Based on recommendations from the NHL Competition Committee earlier this year which were approved by the league’s Board of Governors, the NHL has implemented a number of rule changes for the 2014-15 season. They are:
Expansion of the Trapezoid – Rule 1.8
While many hoped for the outright elimination of the trapezoid – the limited area behind the goal line in which the goaltender is legally permitted to play the puck – it remains in the rulebook for 2014-15. It’s actually been expanded, if only slightly. The new trapezoid has been expanded by two feet from the goal post on either side of the net. The distance along the end boards remains the same.
The change results in an increased 22 square feet (from 253 to 275 sq ft) of legal area behind the net for the goalie to handle the puck. It’s not much, but the change in angle will give goaltenders a bit more freedom in movement when coming out from behind their net with the puck.
Tougher Penalties for Repeat Game Misconduct Penalties – Rule 23
Previously, only boarding and checking from behind resulted in a stricter disciplinary repercussions for multiple infractions that resulted in a Game Misconduct. Additional infractions have been added to that list, which has been broken out into separate categores for ‘Stick Fouls’ and ‘Physical Fouls.’ Stick fouls include butt-ending, cross-checking, hooking, slashing, and spearing. Physical fouls are boarding, charging, checking from behind, clipping, elbowing, head-butting, interference, and kneeing.
Before, three Game Misconducts for these infractions would result in a mandatory one game suspension. Now, a player will be suspended after just his second ‘physical foul’ or ‘stick foul’ game misconduct.
Spin-O-Rama Banned – Rule 24
The ‘Spin-O-Rama’ is no longer allowed for penalty shots or in the shootout. The NHL Rule Book previously defined a spin-o-rama as:
[A] move where the player completes a 360-degree turn as he approaches the goal [which] involves continuous motion. However, should the puck come to a complete stop at any time during the shot attempt, the shot shall be stopped and no goal will be the result.
There was plenty of debate around the move, including whether it consistuting forward progress under the previous rule as well as the potential of goaltender interference when executing the play. Those debates are now moot. The IIHF and QMJHL have already moved to eliminate the spin-o-rama. The NHL concurs.
Of course, you can still give it a shot during actual gameplay.
Expanded Video Review – Rule 38
After a few questionable goals were scored last year, many were calling for expanded video replay. The league has complied. It may not be quite as dramatic of a change as some would have liked, but it certainly helps the on-ice officials get the call right.
Good Hockey Goals
Hockey operations will increase the criteria for what might be considered a ‘good hockey goal’. The new rule allows additional situations not previously considered for video review. From the NHL, this includes, but is not limited to:
Pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that hit the spectator netting prior to being directed into the goal, pucks that enter the net undetected by the Referee, etc.
Intent to Blow
The NHL Situation Room will also provide guidance for referees around ‘intent to blow’ situations where the official had lost sight of the puck on a potential goal. As defined in the rulebook, these are:
Situations whereby the Referee stops play or is in the process of stopping the play because he has lost sight of the puck and it is subsequently determined by video review that the puck crosses (or has crossed) the goal line and enters the net as the culmination of a continuous play where the result was unaffected by the whistle (i.e., the timing of the whistle was irrelevant to the puck entering the net at the end of a continuous play).
Intent to blow is a huge source of frustration, especially when a TV camera has better positioning than an on-ice official. This will be interesting to see in action. Hopefully, the referees are involved in the outcome of the call, and it’s not a situation where Toronto has the final say. It’s important to keep the games in the hands of the on-ice crew, but it’s invaluable to have video review to help them ensure the correct calls are made. It’d be nice to actually provide them with visuals, via an ice-level monitor, to help in the discussion.
Kicked In Goals
Hockey operations will put more stock in the on-ice official’s call. The new rule requires they have ‘more demonstrable evidence of a distinct kicking motion’ in order to overturn a call on the ice. They’ve also made a change to Rule 49.2.(iv) to specifically allow goals when the puck deflects off the skate of a player who is in the process of stopping.
Last year, the league reviewed 89 potentially kicked-in goals. The on-ice ruling was upheld in 63 (70%) of those cases. The league provided a few examples of no-goals last year that would count under the relaxed interpretation, including no-goals by Bruins Gregory Campbell and Loui Eriksson and this one from Nashville’s Paul Gaustad.
Under the new rules, then-Islander Thomas Vanek’s controversial no-goal in overtime would also be a legal hockey goal.
The minor changes look to defer to the on-ice official unless there is clearly a kicking motion. Hopefully this eliminates some of the gray area — and the debate — about goals off the skates.
Under Evaluation – The league’s Situation Room will also be monitoring goaltender interference and offsides calls that lead directly to goals in an attempt to determine the potential impact of including those in video review.
