NHL GMs propose small change to offside rule that could save big headaches

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The NHL’s GMs reportedly proposed a subtle but potentially headache-preventing change to the offside rule during recent meetings.

The amended rule would parallel “breaking the plane” in football.

NHL Network’s EJ Hradek summarizes the minor-yet-potentially-helpful tweek pretty well:

Note that this proposal needs to go through a few layers before the change is complete. It needs to be approved by the NHL’s Board of Governors and Competition Committee for this tweak to happen.

“When we met with our breakout group [Monday], the group thought that it was tough watching a game, especially with our skilled players, when we see a nice goal being scored and there’s a delay and there’s a challenge and we’re taking down good hockey goals because the guy’s toe is slightly off the ice or he’s in a crossing over motion where the majority of his body is still in the neutral zone but his skate is not touching the ice,” NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Kris King said via NHL.com. “They felt a lot of times the guy that is offside isn’t even involved in the rush. They just felt the skate in the air really didn’t have a lot of bearing on any of these goals.”

NHL.com’s Dan Rosen shared some interesting numbers:

The NHL reported that 18 coach’s challenges through 1,015 games played this season have been for skate in the air plays, and of those 14 led to goals being removed. There were 26 skate in the air challenges through 1,015 games last season leading to 16 goals removed.

Chances are, there will still be plenty of instances of eye-roll-worthy reviews, as offside vs. onside could still be up to plenty of debate. Even so, any tweak that might not force officials and telecasts to study small differences with Zapruder-film rewinds would be good for our collective mental health.

Er, although, fans griping about how goals A-Z should have counted (and so on) might destroy any would-be regained mental health so … *sigh* what can you do?

NHL GMs discussed a tweak like this in late March 2017, but it didn’t get off the ground/break the plane.

That point is a reminder that, much like offside reviews, these processes can often feel a little marginal. Giving a little more leeway for players to avoid going offside feels like it would be more in the “spirit of the rule,” but baby steps are better than no steps at all.

We’ll see if this small change to the offside rule makes it to fruition, and that the NHL continues to find ways to simplify its rules.

Some controversies over the years, whether this will address them all, or not:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.