Following a season during which both players and fans were completely frozen out by a pay dispute, the American NHL is back. Fearful of playing in front of empty seats, deserted by a disaffected public, the league has introduced several rule changes to make the game more attractive. For example, drawn games will now be decided by a penalty shoot-out, the goal lines have been moved and ‘keepers have been stripped of 10 per cent of their protective gear. Most teams have also reduced ticket prices to entice fans back into the stadia.
On the sporting front, the league’s star player, Swede Peter Forsberg, has joined the Philadelphia Flyers from Colorado Avalanche. Scott Niedermayer moved to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and Chris Pronger is now with the Edmonton Oilers. Of the 30 teams competing for the Stanley Cup, the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins count among the favourites but, having capped team budgets, the league is expected to be much more open this season. All-time legend Wayne Gretzky, now 44, has turned coach with the Phoenix Coyotes, perhaps a good bet to make the play-offs.