Updated October 03, 2005After losing an entire season to an ugly labor dispute, the NHL is back. But in many ways it is not the NHL you used to know. If you're just getting reacquainted with pro hockey, here's a quick primer on the game's unprecedented makeover. Whether it works is one of the biggest questions of the new NHL season.
The lockout that wiped out the 2004-05 NHL season ended in July, when the NHL and NHL Players' Association reached a six-year collective bargaining agreement. Along with the new deal, the league announced major rule changes designed to improve the entertainment value of the game.
A team payroll cannot exceed $39 million. By comparison, 2003-04 payrolls ranged from about $77 million (Detroit) to barely $24 million (Nashville).
The Salary Cap Explained
With teams scrambling to get under the salary cap, the summer of 2005 looked like a Sunday afternoon fantasy hockey draft, as players switched teams at a fierce rate. Peter Forsberg signed with Philadelphia, Eric Lindros joined the Maple Leafs, Brian Leetch became a Bruin, Paul Kariya headed to Nashville, Chris Pronger was traded to Edmonton...
Complete NHL Free Agent Moves in 2005.
Sidney Crosby, the most celebrated prospect since Eric Lindros, joins the Pittsburgh Penguins as an NHL rookie. Unprecedented media hype branded Crosby as the new NHL messiah before he played a single game. Along with Crosby, 2005-06 features the NHL's strongest rookie class in recent memory, with names like Alexander Ovechkin, Jeff Carter and Kari Lehtonen expected to rule the ice for years to come. And by stepping behind the bench in Phoenix, Wayne Gretzky instantly becomes hockey's most famous coach.
- Shootouts settle tie games: If teams remain tied after 60 minutes of regulation time and five minutes of overtime, three players from each team participate in a shootout to determine the winner.
The Shootout Explained
- The hockey stick is not a weapon: Referees are instructed to show zero tolerance for holding, hooking and other forms of interference. Any use of the stick or the free hand to impede an opponent is penalized.
- The long pass is legal: The center red line will be ignored for offsides purposes, meaning a player can now pass the puck from his own zone to the opponent's blue line.
More NHL Rule Changes
OLN - formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network - is the NHL's new cable network in the United States, replacing ESPN. The OLN schedule includes 58 regular season games, with prime time coverage every Monday and Tuesday. It will also cover the Stanley Cup playoffs, with NBC picking up a few games.
Details of the New Cable Deal
2005-06 NHL TV Schedules
The league has reworked its schedule to emphasize divisional rivalries. A team plays eight games against each opponent within its division, four games each against teams in the rest of its conference, and 10 inter-conference games. That means some teams will not play each other at all, and it cuts back on cross-continent travel throughout the season.
The Complete 2005-06 NHL Schedule
Oct. 5 - NHL opening night, with all 30 teams playing.
Nov. 7 - Hockey Hall of Fame induction at Toronto. New players inducted will be Valeri Kharlamov, the legendary Soviet star of the 1970s, and Cam Neely, one of the NHL's most accomplished power forwards. Murray Costello, a longtime Canadian hockey executive, will enter the Hall as a Builder.
Dec. 1 - Signing deadline for Group 2 free agents. Restricted free agents who have not signed an NHL contract by this date are ineligible to play until next season.
Dec. 19-27 - Holiday roster freeze. No trades or transactions.
Dec. 26-Jan. 5 - World Junior Hockey Championship in Vancouver, Canada. Feb. 13-27 - NHL shuts down so players can participate in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Feb. 28 - NHL Regular season resumes.
March 9 - NHL Trade deadline, 3:00 p.m. EST.
April 18 - NHL Regular season ends.
April 21 - Stanley Cup playoffs begin.
May 6-21 - 2006 World Championship in Riga, Latvia.
June 19 - Latest possible day the Stanley Cup final can end.
June 24 - 2006 NHL entry draft at Vancouver.
July 1 - 2006 Free agency begins.