‘Puck-First’ No Longer Applies to Tripping – Rule 57
The NHL used to allow a blatant trip when a defending player dove and and tipped an opponent as long as they first made contact with the puck. Not any more. The NHL adopts the approach already used by USA Hockey, where tripping may be called regardless of whether the first point of contact was the puck.
In a potential penalty shot situation, if the defending player did make contact with the puck first, no penalty shot would be awarded. The defensive player would be assessed a two-minute tripping minor. There’s some logic in that rule. If the puck was nocked away first, the argument is that the offensive player has already lost the scoring chance. Remember, that’s one of the requirements for a penalty shot. The player was then tripped after he has lost control of the puck. Again, it makes sense, but it can be a tough call to make at full speed.
The NHL advised that referees have been warned to watch for offensive players diving in these situations.
Diving Crackdown – Rule 64
Divers will be subject to supplementary discipline for their attempts to draw penalties. Do it often enough, and the player’s coach will also get fined.
The message is good, but the impact is minimal. If the league wants to hit these guys where it hurts, a $5,000 fine — less than 1% of the league’s minimum salary of $550k — isn’t going to do it. Former referee Paul Stewart is not a fan.
NHL's diving "crackdown" weakens unenforced rule on diving/embellishment suspensions, replaces it w/ joke fines that won't get assessed.
— Paul Stewart (@PaulStewart22) September 11, 2014
It’s good to see this tacked on as supplemental discipline, though. Having the Department of Player Safety review the plays for dives is a much better option than adding this to the on-ice officials. Certainly, they’ll still be looking for — and calling — dives on the ice, but at least someone in Toronto is watching to catch the less-obvious offenders. It’ll also be interesting to see if the league makes these penalties public, which it appears they plan to do.
Diving fines will be announced once a week…
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) September 11, 2014
No More Delays on Faceoffs – Rule 76
Teams loved to send a guy into the faceoff circle just to get tossed, especially after an icing. The extra few seconds bought a bit more recovery time as the ‘replacement’ center slowly skated in for the second (or third) draw attempt. “What you’re seeing now is a trend that’s emerged that on the icing faceoffs, a winger will go right in there and crash right through to get the extra 10 seconds rest and then the center iceman will go in [to take the faceoff],” said NHL Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell.
Now, the defending team will get a warning and the same player will be required to take the draw. A second violation will result in a two-minute penalty. Depending on the situation, this call could be brutal for a team struggling to hang on late in a game. Expect to see a lot of chatter on ice, with warnings clearly handed out, from the officials in these situations. The goal is to keep the players honest, not to call the infraction here.
It’ll be interesting to see how many more sticks get mysteriously broken, or what other equipment issues arise in these situations for 2014-15.
Overtimes Get The Long Change – Rule 84
Like they already do in the playoffs, teams will now switch sides for regular season overtime. The ice will get a dry scrape before play begins in the extra session. Changing sides might not seem like a huge deal, but Deadspin’s Stephen Pettigrew crunched some data to estimate that 34% more games would end in overtime as a result, instead of going to the shootout.
Last season, 14% of NHL games ended in a shootout last year. Opponents of the shootout would love to see that number drop. Apparently, so would the NHL and its general managers. “Anything that reduces the number of shootouts I would vote for,” said Calgary Flames president Brian Burke. These changes should do just that. The USHL implemented the same tweaks and saw shootouts drop by 10%.
No List for Shootouts – Rule 84
Head coaches no longer have to submit a list of the first three participants prior to starting the shootout. Not a huge change, but at least it allows for some situational adjustments on the fly based on how the shootout is going and how the opposing goaltender handles the early attempts.
Pucks Out of Play Stay in the Offensive Zone – Rule 85
Last season, when the attacking team was responsible for a puck out of play in the offensive zone, the faceoff moved to the neutral zone. The league has changed the rule so as not to penalize teams attempting ‘bona fide scoring opportunities.’ Now those plays will result in the puck staying in the zone for an offensive zone faceoff. Situations include: shots that break the glass; shots that deflect off the crossbar, post, side of th e net, boards, or glass and out of play; shots that are deflected by a teammate; and pucks wedged in the side of the net. The result will be more offensive zone faceoffs for the attacking team, making defensive draws even more important.
The NHL is also testing out one additional change in the preseason
Realigning Faceoff Hashmarks – Rule 1.9
The hashmarks around the faceoff circle, where the players are supposed to line up for puck drop, will be pushed back.
Currently three feet apart, the lines will be moved to a distance of five feet, seven inches apart. This is in line with current IIHF standards. The additional space should prevent some of the pre-draw shenanigans and jostling that take place.
If the NHL and NHLPA are satisfied with the change after seeing it in action in the preseason, they’ll implement it effective this season. If not, there’ll be some rink repainting to do.
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