NHL Rule Changes: 6 Pro Hockey Rules That Need Tweaking

Kyle NicolasContributor IAugust 22, 2011

NHL Rule Changes: 6 Pro Hockey Rules That Need Tweaking

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    The NHL has brought back the Research, Development and Orientation Camp (RDO) as an annual tradition, and this year's edition has once again started conversations about currently instituted rules that are in need of an update.

    Some of the brightest young prospects for the 2012 NHL entry draft were put to the test in Etobicoke, Ontario in front of scouts, coaches and their peers, but they were showing off more than just their skills.

    These young hotshots were also serving as guinea pigs for new, experimental rules that might one day see their way into the NHL and professional hockey leagues around the world.

    I usually hate most of these new rule suggestions and am glad most of them never see the light of day ever again at the end of the camp, but there are occasionally a few suggestions that warrant a closer look as they could really benefit the game as it stands today.

    Here are five rules that in my eyes need to be revisited and altered.

6. Icing

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    A lot of players, fans and owners alike have all expressed concern about the current state of icing in the game with the rule that the defending team must touch the puck first in order for the infraction to be called.

    The reason being is that this required "touch-up" gives attacking forwards the opportunity to win the race to the puck and negate the icing, however they are usually putting their physical health on the line in order to do so as a large defenseman is usually hot on their heels waiting to pound them into the end boards the second he touches the puck.

    There have been a lot of injuries from these races, prompting the NHL to impose a rule that any attacking player who checks a defenseman who is touching up for an icing call shall be given either a boarding or a roughing minor penalty.

    However, there is still a lot of concern for offensive players who are taking brutal hits from defensemen in order to make a scoring play, and many of them are getting injured as a result.

    Here's how I see it. The NHL is still looking for ways to boost the number of goals scored every game in order to make it fan-friendly, and the bottom line is allowing the attacking team to have a chance to negate an icing can and often does create a quality scoring chance that is many times then converted into a goal.

    Going to a simple no-touch icing like college and many international leagues do is out of the question as it would eliminate this offensive strategy, and I'm firmly against it.

    The proposed "hybrid" icing by determining who is closer to the puck by the time the players get to the top of the circles creates a fair amount of grey area and room for bad calls that could make or break a good scoring opportunity.

    Plus, as any hockey fan has seen time and time again, it's not always the guy closest to the puck at the tops of the circles that gets to it first. Thus, I'm firmly against this one too.

    Proposed Change: Rather than completely changing the way icing itself is called, modify the amendment the NHL made a few years back in creating a penalty for offensive players who hit defenseman who are touching up to include the vice-versa.

    Make it a boarding or charging penalty for a defending player who deliberately makes a play on the body (in the form of a body check into the boards) of a player who is attempting to negate an icing instead of attempting to play the puck.

    This would actually bring most of the hits performed in this way back to what they are: charging penalties (as the rule for charging states that any player who takes more than two strides before hitting an opponent should be given a penalty), and it would help protect both players from the numerous injuries that result from these plays.

    Likewise, it would also continue to allow speedy forwards to create scoring chances by negating icing calls and encourage them to do so by protecting them from getting hit.

5. Goal Line

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    The NHL's video review system is not without its own set of flaws, and thus, the league has made several attempts to lessen the chances of an unforseen circumstance interfering with a video review, particularly on a crucial goal call.

    A few years back, the NHL made it mandatory for goaltenders to keep their water bottles inside a secure holder on top of the net, preventing sneaky netminders from positioning it up near the crossbar to block the view of the overhead camera.

    However, for the second consecutive year the RDO Camp has experimented with the use of what they are calling a "Verification Line."

    In short, this line functions as more or less a second goal line placed exactly three inches (the width of a regulation puck while laying flat) further inside the goal than the edge of the goal line.

    The logic of this is if the puck is seen to be touching any part of the verification line on a video review, or by an official on the ice, then it will be known without a doubt that the puck completely crossed the red goal line.

    Last year, this verification line was yellow. This year, it was a horribly ugly shade of forest green.

