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In other NHL discussions, the focus is on penalty standards

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A more vigilant standard on interference and possibly even slashing is coming down the road for the NHL if the views of players, coaches, referees and GM's are heeded.

Representatives from those groups met Tuesday and will meet again today, facilitated by the NHL's hockey operations department.

The men in the trenches, particularly the players, coaches and referees, were assembled to meet to further discuss concerns coming out of March's GM's meetings about the standards being used to call penalties like holding, hooking and interference.

Some frustration and debate was present then on some types of penalties, though obviously in the context of some heated races for playoff spots.

Prior to its start, NHL vice-president Colin Campbell called this week's gathering a "think-tank," and any conclusions drawn are likely to go back to a meeting of league GM's for consideration.

Players present for the meeting were Mike Cammalleri of the Calgary Flames, Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators, Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning, John-Michael Liles of the Toronto Maple Leafs, James Neal of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Kevin Bieksa of the Vancouver Canucks.

The coaching roster included five NHL bench bosses -- Chicago's Joel Quenneville, Nashville's Barry Trotz, Phoenix's Dave Tippett, Boston's Claude Julien and Washington's Adam Oates -- as well as three active referees, Stephen Walkom, Brad Watson and Wes McCauley.

Also attending were five NHL GM's -- Pittsburgh's Ray Shero, Tampa Bay's Steve Yzerman, Buffalo's Darcy Regier, New Jersey's Lou Lamoriello and Vancouver's Mike Gillis.

Tuesday's session, which included plenty of video examples, honed in on interference calls and how some of those infractions have crept back into the game after the post-lockout crackdown of 2005. The session also turned its focus to the enforcement of slashing rules and embellishment.

Those items, as well as a broader discussion about where the game stands, will be on today's agenda. Any consensus on those issues is likely to be heard after today's second day of meetings.

All of it is taking place under the looming shadow of a potential league lockout next month, but the off-season conversation about the issues may well turn out to be a fruitful and relevant tool for the GM's whenever the 2012-13 season may start.

Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff was not at the meetings this week but when reached Tuesday, he applauded the effort to evaluate the issues with dialogue from multiple angles.

"Over the conversations we've had, there have been lots of great ideas and some of the great ideas are to involve different (groups), not just general managers," Cheveldayoff said. "We want different opinions, different thoughts. The coaches are the people on the front line, so it's good to get some thoughts there.

"Talking is good and it stimulates different thought processes. Whenever you get a smaller, more focused group of individuals of different perspectives in a room, you get good, candid conversations."

Cheveldayoff said the NHL does not sit on the status quo.

"We're in a never-ending pursuit of performance evaluation," he said.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 22, 2012 D2

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