LAS VEGAS -- A change to the overtime format and the expansion of video replay to include a coach's challenge were approved by the NHL Board of Governors on Wednesday.
The change in overtime will see the League go to a 3-on-3 format for a five-minute period in regular-season games tied at the end of regulation. Previously, the League played 4-on-4 overtime. Regular-season games tied at the end of overtime will continue to be decided by a shootout.
The coach's challenge will be limited to goals scored on potential offside or goalie-interference plays.
The Board also approved a change to faceoff procedures that will have the defensive player place his stick on the ice first in all faceoffs not held at the center-ice dot. In the past, the visiting team player had to declare first; under the new rule, the only time the visiting player must declare first will be on center-ice faceoffs.
The 3-on-3 overtime is designed to create more space on the ice, allowing for more goals to be scored and more games ending in overtime rather than the shootout, similar to the success that the American Hockey League experienced this season.
By adding a 3-on-3 element to its overtime format, the AHL had 75 percent of its games that went past regulation time in 2014-15 decided in overtime. The number was 35.3 percent in 2013-14, when they played under a 4-on-4 overtime format.
The AHL's current overtime model extends overtime to seven minutes and starts with 4-on-4 before eventually going down to 3-on-3 if there were no goals scored through the first three minutes.
The NHL had 44.4 percent of games tied after regulation decided in overtime this season (136 of 306) in a 4-on-4 format.
"I've always said that as exciting that the shootouts can be, I would prefer the games to get decided in the overtime and there's evidence that when you go from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3, it increases the likelihood of a goal in the overtime," Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "We've seen that in the American League, we've seen that in the Swedish League. So I think there's a good chance the percentage of overtime goals will go up with this change and I think it's an improvement."
However, the NHL Competition Committee, which met during the Stanley Cup Final, was torn between that format and a strict 3-on-3 plan until a consensus formed among the players that going directly to 3-on-3 would be preferable.
The GMs ultimately decided to go that route because getting to 3-on-3 was a part of any proposal.
"We came out of the Competition Committee meeting with the Players' Association and we talked about both formats, and they went back to their representatives and players, and I think the consensus with them and back to us was 3-on-3 would be the right way to go," Nashville Predators general manager David Poile said. "I'm excited about it. We felt almost unanimous that we would like to have more games ended in overtime versus the shootout. We got our wish. We got 3-on-3. I don't know what the statistics are going to prove out, but I know there certainly will be less shootouts. This could be very exciting. It's another tweak to the game that could be very fan-friendly."
The fan-friendly aspect will be a result of the excitement that the 3-on-3 overtime could create, according to Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall.
"There's obviously a lot of space and I think once there is one scoring chance at one end, typically if you don't score it goes back the other way," Hextall said. "It ends up being exciting, fast-paced and, obviously, the skill level of the players comes out.
"It's just really risky hockey and it makes it very exciting. I saw some of it at the American League level and it's very exciting."
The coach's challenge has been a topic discussed for several years. It is being limited to expanding video review to goals scored on plays that may potentially be offside and plays involving potential goalie interference to ensure that more calls made on the ice are correct.
"There's going to be judgmental decisions and calls made and we're never going to agree 100 percent on those, but it's going to give us a chance to get better calls and use the technology that's out there to help us," Kekalainen said. "So I think it's a big improvement as well."
As part of the proposal, to use its coach's challenge, the challenging team must still have its timeout.
"I think it's probably going to be a trial-and-error basis at the beginning since we've never had this type of rule before," New York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Probably take a little bit of getting used to for when the right time is, so there will be some strategy involved there for sure."