More players in the lineup, no-touch icing, goalies free to play the puck where they please, plus tweaks to procedures for faceoffs and definitions for offside, high-sticking, fighting and checking from behind are some of the differences NHL players will have to get used to in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
The Olympic tournament is governed by the International Ice Hockey Federation and its rulebook differs from the NHL's in many ways. Here are some of the biggest differences between the two, according to IIHF.com:
The IIHF allows a maximum of 20 skaters and two goaltenders to dress. Teams will typically go with 13 forwards and seven defensemen. In the NHL, only 18 skaters and two goalies are allowed to dress.
In addition, the IIHF rulebook allows five seconds for each team to change players following a stoppage throughout the game, negating the last-change advantage. In the NHL, the home team is allowed eight seconds to change players following a stoppage versus the five seconds allotted to the visiting team. However, this rule is not enforced in the final two minutes of regulation or in overtime.
Though the NHL moved closer to no-touch icing this season by implementing the hybrid icing, the IIHF follows the no-touch icing rules. Icing will be called as soon as the puck crosses the goal line.
There are two variations to the IIHF's faceoff rules.
1) The attacking team's player must put his stick on the ice first for any faceoff in the attacking zone. For example, if the faceoff is between Patrice Bergeron and Derek Stepan and it's taking place in Canada's zone, Stepan, the U.S. center, will have to put his stick on the ice first.
In the NHL, the visiting team player must put his stick on the ice first for any faceoff.
2) Unlike in the NHL, there will be no minor penalty assessed to a player taking the faceoff who uses his hand to play the puck. The linesman simply will set up a new faceoff, but the player that used his hand to play the puck will not be permitted to take the draw.
It doesn't exist in international hockey. Goalies are free to play the puck where they please.
Fighting in the Olympics will result in an automatic game misconduct or a match penalty in addition to the five-minute major.
There are two minor differences between the IIHF rulebook and the NHL rulebook here.
1) In the Olympics, if a player plays the puck with a high stick in his defending zone or in the neutral zone the ensuing faceoff will take place at the nearest faceoff area in his defending zone. However, in the NHL, the ensuing faceoff takes place either where the puck was played by a high stick or where it was last played by the offending team.
2) The IIHF rulebook calls for a minor penalty to a player who accidentally high sticks an opponent on the windup or follow-through of a shot or a pass. In the NHL, no such minor penalty exists.
Any shot on goal during a delayed offside will result in a stoppage in play in the Olympics. However, in the NHL a shot on goal during a delayed offside does not bring about a stoppage in play unless the offending team controls the puck.
A couple changes of note here:
1) Visors are mandatory in the Olympics for all players born after Dec. 31, 1974. In the NHL, visors are mandatory for players who have played in 25 or fewer games. Colored or tinted visors are not permitted in the Olympics.
2) In the Olympics, if a player's helmet comes off he must immediately go to the bench whereas in the NHL he would be allowed to continue playing without a helmet until the next stoppage.
In addition, all players must wear helmets during warm-ups in the Olympics; not the case in the NHL.
3) The maximum curve on a player's stick blade can be no greater than 1.5 centimeters in the Olympics; it's 1.9 centimeters in the NHL.
CHECKING FROM BEHIND AND CHECK TO THE HEAD
A player called for checking from behind in the Olympics will be assessed either a minor penalty plus a 10-minute misconduct, or a five-minute major plus an automatic game misconduct or match penalty. In the NHL, there is no minor penalty component, only a five-minute major plus a game misconduct or a match penalty.
The IIHF also has stricter punishment for illegal checks to the head. A player who receives a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head will also receive a 10-minute misconduct. If he gets a major penalty for an illegal check to the head it comes with a game misconduct.