The lockout is behind us. The summer free agent frenzy is behind us. The pre-season is almost behind us. In less than one week, on October 5, all NHL teams will play their first regular season game. NHL HOCKEY IS FINALLY BACK!
With NHL hockey back in business all the chatter is now about the new rules and how they will make hockey more exciting and fan friendly. The New NHL has worked very hard over the last 18 months to introduce new rules that will showcase the top players and reward speed, quickness, skill, intelligence and hard work. Never before has the NHL made so many rule changes at one time.
From the pre-season games I have seen, I love all the new rules and can't wait to see them in action in the regular season. Of course, there are still some so called hockey 'purists' who think some of the rules are extreme and jeopardize the traditions of the game. I went to Webster's Online to look up the definition of purist.
Purist: 'one who adheres strictly and often excessively to a tradition.'
My question is, who and what determines a hockey purist? To all those so-called purists out there, check out some of the rule changes over the years then sit back, watch and enjoy the 2005-06 NHL hockey season.
1925-26 --- Two rules were amended to encourage offense: No more than two defenseman permitted to remain inside a team's own blue line when the puck has left the defensive zone.
1926-27 --- Blue lines repositioned to sixty feet from each goal-line, thereby enlarging the neutral zone and standardizing distance from blue line
1927-28 --- To further encourage offense, forward passes allowed in defending and neutral zones and goaltender's pads reduced in width from 12 to 10 inches.
1937-38 --- Rules introduced governing icing the puck.
1938-39 --- One referee and one linesman replace two referee system. Blue line widened to 12 inches.
1943-44 --- Red line at center ice introduced to speed up the game and reduce offside calls. This rule is considered to mark the beginning of the modern era in the NHL.
1951-52 --- Goal crease enlarged from 3 x 7 feet to 4 x 8 feet. Faceoff circles enlarged from 10-foot to 15-foot radius.
1970-71 --- Limit of curvature of hockey stick blade set at ½ inch. (Bobby Hull rule)
1983-84 --- Five-minute sudden-death overtime to be played in regular-season games
that are tied at the end of regulation time.
1986-87 --- Delayed off-side is no longer in effect once the players of the offending team have cleared the opponents' defensive zone. (also known as The Tag-Up Rule)
1990-91 --- The goal lines, blue lines, defensive zone face-off circles and markings all moved one foot out from the end boards, creating 11 feet of room behind the nets and shrinking the neutral zone from 60 to 58 feet.
1998-99 --- The goal lines, blue lines, defensive zone face-off circles and markings all moved two feet closer to center, creating 13 feet of room behind the nets and cutting the neutral zone from 58 to 54 feet.
2000-01 --- All games to be played using the two-referee system.
2003-04 --- Maximum length of goaltender's pads set at 38 inches.
2005-06 --- Some of the new rules include: Expanded offensive zone; Removal of the center red line to permit longer passes; The "Tag-Up" rule re-introduced; Reduced goaltender equipment size; Stricter icing penalties; Shootout to decide games and much tougher standards on any obstruction fouls. For more information on the new rules visit www.nhl.com/news/2005/09/234088.html.
The NHL has a new logo, more divisional and inter-conference rivalries, more stringent officiating on all obstruction calls and new rules to promote skill, speed and more goals. Typically, good comes out of bad, and with the lockout old news, I can't wait for what should be one of the most exciting hockey seasons in recent memory.
I'm Jamie Baker for Seagate Technology's 'In The Crease'