NHL Rule Changes I’d Like To See.

The issue of re-introducing the red line is expected to be discussed during this week’s meetings of NHL GMs. Here’s some other rule changes I’d like to see.

First, regarding the red line. The suggestion is it should be brought back to slow the game down as a means of improving player safety, but there’s concern such a move would spark a return of clutch-and-grab, obstructionist hockey which killed the game’s pace between 1995 and 2004.

The red line didn't prevent this.

Folks who magically believe players safety would improve with the reintroduction of the red line seem to forget this incident, or this one, or this one, or this one, or this, or this, or thisthisthis...thisthis, and this. Just a handful of the notable injuries which occurred when the red line was part of the game. Bringing back the red line as a “safety issue” won’t significantly reduce injuries.

Once upon a time, about seven years ago, I was an advocate of removing the red line to speed up the game. I haven’t been disappointed with the results, but I also suggested, way back then, that if the game were called by the rules, there wouldn’t be any need to consider removing the red line in the first place.

What would both ensure player safety without hurting the speed of the game – as well as prevent obstruction from creeping back into the game and giving us “Dead Puck Era 2: Electric Boogaloo” – is calling the game by the rule book. But  it seems some  folks don’t want officials to do their jobs, claiming calling “too many penalties would slow down the game”. They seemingly prefer them to indicate goals and ignore all but the most blatant infractions, so I’m not hopeful of ever seeing that day come.

As for the rule changes I’d like to see:

Abolish the“Over the Glass” penalty. This rule actually does more to slow the flow of the game than improve it. The idea behind it was it would prevent players from deliberately getting a stoppage in play if they were having trouble clearing their zone. Evidently, I missed this epidemic of deliberate stoppages leading up to the rule’s implementation slowing the game to a crawl, considering how rarely this tactic was actually employed.

More often than not, when the puck heads over the glass, it’s inadvertent, as the player is attempting to clear the puck out of his zone,  not deliberately trying to put it into the crowd for a stoppage of play. Penalizing players for an accidental stoppage makes no sense.

One of these years, that’s going to impact a critical playoff game, probably in overtime, leaving the NHL with the same embarrassment as it faced during the infamous “No Goal” in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has already confessed (though it took him 13 years to do so) that the “foot in the crease” rule was a mistake. Does he really want to face this again by a puck being inadvertently shot over the glass costing a team a Stanley Cup?  Since this rule is likely to stick, I’m guessing the commissioner is a glutton for punishment, as this could one day come back to haunt him.

No-touch icing. It only makes common sense, as this will certainly prevent players from being placed in compromising positions where they would be susceptible to serious injury. Even a die-hard traditionalist like Don Cherry not only supports this rule, but has been advocating its implementation for nearly 15 years.

Folks who claim the implementation of “no-touch” icing would ruin the game’s excitement are clutching at straws. Rarely is a game decided because of a race to negate an icing. If anyone actually gives a damn about player safety, this is one of the best rules which can be implemented which would protect the players and not harm the overall quality of the game.

Abolish the “loser” point. It makes absolutely no sense to reward failure by giving a team a point if they lose in overtime or a shootout. And it’s an absolute farce for a team making the playoffs on the basis of such points. If you lose a game, you don’t deserve a “point for trying”.

Adopt a full two minutes for power-plays. Once upon a time, a penalty wasn’t negated when the team on the power-play scored a goal. If you were penalized, you played the full two minutes (or more) short-handed.

Back in 1956, however, the NHL changed the rule, because the Montreal Canadiens at the time had such a lethal power-play, resulting in the current format.

If the NHL wants to improve scoring, returning to the pre-1956 rule could do it. Of course, the counter-argument – and it’s a good one – is officials would be reluctant to call too many penalties, but if the league forced its officials to call the game by the rule book, they’d have little choice but to make the calls.

If officials called the game by the book, it would over time force players to play a more disciplined style, reducing the number of penalties, and improving the flow of the game.

