7 Good, 7 Bad NHL Rule Changes
On Tuesday, NHL.com posted this article that included a list of potential rule changes that were being tested during this years RDO camp. As we all know the NHL has undergone a massive reconstruction of rules since the mid-90s that has completely changed the way we watch hockey today, some for better and some for worse.
Many remember hockey as a brutal bloodbath that takes place on skates and ice (much like how the game is portrayed outside of the hockey community), even though this may not have been the case. Much of the toughness of hockey has been removed and replaced by finesse and offense. Not all of this is bad, it does make for a faster-paced and more exciting game in some regards, but who doesn't love a good ole-fashioned bench brawl.
From this list I have chosen seven rules that I think would be fantastic additions to the NHL rulebook, some referring to the toughness of hockey and some not, and seven that I think would change the game in ways people wouldn't agree with.
Feel free to comment with changes you think would be good for the game or even to vent about changes that may have been implemented already. I love getting feedback from real hockey fans!
Good: Officials Wireless Headsets for Communication
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
This should be a no-brainer. I mean, how many times have we seen a play develop and the referee make a bad call or blow his whistle too early and we want to throw our controller through our brand new flat-screen. With the current speed of the game and the reaction time the refs must have to make these calls, this wouldn't be the cure-all to missed plays but it sure could eliminate some.
Using the wireless technology we have today, the on-ice officials would be able to communicate from opposite ends of the ice and inform other officials of calls they may be missing, or perhaps let an official know that the puck is still loose when the man behind the net can't see it. Not too mention the sound clips gathered could be quite entertaining on Youtube.
Bad: Hand Passes in All Zones
As most hockey fans already know, and for those of you that don't, a player is allowed to use his hand to swipe the puck along the ice to a teammate when in his own defensive end. Obviously he cannot close his hand on the puck or pick it up, but this is greatly effective when a stick is dropped or broken (especially given the quantity of stick breaks, or as I call them, hockey wardrobe malfunctions).
But to allow players to utilize the "hand pass" in all zones would begin to gnaw at the very sport itself. After all, what purpose would sticks even serve at this point. Okay that may be an exaggerated statement but I don't feel there is any situation in the offensive zone where a player should be able to use his hand to pass a puck to another player. This is a desperation move and should only be used in the defensive zone when preventing a goal.
Good: Hybrid Icing
This has been a rule that has been talked about for years and in comparison to some of the ridiculous rules Mr. Bettman has implemented, is probably one of the most logical. Yet we haven't seen it put into play in the NHL yet.
Hybrid icing eliminates the full-head of steam race directly into a wall that causes such dangerous situations such as the video above. With hybrid icing, the call is left to the discretion of the linesman and if he believes there is a real chance that the offensive player can safely win the race, he will allow the race to play out. However, in a close tie such as the one in the video above, he will blow his whistle for icing.
This simple rule still allows for the icing to be waived off in an event that an offensive player has a legitimate chance of winning the race but removes all the danger of heading full-force into a wall with a player on your back. No-brainer.
Bad: Offside Variation
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Offsides is when a teammate enters the offensive zone before the puck does. This call eliminates the notorious "cherry-picker" and also allows the defense to prepare for the rush instead of having to watch behind for players. When offsides is called, the play is blown dead and the face-off comes just outside the blue-line. None of the ridiculous "can't change after an icing" rules apply.
The variation the league is testing is that when a team does happen to be offside, the play is blown dead as normal. However, now the face-off comes all the way down to the offending teams end and they are not allowed to make a line change, much like the icing rule that has been implemented.
Being offside is a simple infraction and as you can see from the picture above, sometimes can't be avoided. To have such a huge penalty for it (tired players now defending from their own end) is a little extreme. The offside rule should stay exactly how it is.
Good: Verification Line
Matthew Manor/Getty Images
I believe this is a simple and effective rule change that would only better the judgement of some calls. I am usually completely for any technology or idea that improves judgement accuracy, and this one is no different.
Adding another line behind the goal line would allow referees and goal judges some extra security when making close calls as to whether the puck had "completely crossed the line' or not. Very simple, very effective.
Bad: Shallow Nets
Harry How/Getty Images
Are we trying to throw parties behind the net? Why the sudden urge to make behind the net such a huge space. There is currently more than enough room for two players to battle behind the net so why mess with it. Especially by making the nets more shallow.
With shallow nets the netting will have to be tighter and therefore more pucks will shoot into the netting and right back out, almost like a slingshot. All hockey players know that there is no better sight than watching that puck smack the back of the net and watching each little square ripple in front of that glowing goal lamp.
Not a big deal and I don't think it would matter much but I personally like the standard of hockey nets, they are perfect the way they are.
