Rule Changes Coming to an AHL Near You

Ref - Steven Christy
The divisions in the AHL have changed. Now the rule book has been given a few tweaks. (Photo Credit: Steven Christy)

The AHL Board of Governor’s annual summer meeting has concluded. First there was the news of a realignment. Today there is the news of pretty significant rule changes to take place in the AHL starting this coming season.

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.

Interesting right? Now let’s talk about these changes starting with the new OT format.

There’s no denying that coaches, players, and plenty of fans would prefer seeing the game end competitively rather than under a shootout. This is a massive leap forward to try and alter that from being the case. That being said, it is a rather clunky start and stop way of achieving it.

Dry scraping the ice? That’s no big deal really. The goal there is to get the snow off the ice surface and provide a cleaner playing surface. Switching ends? Hey, why not? Extra two-minutes of OT? Woohoo! 4-on-4 for three-minutes and then 3-on-3 for the final four-minutes? …wait, huh?

This is where I get a little bit lost in translation and, perhaps, hope to find clarifications in the future regarding the new OT format. Because, if the majority of OT will be played in a 3-on-3, where do penalties and power-plays come into action? How are those implemented? Will we actually see a scenario where two or one player is left on the ice for a team? If not, what’s stopping players from giving a slash or hook if they’re beaten to the corner on a rush into the zone? It’s all a little confusing for now. Hopefully it gets more clarified as the days move along.

Should the game need more than OT the shootout will remain in the game. The shootout has also received a revamp. And I’m not too huge on the change. At the AHL level the shootout is a Best-of-Five format. It is now changing to the NHL’s Best-of-Three format. If people hate seeing the shootout so much because it is viewed as a gimmick? Why keep treating it like such a gimmick? The Best-of-Five format allows for more shooters and stop attempts from a goalie to make it an actual contest worth fighting for the extra point. Best-of-Three can be capped off in a blink with the team’s top snipers cashing in lickity split with no further need for the lesser skilled shootout performers taking the stage. The shootout may be frowned upon by many. But, when it is treated as a quickfire stunt to avoid a tie, it isn’t hard to see why.

The next two changes are a lot more cut and dry. Both looking to make the game that little more safe and a little less barbaric.

I would go as far to say “Rule 20.4” be named the Rockford IceHogs Rule because it is trying to lessen players that fight multiple times in a game. I can’t remember a time where I’ve seen a player get called for multiple “non-fighting” majors in a game. As far as that three non-fighting majors and out policy. That sounds like the first man to achieve that is looking to become a trivia question answer.

The new helmet rule seems to act as an extension of last year’s fighting and removing your helmet rule. You may also see in the junior ranks a policy not too different from this. You lose your lid – get off the ice. The exception here is you can quickly grab your helmet, pop it back on, fasten it, and keep going. What gets interesting here will be the referees’ discrepancy between implementing penalties to players as they are in the act of putting there helmet back on, if there is a time window between when it should be applied as they put their helmet back on, or if they will simply enforce or encourage getting back to the bench rather than putting the helmet back on.

Some of these changes certainly have wrinkles to them on the surface now. Similar to hybrid icing making its way into the game – I’m sure it won’t be as confusing the more you see it take place. It will be a bit of a mind cramp watching the new OT format the first few times though.

What do you make of the new rules changes? Do they make more sense to you than they do to me? EXPLAIN TO ME THE THINGS. How do you think the new Overtime Period will work?

5 thoughts on “Rule Changes Coming to an AHL Near You”

  1. The OT rule is, probably, a directive from the NHL. I have been hearing rumbles for the past season or two that the NHL is/was looking at something similar (and worse…I did hear for a short time that they would start 5 on 5, go to 4 on 4 after a few minutes, and then end 3 on 3) so I would guess that this, or something like it, will be coming to the NHL soon.

    I am all about safety, but rules like the helmet one are way too broad and are totally inconsistent (like you said, how long before the penalty and each ref will interpret it differently) when it comes to enforcement. Add that to the fact that they are asking an already overworked crew to watch one more thing…how many blown, important calls will we see while a ref is watching a guy put his helmet on? I think this one needs a bit more work before it is rolled out.

    Honestly, I cannot remember any player (NHL, AHL, USHL or any other level I have seen) that would have qualified for the “Ice Hog” rule. I saw a Green Bay Gamblers game that ended with more players in the locker room than on the bench once and I don’t think any of them would have been hit by this one. It sounds like a closing the barn door after the cows have escaped rule to me.

  2. I thought the same thing when I read about the OT changes on the AHL website-that it was something the NHL wanted test test-before I even read about the shootout changes here. Having read that the shootout is changing to match the NHL format I think it’s almost certain that the NHL wants to test a new OT format.

    As for the helmet rule, I actually don’t think the aim of it is losing ones helmet. I think what it is supposed to do is hopefully make the players actually have the chinstrap tight enough that the helmet doesn’t come off. Therefore it will be an easy call for the ref(s) if a helmet comes off. There are so many guys that have the chinstrap so loose it’s almost not worth having the helmet on at all.

  3. Love the OT change 3 on 3 will help provide more wins in ot than from a SO. As far as penalties I assume that if a player takes a penalty that player will gp to the box and the other team will be awarded an extra man. The helmet rule is lame let the guys make the decision if to grab the helmet or continue on. I can see an issue coming from if a player loses a pot on the defensive zone in the 2nd or ot on the pk that would result in a big advantage for the attack team.

  4. The AHL should have gone to 5 minutes of 4 on 4 followed by 5 minutes of 3 on 3, if necessary.

    The helmet rule solves a problem… that does not exist. It must have come from Congress!

    Why not eject people who start fights? Instigate for 2, 5 for fighting and a gamer. The AHL refs have no guts and refuse to enforce the rules. Instigators are almost never penalized. Why is this?
    After 1 fight you will see somebody get a stick broken over their head. The AHL is poorly led.

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