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NHL Managers Propose Minor Tweaks To Game

Ben Ebert |
March 12, 2014 | 2:21 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Fans could see some changes in faceoffs by next season (Facebook / NHL).
Fans could see some changes in faceoffs by next season (Facebook / NHL).
The National Hockey League general manager meetings took place this week in Boca Raton, Fla. These sessions serve as a way for managers to discuss the state of the game of hockey within the NHL. Last year’s topics included varying the size of the nets and goaltender pads as well as replacing the touch-icing system with hybrid-icing; all of these were implemented this season. The reduction in net depth and goalie pads served to help speed up play and increase scoring, while the hybrid-icing rule was introduced to reduce chances of dangerous collisions into the boards during a race to the puck for touch-icing.

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This year managers are hesitant to make any major changes. Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray said, “Most of us [feel] that we have a good product.” However, having content managers does not mean there is no room for improvement. After the second meeting on Tuesday, the general managers agreed upon three formal rule modifications: changing the penalty for a faceoff violation, increasing the distance between faceoff circle hash marks, and adding a new factor to the overtime period.

The current penalty for a faceoff violation makes the penalized player be removed from the draw. In the proposed rule change, the penalty would instead force the penalized player to move 12-18 inches back, therefore giving a clearer advantage to the unpenalized player. It is all too common to see a winger lineup to take a faceoff, commit a foul and allow for the true centerman to replace him and likely have the referee not call another faceoff infraction. This rule tweak would erase this issue.

Right now it is three feet between the hash marks of an NHL faceoff circle. The new distance would be five feet, replicating the rule in the International Ice Hockey Federation. St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong is the one responsible for this proposal after observing the faceoffs in this year’s Olympic Games in Sochi. The idea is to reduce bickering between players before puck drop as well as the immediate traffic within the faceoff circle.

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The GMs have been clear about wanting more games that extend beyond 60 minutes to be determined by a team effort rather than a skills competition. By that, of course, they mean less shootouts. In an effort to reduce these, the potential adjustment would be to have teams switch ends for overtime, replicating the direction of play during the second period. This would allow for a more offensive overtime period, forcing both benches to cope with a “long change,” which statistically correlates with more player mistakes and therefore scoring opportunities for opposing teams. In addition to this alteration, there is discussion regarding whether or not to dry scrape the ice before overtime rather than before the shootout, allowing for cleaner puck movement in sudden death.

Other overtime methods discussed included extending the time of four-on-four beyond the current five minutes or adding on a three-on-three sudden death period. However, neither were agreed upon as many managers thought these changes would be too drastic.
Video-review expansion was one of the big topics without a formal rule change. There has been some controversy since the rule of the referee’s “intent to blow” was implemented. This rule says that a goal will not be allowed, even if it has crossed the goal line, if the referee could not see the puck and had an intent to blow the whistle and call the play dead. Ideas circulating around this issue involve giving more power to the video room in Toronto, letting the on-ice officials have access to a monitor to further review the call, and adding a coach’s challenge. These all could aid in resolving the flawed "intent to blow" rule as well as the controversy behind goaltender interference calls. Arguments against expanding video-review mainly revolve around not wanting to slow down the game. A possible to solution to this as far as adding a coach’s challenge could be penalizing teams for an unsuccessful challenge by taking away their one timeout of the game, similar to the rule in college and NFL football.

We shall see what the future holds for the official rule book of the NHL. Regardless of what adjustments are to come, it is clear that the game of hockey has increased in both speed and excitement within the last decade, strengthening its push for rising popularity. 

All final decisions agreed to by the NHL general managers will be brought before the NHL Board of Governors this June.

Reach Staff Writer Ben Ebert here.



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