Photo by Steven Christy
The American Hockey League Board of Gov’nas has approved a handful of rule changes as well as some tweaks to better re-align the changes in hockey destinations on the map. These things are all good, and things that are continually in flux. With rule changes, the minor leagues have always been a prepping ground for future NHL manipulations, and thus we see a ton of these “try and see” type of situations. I kind of like that. With hybrid icing we saw that it worked, and worked well, in just about every situation. In the end the goal is to keep players safe, healthy, and free from expensive, bone crunching procedures.
To the details.
Let’s begin with rule changes, and a bit of commentary on each.
The most obvious change is to overtime, which is one I really like in theory, but find a bit odd. Per the league:
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.
Seven minutes of overtime? That’s weird. Adding to the maniac tendency of it all is the final four minutes, where the teams go full-strength 3 on 3. That will be highly entertaining.
What is curious, however, is that the league has made statements regarding this specific rule change before. It typically boils down to “we want to lessen the number of shootouts”. The novel solution would just be to get rid of the shootout all together. 4 on 4 for ten minutes, 3 on 3 for ten minutes, and then a shootout might be more arousing. Then again, that ultimately pushes us towards the shootout, so maybe we just play “normal” hockey until someone wins. Genius thought.
Two additional rule additions / changes:
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.
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.
Two fighting majors or three majors results in a game misconduct. That makes sense, and it will kill the goonery when folks get suspended for longer stretches as well.
Helmets, to put it slyly, is a no-brainer. Just wear your helmet properly, and things will be fine. That’s pretty cut and dry. “But what if I take a hit, and it pops off, boo hoo me?” If you’re wearing the lid correctly, a hit pops it off, you’re going to want to flee the ice as quickly and coherently as possible any way. Simmer down.
The newly aligned Conferences look like this:
The changes versus last season are noted below:
- Calgary’s affiliate relocating from Abbotsford, B.C., to Glens Falls, N.Y., and playing in the North Division
- Philadelphia’s affiliate relocating from Glens Falls, N.Y. to Allentown, Pa., and playing in the East Division
- Syracuse moving from the East Division to the Northeast Division
- Lake Erie moving from the North Division to the Midwest Division
- Iowa moving from the Midwest Division to the West Division
Defunct Abbotsford brings us Iowa in the West Division. I love that move. Charlotte simply doesn’t fit anywhere, and thus remains in the West. Moving Erie from the North to the Midwest almost guarantees more match-ups with the squad from Cleveland (whom always playing a rough game), and that could re-energize a bit of a rivalry (similar to that of Peoria years ago).
Changes to rules and alignment means one thing – the season is approaching. With dev / rookie camps winding down (much to the chagrin of Panthers prospects on the beach), we march boldly towards training camp, perhaps a few more signings, but ultimately the last week of September when we see Oilers prospects on the ice in Oklahoma City. Can you feel the excitement? (or is that my body being betrayed by the Oklahoma heat, craving orange Gatorade and a Slim Jim?)