    Proposed Change: Keep this line, but for crying out loud, find a better color. It's a good idea that I'm all for it in that it will really take a lot of the guesswork out of some of those horribly ambiguous video replay situations, but as a purist who really loves the game in its current state, I don't want a regulation line on the rink to clash so horribly with the normal blue and red markings on the ice.

    If I had to pick one of the two, I'd say keep the yellow, but that green line is just an eyesore.

    Also, I'm supportive of the NHL in its modifications to the nets that they began to test this year, replacing the mesh immediately adjacent to the crossbar and the white skirting along the side of the net close to the goal and verification lines with a transparent plastic that allows for clearer views for both officials and replays.

4. Faceoffs

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    The RDO Camp also introduced a whole host of new rules for faceoffs, ranging from everything to punishments for illegal procedures, to the actual composition of the faceoff itself.

    So rather than go through the entire list, I'll just tell you briefly what I'm strongly for and against.

    On the down side, for the second straight year, the league is experimenting with the possibility of a faceoff "penalty" line for centers who jump too early, have a teammate encroach or somehow break any other faceoff rule.

    This line, seen in the picture, would cause the center to have to move back anywhere from about eight inches to a foot, theoretically costing them their leverage and more than likely any chance they have at winning the draw.

    In theory, it's a good idea, but I'm heavily against this rule because linesmen never really enforce faceoff restrictions as they are right now. Centers constantly have their feet outside or all over the red guiding lines that are currently on the ice, and linesmen never really do anything about it if they step out of bounds.

    If the NHL wants to institute this "penalty line" for delinquent centers, they're going to have to start strictly enforcing these faceoff lines, and that's going to seriously mess with some of the best centers in the game right now, taking them out of their faceoff rhythm they've spent their entire lives developing.

    I say don't change it and keep kicking the centers out of the circle.

    But there are some interesting ideas coming out of the camp as well.

    Proposed Changes: I liked two ideas that came out of this year's RDO Camp.

    1.) The league experimented with not allowing the player guilty of a faceoff violation to be the one to replace his center and take the faceoff. Say your second-best faceoff man is a winger and he's caught jumping into the circle too early by the officials.

    Well with this new rule, he wouldn't be allowed to be the one to replace his center (who would get booted from the faceoff), and this would be a serious disadvantage to his team who would now almost certainly lose the draw with both the number one and two faceoff men on a line ineligible to take it.

    2.) There was also a test of having the same linesman drop the puck in every faceoff of a period. While I don't think this is as big of a deal, it would greatly help centers to get a sense of consistency and timing on faceoffs, allowing draws to be more fair and evenly matched between centers.

    While I don't think it's largely important, I think this could be pretty beneficial to the game and to the guys clashing sticks when the puck hits the ice.

3. Goaltender's Equipment

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    Whenever my father and I get into debates about how to increase scoring in the NHL, he always argues that the best way to get more goals would be to increase the size of the net.

    I'm strongly opposed to this concept. To compare, this would be like lowering the height of an NBA rim to nine feet to make games more competitive for the less-skilled shooters or moving the pitcher's mound of an MLB baseball diamond back 15 feet to give hitters a few extra milliseconds to lock on and swing at the ball.

    When you consider the game on a world scale and how different this will make the NHL in comparison to leagues around the world as well as the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), it just will never work.

    Plus I think it's safe to say it will make goaltenders, who have grown up defending the same six-by-four-foot net their entire lives, very angry at the fact that they suddenly have to learn to defend a much bigger net with much wider angles.

    The other option which I'm in support of, comes with the sides of the pads goaltenders wear.

    Proposed Change: Technology in goaltender's padding has given the NHL some leeway in making pads smaller while still keeping them protected, and so far, the league really hasn't done much with that wiggle room.

    Thus, if the NHL really wants to give the players more net to shoot at, it needs to definitively shrink the goaltenders' pads sizes.

    For starters, decrease the maximum width of their leg pads from 11" down to around 8"-9". This alone will create a huge host of goals with the suddenly exposed area over the goaltenders leg pads to shoot at.