Good: Removed Trapezoid from Behind Goal
If you take a good hard look at that video, Martin Brodeur definitely handles the puck outside of where the "trapezoid" would have been. This epic moment in NHL history would have been whistled down and a penalty assessed to the Devils in today's game.
Removing the trapezoid from behind the net would once again allow goaltenders to make plays behind the net, get caught in the corners, and add more excitement to the game. When goalies were allowed to come out to play the puck farther than just behind the net they took on a whole new role and a whole second aspect was added to a goaltenders game. I have always been an advocate to goalies who can handle the puck, being a goalie growing up I can say first hand, it is impressive when a goalie can do so with such accuracy.
This aspect of the game needs to return and removing the trapezoid can make that happen. Besides who doesn't like to see a goalie take a slew-foot and then have his defenseman pummel the offender for touching his goalie. Great hockey.
Bad: Penalties Served to Entirety Regardless of Goal
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Now I'm not saying penalties should be rewarded like Ben Eager was here for taking a penalty during the playoffs, but serving the full two minutes regardless of goals is a bit ridiculous. The NHL has already forced a ton of today's goals to be limited to manpower situations because of the crackdown on weak penalties, why increase this?
When a penalty is taken the player should sit for two minutes, unless the team on the man advantage takes advantage and scores, therefore ending the punishment at costing your team a goal. Period.
Good: Curved Glass at Benches
This rule is one that I personally feel is genius. Not so much a rule as much as an arena adaptation to today's game. The fast pace of today's game can quickly turn ugly when there are 90 degree walls that could potentially end up in the way of someones face.
This rule simply takes the glass at the end of the bench and makes it curve in towards the bench instead of just having a solid glass wall with some foam over it. The foam just takes out the damage of taking hard glass to the face but does nothing in terms of slowing someones head down without slowing the brain down with it. Blunt force.
Curved glass would allow for a player who comes in contact with this piece, such as in the video above, to more or less roll off of the glass instead of plowing into it. Great idea that must be implemented after this collision which happened late last year.
Bad: Shootout Precedes a Sudden Death Overtime
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Are you kidding me? How would a shootout precede a sudden death overtime. If the teams are still tied after three or five shots THEN we go to overtime? And bring back ties? No, sudden death overtime is a term derived from the sport of hockey. It stays exactly where its at.
Good: Face-off Variations-Both Teams Set at the Same Time with Same Linesman
Harry How/Getty Images
What a worthless rule in my opinion that the NHL implemented, with this home team away team get set first bull. Both players should have an equal advantage to win the draw regardless of town they are playing in. The rule change states that both players will come to the circle set and the same linesman will drop the puck for every face-off. Brilliant.
Something this simple would easily reduce the annoying number of times a player is thrown out of the circle for something that happens in the blink of an eye. Centers have mastered their positions so they can give their team the advantage by winning the draw, now let that expertise show between two center men.
Bad: Repeating Same Five Shootout Players
Do I even need to explain myself after this video? Shootouts are the best thing to happen to the NHL since skates were invented and in keeping the same five guys shooting in a long round would have not allowed this little gem to happen.
Everyone likes to see the underdog perform well and even more so under the pressure of a shootout. Some players may have hidden shootout talents, and how would the world see them if they didn't get a shot.
Good: The Bear Hug Rule
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
A vague reminder of what NHL hockey used to be. You could grab on to a player and piggy-back ride him all the way down the ice without getting a penalty. A far cry from today's game where if you skate too close to a player you get a call for hooking or holding.
The bear hug rule is one that allows a player to take another player into the boards by wrapping an arm around him and "taking" him into the boards instead of being forced to either lay a punishing hit or let him walk him like a pylon.
This rule will not only lessen the severity of hits thrown but will allow the game to proceed more smoothly with less whistles for penalties, which seem to happen every minute and a half in today's game.
Bad: Strict Enforcement of Goaltenders Covering Puck Outside of Crease
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
To finish up I would like to again comment on one of the goaltender rules the NHL is currently testing out. As I said earlier, I grew up playing net and to put strict limits on goaltenders covering the puck in the crease would really limit a goalies effectiveness. I understand that much of these rules are aimed at protecting the goalie from being hit outside of his crease, but I personally think goalies should be able to cover the puck further from the net than they are currently allowed.
If a netminder is caught out of position (possibly due to the removal of the trapezoid rule), they should be able to scramble to recover the puck and get a whistle. Otherwise, what are they supposed to do with it? Throw it back out into traffic? No, the goalies are masters of knowing when their team is running around in their own end and should be able to calm the play down by getting a whistle, regardless of where they may get the puck.