New Rules, New NHL.

by MaxPower

Everyone in Canada who has opened a newspaper, visited a Canadian-based news website, or turned on the TV has seen that it is game on for the NHL. For those of you who are located outside of Canada you may not A) care (especially if you?re an American) or B) know what I am talking about.

Well the NHL had a 310 day lockout which ended recently when the players union folded (rightly so, in my opinion) and now we are going to have professional hockey again. Not just normal hockey but ?New and Improved NHL Hockey?. What is new and improved you ask? Well there are a host of rule changes, a per team salary cap of US$39 million and a bunch of other small changes. I am going to use this space in R4NT as a public service announcement informing R4NT readers about the new rule changes and what I think of them ? because you really need to know. Additionally, I?d like to think I could make an informed judgment on the new rules, having been a hockey player, a coach, a referee and even an usher at an NHL arena. So in no particular order, here are the major rule changes for the NHL this year and my expert take on them.

1) No More Ties. Changes: Following a scoreless five-minute overtime, three players from each team participate in a shootout. Each team takes three shots. The team with the most goals after those six shots wins. If the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a “sudden death” format. MaxPower: This is all about what the NHL ?thinks? the fans want to see. People don?t like ties, people like action right? Is there a better way to give the people action than with a shootout after overtime? Well yes and no. Shootouts are exciting, but mainly because we don?t see them very often. There will be a period where it is great, but how this rule will work after seeing two seasons of shoot-outs is yet to be seen. Maybe people will find them boring. Is it too tough to score in these shootouts? Too easy to score? We?ll see. Bottom Line: The losing team still gets 1 point; the winning team still gets 2. Three NHL stars out of five.

2) Two Line Passes. Changes: Two line passes which are passes from the defensive zone, over the blue line and over the red (centre) line are now legal. MaxPower: This will be hell for D-men. I used to play defense and one of the things that was great was that you just had to make sure no one was behind you in the neutral zone but in front of the centre line. Now this will open up the Hail Mary passes and should bust open any ?defensive trap? styles. Bottom Line: Who doesn?t want to see long breakaway passes? Five NHL stars out of five.

3) Tag-up off-side rule returns. Changes: The tag-up offside rule returns after about a ten year hiatus. The rule allows play to continue if offensive players who precede the puck into the attacking zone ?tag-up? by coming outside the blue line. MaxPower: This was crazy ? why did they get rid of this rule to begin with? Tagging up lets the play continue and improves game flow as well as making it tougher on the defensive team to get a line change in. This was one of the very poor mid-1990?s rules that crushed the spirit of the game. (The other was that stupid skate in the crease rule.) Bottom Line: What is bad for the defensive team is good for goal scoring which is good for excitement. Five NHL stars out of five.

4) Restriction on Goalies. Changes: Goalies no longer can look like the Michelin Man (Garth Snow I?m looking at you) or Batman (Patrick Roy with his cape sized jersey). Dimensions of goalie equipment will be reduced by 11%. Goalies are also now not allowed to play the puck in the corners. MaxPower: I hated how big goalie equipment had become, I mean I?m all for safety but when goalies barely needed to move it said something. And that was: equipment was too freakin big. Go back to mid-80?s sized pads. I don?t think this rule goes far enough. Bottom Line: No goalies playing like d-men in the corners (Marty Turco) and falling when someone breathes on them and no Michelin men. Good, but it should have gone farther. Four NHL stars out of five.

5) Changes to the Icing rule. Changes: A team that ices the puck cannot make a line change prior to the ensuing face-off. “Touch” icing will remain the practice, although the Linesman will have discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions if they are deemed the result of an attempted pass. MaxPower: The no line changes after an icing will encourage teams not just to fire the puck down the ice when they are tired, which is bad for the defensive team and good for goal scoring. The ?touch icing? with discretion is a stupid ?grey? rule. Either have touch or no-touch icing. I prefer no touch. If it gets down past the goal line, blow the whistle and have a face-off. Enough said. Bottom Line: Points for being innovative with the no-line changes rule, minus points for another new discretionary rule. Three NHL stars out of five.

6) Bigger Offensive Zone. Changes: The blue-lines will be moved closer together to create an additional four feet in each of the offensive zones. That reduces the size of the neutral zone to 50 feet from 54 feet. The goal-lines will be moved two feet, to 11 feet from the end boards. MaxPower: I think it is too soon to say whether this will have any impact or not. Two feet for each blue line isn?t a very large move, players may not even notice it. It ?may? create some additional room for play making, but that is a big if. Bottom Line: Too many ifs. We?ll see how it works. Two NHL stars out of five.

7) Unsportsmanlike Conduct. Changes: The league will review and assess fines to players who dive, embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury in an attempt to draw penalties. The first such incident will result in a warning letter; the second will result in a $1,000 fine; the third will result in a $2,000 fine; and the fourth incident will result in a one-game suspension. MaxPower: The best part of this rule is that now there will be record keeping for ?diving? calls. Who dives the most? A Finn like Teemu Selanne or a North American like Theo Fleury (I know he isn?t playing, but come on ? he dove so much). The worst part is the lame penalties. One grand? Come on, even with a 24% pay cut, these guys spend more on a big dinner, give the rule some punch. Bottom Line: Entertaining statistics could abound. Who will be the NHL?s biggest diver? Stay tuned. Four stars out of five.

8) Instigator Rule. Changes: A player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game will receive a game misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension. The length of suspension would double for each additional incident. MaxPower: They went the wrong way with this rule. Back in the day, no one slashed or cross checked or went after ?stars? because they knew if they laid out a ?finesse? player, a goon was going to come over the boards and beat the snot out of them. It was vigilante justice but it worked ? it was much more effective than monetary fines or traditional penalties. By adding the instigator it cut down on fighting but increased the number of stick infractions. Get rid of the instigator and let players police themselves. Let?s get back to old-school ?70?s and ?80?s action. This rule is simply a continuation of a big mistake made to make hockey more palatable to ?sensitive audiences? in the States. Bottom Line: Zero NHL stars.

Game on eh.

  • New Rules, New NHL.
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on August 1st, 2005

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