NHL: League Using AHL to Test Possible Rule Changes for New CBA

Jacob BornContributor IIIJune 29, 2012

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 22:  Curtis Joseph #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gestures during an icing call against the Buffalo Sabres in a preseason NHL game at the Air Canada Centre September 22, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)
Dave Sandford/Getty Images

Over the past few years, concussions have become a hot topic, not only in the sport of hockey, but also around the world. It is one of the major issues that the NHL and NHLPA are trying to address with the new CBA. 

Many different propositions have been thrown out to try to fix the problem, such as smaller pads, more severe penalties, and making the two-line pass illegal again. But the rule that has been talked about the most is a hybrid icing call. NHL officials announced today that the AHL will be testing hybrid icing and other proposed rule changes this season to gauge the projected effectiveness at the NHL level.

Hybrid icing consists of whistling the play dead at the face-off dots instead of the goal line. If the defensive player reaches the face-off dots first, it will be an icing, while if the offensive player gets there first, then the play will continue. 

With the uncertainty of the CBA being signed before the season starts and the looming possibility of a lockout again, it is a great decision by the front offices. If the players are skeptical, they can watch how the AHL adapts and plays with the rule change, and decide if it can work at the NHL level. The players get the safety they want, and the game is still exciting for the fans, which the owners want. 

There were two other proposed rule changes that will be tested at the AHL level. The first is if a player deliberately covers the puck to hide it from an opponent or prevent him from playing it, he will receive a minor penalty. The second is that a player cannot win a face-off by batting the puck with his hand. 

Both would be whistled as delay of game penalties.

As stated earlier, it is an extremely smart move by the NHL to have the AHL test these rules. If they don't work, then the NHL is unharmed, and the game can move forward. But if they do work, then the NHL will have proven evidence that the rule changes would be smart for the NHL to implement.