NHL tests new rules in college hockey

By Korey Peterson

Rule changes in hockey have been abundant in recent years.

After the NHL lockout of the 2004-2005 season, several rule changes were implemented to make the game more offensive and fan-friendly. The changes have brought about resounding success for the league and the entire hockey world.

In Toronto this past summer, the NHL held its annual Research and Development Camp, where junior players get to play in front of scouts while trying out new rules and systems that may be implemented in the future. This year, several new concepts were proposed including some that are being used in the American Collegiate Hockey Association this season.

One such rule is what is being called “hybrid” icing. In the NHL, players must touch-up a puck when the opposing team shoots it more than half of the length of the ice to have icing whistled.

In the ACHA, referees will determine who will reach the puck first. This forces the players, who would normally give up on a play in anticipation of the whistle, to make an effort to get to the puck. The basis of the rule is to avoid full speed collisions while trying to avoid icing.

“Touch icing at the college level is too much of a safety hazard,” said Mike Sible, NIU hockey junior center and club president. “I like the fact that [hybrid icing] keeps guys from giving up because in the past when there was icing, both teams just quit.”

Another rule being tested in ACHA before it makes its way to the NHL is one that has been debated for several years in the hockey realm. The NHL and many other leagues apply the rule that when a penalty is called on the ice and a goal scored before the penalized team can touch the puck, the penalty time is erased. ACHA teams will not see that penalty erased, meaning they will still see power play time no matter if they score or not.

“I understand what they are trying to do with the rule,” said NIU senior winger Peter Alfano, referring to the fact that the rule will increase goal scoring. “But at the college level, goals are scored either way. I wouldn’t like it if my team was on the penalty, but it is cool that we still get a power play if we score.”

Rule changes force the players to adapt, which Sible says is not always a bad thing.

“As a true, hardcore hockey fan, I appreciate a defensive-minded hockey game,” he said. “But I would be in favor of anything that will increase scoring for the game’s popularity. The only way to increase the popularity is to yet again increase scoring.”