DENVER - There was plenty of skepticism among players when, before the 2005-06 season, the NHL vowed to crack down on the clutching, grabbing and obstruction that had plagued the league and slowed down the game. They'd heard that promise before. Colorado forward Alex Tanguay's reaction was not uncommon. "Hopefully they can last the whole season," he said during training camp. "But we'll see." So far, players and coaches have been pleasantly surprised about how consistently rules have been enforced this season. But the biggest test remains. The playoffs. In the past, NHL hockey has become much more conservative in the playoffs than it is in the regular season and officials have allowed players to get away with more clutching and grabbing. But NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom said Wednesday "there's very little concern," that officials will put away their whistles in the playoffs and revert to the standards of postseasons past. "I've got a lot of confidence in these guys, they understand their responsibilities in these games, and if they see a foul in these games, I fully expect they'll react to it," Walkom said. "I believe we've given them the proper instructions to stay the course, and they're committed to stay the course." NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was more blunt: ""My instructions are if an official puts his whistle away, (Walkom and senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell) should put the official away for the rest of the playoffs. ... If a guy decides he's putting the whistle away, he's done." As they have all season, players will wait and see. "My understanding, they're going to be calling it the same way," Edmonton Oilers defenseman Chris Pronger said. "I can't really give you an answer until we really get started to see what they're going to do. But what they say and what they do, we'll find out."
Colorado Springs Gazette has disabled the comments for this article.