Sunday, November 14, 2010

Canadiens to push NHL for new 'Markov rule'

Following Andrei Markov's latest setback, the Habs are expected to push for a rule change that would use technology to protect a player returning from injury.

Markov went down in a heap in the corner during the third period of Saturday's blowout of the Carolina Hurricanes. He fell awkwardly after leg-on-leg contact with Carolina captain Eric Staal, in the process re-injuring his right knee. Markov had only returned to the Habs' lineup seven games ago; that after missing the first ten games of the season while recovering from surgery to repair ligaments in that same leg after a collision with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke during the second round of the playoffs. 

It's been a rough 14 months for the Hab defenseman, also suffering a freak tendon skate cut in the first game of last season after colliding with goaltender Carey Price. It's not known the extent of this most recent injury, though speculation is that Markov may miss as much as three months of action.

Ironically, during practice before his most recent return to the lineup, the Canadiens had been testing out a new system that may have prevented Markov's latest injury. It's based on the technology that Fox Sports used with great notoriety when they introduced the 'glowing puck' in the hopes of making it easier for their viewers to track the puck on-screen during game telecasts.

The difference with this system is that the graphic is projected onto the ice and would be visible to everyone in the arena. For a predetermined number of games, depending on the severity of the injury, a returning player would wear a transmitter on the inside of their helmet which is linked to three projectors placed above the ice, one in each zone. The transmitter would then guide the projectors on where to illuminate the ice with a red circle approximately two metres in diameter. 

A 'moving exclusionary zone', as Hab GM Pierre Gauthier has dubbed it, would follow the player as he skates. The prospective rule would not allow an opposing player to enter the zone, this minimizing contact and reducing the chance of re-injury. An offending player making contact in the zone with the protected player would be subject to a 2-minute penalty.

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Markov trying out the new technology in practice before his comeback from knee surgery

"I though that it was pretty cool," said forward Mike Cammalleri of the new system. "I imagined that I was playing one of those old EA Sports hockey video games when he (Markov) was using it. And just like that game, I had trouble getting the player to go where I wanted." 

Canadiens' management doesn't find the system, or the intended rule that goes along with it a laughing matter.

"We invest huge resources in an all-star player like Andrei Markov, and to have him out of the lineup does our club no favours. Hopefully the NHL will realize the benefits that this rule change would bring to the game, with the main benefit of keeping the league's best players where they belong: on the ice."  

It's expected that the Canadiens will pitch the rule and demonstrate the technology to the NHL board of governors when they meet in Carolina for the 2010-11 All-Star game, with the hope that the necessary changes would be implemented for the start of the 2011-12 regular season.


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