as long as they haven’t signed an NHL contract.

However, I feel college eligibility should be tied in to age and Major Junior experience. A 20-year-old with three years of Major Junior experiences shouldn’t have the same college eligibility as an 18-year-old with just one year in Major Junior.

We also share the same enthusiasm for the Olympics.

“We have never had a tournament in the middle of the season with players at or near their peaks,” said Nonis. “This is going to be the best tournament we’ve ever had. Basketball had the Dream Team but this is the Dream Tournament. A number of teams could win it.”

Can’t wait.

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