The National Hockey League announced Monday that it will use hybrid-icing rules during the 2013-14 season after the NHL Players' Association announced its membership voted in favor of the rule change.
It's the most significant rule change in the League for 2013-14. The League had been using the touch-icing system since 1937.
The object of the hybrid-icing system is to reduce the risk for the potentially damaging collisions into the end walls as players race for the puck to either force an icing or negate an icing.
"Ultimately the [general] managers believe it's a safety issue. It makes the game safer for the players and we think it's important," NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said on NHL Live on Monday.
"I think it will be an adjustment," Daly added. "In the preseason games I've had a chance to see, I've seen a progression already in terms of the linesman's comfort in making the call and it's becoming more consistent, and obviously consistency is very, very important for the rule to be effective. It may take some time and I'm confident. Once you have a rule in place our officials grasp it and apply it, and I think it'll work."
The hybrid-icing system allows the linesman to blow the play dead and call an automatic icing if he determines that the puck will cross the goal line and the defending player is not behind in the race to the end-zone faceoff dots in his defensive zone. The faceoff would go to the far end of the ice as it did with icings called in the previous system the NHL used.
If the attacking player is leading the race, the linesman is supposed to allow the play to continue.
In instances where the puck is shot around the end boards, travels down the ice and comes out the other end, the linesman has to determine who would have touched the puck first. If it's the defending player, he calls an automatic icing but if it's the attacking player he lets the play continue.
NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom said the faceoff would go to center ice in instances where the puck doesn't cross the goal line after the linesman blows a play dead.
The rule requires the linesmen to make an additional judgment call in a split-second, but Walkom is confident that the officials are prepared to make these types of calls.
"I think for our guys, they'll be able to handle it easily," Walkom told NHL.com prior to the decision. "Whatever decision the players make relative to this rule, our guys are going to be ready after exhibition to implement it. Whatever it is, our guys are good enough to do it."
Here are breakdowns of the other rule changes and language modifications to the rulebook for the 2013-14 season.
Attainable pass rule wiped out -- The NHL erased the attainable pass language from the icing rule, requiring officials to wave off icing only if a player touches the puck.
The attainable pass rule used to give the linesman discretion to determine if the pass could have been touched. If he felt it could have been he would wave off the icing.
NHL Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell said the League has on average six icings per game, but without the attainable pass he thinks it could go up to nine or 10.
"The rule was [originally] put in because we had too many icings and they wanted to speed the game up, but our managers felt it was getting too sloppy," Campbell said. "The managers wanted this to be black and white. It has to touch a guy. They just felt it was too loosely called and it had too many holes in it thrown to judgment, so they said we want to make this black and white, don't (mess) around with it."
Uniforms and the 'jersey tuck rule' -- All players with fewer than 25 games of NHL experience are now required to wear a visor. As a result, the additional unsportsmanlike penalty for instigating a fight while wearing a visor has been deleted from the rule book.
In addition, the League was asked by the 30 general managers to strictly enforce the provisions in the uniform rule.
This means uniforms can't be altered in any way, the sleeves must extend to the cuff of the glove, pants can't be ripped, cut or torn, and no equipment can be exposed.
"Our managers said, 'Clean it up,'" Campbell told NHL.com. "We've gotten some pushback obviously, but we're trying to keep it as uniform as possible. We've been able to give teams warnings and penalties and they've argued, but we've been told by the managers, unequivocally, 30-0, 'Do it, clean it up, it's your job.' It had gone way too far. The reason they call it uniform is because it's supposed to be uniform, all the same."
The League has gotten the most push back on what is commonly being referred to as the 'Jersey Tuck Rule.' Any player whose jersey is tucked in will first receive a warning to untuck his jersey. If he doesn't comply, he will be given a two-minute minor penalty for delay of game.
"The officials recognize that you want uniformity in the League and this is something that distinguishes a professional league from other leagues," Walkom said. "Our guys may have started off the first couple of [preseason] games being too nice, but now when they see it and they warn a guy and he doesn't conform they will be supported when they call the penalty."
Keep your helmets on -- Players are now subjected to an extra two-minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct if they remove their helmet prior to engaging in a fight. The rule was made strictly with player safety in mind to reduce the risk of a player hitting his head on the ice while not wearing a helmet.
The League ran into circumvention to this rule in the preseason when Krys Barch, then with the New Jersey Devils, and Brett Gallant of the New York Islanders took each other's helmets off before engaging in a fight. Walkom said there is no language written into the rule that prevents that.
Campbell said the League thought of adding a provision penalizing players who take each other's helmets off when the rule was proposed, but that provision was rejected.
Language change in Rule 48 -- With input from the Competition Committee, the NHL amended the language in the illegal check to the head rule without changing the standard of enforcement.
The rule now reads: "A hit resulting in contact with an opponent's head where the head was the main point of contact and such contact to the head was avoidable is not permitted."
The old rule included the words "targeted" and "principal point of contact."
"There is no change to the rule, but at this year's Competition Committee meeting they asked if it would be better after now doing this for a couple of years if some of the language we use when we describe the rule would be better and easier for people to understand if we use that language in the rule," NHL Senior Vice President of Player Safety and Hockey Operations Brendan Shanahan told NHL.com. "We are describing what we see as targeting or not targeting the head as opposed to just saying principal point of contact.
"[The Competition Committee] just thought our explanations were clearer than the actual language of the rule."
Shallower nets -- The goal frames were trimmed by four inches on each side, taking eight inches off the entire width of the bottom frame. Many people believe this could lead to more wrap around goals and some think centers will be able to utilize additional space with passes from behind the net.
"I think you're probably going to see a few plays based on that, but I'm curious to see how many," Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "It's one of those things that until you see it it's tough to evaluate it."
Walkom thought of another possibility, something the referees will have to watch out for.
"You're going to see guys cutting closer to the net and we could have more players running into the ends of goalies' sticks," Walkom said. "Our guys need to be aware of that, whether it's intentional, unintentional, incidental. There are a lot of elements of judgment around the net and now it just makes more. Is the goalie extending himself? All of that comes into play."
Goalie equipment -- The NHL streamlined goalie equipment this season, reducing the size of the leg pads.
A goalie's leg pads can't go higher on his leg than 45 percent of the distance between the center of his knee and pelvis. The pads can go no higher than nine inches above the knee for goalies with an upper-leg measurement of 20 inches, which is roughly the average number for goalies in the NHL.
The previous rule, which was instituted prior to the 2010-11 season, stated that leg pads could not go higher than 55 percent of the distance between the center of a goalie's knee and his pelvis, and that a goalie with a 20-inch upper-leg measurement could wear a pad that goes no higher than 11 inches above the center of his knee.