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Andy Clark / Reuters Archives
Vancouver�s Alex Burrows, who�s been known to take a dive from time to time, flops to the ice next to Nashville�s Dan Hamhuis back in 2010. The NHL is considering cracking down on embellished plays, which have been on the rise in recent years.

REUTERS

Andy Clark / Reuters Archives Vancouver�s Alex Burrows, who�s been known to take a dive from time to time, flops to the ice next to Nashville�s Dan Hamhuis back in 2010. The NHL is considering cracking down on embellished plays, which have been on the rise in recent years.

When NHL games resume in just a few weeks or farther down the road, expect to see the league push hard to discourage diving and embellishment.

A clear direction to tweak enforcement of several rules has emerged from this week's think-tank in Toronto, an in-person, off-season dialogue between players, coaches, referees, GM's and the league's hockey operations department.

One of the clearest messages is more vigilance is required to combat players trying too hard to sell penalty calls by overreacting and flopping to the ice.

"The players and coaches were particularly adamant that we address it, make the calls, particularly the two and two call, two for the hook and two for the player trying to sell it," NHL senior executive vice-president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said via phone on Wednesday. "They're not for suspensions, but fines, letters, some form of embarrassment. The players were big on that."

Embellishment by players fouled or impeded on the ice has clearly risen in recent seasons.

"I think there's been a slight crawlback of embellishment and diving," said NHL senior vice-president of hockey operations Mike Murphy. "Not as severe as it was at one point but I think it's something we do want to curtail and get out of the game.

"The principals of the game don't like it, want it out and think it really hurts the competition on the ice.

"We're listening and we'll try to make the necessary adjustments."

The NHL put in place rules and procedures coming out of the 2004-05 labour stoppage to single out, fine and eventually suspend those found guilty of diving or feigning injury, but the embarrassment factor led to the NHLPA and NHL GM's to agree to quietly tone down that element of enforcement.

Campbell himself was no fan of the suspension provision and never used it.

"It's still in the rule book," he said Wednesday. "We used to enforce it with fines and posting lists but we got a lot of pushback from the managers."

While Campbell said he's unsure what the element of enforcement will be after warnings and posting names, he thinks the peer pressure from players and coaches will be an asset.

"(We've been asked to) point this guy out, embarrass him, and the referees will find out, too, and if you're crying wolf a lot, you might lose a legitimate call (in the future)," he said.

The two-day session, which came as a result of some penalty-standards concerns from March's GM's meetings, also debated matters of hooking, holding, interference and slashing.

The interference and slashing standards will get some attention, Campbell said.

"There was consensus on the forecheck interference, mainly when the forward with the puck who dumps it in then tries to chase it down," Campbell explained. "On that one-on-one play, they don't mind the first point of contact, but after that, they want the player to be able to skate and their shouldn't be any additional contact, holding on here or a tug there."

Elements of the slashing rule were also discussed, mainly to clear up how hard a tap, especially around the hands, will be called a penalty.

A review of the "obtainable pass" definition also took place in terms of icing calls, just to clarify the puck must be touched -- not just be in the neighbourhood -- across the centre line to avoid icing.

"Now at this point, Terry Gregson has to go back and educate the officials and we have to go back and educate and inform the rest of the managers about what we talked about," Campbell said.

Unless an actual rule change on diving is proposed, Campbell simply expects to bring the direction and information back to the GMs in September for a review and to forge ahead with the interpretation modifications.

This week's process had high value, Campbell added.

"We're meeting with people that deal with these things first-hand, the referees, the players and the coaches," he said. "It's always refreshing when we just talk hockey. No business. Just what's good for the game and it's good to talk in the off-season when these guys don't have a horse in the race.

"It's much better in the summer when you're not involved in the competitive atmosphere."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

The participants

THOSE present for this week's rules think-tank in Toronto:

Players: Mike Cammalleri, Calgary Flames; Jason Spezza, Ottawa Senators; Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning; John-Michael Liles, Toronto Maple Leafs; James Neal, Pittsburgh Penguins; Kevin Bieksa, Vancouver Canucks.

Coaches: Joel Quenneville, Chicago Blackhawks; Barry Trotz, Nashville Predators; Dave Tippett, Phoenix Coyotes; Claude Julien, Boston Bruins; Adam Oates, Washington Capitals.

Referees: Stephen Walkom, Brad Watson, Wes McCauley.

-- GMs: Ray Shero, Pittsburgh Penguins; Steve Yzerman, Tampa Bay Lightning; Darcy Regier, Buffalo Sabres; Lou Lamoriello, New Jersey Devils; Mike Gillis, Vancouver Canucks.