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03/17/2004 9:28 AM - In an effort to create more offense in the game, hockey's head honchos are looking at various rules. The Griffins voice their opinion on the subject for Griffiti.

Story and photos by Mark Newman

There's no question that the game of hockey has changed. For proof, one needs to go back only 11 years in the American Hockey League.

During the 1992-93 season, there were 15 shutouts in the entire AHL. This season, one team alone -- Hartford -- had registered 16 by early March.

Wolf Pack goaltender Jason LaBarbera, meanwhile, accounted for 12 blankings himself before being recalled by the New York Rangers, including recording back-to-back shutouts three times in a five-week period.

With the shutout total for the entire AHL this season having long passed the 150 mark, it's clear that scoring averages are dropping faster than Martha Stewart's stock.

In the NHL, Phoenix Coyotes backup goaltender Brian Boucher broke the record for longest shutout streak, putting together five consecutive whitewashes on the way to a string of 332 minutes, 1 second.

By early March, the NHL also had experienced more than 150 shutouts.

Unhappy with the lack of offense, NHL general managers are looking to tinker with the rules. Next season the AHL is likely to serve as a testing ground for several of these experiments.

Griffiti magazine surveyed Griffins players and staff about their feelings regarding some of the ideas that are being tossed around. Some changes -- reinstituting the tag-up offside rule and eliminating the instigator rule, for example -- were generally embraced, while others -- playing 4-on-4 during regulation and making the nets bigger -- were ridiculed as too radical.

Opinions obviously varied, with no clear consensus among veterans versus rookies, or North American-born players compared to their European counterparts. For every player who wants to leave hockey alone, there is another who would change the rules to open up the game.

Finding a player who sits on the fence is about as easy as finding one who likes sitting on the bench.

“I think they should leave the game the way it was played years ago, the way it was meant to be played,” says Griffins goalie Joey MacDonald. “None of these dumb rules that they're trying to enforce.”

“A few changes are okay, but don't destroy the game of hockey," says Michel Picard, the Griffins' all-time leading scorer.

“Open up the game,” says defenseman Danny Groulx. “You'd see more scoring, more skating, better skilled players. I think it would be good for the game and provide a better show for the fans -- and that's what it's all about.”

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Grand Rapids, MI 49503
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