A three-in-the-key rule for hockey?

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A couple of weeks ago we asked our fantastic readers, and even just the average ones, if the NHL needed to do more to generate scoring opportunities to combat the trend towards defensive, shot-blocking hockey that we’ve seen on full display during the playoffs.

About 46% of you said yes, the other 54% were wrong said no.

For those in the “yes” camp, one “radical measure” we floated was to create a rule that would prevent all five defenders from collapsing around the goalie and blocking shots all day.

How that would work exactly we weren’t sure, but The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek has an idea. Well, actually it’s former NHL coach and GM Pierre Pagé’s idea — why doesn’t the NHL borrow the three-in-the-key rule from basketball?

The rule states that an offensive player shall not remain in the key for more than three seconds. Pagé’s application to hockey would affect both offensive and defensive players, with the primary goal to keep the area in front of the net unclogged.

It’s an idea worth considering, given how established the shot-blocking trend is today. Teams all collapse back toward the goal, with every player instructed to get in front of shots, even if they happen to screen the goaltenders. Under the Pagé plan, hockey could create a zone in front of the goaltender that perhaps only three, or even two, players a team could enter at the same time.

Duhatschek understands it would be a drastic measure that would dramatically alter the look and strategy of the game. I mean, imagine a big forward not being allowed to park himself in front of the net the entire power play. What would Tomas Holmstrom do? Retire probably.

Personally I don’t see a rule like this being introduced in the near future, if ever. However, like Duhatschek writes, I do sometimes feel like “every goal seems to come off a cycle down low and requires that the puck carom to a player in a shooting position, usually off a deflected pass.”