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Brian Burke: “We’ll be the guinea pig”

Aug 20, 2011, 8:00 AM EDT

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Brian Burke AP

Over the last few days, the term “bear hug” had Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke making headlines as the NHL tested his rule where defensemen could “bear hug” a player near the boards to limit potential for injury. Coming out of the RDO Camp, Burke is back in the headlines as he’s offered up the Maple Leafs as guinea pigs during the preseason to further test some of the potential rule changes. Hopefully there won’t be anymore animal references for the rest of the offsesaon.

GM Brian Burke told QMI Agency that he and the Toronto Maple Leafs were willing to help:

“We’re willing to try it in our pre-season games, the rule changes, the nets and the cameras. The other team has to consent, but if (the league) needs a guinea pig, we’ll be the guinea pig.”

It would be good to see some of the potential rule changes in action with NHL players during live game action in the preseason. The HD cameras and curved glass look like they could instituted around the league as early as this season—but some of the other rules could get a look as well. Burke specifically mentions the shallow nets getting a look; would NHL defenseman make use of the extra space when making outlet passes? Would offensive players utilize the extra room and better passing angles to create scoring opportunities?  These are things that we’d find out as the NHLers played a handful of games under the new conditions.

The more we see these changes in the place, the better equipped the league would be to make decisions that affect the game. It would be nice for fans to be able to have another reason to watch the meaningless games since the preseason is more about preparation than the results. Watching new rules being tested is a better sales pitch than telling fans that the ECHLer on the 4th line has a legitimate shot at making the team next year.

It would be great if the NHL takes Burke up on his offer to try out some of the prospective rules. Put the cameras in the Leafs preseason games to see exactly how much of a difference they’ll make. Find the best camera angles in the preseason so once the cameras are utilized in the regular season, they’re already in the proper location. Put the verification line in just to make sure the referees on the ice have no issues when calling a goal on the ice. None of these rule changes should present a huge problem—but why not make sure in games that don’t matter? There’s no such thing as “too much information” when tweaking the game, right?

Brian Burke just presented the league with an opportunity to test out changes on a grander scale. Hopefully they’ll take him up on the chance to get things right.

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