The National Hockey League’s Board of Governors met earlier this week to discuss possible rule changes for the upcoming season.
NHL.com reports that the league’s Hockey Ops went through a series of videos to evaluate possible tweaks to the game.
“[NHL hockey is] a compelling product, it’s evolving, and you have players doing all sorts of things we wouldn’t have even thought about 25, 30 years ago,” said Stephen Walkom, NHL Director of Officiating, per NHL.com. “We had some unique plays that we could show them, like a player picking the puck up on a shootout attempt and carrying it in lacrosse-style and keeping it below his shoulders. When’s it legal? When’s it illegal? What can he do when he gets to the net?”
Currently, it’s legal as long as his stick remains below shoulder height while he’s carrying the puck (Rule 80.1), and below crossbar-height when it’s shot into the net (Rule 78.5).
So what did they look at?
A displaced net results in a stoppage in play, which can give an advantage to a defending team under pressure. Colin Campbell, NHL Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations, led the discussions with the board.
“We said, ‘Is that a trend — the goalie, when he’s under pressure, knocking the net off — and if so, how do you want us to deal with it? Do you want us to give him a penalty?'” asked Campbell. “They might want us to give him a penalty now, until it happens to them.”
The league plans to monitor the situation, and to dig into the data around nets knocked off the moorings.
“How’s [the net] coming off?” Walkom said. “Is it coming off at a higher frequency? Is it the result of how the goalies are playing, or does it have something to do with technology in the pegs?”
The NHL has used the Marsh Pegs system, which uses flexible polyurethane pegs to hold the nets in place, since 1991. The league previously used magnets from 1984-1991, which were far more easily displaced, but far safer than the iron pegs used prior to 1984.
Former NHL goalie Mike McKenna added another suggestion via Twitter – that displaced nets be fixed only by the ice crew to ensure they’re properly replaced.
“Only dedicated ice crews – not on-ice officials – should be allowed to put the nets back in place after they fail,” McKenna tweeted. “I can’t convey the level of frustration & disappointment goalies feel when the net comes off too easily. We’re just out there trying to do our job. And we know people think we’re cheating the game. The optics are bad. But if you’ve ever strapped ’em on you know what I’m saying.”
Distinct Kicking Motions
The league reviewed their current standard for a distinct kicking motion when the skate is used to direct the puck into the net for a goal.
“I said, ‘This is ‘Groundhog Day’ times 10,'” Campbell said. “We’ve been dealing with it for 25 years, how to address a kicked puck. It’s OK until it happens in the second round in the [fifth] game of the Battle of Alberta. There’s going to be different opinions. Two million people north of Red Deer agreed with us, and 2 million people south of Red Deer didn’t agree with us. So how do we make that decision easier?”
Rule 37.4 currently defines a “distinct kicking motion,” for purposes of Video Review, is one where the video makes clear that an attacking Player has deliberately propelled the puck with a kick of his foot or skate and the puck subsequently enters the net. A
Rule 49 adds:
“A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net with his skate/foot. A goal cannot be scored by an attacking player who kicks a puck that deflects into the net off any player, goalkeeper or official. A puck that deflects into the net off an attacking player’s skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion is a legitimate goal. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.”
It’ll be interesting to see how far the NHL goes in any changes to this rule. Do they tighten up the definition of the current standard, or do they loosen it up to allow goals to be kicked in, like the WHL did back in 2016?
The GMs also reportedly discussed allowing video review pucks shot over the glass.
One also suggested the league revert the outcome for a failed Coach’s Challenge back to a lost timeout – which it was when the Challenge was introduced – rather than the current delay of game penalty. It’s worth noting that the change has reduced the number of challenges and increased the percentage of successful challenge, showing that it’s had the desired effect of cutting down on frivolous challenges.
The league has been happy with some of the recent rule changes enacted, specifically allowing referees to review major and match penalties.
“That was a small change in the rules, but it worked,” said Walkom. “It was good for the game. Nobody wants to see a player hurt, and the refs wanted to be sure they didn’t miss anything on the play.”
“All these little changes that have been made over time have added up to a great game, and we just want to continue to keep it there.”
The NHL General Managers will meet in March to review these and other suggestions. Any recommendations will go before the league’s Competition Committee and a final vote before being added to the rulebook.