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GM Meetings

GMs approve concepts for rule changes regarding player safety, offense

Penalty for failing to leave ice after losing helmet, face-off revisions considered

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

BOCA RATON, Fla. -- The NHL general managers approved concepts for rule changes regarding player safety and offense on the second day of their annual March meetings on Tuesday. 

All rule changes must be approved by the NHL-NHLPA Competition Committee before going to the Board of Governors for approval. The Competition Committee meets during the Stanley Cup Final and the BOG meets next at the end of June. 

On the safety side, the GMs want a rule that will penalize players who don't leave the ice immediately after their helmets fall off. 

George Parros, NHL senior vice president of player safety, said the League is the only one in the world that doesn't currently have a rule governing players losing their helmets in the flow of play. 

"I don't see any reason why we're waiting around for something to happen in this space," Parros said. "God forbid something should happen. I think this rule would go on the list right away, so everybody was on board with that. We'll figure out what that rule will look like, draft up some options and push it through the proper channels."

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Parros said the NHL is also looking into having a rule that would force players to wear their helmets during warmups, but the key now is to enforce one that would prevent players from putting themselves at risk in the game by playing without a helmet. 

"It's a safety thing," Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic said. "Any time you lose your helmet you should get off the ice. I mean, someone eventually is going to get hurt and you're going to change the rule then. Just do it now. It makes total sense."

The GMs will also propose a rule that will allow the team starting a power play to choose which side of the ice they want to have the face-off. The location is currently decided by which side of the ice the puck went out of play or was touched. 

It would only be for the first face-off on the power play. 

"It makes sense," Penguins GM Jim Rutherford said. "It will make a minor difference."

The officials would ask the team going on the power play which side of the ice they want the face-off. The team on the penalty kill would then have to put its players on the ice followed by the team on the power play. This would negate the last-change advantage that currently exists for the home team.

The idea is that it will give the center for the team on the power play the option of where to take the face-off. Most will choose their strong side, Sakic said, but if they are struggling against a particular player on a side, they have the option now to change sides. 

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"When you get into a big game, it's important which side of the puck is going to be dropped on," NHL senior executive vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell said. "Washington, for example, with the one-timer from (Alex Ovechkin), it wants the puck dropped in the right side of the end zone. These things come to a head in the playoffs, in key games.

"Our guys were overwhelmingly in favor of this."

The GMs were also in favor of recommending a rule change to keep the face-off in the end zone when a puck is shot out of play by an attacking player. The face-off is now held outside the end zone if a shot by the attacking team goes out of play without touching anything. 

"It's just another small change along our whole objective of trying to help the offensive aspect of the game," Campbell said. "Why take the face-off outside the blue line? There are a number of other rules that keep the face-off in the end zone. This one goes outside. Why?"

In addition, the GMs are recommending countdown clocks be added in the corner boards in all arenas to show time remaining in a period and a penalty. They were used in the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic and the 2019 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, and in three exhibition games.

"It was really good. I liked that a lot," Rutherford said. "The visiting team is always trying to find where the clocks are. This is better for the players."

The GMs are also considering a recommendation to prevent teams from changing lines if their goalie freezes the puck on shots that come from outside the blue line. The emphasis is on pace of play and keeping the game moving. 

There are 22 stoppages per game because of the goalie freezing the puck. Each stoppage averages roughly 30 seconds.

Campbell said some GMs said it should be a two-minute penalty if a goalie freezes the puck on a shot that comes from outside the blue line, but there is hesitation on going that far. 

"Our pace of play is pretty good compared to other sports, but anything we can do to make it better we're going to do that," Rutherford said. "There are going to be some cases where the goalie has no other choice, but there are cases when he's just trying to slow the play down."

The GMs discussed the possibility of cutting power plays down to one minute in overtime for certain infractions, but it didn't generate enough interest.

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