My rules changes: ice hockey

With, ironically enough, some free time now that both the Worcester Sharks and Boston Bruins have have had their seasons ended a bit prematurely I’m picking through the post queue and find that I never continued along with my rules changes theme and have the ice hockey one to go. Just to remind people, as a longtime sports fan I’ve always felt there are some rules that didn’t make a ton of sense and should be changed to make the games better. So, after a significant delay here are some of the rules changes I’m proposing for hockey. I have a lot, so this is likely just the first of a couple posts on the subject.

* Get rid of the shootout. I’ve never had an issue with ties in hockey, but since the NHL lockout apparently the power that be felt fans had to see a winner in order to have a good time at the game, so after a four on four overtime period of five minutes the teams move on to a shootout. The problem is the shootout turned a team sport into an individual exhibition that has little to nothing in common with the actual game. If a winner really needs to be determined perhaps the teams should play a longer overtime period, or at the end of that five minute four on four extra period have the teams skate three on three. Another possibility is to give each team a five on four power play to see if either team can score in their two minute advantage. Really, anything but a shootout.

* Go back to wooden sticks. The number of broken sticks since the switch to composites has skyrocketed, and just like the pro leagues in baseball use wooden bats the pro leagues in hockey should return to wooden sticks.

* Reduce the size of goaltender’s equipment. Right now goalies look like the Michelin Man out there with all the gear they wear. Let’s tone it down a little and have them move toward the smaller gear they used to wear. Do you know why there were very few butterfly style goaltenders years ago? Because it hurt to make saves with their upper body so goalies stood up a lot more. Technology is out there that would allow protection to prevent any serious injures while still being small enough to force goaltenders to make more saves with their legs.

* Reduce the size of the shoulder pads on skaters. One of the things that limited big hits not that long ago was the person doing the hitting felt it almost as much as the player he was checking. With the pads they wear now all the energy of the hit is transferred to the other player, resulting in more serious injuries because there’s no fear of injury to the player doing the hitting.

* Video review of all potential major penalties (other than fighting). Even with two referees on the ice far too many major penalties are missed, and some that are called really shouldn’t have been major penalties. Every NHL game is on TV, so there’s no reason why video review couldn’t take place on potential major penalties.

* Allow the goaltender to handle the puck outside the trapezoid when on the power play. If a shorthanded team is allowed to gain a rules advantage because they have fewer skaters shouldn’t the team that didn’t have a penalty called on them gain the advantage of having their goaltender be able to play then puck in the “forbidden zone”? One other possibility is to not allow teams to ice the puck while shorthanded until they clear their own blue line.

* Don’t allow teams to replace suspended players on the game roster. In pro baseball when a player is suspended the team must play one player short on the bench. Hockey should do the same thing, which extends the effect of a suspension into multiple games for the team.

* Eliminate the automatic delay of game minor for accidentally knocking the puck out of play in the defensive zone. It’s already a penalty for doing it intentionally anywhere on the ice surface, so the “penalty” for accidentally doing it from your own defensive zone should be just as it is on an icing play: the face-off is in your end and you can’t change lines. There’s no need for a minor penalty here, especially when you consider that now if you shot the puck over your opponent’s net and out of play from your end of the ice it’s a penalty. Dumb rule.

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