As hockey fans we’ve all heard similar ideas regarding rule changes that may help to improve scoring or add excitement to the game. Some, such as ditching regular season shootouts in favor of longer overtimes, I very much agree with. Others, like actually curving the goal posts, well…not so much (As an aside, while not really a rule change per se, I think it’d liven up the game to an interesting extent if they removed the plexiglass between the opposing penalty boxes. But I digress)
This list consists of relatively small changes that I haven’t yet heard suggested. Of course, I’m not conceited enough to think that they’ve never been thought of or discussed by someone other than me at some point. But if someone did, he or she didn’t write an article on them. So to paraphrase the old saying; they snoozed, they lost.
I’d say the first four are practical, while the last borders on ridiculous. However this is only a hockey opinion piece, not something I can’t understand like quantum physics or Will Ferrell’s popularity. Why not have a little fun with it? So without any further ado and in (mostly) no particular order, here are 5 hockey rule changes I’d like to see considered.
1) On the opening face-off to begin a power play, allow the team’s coach with the man advantage to choose the circle in which the puck will be dropped. This would ensure that his best face-off man will be playing to his strength regardless of whether he’s right or left-handed.
Changing the rule a few years back, as the NHL did, to require that all power plays begin in the offensive zone was a great idea. This just adds to it.
Taking it Further: Give that coach this option on every offensive zone face-off for the entirety of the power play.
2) Require goalies to use only their own sticks at all times. In the event a goalie breaks his stick or drops it out of reach, it would no longer be allowed for skaters to pass them theirs. Like any player, he’d have to play with none until either he recovers it, (Only in the case of a drop) or the whistle blows. Any teammate giving him his, as well as any opponent who deliberately causes a broken or dropped goalie stick, would receive an Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalty. (This would also apply to forwards giving their sticks to defensemen)
3) Intentional off-sides would result in an automatic Delay of Game penalty. If a player is assessed two minutes for even unintentionally flipping a puck over the glass, there’s no reason why an intentional act that delays a game shouldn’t receive the same treatment.
Taking it Further: Extend this call to include intentionally making contact with the puck using an obvious high stick. Yes, such a call would be based on a referee’s discretion; but most penalties are.
4) Eliminate illegal sticks. Players would be allowed to curve sticks to their preferences. For obvious reasons the length of a stick is customized to fit each player, and the curve should be too. The only restriction would be regarding the maximum length and width of the blade, which would be standard across the league.
5) Abolish the regular season Trade Deadline. After you’ve finished laughing, please hear me out. I’m not even necessarily advocating this, but rather just tossing its potential benefits out there.
Aside from the unlikely happenstance of consistently pathetic or losing teams signing multiple highly-talented free agents, the only real way for them to improve is through the process of drafting high and then waiting a few years with their fingers crossed.
Now, imagine the bounty of players and/or draft picks some top teams might be willing to part with at season’s end once the standings are set. The trade deadline is already in March for a season that ends in April so, really, what’s the difference?
If a team like Columbus barely sneaks into the playoffs as the 8th seed and the next day trades for a Sedin twin, do you think it might impact their playoff attendance?
When the season ends and all seedings are cemented, if teams like the Blues, Pens or Bruins really thought that a Matt Moulson, Thomas Vanek or some non-pending UFA star is what would put them over the top, why shouldn’t they be able to acquire him?
Not only would such a rule separate the meek general managers from the bold, constantly swirling trade rumors would surely keep the interest of bottom-dwelling teams’ fans throughout the entirety of the regular season.
It might also give them a reason to follow the team that traded for one of their local favorites, which may in turn also help increase TV ratings in a few non-playoff markets. Especially if part of their squad’s return on the trade is a conditional draft pick.
Many western New Yorkers have suddenly become St. Louis fans for as far as they go this postseason thanks entirely to their acquisition of one Ryan Miller. Sure, many want to see Miller succeed. But if he gets the Blues to the Western Conference Finals, the 2014 draft pick the Sabres just received from the Midway Blueshirts instantly elevates to a first rounder. A win-win.
Taking it MUCH further: Since we’re already talking about a change with-at best-less than a 1% chance of ever occurring, I might as well mention one with less than 0%: waiving the trade deadline altogether.
Though you’d certainly see my face chiseled onto Mt. Rushmore before ever seeing the NHL implement this rule, even so just imagine the intrigue if the Canadiens or Red Wings dealt for Sidney Crosby on the morning of a Stanley Cup Finals Game 7.
Whatever. Mock if you will, but if a momentary consideration of this fifth, less practical rule change suggestion entertained you, then my job here is done.