Three-on-Three overtime. This is something Detroit GM Ken Holland thinks might be a good idea as a means of reducing the number of games settled by a shootout. If a game remains tied following one five-minute “four-on-four” period ,it should followed by a five-minute “three-on-three” period. It would certainly open up more skating room, resulting in even more end-to-end action, and would likely decrease the number of games being resolved by a shootout.


  1. Those are good points you’re making Spector. The no-touch icing and the 3 on 3 OT are the two most pressing in my opinion. But I’d also look at the following two points:

    – Instigator rule: It must be changed back to what it was prior to the last amendment in the early 90’s. Brian Burke has his faults but he’s absolutely right about the “rats” taking over this league.

    – Two referee system: It doesn’t work. No room on the ice, refs are always in the way. Also, there are too many incompetent referees in the NHL, who should either be retired or who are simply way over their head, either because they’re not ready for that level or they’re simply not good enough. Cutting back to one would allow the league to only keep the very best, like it was before. Then there’s the problem of having two different judgements on the ice, calling two different games. How many times, the closest referee chooses to let the play go and the far referee, in a worse position, makes the call?

  2. Hey Spector, any thoughts on the 3 point win, 1 point tie, 0 loss system?

    I’m not a big soccer fan but it supposedly opened up that game somewhat. I just find the 4 on 4, proposed 3 on 3 and the shootout gimmicky and goofy.

    I don’t mind the single point for the ot or shootout loss because to award all the points to one team for scoring more shootouts seems ridiculous to me, but the 3-1-0 system would solve that problem as well.

  3. “One of these years, that’s going to impact a critical playoff game, probably in overtime, leaving the NHL with the same embarrassment as it faced during the infamous “No Goal” in Game Six of the 1999 Stanley Cup Final.”

    Funny you mention the foot in the crease debacle against Buffalo, but how about when they lost game 7 in the conference finals against Carolina partly due to an inadvertent puck over the glass call! http://www.usatoday.com/sports/hockey/cup/2006-06-01-sabres-hurricanes-game7_x.htm
    This was the first year that rule was in effect.

  4. NHL wants more goals? I just watched a penalty shot in the Chicago / LA game. What about awarding a penalty shot and a two minute penalty? If the player scores on the penalty shot, the penalty is cancelled, as on a delayed penalty.

  5. One rule they need to abolish is the trapezoid areas BS rule. If a goalie that can handle the puck and dish to a dman will eliminate a player having a free run on a defender coming back to play a puck that a goalie could if only there wasn’t that dumb rule in place.

    I often said that the over the glass rule is a good one but the punishment is far too great. I mean why not do it were if there was an accidental (or not since it will be hard to determine intent) over the glass clearing treat it like an icing, if they clear it over the boards again during that same shift, then its a penalty.

    Make it illegal to have hard shell shoulder/elbow pads.

  6. Nice call Habsterix. I’ve been saying for years that it makes no sense to not have a subsequent 2 minute minor following a failed penalty shot. The penalty would have drawn a minor if committed anywhere on the ice, and the penalty shot should be a BONUS for the negation of a scoring chance. If no goal is scored, then the minor penalty should be served. Especially since the penalty shot must be taken by a player on the ice at the time the offense occurred. The following would be my top 10 rule changes to be considered, in no particular order:

    1. Two minute minor penalty served after a failed penalty shot attempt.

    2. Award 2 points for a regulation or overtime win, but 2 and 1 in a shootout situation. After all, overtime is still hockey, but a shootout is nothing but a skills competition! As long as there is a shootout rule in the league, the losing team should get a point for having not lost a hockey game. Second choice would be 3 points awarded in all games – 3 for a regulation or overtime win, split in a shootout.

    3. A test should be done to see what would happen if the icing rule were changed to from behind the defensive blue line rather than the red line. I suspect fewer stoppages and more fluid hockey would result.

    4. Enforce icing on shorthanded teams. A variation would be to call icing if done from the defensive zone, but not from the neutral zone.

    5. Call penalties more often when players come together during a race for an iced puck. Too much is being let go by the officials.