    Likewise, shrinking the maximum width of the catching glove (from 18" down to about 15") and blocker (from 15" long to about 12" and 8" wide to about 7") would also make the net a little more visible to shooters, bringing up goal totals.

    If the NHL really wanted to be strict about it, have officials check a goaltender's pads with a measuring tape immediately before he heads out onto the ice for the start of a period and then immediately after he exits the ice during each intermission.

    If a goaltender is found to have played even part of the game in pads that exceed legal limits, give him a game misconduct and an immediate one-game suspension.

    This sets a strong precedent and sends a strong message to netminders around the league that they need to stay within the rules when it comes to increasing their size with their pads.

2. Kicking the Puck

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    As I've said before, the NHL wants more goals and fewer grey areas to minimize marginal calls.

    For decades the source of some of the biggest debates in hockey have been over whether or not a puck was kicked into the net.

    The NHL initially made the rule as a safety net to prevent players from taking a swing at the puck with their feet and potentially hitting and seriously injuring the goaltenders with their sharp metal skates.

    While it served its purpose in its time, it's now become more of a hassle and reason for a marginal video review rather than a tool for player safety.

    I believe the NHL needs to revisit this rule and eliminate the grey area entirely by going completely one way, or completely the other.

    Proposed Change: The league needs to either make all pucks going in off a player's skate count as a goal or be an automatic no-goal.

    That alone right there will instantly make an abundance of marginal calls that need to be decided by video review become black-and-white clear.

    And with the league looking to increase its scoring totals, I say it should let pucks kicked into the net stand as goals.

    Being able to kick a puck in while your stick is being tied up by a pressuring defenseman is a pretty skilled athletic move as it is, and it deserves to be rewarded by letting it stand on the scoreboard.

    And in all reality I don't see this being that sweeping of a change to the way goals are scored anyway. Goals will still almost entirely be scored with a good old hockey stick. It will just allow those few fluke goals to instead stand as opposed to coming off the board due to an outdated rule.

1. No Line Changes on Icings

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    If the NHL was going to change one rule this season, this is the one they need to change now.

    When the NHL introduced the new punishment for icing infractions (where the offending team may not change players until the puck is put back into play), teams immediately began trying to find loophole ways of getting a few extra seconds of rest to lessen the impact of the penalty.

    We've all seen the goaltender suddenly have to make a quick trip to the bench to have a screw tightened in his helmet just moments after his team ices the puck after a long shift in the defensive zone, and yes, we all know that in all reality, there was probably nothing wrong with that screw in the first place.

    However, coaches have gotten in on the act in what I think is one of the most cheapshot tactics in the entire sport of hockey, and thus needs to be punished.

    Go back to Game 2 of the 2011 Western Conference semifinals series between the San Jose Sharks and the Detroit Red Wings, which was delayed for close to five minutes after an icing call when it was discovered the Red Wings had managed to discretely change one player, and Sharks' coach Todd McClellan rightly raised an issue with the officials.

    However, this caused a mass of confusion as to which players Detroit should have had out and froze the game for an extended period of time.

    The delay essentially negated the icing call because while the officials and coaches tried to figure out which Red Wings should have actually been the ones on the ice, the entire team was standing around resting.

    By the time the puck dropped, nobody was even breathing hard, completely eliminating the entire punishment from the infraction, and likewise eliminating the Sharks' offensive advantage.

    Proposed Change: If a team is found to have changed or is caught attempting to change a player after icing the puck, they need to be penalized.

    I have two options in mind.

    The first is the offending team is assessed a two-minute delay-of-game bench minor penalty, to be served by a player on the ice when the penalty is called.

    The second is the offending team immediately forfeits their timeout. If they are unable to do so having already used their timeout, they are assessed a two-minute delay-of-game penalty.

    I'm sick of teams either cheating and breaking the rule by changing players and not getting caught, or unrightfully giving themselves rest by breaking a rule and requiring its correction.

    Thus, I'm calling for this cheapshot tactic to end immediately.


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