NHL Rulebook: Video Review Expansion, Changes to Overtime, and New Diving Fines

How much will this affect the game? Probably not much except for expanded video review guidelines.

The NHL announced today some rules tweaks that will go into effect next season. This announcement also includes a rule to be tested during the preseason for potential inclusion among the changes for next season.

Rule 1.8 – Rink - Goalkeeper's Restricted Area

The trapezoid will be expanded by two feet from the goal post on both sides of the net.

We covered way back when the rulebook series started that the goal line endpoint of the trapezoid is six feet from the goal posts. So now the goal line endpoint is eight feet from the goal posts, expanding the trapezoid and giving goaltenders a little more room to handle the puck.

This change doesn't really accomplish anything. Most times when a goalie is waiting for a puck to leave the restricted area, it's along the boards behind the net. The proper solution is to get rid of this rule which shouldn't have existed in the first place.

*Rule 1.9 – Rink – Face-off Spots and Circles – Ice Markings/Hash Marks

The hash marks at the end zone circles will be moved from three feet apart to five feet, seven inches apart (international markings).

In other words, the wingers setting up for a faceoff are a couple feet farther away from their opponents. I think this change is more cosmetic and doesn't solve a real problem. The larger distance means fewer scrums between players trying to get inside position off the faceoff, which linesmen and referees don't like, so they end up tossing the centermen out for their wingers' transgressions. I still think the better solution would be to drop the puck more quickly OR to stop being so afraid to call a penalty for getting a second centerman tossed from the circle.

*This is the change that's in the "test run" phase for the preseason. While I hope the larger problem is addressed, this is a change I would like to see make it into the rulebook permanently.

Rule 23 – Game Misconduct Penalties

A new Game Misconduct category will be created. Clipping, charging, elbowing, interference, kneeing, head-butting and butt-ending move from the general category into the same category as boarding and checking from behind ("Physical Fouls"), whereby a player who incurs two such game misconducts in this category would now be automatically suspended for one game.

We covered over two posts the different categories for game misconduct penalties that lead to differing punishments depending on which infractions get players to accrue game misconducts. I'm curious to see what new category of Game Misconducts will be created, but I like that it will now take fewer instances of players hurting each other before someone gets an automatic suspension. So clipping, etc. will be in the same class as boarding and checking from behind under Rule 23.5.

Rule 24 – Penalty Shot

The 'Spin-O-Rama' move, as described in Section 24.2 of the 2013-14 NHL Rule Book, will no longer be permitted either in Penalty Shot situations or in the Shootout.

I'm torn. I understand that the way certain players do spin-o-ramas, it causes them to break the puck's motion toward the opponent's goal line. On the other hand, I do understand the argument that when done well, it's a continuous motion. I suppose it's better because of the ambiguity that the NHL decided to eliminate it all together.

Rule 38 – Video Goal Judge

Video review will be expanded in the following areas:

The first change expands Hockey Operations' ability to call for review on plays. I'm guessing because the press release doesn't say it explicitly, but I think this is a response to "net goal." Currently, the NHL rulebook calls for video review on potential goals to check the integrity of the goal frame, the method of propelling the puck into the goal, and the time on the clock. It also, however, has this phrasing (emphasis mine):

The video review process shall be permitted to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g. to ensure they are "good hockey goals"). For example (but not limited to), pucks that enter the net by going through the net meshing, pucks that enter the net from underneath the net frame, pucks that enter the net undetected by the referee, etc.

--NHL Official Rules 2013-14, Rule 38.4.viii

While the examples given also fall in line with the idea of the integrity of the goal frame or method of propelling the puck into the net, the rule as written still gives Hockey Operations' wide latitude to initiate a review on all potential goals for reasons other than those listed. This expansion is unnecessary if the accepted interpretation of what's already written simply changes to include things like "net-goal" or "Duchene offside."

