The Future of the Game Continues to Develop

The NHL held their second annual Research and Development Camp to look at new rules in the game. This idea started as through the NHL Lockout as a part of the development team in the NHL headed by Brendan Shanahan. The purpose of this camp is to look at a number of proposed rule changes that are meant to help the game. Proposals can be anything from icing rules to referee communication. It is the NHL’s way to remain at the cutting edge of the sports world and make the game better. After the lockout the NHL became an even faster game with a concentration on offence and in an attempt to continue this offensive outpouring the NHL has taken it upon themselves to test different rules. They are attempting this by changing some rules in overtime and changing some things around the net. They are also trying to increase player safety as they looking at the icing race and the boards in order to decrease the amount of injuries. Another reason to hold this event is to remove many errors from the game by allowing the referees to more clearly make decisions. It Is not only about the rules, however, as the NHL also invites some of the top draft eligible players to test these rules out. It is not officially a place to scout players but watching some of the players in person can give teams a good start to their scouting season. The development camp has not yet led to any changes in the rules of the NHL but after their second year there may be some changes coming soon. Here are some of the things that I think were interesting throughout the R&D Camp.


Hybrid Icing

The icing issue has been a major concern in the NHL for years as the race to the puck has caused a polarizing effect in the NHL. The race is one of the most exciting things to watch in the NHL but it has also caused too many serious injuries to be ignored. The hybrid icing is an attempt to fix this as it will not eliminate the race but will eliminate the injuries. With this rule the referee will determine whether the offensive player is close enough to win the race. If he is not than the referee will blow the whistle. If the offensive player is close enough than the play will continue. The only issue with this rule is that it involves the referee’s discretion and so it may take a while for it to be adopted.


Verification Line

Another issue that is facing the NHL is the increasing scrutiny that referees are under especially when it concerns the puck crossing the line. In a way to fix this the R&D camp tried out a new verification line. The verification line will be a green line placed behind the red goal line at the exact length of the puck. The point of having this line will be to assist the replay officials for the NHL by giving a defining line to when the puck is in. It will allow the officials to see when the puck touches the green line that the puck is in. This seems to be one of the more likely change as it has no effect on the game play and all it will do is help the officials get the right call on controversial plays.


Net Changes (Shallow/plastic/netting)

The net also went through a number of different trials and many have a good shot of being accepted into the game. The first was making the net shallow that increase the space for skaters behind the net. This shallow net will allow players more room to skate behind the net and increase the amount of offence created from behind the net. Another change is using plastic on the top of the net and at the bottom. This will, much like the verification line, assist the referees and replay officials in determining a goal. The last adjustment would be the use of a thinner netting material again to assist the view of the replay officials and the referees. The shallow nets and one of the others may be making their debut this year in the NHL as those who attended the camp seemed to like those ideas.


Curved Glass at Bench

Last year Max Pacioretty suffered a devastating injury when he was hit by Zdeno Chara along the bench and his head hit the stanchion. Due to this the NHL tried out a new way that could protect the players from these types of hits. Their solution was to remove the stanchion and instead put in curved glass at the benches. This glass will provide less of an immediate stop like a padded stanchion would have. Instead a player hit in the area would be able to roll off of the glass and avoid serious injury. This rule may not change for this year as it would require every stadium to change the boards around the benches but expect this change soon.


The Bear Hug

Another player safety issue is that of the increasing number of hits from behind and cross checks into the boards. The NHL tried out something that would stop these hits as players would not be required to use a bear hug into the boards. As the players go into the boards the defensive player would wrap his arms around the offensive player and guide him to the boards. As good as this sounds for player safety I have to admit that it just seems completely against the game. I wouldn’t expect to see this rule anytime soon as I believe it affects the integrity of the game too much.

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