The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

    From the Bench with BK

    Nicole Robinson

    Some of you may remember back to last fall when I so eloquently berated the NHL and its players for the first-missed NHL season in more than 80 years.

    For those of you who do recall the article, I would like to personally thank all four of you for sticking with me. It’s much appreciated. At the time that article was written, nearly everyone besides the fans were to blame; the players, coaches, managers, owners and even Zamboni drivers probably had something to do with the lockout. There’s no excuse for throwing away an entire season.

    But here we are a year later and not only is hockey back, but it’s better. A host of new rule changes have changed the face of NHL hockey, making it faster, harder hitting and more exciting. Most importantly, the changes have brought the fans back.

    Of the 30 home openers in the NHL, 25 teams reported sellouts, with eight of the clubs listing attendance that exceeds building capacity. So what are the major changes? Well, let me draw on my extensive knowledge of NHL hockey ( to point out some of the major changes.

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    First, to improve offensive output, both blue lines were moved 4 feet closer to each other, creating an additional 4 feet of offensive zone for both teams. The dimensions of goaltending equipment also were reduced by 11 percent.

    As if the reduced equipment wasn’t enough for goalies, line passes now are legal, while the red line is ignored for offsides purposes, which allows for more fast break opportunities. Apparently, the changes have lived up to their intent, which is to increase offensive play.

    During the first 40 games, scoring was up nearly two goals a game, 6.4 a game compared to 4.5 a game registered in the same span during the 2003-04 season. Who doesn’t like more offense? Thank you, Gary Bettman.

    What really makes me giddy is the return of the shootout. Three shots from the three best goal scorers on each team, one on one with the goalie, decide the victor. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

    As some of you might already know, I’m not the biggest hockey fan in the world, but I must say I am impressed with the 180 the NHL and its players have pulled. I never would have guessed the NHL would take a large step in the right direction.

    Congratulations are in order for the NHL and its players. Way to act like professionals, guys. It might have taken awhile, but you guys did it.

    In honor of this historic turnaround in the NHL, I’m making a concerted effort to become more of a hockey fan. This year, I will be a student of the game and learn the ins and outs. Hell, maybe I’ll even learn how to skate. No matter how many beers it takes, I vow I will watch more hockey or, at the the very least, play a lot of it on my Playstation 2.

    Either way, with disregard for its past indiscretions, the NHL has just found its newest fan: me.

    Brad Knickerbocker is a senior print journalism major and a columnist for The Spectator.

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    From the Bench with BK