Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard was welcomed into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week. In contrast, the sport made some constructive moves, designed to equalize talent and open up play.
On a long-range basis, the item with the biggest impact is the new waiver system. Assuming the players association approves, and it likely will, the revised formula will end completely in five years' time, the ability of teams like Montreal to stockpile players.
Each year conditions tighten until, in 1982, every team must make available on waivers, before the end of training camp, all players beyond the basic 17 skaters and two goaltenders.
A major change that will speed up play and eliminate whistles is a revision of the two-line offside rule. In the past, a pass over two lines could be accomplished only if the puck preceded the recipient ove reach line. Now a player on his own side of the red line when the puck passes center ice can accept a pass from inside his blue line without a whistle.
How many times has a player just missed a pass at the red line, skated frantically down ice and beaten a defender to the puck, then been whistled down as he prepared to shoot? Crowd reaction goes from deafening noise to deflating silence. No more.
Passage of the new rule was a major victory for Washington general manager Max McNab, who worked to convince six clubs of its good sense following a 10-8 defeat in the rules committee in June. This time it passed by 14-4, the necessary three-quarters vote.
"I first presented this to the National League 15 years ago when I was in the Western League," McNab said. "At that time, you needed five of the six teams to get three-quarters. One year, we lost, 4-2, and I persuaded one of the two to switch. Then one of the other four switched back and we finally gave up. But its time has come. Every league that has tried it has stuck with it."
Basic opposition derived from the belief that the rule would benefit speedy teams like Montreal. McNab campaigned on the opposite tack, that it would help weaker teams clear the puck from their end, by forcing the opposition point men to ease their pressure and by removing the need for a perfect pass.
A rule popular in ending junior free-for-alls will be tried on an experimental basis in exhibition games. When a fight breaks out, all players not involved must proceed to the vicinity of their benches. This was approved by only 11-7 and McNab was one of the seven dissidents, figuring the "maturity level" of professionals and previous high penalties against fighters make it unnecessary.
The full NHL schedule is still awaiting release because the study of possible Saturday afternoon televised games continues. The league would like to air both Monday night and Saturday afternoon games on its special network this season.
WDCA-TV-20 would probably pick up both, in addition to 15 Capitals road games. The Capitals package is more than 50 per cent sold, according to team president Peter O'Malley, "and we couldn't lose money if we didn't sell another minute."
The long-standing ban on placing the visiting team's names on jerseys has ended and all teams must put each player's full surname in three-inch block letters on home and away jerseys this year. Some owners concerned about program sales have, however, threatened to make the letters the same color as the jerseys.
The rumor persists that the Colorado Rockies will move to Edmonton before season's start. O'Malley, however, said that "Munson Campbell (Colorado's president) invited me to come to Colorado and bring Jan (Mrs. O'Malley) and I'd hate to think he didn't mean it."