by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
This commentary originally ran in March 2004. With all of the talk recently about increasing the size of the goal nets, it's worth noting that we've been crusading for this for four years. It seems that lately, as it becomes clear that the rules emphasis on obstruction has made some progress but not enough, the increased-size idea is picking up steam, though still far from fruition. — ed.
Getting to work with ESPN's John Buccigross this weekend was fun — especially because it's always good to work with a fellow crusader for increasing the size of the nets — 4x6 inches, two square feet, introduced gradually over a period of years. He'll continue to advocate on ESPN.com to 10 million people, and I'll talk to 10,000 here, and maybe together, we'll make a dent.
In response to my last column on this topic, a reader sent his thoughts in return: "I always thought only a complete MORON! would say the nets should be bigger. Since I know you're not a complete moron, I can't understand it. Increasing the size of the nets is too drastic a change."
I think there was some faint praise in there somewhere, but the thing is, NOT increasing the size of the nets is the drastic change. Yes, that's right. Say you have a 4x6-foot net. Standing in front of it is a 3x5-foot pylon. The object of this game is to shoot a vulcanized rubber disc into the 4x6-foot net. Now, one day, someone decides to stick a 3 1/2-foot by 5 1/2 foot pylon in front of the net. Don't you think whomever made this decision just drastically changed the nature of the game? Don't you think it will be a lot harder to shoot this rubber disc past this bigger pylon? What if you were told this bigger pylon is now also a more athletic human being that moves around?
Fact is, the goalie is bigger, and there is no offsetting factor. If the defense gets bigger, the offensive players can get bigger. In basketball, if the average human gets taller, the average defender and offender will both be taller. Scoring isn't changed because of this. Could you imagine increasing the size of the ball while the hoop stays the same? In hockey, the goalie gets bigger, then obviously the nature of the game has changed dramatically. There is no offsetting factor. The net is the same size, the puck is the same size.
As field goal kickers in football have gotten more and more proficient, they have narrowed the goal posts, and are talking about doing it again. It's the same idea — because there is no offsetting factor to defense this.
Increasing the size of the net is the only way to keep things THE SAME.
Now, this gentleman went on to say that scoring is not the problem, it's scoring chances. On this score, I basically agree. There are plenty of other things that need fixing in order to increase the scoring opportunities. Even though goalies were getting bigger and better over the last 20 years, scoring chances were still pretty good, and games were still pretty exciting. It's only over the last five years or so that even chances have been dramatically reduced. But that doesn't mean we should ignore the size of the net as a factor. With an increased size of the net, perhaps you'll see more shots taken from more places, shots which are futile nowadays.