The American Hockey League held its Board of Governors meetings this week at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina and approved a number of changes for the 2014-15 season. Some of which we could see down the line in the NHL.
First, the governors approved a new league realignment with five franchises moving divisions, including two that moved since last season.
The bigger news are the rule changes that will be put in place when the AHL season kicks off in October.
“With the full support of the league’s Competition Committee and Player Development Committee, the Board has approved these changes with the betterment of our game and the safety of our players in mind,” said AHL President and CEO Dave Andrews.
• 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.
There’s been talk of having NHL overtimes expanded to 10 minutes in hopes of minimizing the impact the shootout. For now, that idea hasn’t been met with much approval from the league’s general managers. There will be a dry scrape before overtime just as the AHL is implementing.
Dropping a player from each side after the first whistle following three minutes of time is an interesting one. There’s always the chance the gameflow doesn’t allow for a whistle until well beyond that time. And whatever point you reach 3-on-3, a goal will likely come sooner than later.
• Rule 20.4 (“Major Penalties”) — An automatic game misconduct will be applied to any player who has been assessed two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties for any infraction in the same game.
The push to phase out fighting continues.
• Rule 9.6 (“Helmets”) — A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will be assessed a minor penalty unless he immediately (a) exits the playing surface or (b) puts the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened.
This is an interesting one, too, and right out of the IIHF rulebook. We always see the situation when a player loses his lid during play and continues skating around for the remainder of his shift. It happens all the time and there hasn't been a hint of the NHL looking to do what the AHL have implemented here.
The potential for a penalty puts a player and their team in a situation that will take some getting used to. Players have been it ingrained in their hockey DNA's to finish their shift, helmet or no helmet. Now, when they lose their lid, they'll have to act quick and fasten it without take themselves out of the play or, well, take themselves out of the play by heading back to the bench for a change. It won't be long until a coach sounds off on the new rule because his shorthanded unit lost another player on the ice for a few seconds and was scored on.
Obviously this fall under safety and we'll likely see more and more calls for rule changes like this to better protect players. Remember when there was talk of having NHL players wear helmets during warmups after the Taylor Hall incident?
You can bet the NHL will keep an eye on how these AHL rules affect play, especially the overtime changes.
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