COMMENTARY: The National Hockey League has announced rule changes for the 2014-15 season, and like many things the league has done over the years, you have to take the bad with the good.
Most significant are:
- The “Spin-O-Rama” move will not be permitted for penalty shots or shootouts.
- Crack down on diving/embellishment. Players who are repeat offenders and their head coaches will be subject to an initial warning and increasing fines for subsequent incidents.
- NHL Hockey Operations (the Situation Room in Toronto) has been given broader authority to assist on-ice officials in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals, “…to ensure they are ‘good hockey goals.’”
Of the most significant rule changes, the NHL has given us two good changes along with one bad one.
Let’s look at the bad one first: eliminating the Spin-O-Rama move from penalty shots and shootouts is entirely unnecessary and foolish. After all, penalty shots and shootouts are among the most exciting aspects of any NHL game, and the Spin-O-Rama makes them that much more thrilling.
Purists and old school fans tend to abhor the shootout, including a lot of NHL coaches and team executives. However, no one can deny the fact that they bring virtually everyone in an NHL arena to their feet. Why take away some of that excitement, especially in the case of the shootout, which serves primarily to attract new fans?
In the end, this change is simply mind-boggling. There was no need for this whatsoever.
On the other side of the coin, cracking down on diving and embellishment, if the league is really serious about it this time, is way, way overdue. Their last attempt at a crack down was a rather feeble one that fizzled out in no time—it was like there was never any crack down at all.
But this time, there will be increasing fines for the player and their head coach. Repeat offenders will first get a warning. Subsequent incidents will result in increasing fines, from $1,000.00 to $5,000.00, and would eventually hit the head coach in the pocketbook as well.
Sounds great, right? But it will only work if the NHL is serious about it and does not hesitate to issue warnings and fines, regardless of the backlash that is certain to come their way from the guilty players, head coaches, and team executives, not to mention highly partisan fans.
Although it may not have the biggest impact on the game, perhaps the most notable of the positive rule changes is broadening the scope of video review of potential goals.
Indeed, the video goal judge and NHL Hockey Operations in Toronto will have broader discretion to assist on-ice officials in determining whether or not a potential goal is a “good hockey goal” or not.
Specifically, “…The revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of situations where video review clearly establishes that a ‘goal’ or ‘no goal’ call on the ice has been made in error.”
For fans of the Los Angeles Kings, this change will be welcome, especially after the Kings were robbed of a goal and a likely victory at Detroit on January 18, 2014, when Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall was awarded a goal after his shot was deflected high into the air, hit the netting behind the Kings’ net, and then fell, struck Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick in the back, and bounced into the net.
On the play, none of the four on-ice officials saw the puck hit the netting, so they awarded a goal, which was the correct call, under the current rules at the time.
The play was looked at by NHL Hockey Operations staff, but because the play did not fall under the category of a reviewable play, they were powerless. But under the revised rule, they would now be able to correct such errors.
To be sure, this is a very positive change, one that positively addresses what was an embarrassing incident for the NHL that damaged the integrity of the game. However, it begs the question: What took the league so long? This one was a no-brainer years ago.
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