|Overtime wins will have new wrinkles this season. (Credit: Rob Ferguson)|
"It revolves a lot around what the NHL wants to try," said Texas captain Maxime Fortunus via phone late Thursday. "They don't want to change the whole game."
As Fortunus suggests, AHL rule changes often presage NHL rule changes. This one has to have everyone buzzing. With every point being crucial, this change puts more emphasis on the overtime period as opposed to the shootout. Theoretically, the lengthened OT, the move to three skaters per side in the final three minutes will increase the chances of the game being decided in overtime instead of a shootout.
Unlike the Winter Classic games, which saw a whistle blow mid-play to change sides, the change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 will happen at the first whistle after the 3 minute mark of the OT. That could happen at 3:01 or at 6:59 depending on play.
"I think that's a pretty good rule," added Fortunus. "3-on-3 hockey is the best. You get a lot of room. It'll be great for the fans and the players."
One other interesting note is that if you've gotten used to watching thrilling home OT game winners from your "home team attacks twice" seats at the CPC, that won't be happening anymore. The switch of sides in OT will put all potential regular season OT wins on the zamboni entrance side of the ice.
Two other changes were made as well. Automatic game misconducts will be handed out for players with two fighting majors in a game. This is a reduction from the previous three. Additionally, any player with three majors for the same infraction will also get a game misconduct. That's pretty rare though.
Finally, the 'no bucket' era is over in the AHL. Players who lose their helmet during play and do not immediately put it back on or exit the playing surface will receive a two-minute minor. It's a safety rule and it makes sense. It will be very interesting to see the interpretation of 'immediately exits the ice' applied in real-time though.
Here are the full text of the rule changes:
Rule 85 (“Overtime”)
- During the regular season, the sudden-death overtime period will be seven minutes (7:00) in length, preceded by a “dry scrape” of the entire ice surface.
- Teams will change ends at the start of overtime.
- Full playing strength will be 4-on-4 until the first whistle following three minutes of play (4:00 remaining), at which time full strength will be reduced to 3-on-3 for the duration of the overtime period.
- If the game is still tied following overtime, a winner will be determined by a three-player shootout.
Rule 20.4 (“Major Penalties”)
An automatic game misconduct will be applied to any player who has been assessed two major penalties for fighting or three major penalties for any infraction in the same game.
Rule 9.6 (“Helmets”)
A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play will be assessed a minor penalty unless he immediately (a) exits the playing surface or (b) puts the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened.