The new documentary “The NHL: 100 Years” made its New York premiere at the Paley Center for Media on Tuesday, bringing together some local hockey icons for the occasion. We caught up with three of them, and asked them a Big Question (or two) about how they view hockey in 2017.
As the NHL turns 100, what’s your favorite thing about the game today?
Pat Lafontaine, Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2003: “I would probably say what the game teaches you. The value of the sport. Life lessons, character, life skills, camaraderie. The one-tenth of one percent who make it to the top, when you hear them talk about what the game has given them in their lives. I also love the traditions. I think there’s this code to uphold, as being a part of this great game. And this was a tradition started early on.”
Bryan Trottier, Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 1997: “Sidney Crosby, John Tavares, Patrick Kane … the skill of the game. The speed of the game. These kids are taking it to another gear, and it’s awesome. We’ve always had fast players, but these guys are faster. And they can handle the puck, make plays. It’s one thing to skate fast, but people don’t understand this about our game. You look at Pat Lafontaine; he could skate fast but his hands would work at the same speed. They can keep up. They can think ahead, about what they’re going to do next. That’s hard to do.”
Ken Daneyko, three-time Stanley Cup champion and current New Jersey Devils broadcaster: “This is going to sound crazy, because I used to love the physical aspect, but the speed and skill in today’s game. I’m having an absolute blast watching Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt. The things they can do with the puck, these young kids today, is remarkable. You can see it around the league. Speed and skill, baby.”
Now, what would you most like to fix about the game today?
Lafontaine: “I would make a hybrid rink. Since our sport is heavily international but also North American … the rinks [in Europe] are 200 feet by 100 feet. The rinks here are 200 by 85. I’d split the difference. Guys are bigger, faster, stronger. The game is phenomenal and so fast. That extra seven or seven-and-a-half feet, it makes that forward or defenseman think twice because there’s that extra lane. For me, being a skater, that little extra makes a difference. I think 100 [feet] is too wide. So I’d like to move it to 91 or 91.5. And you don’t have to remove seats in the arena — you could just add a quarter to every ticket. [Laughs].”
Trottier: “I’d push the net back further still. Create a logjam. Keep the puck in front of the net. If you can keep the puck in front of the net, you’re creating scoring. Logjams around the net create havoc, and that’s fun. At least it was fun in our era. When they moved the net away from the wall, there were more plays in back of the net but less action in front of the net.”
Daneyko: “Wow … I don’t have a whole lot to fix. But you know what? I love all the new rules. I like the new slashing rule because, hey, I don’t want to see guys’ wrists get broken. But I think the NHL likes to take the game out of the refs’ hands too much. I want the game in the refs’ hands. I want them to have more discretion, more subjectivity, a little more feel. Less automatic calls. Less officiating the rulebook and more officiating the game. I think the refs would appreciate that.”