TORONTO (AP) – When the NHL finally returns to the ice, the tie game will probably be a thing of the past.

“If they don’t have a shootout, I’ll be shocked,” New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said Tuesday. “That’s an easy one.

“The fans want it, and it’s the least we can do after spitting at them for the last 12 months.”

Fans in the AHL and other minor leagues have grown to enjoy shootouts. The NHL seems ready to implement the system that would eliminate tie games.

“It sounds like most people want a definite outcome – a win or loss – one way or the other,” Vancouver Canucks director of player personnel Steve Tambellini said during a break on the second day of the three-day NHL research camp.

Shootouts would be used to determine a winner if a game remained tied after a five-minute overtime period.

After watching free-agent junior and college players on Monday test a radical plan by Boston Bruins president Harry Sinden that allows passing from the top of the faceoff circles to anywhere on the ice, and the use of nets four inches taller and eight inches wider than usual, club representatives took in scrimmages Tuesday to test zero tolerance on obstruction fouls and strange-looking nets with arced posts.

The most likely changes in NHL play for next season are shootouts, smaller goalie equipment and tag-up offsides. Some of the radical stuff being tested is too over the top for many GMs.

“We have, traditionally, been very conservative as a group,” Milbury said. “There isn’t any doubt about that.

“We’ve tried to be respectful of the game’s history and heritage but the coaches haven’t. They’ve coached the hell out of it.”

They’ve coached defensive hockey and worked the trap and angles and crowding in front of the net, and goalies have cheated … over the last number of years.

“We’ve got to respond. Other sports respond.”

The no-tolerance obstruction scrimmage saw a parade of players to the penalty box after they interfered even in the slightest ways with opponents who didn’t have the puck. There were constant whistles throughout the game.

It’s only a start, though. Players will adapt, Milbury said, adding that the next crackdown on obstruction during NHL games will succeed.

“There’s more resolve on the issue this time around,” he said. “You could see in this scrimmage they were picking it up little by little.

“Over time, players will get it and stick with it.”

AP-ES-06-07-05 1751EDT


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