There are a few major proposals that would go into effect starting with the 2013-14 season, such as hybrid icing, the grandfathering in of visors, video review for double-minor high-sticking penalties, the modification of goaltender equipment, and the introduction of shallower nets.
So, how will each of the proposed rule changes affect the game?
Grandfathering of Visors
Mandatory visors is a logical rule change that would make the biggest impact over the next few years. In 1979, the NHL made helmets mandatory for all new players entering the league, and this rule change follows the model established 34 years ago.
There are currently a small percentage of players who don't wear the extra protection, but most players who enter the NHL have experience with a face shield of some kind. A THN poll from 2011 stated that 73 percent of players wore visors, and 100 percent of rookies wore a face shield.
The NCAA has mandatory cages, the CHL has mandatory visors, and players from Europe also wear visors.
When you consider what happened to Marc Staal, this rule change makes a ton of sense. Players are better, they skate faster, they hit harder and they are getting stronger. There were multiple incidents in 2013 in which a player was hit with the puck, and one player even had his visor shattered.
Over time, the entire NHL will be wearing a face shield, and hockey will become a bit safer. Of course, it will not protect everything, but more help than harm will come from the rule change.
This year, the NHL had the AHL test hybrid icing. Hybrid icing, as described by The Globe and Mail, is as follows:
In the event of a potential icing violation, the play will be blown dead if a defending player is the first to reach the end zone face-off dots, provided the puck has crossed the goal line at that point.
The addition of hybrid icing will be tested again during the NHL's 2013-14 preseason, and further action will be taken based on the results. In theory, this rule is another addition that makes sense. There have been numerous incidents in which a player has been hurt on a foot race to the puck, and hybrid icing can eliminate that.
If the race is called dead once a player reaches the faceoff dots, the whistle can be blown and a potentially dangerous incident can be avoided. This rule will also force teams to change their approach strategically.
If a team ices the puck, they now have less time to retrieve the puck. This rule change could force more teams to try to use the boards to rim the puck down the ice, potentially leading to more delay-of-game penalties.
If the definition for hybrid icing is clear, this rule will be a success. There will still be foot races for the puck, but contact would occur away from the boards. This will allow for exciting battles to negate icing, but it will eliminate potential injury that currently occur in the game.
This rule change can be interpreted as a way to increase scoring. By shortening the depth of nets, players will have more room when they try to make a play from Wayne Gretzky's office. Having more room behind the net will primarily help teams on the power play, because there will be more room to maneuver with the puck.
Right now many teams like to use a power-play formation that places two players on the point, two on the walls and one from behind the goal. This gives a team multiple options, and shallower nets should also make it easier to see if a goal has been scored. With less net, cameras can get a better of view of a puck entering the net.
Video Review of High-Sticking Penalties
Whenever a player takes a stick to the face, there is a thought that goes through everyone's head—did he draw any blood? Having four minutes instead of two is great on the power play (unless you are the New York Rangers), but sometimes the referees get things wrong.
Sometimes a player will get clipped with a stick, and a referee can use video review to call double-minors when needed. A referee can call a double-minor if a high stick draws blood, or if the offending player had intent to injure.
There is a vast difference between getting clipped with a stick on a missed stick lift, and when a player uses their stick Paul Bunyan style. This proposed rule change has implications on the future because this could be looked at as an endorsement of video review.
Each four-minute minor will be reviewed and this will, of course, help referees get the call right.
Goaltender Equipment Size
The NHL is also going to investigate the possibility of changing the size of goalie equipment, with increased scoring presumably the intent once again. The changes would be done on an individual basis. From InGoal Magazine:
Continued use of the individual sizing chart, but with a reduction in the thigh rise from 55 per cent of each goalie's measurement from the knee to hip, down to 40 percent. The NHL targeted a 50 percent maximum eight years ago, but it was negotiated up to 55 per cent by the NHLPA.
Given the average total measurement in the League is around 20 inches, a 15 percent reduction would equate to three lost inches in pad height. Of course that is three inches per pad, and given most goalies use the top of these pads to close the 5-hole when they are down on the ice, that could mean an additional six-inch opening.
It would be fair to say that some goaltenders abuse the equipment rules. It is hard for the NHL to crack down, because goalies can cite that they need X amount of equipment for protection. Some goaltenders who are bigger can benefit from larger equipment (like Zdeno Chara benefits from using a bigger stick), but some across-the-board cuts would help level the playing field.
Overall, the NHL and NHLPA got together and made some good decisions. The proposed rules will enhance the game, and the Board of Governors should approve them. The only potential hiccup may come on the video-review rule for high-sticking, because of the potential in-game delays.
There may be some disapproval of changes to goaltending equipment, but there will likely be a compromise made. Other than that, each potential rule change to an ever-changing NHL is a no-brainer. The game has changed drastically over the past few years, and updating the rules makes sense.