A few of the NHL’s rule changes for the 2013-14 season got plenty of attention.
Hybrid icing is a high-profile item, thanks to an unfortunate number of extremely serious injuries coming off races for the puck.
The new enforcement of old rules regarding how uniforms must be worn—notably, players can’t tuck in their jerseys or tear their hockey pants—also caught some attention, mostly because the jersey tuck is a signature item for players like Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin.
Other rule changes passed with comparatively little notice, but they too will alter the way the game is played this season.
It was big news this summer, but the clamour died down quickly. Nearly three-quarters of NHL players wore visors last season and othe NHLPA voted for the rule change over the summer.
The union’s Mathieu Schneider told NHL.com’s Mike Brophy that a “significant majority” of players favored the implementation of the rule:
We feel very comfortable with where the players stand on this. Today, we accomplished an awful lot and we were able to get consensus. It was the first time since we have been polling players that we had a clear majority that have wanted it grandfathered in.
The new rule sees all players with fewer than 25 games of NHL experience mandated to wear a visor.
An additional result of the rule change is that the penalty for instigating a fight with a visor has been removed from the rulebook. That means Ladislav Smid won't get 19 minutes in penalties the next time he does this:
Modified Goalie Equipment
There’s a reason changes to goalie equipment don’t get a lot of attention from fans. It’s because those rules have been changed before, but the results have been decidedly lacking.
This time around, things might be different.
The first big shift is a reduction in pad size. The last time the NHL changed the rules (in 2010-11), the average goalie was allowed to have leg pads that came 11 inches above the knee. That’s been slashed down to nine, meaning that there are as many as four additional inches of gap to close when a goalie goes down in a butterfly save. That’s a lot of territory.
The other item that the NHL is cracking down on is stick length for goalies, mandating a maximum length of 26 inches for goaltenders 6’5” or shorter.
Up-and-coming Senators goalie Robin Lehner, who has used a 28-inch stick for years, explained to InGoal Magazine’s Kevin Woodley that the change had thrown off his positioning a little:
You balance a little on your stick. When I feel it touch the ice, I know that I am in my right stance. And now all of a sudden I don’t touch the ice, and all of a sudden it throws my balance off. It throws a little bit of everything off. It might not sound like a big deal, but it’s different.
When I was younger I had big problem with bending over too much and I was getting beat high a lot, and then when I got over here I started changing paddle height and got more upright, a new stance that has just really been working for me. And now all of a sudden … when you change the stick, you change your balance and your stance.
It’s a story that also shows the difference between a rule being in the books and a rule being enforced. The NHL has had the goalie stick rule in the book, but sent out a memo warning teams that players were now going to be forced to abide by it.
Removal of the “Attainable Pass”
Players can no longer get an A for effort on icing plays. In the past, a linesman had the discretion to wave off icing not only when a player at center (or further) touched the puck, but also when he could have touched the puck but for some reason did not.
In the story linked above, NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell told NHL.com that icings per game could rise by 50 percent or more going forward.
Given that a team which ices the puck cannot change lines, often keeping a tired unit out in the defensive zone, that’s the kind of shift that could subtly increase scoring.