TORONTO - Brendan Shanahan didn’t have any hockey games to play this week, so instead he invited a group of experts to talk about how to make the NHL better.
Shanahan, a Detroit Red Wings forward, convened a 21-member panel of current and former players, general managers, coaches, retired referee Terry Gregson, and television personalities and executives for a two-day meeting that ended Wednesday.
The group, which included Detroit goalie Curtis Joseph, and Toronto Maple Leafs captain Mats Sundin, presented 10 possible ways to improve the game.
The NHL lockout, which reached its 84th day Wednesday, provided the time for Shanahan to get the committee together at a swanky hotel at Shanahan’s expense.
“Hockey has been good to me,” he said. “That part of it was not something that was an issue for me. I had a lot of time on my mind to think about hockey and the future of the game.”
The seven-time All-Star hopes to present the panel’s findings to union head Bob Goodenow and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman once they hammer out a collective bargaining agreement.
On Thursday, the sides will hold their first negotiating session since Sept. 9. The NHLPA is expected to make another offer with the hope of saving the season.
“I’m not going to get in the way of these negotiations, but when the time is right Gary and Bob will both certainly hear what was discussed in this meeting in greater detail,” Shanahan said.
Among the proposed changes were: creating a competition committee, akin to one in the NFL; clearly defining and enforcing obstruction; a shootout after overtime to eliminate ties; one-minute penalties in overtime; and streamlined goaltender equipment.
Taking a page out of NASCAR’s book, the panel also wants to create a higher profile for its players and make them more accessible to broadcasters during games.
What Shanahan ultimately hopes to achieve is a system in which players and officials have a voice in decisions that affect the games. The way the system works now is NHL general managers propose changes to the league’s board of governors.
“The idea of the competition committee is that in the future we all have a voice on these matters,” Shanahan said.
Some of the suggestions follow those made by general managers at a meeting in February.
The AHL is experimenting with the tag-up offsides rule, no-touch icing, wide blue lines, a restricted area that limits where goalies can handle the puck, moving the goal line back 2 feet, and tiebreaking shootouts.
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