Every offseason, college hockey coaches and officials get an excuse to travel to Naples, Fla. to discuss issues related to the sport at the AHCA annual meetings. Every year, they discuss possible rule changes; every two years, they have the authority to actually alter the rule book. This year is one such year, and USCHO ran down a list of potential changes being pondered by the committee. The committee will deliberate these ideas, then make proposals in early June for review by the coaches; the rulebook will be set in July.
Here are the changes being discussed, and my thoughts on them:
-Changes to overtime/possible addition of shootouts to decide tied games
Perennially, there is talk of trying to change the rules of overtime or institute shootouts to settle tie games. Among the proposals to change overtime include making it 4-on-4 like the NHL, or lengthening overtime.
I am anti-shootout, as most of you know. I'm anti-shootout for all of the reasons people usually point out for being against shootouts - they're anti climactic, not reflective of the game of hockey, a joke of a way to say someone "won" a game, and there's nothing wrong with a well-earned tie. But there's an additional reason to be against them in college hockey: they can either make the shootout results count in the pairwise, at which point you're letting shootouts possibly determine who makes the national tournament -- or, you can have a whole bunch of goofy "shootouts" to decide game winners for conference standings purposes but are ultimately a waste of everyone's time because they don't impact the tournament picture. Either option is frustrating for various reasons and I don't really see the point.
I do think it's long overdue to go to 4-on-4 OT like the NHL. It's how the pros do it, it's exciting, and it will lead to more games being settled. I also have long believed that if you play a 10-minute 4-on-4 OT, most games are going to get a winner - and with college hockey teams only playing 1 or 2 games per week, I think a 10 minute OT would be okay. If you get 10 minutes of 4-on-4, you're almost certainly going to get your money's worth, whether there's a game winner scored or not.
-Allowing players to wear 3/4 face shields instead of full cages
The USHL allows players to wear 3/4 shields, rather than the full cages/shields mandated by college hockey. The powers that be are apparently analyzing the data on injuries with different types of helmets to help them in making a decision. I don't have an opinion on this one, because I don't have access to the data. It always seemed sensible to me to have a full shield in order to cut down on some of the gruesome injuries we see in the NHL, but if the data suggests full shields lead to more dangerous plays and more concussions, that's something the sport should address.
-Allowing more plays to be video reviewed
OMG like baseball! But seriously, the ideas being discussed here include reviewing for hand passes if they lead to a goal, use of video to award penalty shots in the event of something like a hand pass in the crease, and allowing officials to review a video to determine whether a major penalty should also come with an ejection or a game disqualification.
I am in favor of video review for the most part, because I support getting the calls right. I find it interesting that there's no mention of reviewing for offside on goals scored, since that actually was a controversial subject in a BC-UMass game this year. My hesitation is knowing how much longer Hockey East games are going to get if you give those crews more things to review.
The proposal to review major penalties is an interesting one, and probably the one I support the most. Those calls are extremely hard to make at game speed; a video review makes it easier to determine intent, principal point of contact, and level of recklessness. Generally speaking I think Hockey East officials are too quick to eject players on bang-bang plays.
-Moving all neutral zone faceoffs to center ice
I'll quote here from USCHO's Jim Connelly:
Neutral zone faceoffs that occur right outside the blue line might not give much room to create momentum off the draw, so there will be a proposal to move all neutral zone faceoffs to the center circle.
This is an interesting idea that I'd never really heard discussed before.
-Automatic suspensions for majors in the last 5 minutes of a game
This proposal would intend to cut down on "goons" running players at the end of game, at which point a major penalty is kind of meaningless if the game is out of hand. I am opposed to this just because I don't really like automatic suspensions, I think calls should be made on a case by case basis -- especially since major penalties are often assessed on what are, in my opinion, bad calls. You also see them assessed quite often when players fake injuries, something that doesn't need to be encouraged.
-Delay of game penalties for stalling on faceoffs
In certain situations where teams can't make line changes, such as after they ice the puck, commit a hand-pass penalty, or the defensive team knocks the net off its moorings - the rules committee is discussing assessing a delay of game penalty if, prior to the ensuing faceoff, the coach uses stall tactics like holding up the faceoff or "accidentally" starting a line change and having to have the original players called back.
My initial reaction to this is that Jeff Jackson would be pissed.
-Prohibiting players from going to the ice to block shots
They discuss this every year, and every year I am wondering why on earth they would have such a discussion. Players going down on the ice to block shots is, to me, an integral part of the game of hockey. And I honestly think it's debatable as to whether banning it would increase 5-on-5 scoring, aside from the fact that teams would get more power plays if going to the ice to block a shot was penalized.
I get the desire to increase scoring, but to me, this is a lot like calling icing on a team on the PK - it would eliminate one of the exciting non-goal plays in hockey. At the end of the day, if you're looking for a sport with a ton of scoring you should probably be watching basketball. What makes hockey compelling is the exciting things that happen between the goals. A good blocked shot, like a good penalty kill or a solid hit, is one of those things that bring the crowd to life for something other than a goal. Legislating such things out of the game in the name of increased scoring would make the game less exciting, not more exciting.
Thankfully, the powers that be seem to think this is unlikely to happen. Like I said, it's discussed all the time, but thankfully nothing ever really comes of it.
-Using NHL's new shallower nets
The NHL made the nets shallower this year to give more space behind the net for players to make plays. I am supportive of extending this to college hockey, too. Why not?
What are your thoughts on these ideas? Like them? Hate them?