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Hockey School
the professor Experimentation

Why change things?: The NHL, perhaps more than any other professional league, continues to experiment with the hope of improving the game. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

On the ice: In 1983-84, the league reinstituted overtime in regular-season games. (It was eliminated in 1942-43 because of World War II travel restrictions.) It was a five-minute five-on-five session that ended upon a goal. The winner received two points, the loser none. A tie resulted in one point each. In 1999-00, the overtime system was tweaked. The sessions remained five minutes, but it was a four-on-four situation instead. Upon making overtime, each team received one point. If the game remained tied, both teams settled for the point. If a team scored, it received two points.

In the standings: To accommodate four new teams by 2000, the league scrapped the four-division system and realigned into six divisions in 1998-99, three in each conference. Under this system, the three division winners in each conference earn the top three playoff seeds. The remaining five are filled according to finish. As a result, the Lightning left the Atlantic Division and joined the Southeast along with the Capitals, Panthers, Hurricanes and, a year later, the Thrashers.

On the television: ESPN continues to change the positions of its cameras at ice level, above ice level, in the net, you name it. But nothing might be more radical than what Fox experimented with in 1996. It was called the FoxTrax puck, which was a computerized version of a regulation puck that featured a small circuit board in the middle. When the puck was shot or passed at high speeds and long distances, a glowing, comet-like trail followed it through the magic of television. It was aimed at helping the viewers, especially those new to the game, follow the path of a puck and its many twists and turns. It received mixed reviews. In 2000, ABC took over broadcasts, ending FoxTrax.
The Southeast Division
Times graphic
- Compiled by Tim Sullivan
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