The American Hockey League will be making some minor changes to its rule book for the 2016-17 season. The modifications were agreed upon at the AHL’s Board of Governors’ annual meeting, held at Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Rule 46 – Fighting
• Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
The intent here is to eliminate ‘staged’ fights. Sure, the players can just wait until play resumes and then drop the gloves, but once the puck is in play, all bets are off. Twice during the playoffs alone, Wilkes-Barre’s Liam O’Brien dropped the gloves within ten seconds of the opening faceoff. In both cases, under the new rule, he’d be gone.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
• In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
The AHL had 22 players with 10 or more fights last year. Obviously, the intent of this rule is to bring that number down.
Michael Liambas, who led the league with 20 fights, would have been suspended for a total of 18 games under the new rule — not counting situations where his opponent was hit with an instigator penalty for initiating the fight. Of course, those suspensions would have kept him out of games in which he ultimately dropped the gloves.
“The 10 fight limit and no fighting off the face-off rule is great,” tweeted Toronto Marlies forward Rich Clune. “Fighting isn’t done, just guys who [aren’t very good at hockey] are.”
Not everyone is in favor of this rule.
— Tom Sestito (@TomSestito23) July 7, 2016
10 Fight rule fine by me. But is a player who needs to stand up for a teammate really less dangerous if he can’t drop the gloves?
— Stu Bickel (@StuBickel) July 7, 2016
Expect some gamesmanship when two combatants are about to square off, with one at or above the ten-fight mark. You also have to wonder if retaliation will take the form of hacks and slashes instead of fights for guys who’ve hit the cap.
The OHL implemented similar rules to suspend frequent fighters (2012) and to curb staged fights (2014). The league saw fighting drop from 1,249 scraps in 2011-12 to just 632 in the 2015-16 season, according to hockeyfights.com.
Rule 82 – Icing
• In addition to not being permitted to make player substitutions, the offending team on an icing violation also may not use its team time-out.
During the 2015-16 NHL season, 199 timeouts were taken after icings. (AHL play-by-play data is not available.) That’s one out of every six games where a tired team took it’s timeout to rest up and hopefully prevent a scoring opportunity.
Expect the NHL to monitor the impact of this rule for possible consideration for inclusion in the NHL rulebook down the road.
Additionally, teams will start the season wearing light jerseys at home. After the Christmas break, home teams will wear dark jerseys. That will make for a nice change for season ticket holders – and photographers – who’ll get to see some different uniforms come through the building.
It’ll be interesting to see the impact across the NHL, both in fighting totals and in late-game scoring chances that follow an icing. You can be sure the NHL will be watching closely.