- A new standard of enforcement for existing rules.
The league promises zero tolerance for hooking, holding, tripping, slashing, cross checking and interference. Players who use their stick or free hand to slow any opposing player will be penalized.
The Case: Time to put an end to the grappling, wrestling and bear-hugging that sucks the speed and skill from the game.
Impact: Initially it means way more penalties, which turns the power play into the most important tool on any NHL team. If the new standard is permanent, it will definitely open up the offensive play.
Down Side: What good is a hockey game if you can't hit anybody? Half the appeal is watching the stars succeed in a physically brutal environment. And who needs the constant parade to the penalty box? Do we want every night to look like the annual NHL All Star Game, always a contact-free, wide open, high-scoring, and painfully boring affair?
- Tie games are decided by a shootout.
Regular season games continue as before: 60 minutes of regulation time followed by five minutes of 4-on-4 overtime to break a tie. If it remains tied, a shootout determines the winner.
The shootout explained
The Case: Nobody likes ties. Everybody loves penalty shots. Or so it's said.
Impact: Should be a big hit with the fans. Goal scorers will enjoy it. Tie games are eliminated, though the NHL will continue to award one point for a shootout or overtime loss.
Down Side: Most NHL execs used to dismiss the shootout as a cheap gimmick. The shootout remains controversial, with some concern that its novelty will fade if fans see it too often. And what effect will it have on the preceding game? Might some teams play a conservative defensive style, prefering to guarantee one point and take their chances with a shootout?
- The two-line pass is legal.
The red line at center ice remains, but used for icing calls only. A pass from the defensive zone all the way to the opposing blue line is legal. This is also the rule in the NCAA, international hockey and Europe.
The Case: The dreaded neutral zone trap clogs the ice and destroys hockey's entertainment value. With the long pass, defending the neutral zone becomes harder. The game needs more breakaways and more speed.
Impact: Longer passes favor teams with speed and skill, creating quick attacks and more end-to-end action in general.
Down Side: Some say the two-line pass leads to a more conservative game: defending teams abandon the forecheck and spread players back through the neutral zone to guard against the long pass. Also, teams can use the long pass as a sort of "legal icing" - the defenseman throws the puck up ice, and the forward simply chips it into the opposing zone.
- Goaltender leg pads, blockers, catching gloves and jerseys are all cut down in size.
The Case: Compared to his forebears, today's goalie fills far too much of the net. The limit on leg pads was increased from 10 to 12 inches in 1989. They are now reduced to 11 inches. Sweaters and otehr pads also shrink.
Impact: Hard to say. Today's great goaltending is mostly due to athleticism and good coaching. But smaller leg pads could expose more of the bottom half of the net. After a couple of months, the NHL's best shooters should be asked if they see any more room down low.
Down Side: Some goaltenders complain that smaller equipment leaves them more vulnerable to injury. The move also fuels a persecution complex among goaltenders.
- Goaltenders cannot handle the puck behind the goal line, except in a restricted area.
The Case: Goalies have too much control in their zone. They play the puck like defensemen, handing it off to teammates, shooting it out, making forward passes. They do so with immunity, protected by goaltender interference rules. Many say the goalie should be declared "fair game" - outside his crease, he should be open to bodychecking and puck battles. But NHL GMs will never increase the injury risk for their most important assets.
Impact: The idea is to encourage forechecking. If the goalie can't play a shoot-in, the attackers have a better chance to retrieve the puck. But this rule still allows goalies to play the puck in a zone directly behind the net. The restriction is a minor one and its effect on scoring will likely be negligible.
Down Side: Defensemen won't like it, as they count on the goalie to help them win races for the puck. This rule also encourages a dump-and-chase attack, not always the most exciting style of hockey.
See Also: Save This Game: A comprehensive list of ideas to reinvigorate NHL hockey.