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BLUELINES: NHL looks into taller glass

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  • NHL officials are zeroing in on safety measures to avoid another flying puck tragedy. Adding another eight feet to the current eight is an option being reviewed. A league exec involved in rink studies tells us that corner-sitting fans tend to be less vigilant about flying pucks and must enter the safety equation.
  • Guaranteed: The NHL will adopt the Olympics-proven "hurry-up face-off" in a more lengthened, TV-friendly form.
  • The two-ref system continues to annoy GMs. One tells us, "They get in the way of play at least five times a game." Complaints have been registered with Andy Van Hellemond and Colin Campbell. But don't expect any changes.
  • The move to avoid a 2004 lockout — or strike (remember, 1994-95 was a lockout, not a strike) — could come from an unlikely source. We're told a number of agents want no part of a hiatus similar to the 1994-95 trauma. Their reasoning: 1.) Players never had it so good and 2.) Gains obtained by a stoppage would not be worth the cash loss. Furthermore, while Bob Goodenow may vigorously oppose any kind of salary cap, this view is not shared by all reps.
  • Lightning CEO Tom Wilson reveals that groups from Portland, Ore., and Houston contacted him regarding a possible sale of the franchise. But Wilson insists, "We are as firmly committed to Tampa Bay as we have ever been." Houston apparently is no longer interested in an NHL club for the moment. But in 18 months, it will have a 17,800-seat arena and is the largest U.S. city without an NHL franchise. Meanwhile, Portland's Paul Allen continues probing.
  • Islanders' attendance has shown the biggest gain (30 percent) over last year. Carolina, at almost 16 percent, is runner-up. The Red Wings continue to top all teams in total ticket sales.
  • Tom Fitzgerald predicts Scott Hartnell eventually will be captain of the Predators. The ex-Nashville, now-Blackhawk captain also adds about his former teammates, "Billy Houlder is a leader — a natural leader. Then again, maybe it's Kimmo Timonen? He's the cornerstone of the defense, a player we all think is an All-Star. He's an Olympian — maybe he's the guy."
  • Jarome Iginla is doing so well that Madison Avenue has discovered him; some NY-based deals may be on the way.
  • Iginla remains one of the NHL's best advertisements, partly because he understands his significance. "I love knowing I'm a role model for young black kids," he says.
  • Speaking of which, keep an eye on Gerald Coleman, goalie for the U.S. national under-17 team. The African-American lad learned his hockey in an NHL-sponsored Chicago program.
  • The most interesting promotion for next season belongs to the Predators. Owner Craig Leipold says he'll refund the amount of next season's price increase if the Preds don't make the playoffs come April 2003.
  • Predators GM David Poile on losing Cliff Ronning: "We have an option on Cliff for next year. Right now, we have nothing significant in discussion on Cliff or any other player. Cliff produced points for us and we still need help in that area."
  • Rangers GM Glen Sather supposedly had his eyes on Calgary's Derek Morris at the trade deadline.
  • Jim Lite's exit from Dallas — predicted here — lands him the Coyotes' president position. His main role: Guide construction of the team's new arena in suburban Glendale.
  • The Stars, by the way, rank second in overall revenue.
  • It's becoming clear to Panthers' insiders that majority owner Alan Cohen is running the show and Bernie Kosar — one of nine owners — has been moved to the background. Kosar learned about the Pavel Bure deal on TV, which didn't amuse him.
  • Pat Burns, Ted Nolan and Ken Hitchcock already have been mentioned as possible successors to Rangers head coach Ron Low for 2002-2003. What about Mark Messier? At the moment, only a playoff berth can save Low's job for next season.
  • He's not the head coach by designation, but Dave Lewis — according to Detroit insiders — is as much the hands-on man behind the Red Wings bench as Scott Bowman.
  • Jim Rutherford tells us that despite sniping from the anti-Tom Barrasso clique, the veteran goalie was every bit a team player during his Carolina stint. But J.R. adds that Barrasso's game tailed off after he was named to the U.S. Olympic team.
  • USA Hockey Foundation named Brooke Whitney of Snohomish, Wash. winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award. A Northeastern University senior, Whitney becomes the women's intercollegiate varsity player of the year.
  • Considering that he's NHLPA President, Trevor Linden has done pretty well with his playing duties.
  • Gary Bettman keeps hammering away at one CBA theme — "We need a system where all teams can be competitive" — and is issuing not-so-veiled lockout warnings. "Fans will tolerate labor disharmony if a league has problems and fixes them," says the Commish. Buffalo News columnist Bob DiCesare adds, "The NHL remains on a course for self-destruction as it approaches its next round of collective bargaining."
  • The Flyers are high on Finn goalie Antero Niittymaki. He'll join the AHL Phantoms next year.
  • The Islanders, who haven't made the playoffs since 1994, put playoff tix on sale this week.
  • Condolences to the family of Mike Condon. The Flyers' video replay judge for the past 11 years died of a heart attack at age 44 in Philadelphia.
  • Tom Poti went to New York instead of Boston because the Oilers wanted Brian Rolston in return. Just so happens that Rolly is the Bruins' best player.
  • More and more, we're hearing Bobby Francis mentioned as Coach of the Year. A playoff berth will clinch it. Known as "The Hockey Maven" in both local and national circles, Stan Fischler is one of the most outspoken authorities on the game of hockey. Fischler can be seen offering NHL analysis on "MSG SportsDesk" and on Fox Sports Net's "Regional Sports Report — New York Edition." Fischler also provides studio interviews and pre- and post-game features and reports for both the Islanders and Devils on FSN. His columns appear regularly on MSGNetwork.com.
  • Tagged: Bruins, Flames, Red Wings, Oilers, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Flyers, Capitals, Panthers, Predators, Brian Rolston, Derek Morris, Tom Poti, Trevor Linden, Tom Fitzgerald, Scott Hartnell

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