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The NHL needs a rule change right now

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Players changing lines through open gates during play is idiotic.

NHL: New York Islanders at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

This morning, I was very thankful to see a tweet indicating that rookie sensation and fellow Burnsville native Brock Boeser had avoided a career-threatening injury after a scary incident last night in Vancouver’s game against the New York Islanders.

In recent seasons, it has weirdly become commonplace for players to change lines through the gates that open and close on the benches, rather than simply climbing over the boards, which was previously the norm. I can’t speak to what has led to this small adjustment in the approach to line changes, but I can say that the practice is extremely dangerous. Every time those doors open during play, an upright steel beam is exposed to the skaters that are flying past the benches at high speeds.

Making matters worse, the players themselves are opening the gates for one another, not coaches, like in youth hockey. So, it is up to the player exiting the ice to turn around and close the gate behind him, though he’s likely paying no attention to what is actually happening on the ice. For this reason, the gates—once opened—seem to remain ajar for far longer than they need to, risking the safety of the players on the ice for extended periods.

Continuing to allow players to change through the gates is an idiotic practice by the NHL, and it needs to end right now. The NHL should immediately—not over the summer, not after testing it in the AHL—outlaw the opening of those gates during play. Teams should be allowed to open the gates only when players are hobbling to the bench with injury or after whistles, but otherwise, they should remain closed at all times.

It’s very simple... play is underway, gates stay closed, nobody gets hurt. Whistle blows, gates open, still nobody gets hurt.

When Max Pacioretty was knocked out by Zdeno Chara throwing him into the “turnbuckle,” the NHL eventually mandated that all arenas have curved glass installed to avoid further comparable incidents. This is very similar in nature, but there is no cost associated. Do this now, NHL. The safety of your players depends on it.