    6. Or better yet, institute no touch or hybrid icing. I simply don’t see the race for the iced puck as an exciting play. I’d rather see the diminution of injuries and additional time on the clock.

    7. How about eliminating the offside rule altogether? In today’s defense first game, cherry picking would occur at a high cost. I say more breakaways would mean more in-game excitement. Though it might result in more strategies like the 1-3-1 to try to negate a forward sucking out.

    8. Goalies have simply gotten too big and too athletic. Either increase the size of the goal or further limit their equipment.

    9. I’m all for physicality in hockey, but the old adage “finishing the check” has simply gone too far. The league allows far too much body checking behind the play and clearly after the puck has been moved. Sometimes a full 1.5 to 2 seconds after. I’ve played, coached and raised kids in hockey for about 40 years and you can’t tell me a skater can’t avoid hitting another player in that amount of time.

    10. Player equipment should be modified to protect a player but not be injurious to others. With today’s space age gels and foams, surely this is possible. Or at least a happy medium can be found.

  7. Agree with Donnybrook. Instead of a penalty, the offending team shooting the puck over the glass should not be able to change their lines. The only reason to shoot it over the glass is to relieve pressure, which tends to be most pressing when the players are tired.

  8. I would also like to see the “over the glass” rule removed. I wouldn’t mind however if they treated the “over the glass” infraction in the same light as icing, in which case the defensive team would be forced to keep their players on the ice. If, of course, the puck is intentionally put over the glass, then I agree that a penalty should be assessed (and discussed by all referees).

    I’d also like to see them remove the trapezoid before adding the red line back in. I think more injuries would be removed from the game if the goalie could play the puck (preventing the D-man from getting pasted in the corners, especially when they are on their backhand picking it off the boards).

    I think the NHL should remove the loser point for the shootout only however keep it for the OT portion. That way each team would work their butt off to finish the game in OT rather than potentially get no point in losing the shootout.

    On the topic of injuries and concussions, I cannot believe the NHL hasn’t put a ban on plastic elbow and shoulder pads either. I tend to agree with Cherry on this issue. How long has it been since the original Coach’s Corner when he brought it up (15 years?)?!?!?

    That’s my two cents anyway…

  9. I agree with NDhockey. Getting 0 points because one team happened to beat you in the shootout is silly. It’s a skills competition and has no bearing in the playoffs so I can’t justify a 2 point differential between shootout win and shootout loss.

    However that would create a problem of teams playing for the shootout in OT if they know they are guaranteed a point in the shootout, which probably doesn’t help things.

  10. I’m really not a fan of the 3 on 3 OT, but neither am I of the 4 on 4. Play a 10 minute, sudden death 5 on 5, and give the winner 2, the loser 0, and bring back the 1 point tie. 2 points to be awarded for every game, and take the abortion that is the shootout out of the game.

  11. I have a minor suggestion. So once the rule was implemented that a team cannot make a line change after an icing, we’ve seen coaches use their one timeout to rest their tired players. My problem is that you only get one timeout (I certainly don’t want more or we’ll see NBA crawls at the ends of games), but my point is that if you use your one and only timeout, I think you should be able to put any line on the ice. I just think having one timeout is too valuable and becomes totally wasted in most games when used to simply rest your guys. In these situations coaches aren’t drawing up plays or anything, just buying time. Any thoughts?

  12. I wouldn’t mind seeing the “over the glass” rule removed, nor would I mind seeing the trapazoid removed either. I would like to see the point system change though. I’ve seen teams play for the shootout because they know their team game sucks but they rock in the shootout, hello ’08-’09 Avalanche. I would like to see 2 points for a regulation win, 0 points for any kind of loss, and only 1 point for a overtime or shootout win. This would make teams who need the points go for it in regulation instead of having to rely on overtime or the shootout. This would create more of a playoff feel in the regular season as well. Truth be told though, if their going to change the point system, why not keep it simple and just do wins and losses like the NFL, the NBA, and the MLB?