While summer can be boring for hockey fans, for those running the NHL August is a fun month of trying things out that could eventually become changes to the sport. The annual Research & Development Camp that happens in Ontario gives NHL leaders the chance to not just look at top prospects for next year’s draft but also to see what rule changes they can implement to improve the game.
At next week’s camp, they’ll be spending two days examining all sorts of different elements to the game both with rules and how technology can be used to better the game for officials as well. They’ll even be testing one rule out that used to exist in the NHL. Hey, give them points for being totally thorough. With Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett there to help lead the way in instruction, they’ve got two of the brighter minds in the game helping out as well.
The NHL’s senior vice president of player safety and hockey operations Brendan Shanahan says there’s a method behind their madness when it comes to the rules and regulations they test out as NHL.com’s Dan Rosen found out.
“Whether we’re trying something that is a popular idea or an unpopular idea, all of it is done to just give us more information,”Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, told NHL.com. “This is all about us being proactive and not reactive. The game has never been better, but we don’t want to rest.”
As for what they’re looking at and testing this year, you can see the full list here but while they’ll be testing out a lot of the same things as they did last year (hybrid icing, no-touch icing) there’s a few new things they’re looking at this year including moving face-offs following an offside into the offending team’s zone, limiting line changes at stoppages in play and removing the trapezoid that restricts goaltenders’ puck-handling.
The last one listed there is the most stunning since that’s just how the NHL used to be. While you’re wondering why they need to test that out, it’s mostly because the game is faster and is played so much differently than it was while the league went without the trapezoid. Adding the trapezoid limits the goalie’s ability to handle the puck behind the net but also prevents us from seeing goalies that are poor at handling the puck away from the net committing awful turnovers that lead to embarrassing goals.
Other rules that will be tested again that make way too much sense to add include:
Using a second verification line in the goal to prove whether or not a puck fully crossed the line
It has no bearing on the flow of play and is needed simply for replay purposes. This is something they should have in place already… Unless on-ice officials would get confused seeing the puck cross the line on close plays.
This gives you the best of both worlds on icing plays. If the defending player beats the attacking player on a puck chase to the faceoff circle, icing is called. If not, it’s waved off and they can both pursue the puck as normal. It’s instituted this way in college hockey and works surprisingly well there. If you want to save injuries on puck chases, this is a good way to do it.
Serving full penalties
This is another rule that used to exist more than 20 years ago in the NHL but went away. In this one, a player serving a minor penalty sits for the full time. That way if you commit a dumb penalty and your team is really bad at killing them off, you can get punished badly. Having this coupled with how faceoffs come to the penalized team’s end already could boost scoring.
They’ll also be testing out different technology on the ice as well and these are changes that would make a ton of sense to have implemented already.
- On-ice officials communication – ref-to-ref wireless
- Overhead camera – to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)
- In-net camera – mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals
- Robotic camera – to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice
- Video replay application review
- Curved glass – protection options at players bench areas
Allowing officials to communicate with each other while far apart makes so much sense it hurts. For plays where there’s a goal mouth scrum and the puck is loose is where this would help the most. Anything that makes use of technology to assure whether or not a puck is across the line should be in place regardless. Robotic cameras would be especially helpful for high-sticking calls on goals to see whether or not a player did bat one in wrongly.
How these things test out in practical application will be fun to see the results of. While none of these things are ready to be put in place by the league as of yet, future rule changes can come to rise out of this.