NHL Rule Changes We Want to See for the 2021-22 Season

Dana GreyContributor IAugust 27, 2021

NHL Rule Changes We Want to See for the 2021-22 Season

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    Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

    NHL referees have one of the hardest jobs in all of sports. There is no game faster than hockey and arguably no gameplay more taxing.

    It's amazing how much the refs are able to camouflage themselves during play. Their ability to go unnoticed between whistles keeps viewers' eyes on the action. Next time you sit down to watch an NHL game, try paying attention to the crew in stripes for a couple of shifts. Watch the linesman leap in the air to avoid a dump-in screaming right at them and follow a ref skate all across the zone while never taking their eyes off the play.

    The physical feat of refereeing three periods is impressive enough without taking into account the mental focus needed to make the right calls while preventing a 100 mph commotion from turning into outright chaos.

    But that's enough praise for the refs (at least for us to say out loud). As the game of hockey evolves every year, so must the rules and how they are enforced.

    Here are some suggested changes to the NHL rules and officiating that we want to see right now.

Fix the Offside Challenge

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    Before the NHL implemented the offside challenge in 2015, there were plenty of goals scored that shouldn't have counted. Officials are human, and it is beyond impossible to get every single call right. And that's OK!

    We might as well call the offside challenge the Matt Duchene Rule. It was introduced to rid the NHL of egregious offside blunders. Unfortunately, what the process has turned into is an overanalysis following almost every goal that examines a play at the blue line that rarely had any effect on the scoring play itself.

    A player may have been in the offensive zone for 45 seconds before sniping the puck bar-down from the circle, but if a teammate's skate blade was half an inch in the zone before the puck entered, no goal!

    The rule has led to countless five-minute delays as officials scrutinize what could be chalked up to human error. Adding in the threat of a two-minute minor for a failed challenge has limited the number of reviews, but more has to be done.

Get Rid of the Restricted Area

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    Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The trapezoid, while also a peculiar shape created to haunt middle school math students, also gets its name from a location on the rink.

    Using the goal line and two diagonals on either side of the net, four restricted areas are formed on every NHL rink. The space is an optimal location for board battles and bone-crushing hits. But it is also the no-go zone for goalies. The players with the blockers are not allowed to handle the puck inside of the space either side of the trapezoid behind their crease without being assessed a delay of game penalty.

    The NHL has made it no secret that it sees increasing goal-scoring as integral in growing the game and viewership. Opening up the restricted areas so goalies could play the puck more frequently would only increase stick-handling errors and lead to more goals. Who doesn't want more goalie blunders and more goals?!

    Removing the penalty would also reward the netminders who excel at playing the puck. Setting up the defense and blocking a dump attempt around the boards are both skills a goalie can use to help his team. Why not create more space in which the goalies can shine and also rid the league of a pointless, outdated rule?

Get Rid of the Puck-over-Glass Penalty

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    There probably isn't a penalty that NHL players despise more than the fateful puck over the glass—a delay of game minor that occurs far too often and, frankly, is assessed for no good reason.

    The idea behind penalizing a player for sending the puck out of play while they are in their defensive zone is to prevent those on defense from easily relieving pressure. For example, let's say the Colorado Avalanche's Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are skating circles around the Los Angeles Kings defense. The shots keep coming, and Jonathan Quick can't corral any rebounds. Finally, L.A. defenseman Drew Doughty steals the puck in the corner and has no choice but to scoop the biscuit out of play to stop the onslaught.

    The problem with this scenario is that Doughty can just as well, if not more easily, send the puck down the rink for icing. The Kings can get a breather, and even though they can't change lines, the 30-second rest is massive in comparison. If the penalty for relieving zone pressure via icing is simply a defensive faceoff, how does it make sense to give out a minor penalty for a much more difficult task such as chipping the puck over the boards?

Other Rule Suggestions

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Here are some other suggestions for Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the rest of the NHL's top brass:

    • Remove the clock from three-on-three regular-season overtime

    This is a simple decision because current regular-season OT periods are incredible. The pace is off the charts, and it gives the NHL the perfect platform on which to showcase its superstars.

    • Get rid of the shootout

    Awarding points based on a skills competition isn't right, especially with the amount of recent playoff races that were decided by the smallest of margins.

    • Bring back the jersey tucks

    In a league that's trying to grow in popularity, why not let your players show an ounce of personality once in a while?


    With venues set to return to full capacity for the start of the 2021-22 season, now is the perfect time to implement common-sense rules to make the game flow better.