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NHL Slapshots

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 2002

An official change

NHL director of officiating Andy Van Hellemond is considering a change in the way referees are paired for games.

Currently, younger and older referees work together. Under a plan expected to begin incrementally in January, older referees will be paired together, as will younger ones.

The theory is that referees of the same generation, so to speak, call games the same way. The hope is the setup will reduce the inconsistencies that come from calling games with slightly different sensibilities.

As Lightning center Tim Taylor said, "Right now I'm finding that when we get a penalty call against us -- interference and all the things that weren't called last year -- it's the young guys that are doing it at critical times in the game. That's the one thing I just don't like.

"If it was done consistently by every referee at the same time, that would be fine. But right now I'm finding the young guys are trying to show that they're doing it, whereas the referees that have been around for a while, late in the games they understand the situations and they can read the game a little better than the young guys."

Speaking of the refs

An advisory board of Van Hellemond, commissioner Gary Bettman, vice president Colin Campbell and six general managers met in New York Tuesday to discuss the anti-obstruction crackdown.

The consensus was the venture to open the neutral zone is a worthy one and should be extended into the playoffs.

Still, there are problems. Players such as Pittsburgh defenseman Marc Bergevin have complained that the standards have slipped. Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios ranted recently that too many penalties were being called.

"I liken it to a broken volume knob on your radio," Campbell said. "You turn it right, it's too much. You turn it left, it's not enough. We're just trying to get the right mix."

The new way the league pairs officials may help, as will better awareness of players diving to bait referees into calling penalties. Rule 41(o), under "abuse of officials" in the NHL rule book, says a minor penalty should be given to a player who "blatantly embellishes a fall, a reaction or feigns an injury in an attempt to draw a penalty."

It is rarely called.

"As a group of officials, we have concerns as well," Van Hellemond said. "The (GMs) are going to discuss it and come back with their recommendations. But the process has started."

Five Questions with Flyers wing Jeremy Roenick:

Q : You've played in 1,000 games and scored 1,000 points. Which milestone is most important?

A: Geez, the milestone I need is the Stanley Cup.

Q : It was reported you were unhappy when Ken Hitchcock was named coach. True?

A: Never once did I say I wasn't excited. I was excited from the moment I heard because I knew he was going to bring an element we hadn't had here. He was going to come in and take charge and instill a system we feel can bring us a championship.

Q : How did he instill that system?

A: The practices are very structured. Each drill is set up to where it lasts about 40 seconds per group, and if we don't do it right, it's turn around and do it again.

Q : Is Hitchcock as detail oriented as they say?

A: He just takes things to the bitter, bitter ultimate detail of everything. He'll even tell you which way your skates should be pointed in neutral ice when checking somebody.

Q : What is the difference between the East and West conferences?

A: The West is more of a skating, free-flowing conference. The East has much bigger guys in terms of size and strength. It becomes more of a defensive style. It gets pretty physical, hard-hitting.

Numbers game

Boston's eight retired numbers are most in the NHL.

Around the league

Somebody threw a cow's tongue on the ice at Calgary in the third period of a game against the Red Wings on Nov. 19. Chelios scooped it up with his stick and tossed it over the boards. "It didn't smell like an octopus," he said. ... Because Chicago's Bob Probert is a convicted felon (drugs), he can be deported if he stops playing. That's why the Blackhawks did not call his move from the ice to the broadcast booth a retirement.

-- Compiled by Times staff writer Damian Cristodero using personal interviews and information from other news organizations.

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