Moreover, I disagree with expanding video review to the extent I'm guessing the NHL is looking to. I think the current spirit of looking at the clock, looking at how the puck entered the net, and looking at the goal frame are enough. Plays turn on a dime very quickly. How is the NHL going to decide that a goal should not count because a missed call? Are they going to include missed penalties along with this expansion? If not, why should a missed puck-out-of-bounds or missed offside call be reviewable but not missed penalties?

The second change to this rule says that Hockey Operations will require stronger evidence to overturn calls on the ice for potential goals because of a "distinct kicking motion."

Rule 57 – Tripping

The rule relating to "Tripping" will be revised to specifically provide that a two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player "dives" and trips an attacking player with his body/arm/shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck.

But, in situations where a penalty shot might otherwise be appropriate, if the defending player "dives" and touches the puck first (before the trip), no penalty shot will be awarded. (In such cases, the resulting penalty will be limited to a two-minute minor penalty for tripping.)

Currently, the rule is that any time a defending player makes contact with the puck first and then trips his opponent, no penalty will be assessed. Now the rule is that you have to get the puck and trip your opponent with your stick for there to be no penalty called. This change is needless because what was wrong with the rule before? This change will also likely spark more confusion and anger over potential missed calls.

Rule 64 – Diving / Embellishment

The supplementary discipline penalties associated with Rule 64.3 (Diving/Embellishment) will be revised to bring attention to and more seriously penalize players (and teams) who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Fines will be assessed to players and head coaches on a graduated scale outlined below.

You can follow the link at the beginning of the article to the press release for the table of fines. While this is a welcome measure to take against diving and embellishment, I feel like the bigger problem is the NHL's reluctance or incompetence (or both) in identifying the offending instances in the first place.

Rule 76 – Face-offs

To curb delay tactics on face-offs after icing infractions, in situations where the defending team is guilty of a face-off violation, following an icing, the defending player who is initially lined up for the face-off will be given a warning, but will be required to remain in the circle to take the face-off. A second face-off violation by the defending team in such situation will result in a two minute minor bench penalty.

In other words, the rule change gets rid of the gamesmanship of teams sending a winger out to get thrown out, but then shoots itself in the foot by requiring a warning system which will take the time the rule was supposed to save. Good job, good effort, NHL. Next I suppose you're going to change how much adjusting a goalie can do to his equipment after an icing.

Rule 84 – Overtime

* Teams will switch ends prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

* The entire ice surface will undergo a "dry scrape" prior to the start of overtime in the regular season.

* The procedure requiring the head coach to submit a list of the first three shooters in the shoot-out has been eliminated.

While I acknowledge that the second period sees more scoring overall than either the first or third likely because of the long change, I'm skeptical of how much of a difference it will make in a five-minute overtime.

I like the change to the shootout procedure. It allows the strategy to evolve organically as the shootout progresses rather than have it dictated beforehand. "Am I going to my best shooter in the second round when we need a goal to stay alive, or can I save him for later for a potential game-winner?"

Rule 85 – Puck Out of Bounds

You can read the long-winded explanation in the press release, but no, it's not about the "Delay of Game: Puck Over Glass" penalty. Suffice it to say that if your team shoots the puck and the result is a stoppage of play, it doesn't matter who it went off last: The faceoff is staying in the attacking zone. This is similar to lacrosse rules where if you shoot the ball at the net and it goes out of bounds, you can keep possession in the attacking zone.

I appreciate the attempt to create more offense by having more faceoffs deep in a team's defending zone instead of outside the blue line. I can't say it appeals to my sense of fairness because if they botch a scoring chance and it ends up out of play, a faceoff outside the zone feels like an adequate reminder of their inadequacy. On the other hand, it should help keep the game flowing if the officials don't have to keep guessing whom the puck went off of to determine the faceoff location.

So there you have it. A bunch of half-measures and some changes that will likely prompt only more permanent confusion over the rules and their enforcement. There are some useful things in here which should legitimately help game flow, but it skirts around more pressing changes needing to be made.