NHL rules tinkering is absurd…and hurting the game

Florida Panthers’ GM Dale Tallon has told TSN that, at next week’s NHL general managers’ meetings, he intends to initiate a discussion about the possibility of the NHL adopting something called “a coach’s challenge.”

Dale Tallon

Panthers' GM Dale Tallon wants to introduce a "coach's challenge" to the NHL game ~ yet another league rule change (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Sounds lovely but, you know what, I’ve had it. If I read about one more proposed NHL rule change, I’m gonna go off the deep end. I have never seen a professional league – one that has been around for almost a century – that tinkers and fiddles more with its rules. And their fumbling and bumbling continually cheapens a great product.

Bob Gibson

Because of the dominance of pitchers like St. Louis' Bob Gibson, MLB lowered the mound in 1969

Let’s use the other major sports as a barometer. Major League Baseball has been around longer than any other professional league in North America. Since 1960 – that’s fifty years – baseball has made three major rule changes that affect play. That’s right, three. The mound was lowered five inches in 1969. The American League adopted the DH in 1973. And, in August 2008, MLB added instant replay. Three rule changes. MLB gets it.

The National Basketball Association hasn’t instituted a major rule change since 1979, when they adopted the three-point line (which originated in the ABA). Oh ya…and way back in 1954 the NBA adopted its 24-second shot clock. That’s two rule changes in sixty years. Top of the rim is still ten feet off the floor. Two rule changes. The Association gets it.

NFL goal posts

The biggest rule change the NFL has ever made was moving the goal posts from the goal line to the back of the end zone

Since the AFL and NFL merged in 1970, they have had a handful of rule changes. The biggest came in 1974 when they added regular-season overtime and moved the goalposts to the back of the end zone. Instant replay also came in but, other than that, it’s penny ante stuff. The NFL gets it.

The NHL, on the other hand, is clueless. In fact, they’re so daft, they annually fill two pages in their official league guide with rule changes. They’ve illustrated for all, in black and white, how they can’t make up their minds on anything. There has been so much tweaking of the rules, it’s almost impossible to keep track. And that’s the perfect enticement for a potentially growing fan base, right? Wrong!

My favourite is the tag-up/offside rule. It’s in…it’s out…it’s back in! Just ridiculous. The trapezoid. Ya, I’m 100% positive that hockey fans in Atlanta (all 8,000 of them) know their geometric shapes. There’s a centre-ice red line…but it’s not really there. There’s a shootout…but it doesn’t count in the tie-breaking standings as a win. It’s more confusing than a David Lynch film. And more aggravating.

Here’s an idea. It’s the same idea that appears in the Major League Baseball Rule Book aimed at umpires:  “Get it right.” What that says is, no matter who you have to discuss it with, no matter how many times you have to examine the play, get the call correct.

That means Leafs’ bruiser Colton Orr cannot plow over Panthers’ netminder Scott Clemmensen and have the play count as the game-winning goal. For all the nonsensical rules the NHL has in place, there is no mechanism to prevent this from happening. I find that very unsettling…but typical of the NHL.

The bottom-line problem is that the NHL continues to knee-jerk react every time some complainer spouts that there is something wrong with the league. Now, they’re looking at ways to increase scoring. Bobby Clarke wants to move the face-off dots to the middle of the ice. Enough already!

Leave the league and its rules alone! Stop making changes just to make changes. In trying to appeal to everyone, you have now managed to appeal to fewer and fewer.

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4 Responses to “NHL rules tinkering is absurd…and hurting the game”

  1. RuleBreaker says:

    I agree. In fact, scrap all the rules. You want good rules, watch a bunch of kids play street hockey. They play fair, don’t hit to injure or kill, make appropriate judgement calls and all have the brains to get out of the way of cars. In fact, why not let kids run the league. They’d probably do a better job.

  2. The league needs to do a better job in many areas, but changing the rules is not one of them. There is no point to constantly changing the rules.I am enjoying the site — glad I found it.

  3. Big Mouth says:

    Tell all your friends, Steve!

  4. dear NHL could you please make the All Star draft deal way more drawn out and annoying… I quit watching after 3 rounds…

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