The forward pass and removal of the two-line pass rule have an enormous impact on the game today. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The NHL is holding a research and development camp Wednesday and Thursday in Toronto featuring a number of top 2011 draft prospects who are being put through their paces by coaches Ken Hitchcock and Dave King.
Those paces include a number of tinkerings with things like overtime formats, line changes and faceoff configurations. While most are likely to fall by the wayside, it’s interesting – and relieving – that the NHL is taking a proactive approach with tweaking things rather than its usual reactive one.
After looking over the rules experiments, we got to thinking about the game as it was played in eras past and how different it was in form and function. We waxed poetically about $50 fines for match penalties, eight-man teams and standing-still penalty shots 38 feet from the goal a la football (that’s soccer for you colonials).
Oh how the game has changed. And while some rules have come and gone over the years, others remain staples of hockey today, defining the game from end to end.
Here are THN.com’s Top 10 rules that changed the game.
Prior to this there were just two bluelines and a lot of offside calls. The red line reduced those and sped the game up. The NHL considers the introduction of the red line the beginning of the league’s modern era.
Today it seems every other goal goes to replay, but it wasn’t always so. Video took the guessing out of game-changing events and made sure a goal is really a goal. Just don’t tell that to Buffalo Sabres fans…
Although many were already wearing helmets, the days of wind-blown manes began to wane when it was deemed that all players entering the NHL must don head protection. The last player to go helmetless was Craig MacTavish. He retired in 1997.
There was a time when NHLers played with their blades like kids who play in the cul-de-sac. Banana blades were all the rage in the ’60s thanks to Bobby Hull and his Black Hawks teammates; pucks flew threw the air like supersonic knuckleballs and literally scared goalies into wearing masks. But in 1969 blade curves were restricted to 1-inch maximums, a year later they were further reduced to a half-inch.
Although three 20-minute periods had been around since 1910, stop-time and intermissions were introduced in 1927, making each contest considerably longer (especially since squads could dress a max of 12 skaters at the time). Teams were made to change ends after each period and sudden-death overtime was introduced.
During the ’30s NHL leaders were in tough to average a point per game and if teams scored 2.5 goals per contest they led the league. Icing was introduced to do exactly what it does today, keep panicky teams from simply firing the puck down the ice when on the defensive. The rule remains today just as it was 73 years ago.
There was a time when a minor penalty meant two minutes of shame no matter how many times the opposition scored. That all changed in ’56 thanks to the overwhelming power play of the Montreal Canadiens. With names like Beliveau, Richard(s), Geoffrion and Harvey, the Habs ran a clinical attack that at times was just plain unfair.
Here’s one for you: What would goaltending look like today if the butterfly style was outlawed? Well, there are many stories from the NHL’s early days of "goalers" pretending to trip or fall just to go to the ice and have the puck hit them. They’d have to put on a good show, though, netminders were penalized for leaving their feet.
In the wake of a huge up-tick in scoring, the NHL realized it had to do something to stanch the flow of players into the offensive zone. Offside, although not a new rule, was refined to basically what it is today. Players were not allowed to enter the offensive zone before the puck and play was blown dead when the rule was broken.
To promote offense, the NHL had experimented earlier in the decade by allowing forward passing in the defensive and neutral zones, but not until the 1929-30 season was it allowed anywhere else on the ice. The result? Scoring more than doubled. Boston became the first team in league history to score 100 goals, but all other teams followed suit that season. The Bruins potted 179 goals to lead the league after managing just 89 the season prior, which also led all teams. Cooney Weiland won the scoring title with 43 goals and 73 points in 44 games. The leader in ’28-29, Ace Bailey, had just 22 goals and 32 points in 44 contests. Forward passing birthed the modern game.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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