AHL Rule Changes - Coming Soon to the NHL?

USA TODAY Sports

The AHL has adopted some interesting rule changes for the upcoming season, and my hope is that the NHL does the same.

The American Hockey League (AHL) has adopted some new rules aimed at reducing head injuries, scaling back fighting and improving overtime.

The AHL has been a proving ground for rule changes that one day could be adopted by the NHL.

The league is making an attempt to ward off unnecessary head injuries by instituting a rule whereby if a player loses his helmet, he has to leave the ice immediately or put his helmet back on with the strap done up, and if he doesn’t he’ll receive a minor penalty.

Verdict: Sure, if threatening a player with a penalty forces him to keep his lid on, so be it. Head injuries are serious. But don’t we all love watching a guy finish his shift after losing his helmet, his flow waving majestically as he darts around the ice? The image brings those of us born before 1990 back to a simpler time in hockey, when helmets were a suggestion and the scorelines read 8-6, 7-4, 6-6…

Fighting will be gone from the game in our lifetime. The latest attempt to cull the pugilistic side of the game sees the AHL adopting a rule where any player who fights twice or gets called for three majors of any kind receives an automatic ejection.

Verdict: I like the odd scrap. Not a staged fight, but something like the Jarome Iginla - Vinny Lecavalier bout from the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals. It was a tilt between two captains, leading the charge for their respective teams in a fight for hockey’s top prize. There was something to be gained from that fight. This new rule still allows for that kind of fight to take place, but it is very indicative of where fighting is going.

How games are decided when the score is tied after regulation remains a hot topic. There are fans and detractors for the overtime and shootout formats. The AHL is trying to avoid games going to a shootout, and leveling the field a bit in the process. From the AHL press release:

Rule 85 ("Overtime")

  • During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be seven minutes (7:00) in length, preceded by a "dry scrape" of the entire ice surface.
  • Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.
  • Full playing strength will be 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 remaining), at which time full strength will be reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period.
  • If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.

Verdict: The teams changing ends and the ice getting a quick scrape eliminates any "geographical" advantage. Ok. The really interesting part is the move to a seven minute OT, with the teams playing 4-on-4 for the first three minutes, and 3-on-3 for the final four minutes. Can you imagine 3-on-3? So much space out there, room to move, room to be creative- I love it. Reducing the shootout to best of three is just another way of scaling back that part of overtime. I have a feeling the 3-on-3 is going to be very successful in getting a winning result, without necessitating a skills competition. The NHL can’t adopt this rule fast enough.

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