(Photo: Melissa Kania)

AHL Announces Several Rule Changes

After announcing the new divisional alignments for the 2014-2015 season on Wednesday, the AHL made bigger announcements on Thursday, including the introduction of a new overtime format.

The biggest change will be the new format of overtime. Previously, if an AHL game was tied at the end of 60 minutes of regulation time, the game went to a five-minute, 4-on-4 overtime. If the game remained tied, a shootout was held, with five skaters from each team making an attempt. It became sudden-death after that.

The new format will be quite different.

First off, the overtime period is extended to seven minutes. The first four minutes will be played 4-on-4. Then, after the first whistle following the four-minute mark, the teams will skate 3-on-3 for the final three minutes of overtime.

If the game remains tied, a three-player shootout will follow.

I’m not sure how I feel about an extended overtime. It’s certainly better than the shootout, and lengthening the OT period should lessen the number of shootouts overall. It’ll definitely require some getting used to, after being used to five-minute OTs for so long, but I think it could work pretty well.

Another rule change involves Rule 20.4, Major Penalties.

That rule now reads:

“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.”

This should cut down on the number of unnecessary fights in a game — two in one night and you’ll be automatically out for the rest of the game. This is the new part of the rule. Previously, the rule covered the “three major penalties in the same game” portion, but not the fighting majors.

In addition, the third rule change that was announced involves Rule 9.6, Helmets.

The rule now states that any player whose helmet comes off during play must either a) exit the playing surface or b) put the helmet back on with the chin strap properly fastened. Failure to do either of those things will result in a minor penalty.

This is a change from the previous rule, which allowed a player to continue to participate in play without a helmet. It’s a smart idea that is designed to cut down on the number of head injuries and focus on player safety. This is the same rule that the Ontario Hockey League follows.

I think this one may need a little more clarification as for what “immediately” means. How long does a player have to put his helmet back on, with chin strap properly fastened, before a ref gives him two minutes in the box? I think more often than not, the player will probably end up just heading to the bench rather than risk it, but maybe this is something that just needs to be tested out and we all need to get a feeling for how it works.

The rule changes were all approved by the AHL Board of Governors at their annual meeting, which was held this week in South Carolina.

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