“It’s too confusing.”
“I don’t understand what’s going on.”
“What just happened?”
“Why did they do that?”
These are a lot of the complaints you get from the non-hockey fan while they watch a game. Hockey’s different from most other sports: most people didn’t grow up playing it and many didn’t grow up watching it. It’s the fastest paced game in sports and watching a game on TV is completely different than watching one live. There are a lot of rules and whistles, and the puck is hard to follow for those who only watch the occasional game. It’s not surprising that they find the game frustrating.
And so since the rules weren’t confusing enough, the NHL is toying around with the idea of making it even more confusing with some proposed rule changes. Now of course, some of these suggestions don’t really have any chance of being written in the rulebook, but if that’s all you can come up with, maybe you might want to reconsider the need to make changes at all.
We already have the “new” NHL and the changes that it brought. Tell me, what other sport uses a trapezoid as a shape on the playing surface? Sure, it might help fourth graders learn their shapes better (Hockey also has faceoff circles, the red line, blue line, and goal line, “the box,” and Jack Edwards’ ferociously concave skull), but it’s getting ridiculous. Just let the players play. Play a pure game. The people who say they don’t watch hockey because of x, y, and z are still not going to watch hockey even if you give in and make the stupid rule changes they think they want. Please, keep your actual fans happy, not the non-fans.
So before I rant and rant about who the rule changes are for, let’s take a look at some of the proposed rule changes:
This actually has a following among hockey fans. The idea is that when the puck is iced, icing is called as soon as the puck crosses the goal line. The defending team would no longer have to touch the puck. The reason is because the race to cancel the icing causes injury on occasion. It’s a valid point–when you have two players barreling towards the boards at full speed and stretching out right before they hit the boards, it’s not the safest play. But isn’t that one of hockey’s more exciting plays, especially late in a close game? And in case you didn’t notice, there are a ton of plays in hockey that could cause injury. That sounds harsh, but I feel like there could be a slippery slope if you adopt a rule like that. I think cracking down on hitting players in a defenseless position while trying to touch the puck up on icing should be enough to help with the injury issue.
It’s currently the rule in college hockey, but I say no thanks. The same goes for the hybrid icing. No thanks.
No Line Change for Team Committing Offside
I get why the NHL put the rule in that doesn’t allow the team that ices the puck to change lines. At the root of it, they did it to increase scoring, but at least it otherwise makes some sense. Icing the puck was an easy “panic button” for teams, so it’s not a bad idea to force the players that pushed the button to stay on the ice. But for being offside? Where’s the logic behind that? It’s not like teams are going offside on purpose. And when the refs deem that they do, they’re penalized by taking the faceoff in their own zone. Already taken care of, guys.
Icing Called While Shorthanded
This one is also pretty dumb. As if being a man down for two minutes isn’t a penalty enough already. Powerplays are supposed to give you a better chance of scoring, but not almost guarantee that you score. I feel like that’s where the league is trying to take things.
This would add a second line behind the goal line in the net that would be placed so that if the puck crossed over it, that would mean that it crossed over the actual goal line. It would look kind of stupid, but I do think it’s a good idea. It’ll help during replays of goals and give the league a smaller chance of messing things up. You need indisputable visual proof that the puck is in the net, so any extra help is a good thing.
Overtime: 4 on 4, then 3 on 3
If this eliminates the shootout, then I’m for it. I hate the shootout with a passion.
The proposition is 4 minutes of 4 on 4. If no goals are scored, then you’ll go to 3 minutes of 3 on 3. I would imagine that they’ll still have a shootout if it’s tied after all of that, but really, I just don’t know what’s so bad about a tie. 3 on 3 is fun to watch, but the players aren’t getting paid to play pond hockey. And 7 minutes of possible overtime? Again, I bring up the trapezoid.
Make the Back of the Net Shallower
This will increase the space behind the net, which is a better way to open up the offense. Or at least it’s more subtle. And it won’t confuse anyone. The only downside is that it will make the puck shoot out of the net faster, which will make it a little tougher on the refs to call a goal on the ice. But I don’t foresee it being any real issue.
Changes Only Permitted on the Fly (and after goals and changes in manpower)
This once again falls under the category of Why? Forcing players to stay on the ice despite being exhausted will only lead to sloppy plays and injuries.
Whoever brought this one up: THANK YOU! Those in favor of the trapezoid say that the teams with goalies who handle the puck well have an unfair advantage over other teams. Well, don’t teams with better players have an advantage over teams with bad players?
I’ve always found it very entertaining when a goalie takes an adventure and goes waaaaay out of his net to play the puck, especially when he doesn’t handle it well. And even the good puck handlers make mistakes that lead to scoring chances, so really, letting them go wherever they want will help the league achieve what they want: more scoring chances.
So those are a few of the proposed ideas that the NHL has come up with this offseason. Don’t get excited (i.e., angry), the chances of them making any drastic changes are very slim. They’re just testing some ideas out. They may mostly be bad ideas, but ideas nonetheless.
What are your thoughts? Are they good rule changes or bad? Should we ask what the NHL is smoking or should we get with the program and mess around with the rules?