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June 24, 2019

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Vegas Golden Knights GM McPhee to have say on NHL rules at league meetings in Florida


John Locher / AP

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee speaks during a news conference Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. The NHL expansion team can now begin making trades and signing free agents for next season.

The NHL’s annual general manager meetings commence today in Boca Raton, Fla., and for the first time ever, Las Vegas has a seat at the table.

When the Golden Knights’ owner Bill Foley’s $500 million check cleared Wednesday to complete the expansion process, it allowed both he and General Manager George McPhee to participate in league meetings, the first of which begins today and runs through Wednesday.

“I feel like I’m part of the club now as opposed to being an apprentice,” Foley said Wednesday. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had. Being involved with this hockey team and being around the scouts and George is unbelievable.”

McPhee will join 30 other general managers in Florida to discuss possible rule changes to the sport.

“These meetings are important because whatever the NHL does effects hockey all over the world, so we take them very seriously,” McPhee said. “We have really comprehensive discussion on it because it’s the best league in the world and we have to do the right things.”

Major topics expected to be discussed are the offside rule, shootouts, concussion protocol and goaltender equipment.

The offside rule in the NHL has come under scrutiny since coaches gained the ability to challenge it with instant replay before the 2015-16 season. The discussion is over whether a player’s skate must be touching the ice outside of the blue line to remain onside, or if it can just be crossing the plane.

If the NHL changes the ruling to the plane of the blue line (similar to the football’s rule for scoring a touchdown by crossing the plane of the end zone) it could result in less challenges, faster play and more goals — all things the league would love to see.

The general managers can make recommendations during the meetings, which are then considered by the NHL Competition Committee and eventually voted on by the league’s Board of Governors.

“It’s great being at the meetings because you can predict what might be coming down the line with the changes that will be made to some rules,” McPhee said. “We will have to adjust accordingly.”

Foley joked that McPhee would be playing golf and fooling around in Florida, but McPhee insisted there’s a lot of work to be done.

“We work from 6-7 in the morning until 1-2 in the afternoon, and then we take a break and try to do something together,” McPhee said. “I’ve always thought that was a good idea because it’s a very competitive league, and it creates better relationships between GMs.”

McPhee said he wouldn’t use the gathering to discuss trades or deals with other general managers prior to the expansion draft on June 21.

“I like that the trade deadline has happened and now we can go down there and focus on the game and the rules and where we are going with the game,” McPhee said. “There was a time when meetings were happening just before the deadline and there were too many things going on. It’s better to do it this way. We can focus on trying to make the game better, if we can. It’s a pretty good game now.”

Other topics expected to be discussed:

Shootout rules — The NHL is considering switching to international hockey rules for shootouts, which allow the top shooter for a team to continue taking attempts after the third round of the shootout. Under the current rules, teams select three shooters, and if they remain tied after three rounds, they must select shooters that have not gone for each subsequent attempt.

Concussion protocol — Currently, if a goaltender is flagged with a possible concussion, he exits the game and the backup gets no warm-up prior to the game restarting. This can lead to quick goals by the opposing team while the goalie is cold.

Goaltender equipment — The Competition Committee has talked of streamlining goalie pads and chest protectors to make them less bulky since 2015. In last year’s March meetings, general managers agreed on it, but the equipment wasn’t done in time for the start of the season.

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