Just got off the phone from a very productive teleconference among IHL office staff and media members. Some of the highlights:
* The league is going to improve on informing media members, and thus fans, on news of suspensions and last-second player signings.
* Last year the league had officials supervisors at 78 of 220 games, and this year they are hoping to staff at least 120 games. The supervisors will include Vice President of Hockey Operations Brad Jones and NHL supervisor Jerry Pateman, Scott Zelkin, Mark Wilkins and Mike Martin. There will be more emphasis this year on calling things tighter in the neutral zone and using more judgement on calls in the offensive zone, i.e., if a hook does not prevent a scoring chance or lead to a turnover, it's more likely to be ignored. The goal is to have more action in the offensive zone.
* The league is also using new NHL rules where a power play will start in the offensive zone no matter where the previous whistle was. Any time a puck goes out of play after hitting the goal, the faceoff will also be in the offensive zone.
* Players and equipment managers will be fined if players are wearing torn or ripped pants during games. This is unofficially called the Colin Chaulk rule. Just kidding. The league wants the players to look more professional.
* If the Central Hockey League goes on strike, the league will not be signing CHL players without permission from the CHL as per reciprocal agreements.
* Not a lot of talk about expansion, though the Chicago franchise is still out there and the league still has high hopes for it. They are being tight-lipped about expansion.
* Regarding the perceived potential troubles in Port Huron, the league is not worried about that ownership group in the least. It's not even an issue they are even considering. This is me talking, but the IceHawks owners could buy the entire league if they chose to. They will be fine. The league feels they have gotten stronger with new ownership groups in Muskegon and Bloomington, also.
* The league does have to maintain six teams to receive work visas from the federal government.
* The league is launching new website very soon, and part of that will include interviews with league and club officials so fans can get to know them better.
* As a little thing, media members will be allowed to vote for the league's PR Director award this season and will be allowed to vote for members of the teams they cover on the post-season awards. SO EVERYBODY BETTER BE VERY DARN NICE TO ME THIS YEAR! OR ELSE. Yeah, that will happen. LOL.
It was a very productive meeting and they answered every question we could come up with -- as they always do.