NHL research and development camp will test out a host of potential new rules

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nhlreferees.jpgEach August, the NHL holds a research and development camp in which former coaches and players team up together to test out potential new rules and settings to use in the NHL. What’s fun about this way of doing things is you have people who are highly experienced in the ways of the game (Dave King, Ken Hitchcock and Brendan Shanahan) testing things out in a controlled setting with experienced people running things and top prospects for the 2011 NHL entry draft playing things out. How could anything go wrong?

When you see the list of things they’ll be working on at the R&D camp, you’ll see that things can go very wrong just out of the board room where the ad wizards came up with some of this stuff. Some of the ideas they’ll be giving a thorough run-through with range from the intriguing to the seemingly obscene. Here’s the full schedule of what they’ll be testing out in Toronto on August 18th and 19th.

Wednesday August 18 (all times ET; subject to change)

10:00 a.m. – Noon

  • Hybrid icing rule;
  • No line change for team committing an offside;
  • Crease reset rule;
  • Face-off variation (face-off controlled by whistle in place of traditional puck drop);
  • Overtime: three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on- 2 followed by shootout (5 players per team).

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

  • Bigger crease;
  • Verification goal line (additional line situated behind the goal line);
  • Wider blue lines;
  • Line changes zone in front of each bench;
  • Face-off variations (infringement results in the offending player moving back further, three face-off dots down the middle of the ice);
  • No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  • OT – three minutes of 4-on-4; three minutes of 3-on-3; three minutes of 2-on-2 with long line changes; followed by three shooters per team shootout (if tied after three shots then players who have shot previously can shoot again).

Thursday August 19 (all times ET; subject to change)

9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

  • No touch icing;
  • Team that commits an offside infraction cannot make a line change and face-off is in offending team zone;
  • Face-off variation: after a face-off violation, opposition center may choose his face-off opponent;
  • Second referee located off the playing surface;
  • Delayed penalty rule
  • No icing the puck while shorthanded;
  • OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change) followed by a shootout with five players.

1:30 p.m.  –  3:00 p.m.

  • Variations of special teams play;
  • OT – 4-on-4 (with long line change).

All of these things are listed off without any explanation as to what some of them actually mean. After all, if you can guess what the “crease reset rule is” or how a second verification goal line might be used then you’re a better person than I. Some of these ideas are thought provoking for how they could work out (second referee off the playing surface) and others would cause a firestorm of controversy if they were implemented (2-on-2 overtime).

One of the rules they’ll be giving a test to is one that caused the college hockey world to go bonkers which would make it so icing is called on a team killing a penalty. College coaches had this possibility thrown in their laps earlier this summer only to have it turned down by the NCAA rules committee who will test it out in NCAA exhibition games.

Some of the other modifications mentioned (larger crease, wider blue lines) are ideas that have been toyed with in the past and while the larger crease would give the goalies more dominion to rule over and potentially help cut down in the number of questionable goaltender interference calls in front of the net, wider blue lines would give attacking teams a little more room to play with in the attack zone.

One modification I’m disappointed to not see listed off is rather than issuing a delay of game penalty to a team that dumps the puck into the crowd from their own zone, punishing them by not being allowed to change lines would make things a bit easier to stomach. Instances where players put the puck into the crowd unintentionally yet are still penalized for doing so is the ultimate cheap penalty. While some teams might do it on purpose to get a break to relieve the pressure in their own end, more often than not teams are getting a penalty for just crappy luck.

How things play out during this camp should be interesting and the rule that seems to be getting the most testing is the icing on the penalty kill as it’ll be tested on both days. Whether this is coming because of the actions of the NCAA to try and force it through there is unknown, but don’t be surprised if this is a change that comes to all levels in the not-so distant future.

(photo: Jim McIsaac – Getty Images)