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New glass stanchions for NHL benches

Jets' Chevy likes path league is taking

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TORONTO -- Changes are coming to NHL arenas this fall even though the league didn't emerge from its two-day research and development camp with any significant rule recommendations.

When the puck drops on a new season in October, each of the 30 arenas around the league will feature a curved spring-loaded glass stanchion between the benches to protect players. There will also likely be a series of minor changes made around the net to assist with video review calls.

"I think there'll be a few things, including the curved glass, that we'll see in NHL games this year," league vice-president Brendan Shanahan said Thursday.

The new glass stanchions are designed to prevent incidents like the one that saw Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty suffer a concussion last season after being hit by Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara and slamming into the boards between the benches.

"We all agree that the curved glass makes the playing environment safer for our players so we want to have it in the game," said Shanahan, who organized the camp for a second straight year. "Now again, a camp like this is to shoot pucks off it and decide -- is a puck in play or is a puck out of play when we touch it?"

The new design of net comes with a 40-inch frame 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 that should make the job easier for the league's video review room.

There will also likely be a new "verification line" that runs three inches behind the goal-line and can be used to determine if a puck completely entered the net.

Since the changes to the net won't directly impact the rulebook, the procedure for implementing them is still being ironed out. They'll be used during training camps and exhibition games before the hockey operations department makes a decision on whether they'll be on display in the regular season.

"I think any time the league is looking at doing some things that impact the game, I think it's important that you show your support and have an educated opinion on it," said Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "So that when we do talk about things in the (GM) meetings, you can talk about actually seeing it yourself and forming your own opinion.

"I think it's an important process."

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."

The two coaches working the benches both liked what they saw from the new nets. Dave Tippett of the Phoenix Coyotes and Dan Bylsma of the Pittsburgh Penguins heard the prospects commenting on the extra room the modified design created.

"What you're doing is giving players more space to play," said Tippett.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 19, 2011 C5

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