Last summer, the NHL brought back their Research & Development camp where hockey prospects are used to test a number of new rules to see just how viable they might be when put into action during an actual game situation. Last year was the first R&D camp for the NHL since 2005 and while none of the proposed changes from last year made it through to the actual NHL season, many of those same experiments are back this season along with some added wrinkles.
Looking at the list of activities they'll be going through over the next few days, it seems as if the NHL has come up with some of the wackiest ideas possible in hopes of possibly seeing if some of them might work. Others, however, are generally good ideas and should at least get serious consideration by the NHL for implementation into rules.
Brenden Shanahan, now the Senior VP of Player Safety and Hockey Operations, says that they've reached out to the GMs around the NHL to help build this agenda and that each has idea has to actually have some support from others around the NHL to be tested in the camp. The point of the R&D camp is for the GMs to see what ideas are actually feasible and what aren't and to use this information for use in the future. Says Shanahan:
"For instance, people wanted to have a look at the three faceoff dots down center ice last year. We tested it. We didn't like it. It's not occupying the airwaves or taking up time in the General Managers' meetings any longer. I don't know how those rules or those adjustments will be received in those few days, but we may learn something."
Some of these ideas are never going to make it past this camp, such as three minutes of 3-on-3 in overtime after the traditional 4-on-4. There's also a proposal to have penalties served for their full time allotment, even if a goal was scored. Others, however, are just so crazy that they might actually work if tweaked a bit.
I"m a big fan of trying to find a better way to enforce icing, and the NHL is going to play around with no-touch icing and "hybrid" icing. They'll also see if there's an advantage to shallow-back nets, to cut down on the space taken up behind the net and to allow more room for play. There's going to be time spent seeing about changing the penalties for offsides, making the punishment similar to that of the current rules for icing. One of the new technologies to be tested is a wireless communication system between the two refs.
Most importantly, the NHL is going to test whether the trapezoid should be removed from behind the goal line. This is a rule that very nearly was done away with last summer and there's hope the NHL sees the error in making this a rule in the first place. While the spirit of its implementation is certainly honorable, we've seen over the past six years it just doesn't work right.
Full two-day agenda after the jump...Wednesday, Aug. 17
(all times ET, subject to change)
10:00 a.m - Noon
• No-touch icing
• No line change for team committing an offside
• Faceoff variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all faceoffs)
• No icing permitted while shorthanded
• Verification line (additional line behind the goal line)
• Overtime variation (four minutes of 4-on-4 followed by three minutes of 3-on-3)
• Shootout variation (5-man shootout precedes sudden-death format)
• Shallow-back nets
2:30 p.m to 4:30 p.m.
• After offside, faceoff goes back to offending team's end
• Faceoff variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)
• Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)
• Changes only permitted on-the-fly (except after goals and upon manpower changes)
• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)
• Remove trapezoid
• Verification line
• Allow hand passes in all zones
• Overtime variation (switch ends)
• Shootout variation (5-man shootout with repeat players if tied after 5 shooters)
• Thin-netting nets
Thursday, Aug. 18
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
• 'Hybrid' icing
• Offside variation (offending team can't change and faceoff in its end zone)
• Faceoff variations (player encroaching can't replace thrown-out center, all faceoffs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all faceoffs)
• All penalties to be served in their entirety
• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (rule 63.2)
• Bear-hug rule
• Verification line
• Overtime variation (switch ends for four minutes of 4-on-4, followed by three minutes of 3-on-3)
• Shootout variation (3-man shoot out with repeat shooters if tied after 3 shooters)
• Shallow-back nets
1:30pm to 3:30pm
• All-Star Skills competition (fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills relay challenge, hardest shot, elimination shootout)
Other technology/modifications to be tested during various sessions:
• On-ice officials communication -- ref-to-ref wireless
• Overhead camera -- to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)
• In-net camera -- mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals
• Robotic camera -- to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice
• Video replay application review
• Curved glass -- protection options at players bench areas