Sports Outside the Beltway

NHL Approves Rule Changes for 2007-2008 Season

While taking a short pause from trying to find Versus on their cable package, the National Hockey League’s Board of Governors has approved four minor rule changes for the upcoming 2007-2008 season.

Rule 24 — Gross Misconduct. The term “Gross Misconduct” was eliminated from the rule book. Any act that would have been assessed a Gross Misconduct penalty will receive a Game Misconduct penalty. Accumulated Game Misconduct penalties can lead to fines or suspension.

Nothing too important here and not effect on the game or the players, it just simplifies the rules slightly while maintaining the original intent of the rule.

Rule 25 — Penalty Shot. A player may be awarded a penalty shot if he is fouled on a clear breakaway outside his defensive zone (i.e., anywhere in the neutral zone or in the attacking zone). Previously, a penalty shot was awarded only when the player on a clear breakaway was fouled on the attacking side of the center line.

This could be slightly more interesting in expanding the area of the ice where the referee is allowed to award a penalty shot. That being said, even in the “new NHL” penalty shots are still quite rare (as are “clear” breakaways) and this change may give a team an extra penalty shot every 20 games or so. Even with the extra opportunity on occasion the overall success rate of penalty shots in the league sits at about 30%, so were really talking about maybe an extra goal or two a season.

Rule 56 — Interference. Referees were given discretion to assess a major penalty and a game misconduct when an injury results from an act of interference. Previously, only a minor penalty could be assessed for interference.

This rule just gives the referees more flexibility. However, running it through my mind, most actions that would result in an injury during an interference penalty already have their own penalties. The only exceptions I could think of were headbutts and kicks to the groin, but then again you’d probably get punched for that and that would be a fighting major.

Rule 76 — Face-offs. All face-offs must be conducted at one of the nine face-off dots painted on the rink. Previously, there had been instances, such as when a puck left the playing surface, which caused the face-off to occur on unmarked ice, parallel to the dot nearest the place where the puck departed.

This just takes some subjectivity of where the face-offs are conducted when the puck goes out of play. I will be interested to see how they determine between the attacking and neutral zone face-off circles when the puck goes out between them. I don’t expect this rule change to affect too much, but it could be a real interesting discussion if it occurs at a point with 2 seconds left and a team down by a goal.

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