Rule Changes We’d Like to See

1) Make Every Game a Three-Point Game

The absurdity of rewarding a team for losing dates back to the 1999-2000 season with the introduction of 4-on-4 overtime, coupled with the team losing in the extra session being awarded one point in the standings. Six years later the advent of the shootout brought forth an identical application of the point structure. The end result has been an overly complex standings matrix with inconsistency in the outcome of games; “two point” games decided in regulation, mixed with “three point” games decided otherwise. The so-called ‘magic numbers’ during playoff races are a nightmare to calculate, and the extra point has producing inflated won-loss records for teams.

In principle, there’s an inherent fallacy in rewarding a team for defeat. Additionally a team that is victorious as a result of a skills competition, also known as the shootout, should not earn the same benefit as a team that outscored its opponent in team vs. team play. The logical compromise is to revise the standings so that a winning team gets three points for a victory in either regulation time or overtime, while the losing team gets zero in either instance. If a shootout decides the game, the winner should get two points with the loser getting one point.

Such a revision to the point system will provide a consistent and fair structure, and eliminate the possibility of inferior teams backing into the playoffs; the first of such numerous instances occurring 8 years ago in the first season of the “OTL” when Buffalo edged Carolina for the last playoff spot in the East by virtue of more “OTL” points.

2) Play the Puck off the Mesh

The protective netting around the goal ends of the rink has undoubtedly prevented several injuries or tragedies such as the mishap in Columbus that led to its inception to the NHL. The mesh is now as much a part of the rink as the glass. So there is no reason to automatically whistle a play dead if the puck touches the mesh before coming back into play.

Last season in a game between Pittsburgh and Atlanta, the Penguins protested – to no avail – a goal by Ilya Kovalchuk after referees Eric Furlatt and Ian Walsh both missed seeing the puck pop into the mesh above the Penguins net; Kovalchuk’s goal came after players on both sides stopped skating. With the removal of an automatic whistle when the puck hits the mesh, players would no longer have a reason to stop.

Instead, more scoring chances would be generated, and there would be fewer interruptions to the flow of the game. The game of hockey has never been about predictable bounces. The play isn’t blown dead when the puck takes a funny bounce off a rut in the ice, or off one of the stanchins that separates two panes of glass. The mesh is now as much a component of the rink as the boards, the glass and everything else, and should be treated as such.

3) Keep Fans in the Loop During Video Review

The NFL and its officials were the pioneers of instant replay in pro sports, with the NHL doing well to follow the model. Hockey kept in stride by wiring its referees with microphones to announce penalties, just as they do football. Now, hockey officials need to once again take a page from their football counterparts, and in the case of video replay, announce to all game patrons and viewers the specific nature of the review. For the amount of effort it takes a referee to say “Number 87, two minutes for slashing”, it’s not too much to ask of the same official to offer words to the effect of “The booth is reviewing whether the puck crossed the goal line”, or “The booth is reviewing whether the net was dislodged prior to the puck entering the net.”

Video review has become indispensable ever since Sergei Fedorov decided an overtime playoff game against the Minnesota North Stars in 1992. Its role in the sport is not to do a referee’s job, but to provide incontrovertible evidence to overturn an on-ice decision, or to otherwise sustain the referee’s original decision if no such evidence can be found.

The courtesy of communicating that initial decision in real time to the paying customers and fans offers a better understanding of the on-ice events to viewers.

4) Don’t Have TV Timeouts Immediately After Icing

In the post-lockout era, the NHL introduced the rule to prohibit a defensive team from changing its players after an icing call, resulting in disadvantages not only in line-matching but also in the expended energy of its players. However if an icing produces a whistle right before a TV timeout, players on both sides get to rest for two minutes, and the fatigue factor goes for naught.

Currently, a TV timeout occurs after the first stoppage in play, with the exception of a goal, following the 6:01, 10:01 and 14:01 marks of each period, provided both teams are at even strength (with the commercial coordinator having the discretion to reschedule the breaks, in the event of power-plays or long stretches of play without stoppages interfering with the original schedule).

With advertisers pumping huge money into the networks coffers, it’s evident that TV timeouts will be part of the game for a while. Thus, a simple and efficient change to the current rule is to add ‘icing stoppage’ to the list of events which cannot precede a TV timeout.

Otherwise, the “no defensive line-change on icing” rule is moot, in these situations.


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, a regular column at