The league's newly formed competition committee and governors also passed sweeping rules changes intended to increase scoring in a game stifled by trapping defenses and Michelin-man goaltending gear.
As first reported in The Inquirer, the center-ice red line will be discounted to allow two-line passes. It still will count for offside. Outside of enlarging the nets - which did not pass - discounting the red line and adding an overtime shoot-out might be the most radical changes in the NHL since forward passes were allowed in 1929-30.
The shoot-out proposal was modified. After a scoreless four-on-four, five-minute overtime, three players from each team would take shots on the goalie. If the game is still tied, the shoot-out proceeds to a sudden-death format.
The shoot-out means the elimination of ties. The winning team gets two points, not three, as previously believed.
"There are individual spots where you might not agree with the changes, but I think the league did what was right for the game," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "These changes will make the game better."
Other major rules changes:
Tag-up offside returns;
Goaltenders cannot handle the puck outside a designated area;
Any player - goalie included - shooting the puck out of the defensive zone into the stands for a stoppage will be penalized two minutes for delay of game;
The goal line moves two feet back toward the end boards, where it was in 1998-99;
The size of goalie equipment has been drastically reduced;
The neutral-zone edges of the blue line are now 64 feet from the goal line and 75 feet from the backboards, adding four feet to the offensive zone;
Random drug testing for steroids will be conducted.
Bettman said a decision on no-touch icing was tabled because of mixed support. However, officials can wave off a whistle on icing if they deem the intent was to make a pass.
Flyers chairman Ed Snider was part of the rules committee but did not attend the session yesterday. Colin Campbell, who supervises the committee, said the changes resulted from 18 months of study.
"We will return to rebuild, renew, refresh and reinvigorate our game and our league on a number of levels," Bettman said. "We will do everything - everything - to be the best we can be and to earn [fans'] continued devotion. We know this was a terrible time for everyone associated with the game."
The league also unveiled a new logo with a more slanted look and dominant colors of silver and black, replacing orange and black.
Chief legal counsel Bill Daly, who did yeoman's work brokering the deal for the NHL, was given the title of deputy commissioner.
The season begins Oct. 5 with all 30 clubs playing.
"Let's drop the puck on a fresh start and a wonderful future for the National Hockey League," Bettman said.
Loose pucks. In the draft lottery, in which teen phenom Sidney Crosby is the top prize, Pittsburgh won the top pick. The Flyers' ball came up at No. 20. "Once you get back past 10 or 12, the players are fairly close [in skill] and it's just a matter of developing them," Clarke said. "Maybe Crosby is the only one of this group who will step into the NHL next year." . . . The Flyers now have six days, starting today, to sign their 2003 draft picks - Jeff Carter and Mike Richards - and they also have to complete any buyouts. Clarke said he also would waive some players. Look for John LeClair and Tony Amonte's buyout notices in the coming days. . . . The NHL will go to Turin, Italy, in February for the Winter Olympics and to Vancouver in 2010.
Contact staff writer Tim Panaccio at 215-854-2847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Look for NHL
The NHL Board of Governors ratified the new collective-bargaining agreement yesterday. The NHL Players' Association ratified the new deal Thursday. New rules are expected to open up the game on offense. Among them:
The red line will not be used, allowing two-line passes.
In shoot-outs, after a scoreless five-minute overtime, three players from each team participate in the order the coach selects. Each team takes three shots. The team with the most goals after those six shots is the winner. If the score remains tied, the shoot-out will proceed to a "sudden-death" format.
There will be no ties. Standings will show wins, losses, overtime losses and shoot-out losses.
Tag-up offside will enable players already in the offensive zone before the puck crosses the blue line to peel back and touch the blue line to become onside.
The dimensions of goaltender equipment will be reduced by approximately 11 percent.