15 Crazy Rule Changes the NHL Needs

* originally written in Feb. 2015

In terms of the “big 4” sports in the US, it’s no secret that the NHL lags far behind in 4th. The most recent estimates put the NHL’s revenue at $3.3 billion, just 36% as much as the NFL’s $9.9 billion. Unsurprisingly, the NHL’s TV deal is also by far the least lucrative at $600 million with NBC, $330 million less than the NBA.

It’s also no coincidence that the NHL is the only sport without an agreement with ESPN, and as a result, the smallest deal. However,  hockey did strike a deal with ESPN to give them the broadcasting rights to the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Gary Bettman
Gary Bettman (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

The main complaints about the current product of today’s NHL is that scoring is too low, and as a result, lacks universal appeal. The go-to answers for solving this problem have been to reduce clutching-and-grabbing by cracking down on obstruction, making goaltending equipment smaller, and nets bigger.

[Related: Hockey 101: A Primer for Newer NHL Fans]

A changing in officiating worked for a bit after the 2003-04 lockout, but it has quickly reverted back to its previous state. Additionally, goalies are receiving more attention and training than ever, and are better than they’ve ever been.

That is why I believe the NHL needs to take stronger measures to increase scoring, and as a result, popularity of the sport. Here are 15 changes they could make to improve their product:

1. Power Plays last a full two minutes, even if you score a goal.

This was the rule until the NHL changed it in 1956-57 to the current rule. More power play time=more goals.

2. No offsides on power plays.

3. Goals scored from behind the blue line count for two goals.

Imagine this one in conjunction with the first two. You’re down two goals late, and on the power play. You position Zdeno Chara or someone with a bomb of a shot just beyond the blue line, and fire away with traffic in front. You could potentially tie the game with one shot. Or, if you’re shooting on an empty net as a team in front, you can wrap the game up immediately.

new NHL rules
(Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

4. Goalies cannot cover the puck outside of the crease.

5. No illegal stick curves, or limits on the length of a stick.

Willie Mitchell could use this 80″ stick if he really wanted to:

YouTube player

And Marty McSorley would be allowed to use whatever curve he wanted.

YouTube player

6. You can bat the puck into the net with any body part (but no kicking [safety reasons], you cannot pick it up with your glove, and the same high sticking rule).

7. Eliminate the shootout, and replace the 5 minute 4-on-4 overtime with 3-on-3 until someone scores. [making some progress on this one!]


8. Adopt IIHF point rules for the standings (regulation win=3 points, OT win=2 points, OT loss=1 point). I would also advocate elimination of the OT loss point.

Teams would no longer have an incentive to play conservatively to get to overtime and get at least a point.

9. Allow two goalies in the net at once.

This one is counter-intuitive to more scoring, but would provide a lot of entertainment value. I’ve checked, and the NHL rule book currently explicitly prohibits this.

10. A player’s skates have to both be off the ice before the player he is changing for can jump on.

When you think about it, too many men on the ice occurs in the NHL on almost every line change. This would create many more odd-man rushes.

11. You can get an assist on your own goal.

This doesn’t directly increase scoring, but would pad the totals of top players. Crooked point totals like those found in the 1980s gives an illusion of higher scoring, generating buzz and excitement. Besides, if you initiate a give-and-go then score, or score on your own rebound, you deserve the assist.

12. No line changes if you commit a hand pass, offsides, or high stick.

These are all infractions, just like icing. Icing has a penalty in that you can’t change lines. Why not punish these infractions?

13. A “free kick” for the non-offending team after a hand pass, offsides, or high stick.

The opposing team would have to back off by 5-10 feet and allow the other team to play the puck, guaranteeing them possession, and an advantage because they didn’t commit the foul.

14. After an icing call, the non-offending team decides what side the faceoff is on.

This is a subtle one, but it could set up your best center to be on his strong side, or set up your best pointman for an optimal one-timer.

15. You can have a 13th forward/7th defenseman in the locker room dressed to replace an injured player. But, if you bring them in, the injured player cannot return.

Could you see the NHL implementing any of these changes in the future? What else could they do to increase scoring? Let us know below.

34 thoughts on “15 Crazy Rule Changes the NHL Needs”

  1. Agree that most of this article is pretty silly. I would be ok with going back to a full 2 minute penalty. Would also be ok with having anyone on the 23 man roster dress and play the period following an injury. I do find #7 interesting. I would like to see it tried out in the AHL for a couple of seasons first. # 8 is also interesting. My preference would be to give 2 pts for any win and 0 for a loss. Stop playing it safe for loser points.

    Would also like to see the trapezoids removed as well as neutral zone icing. Would prefer to see shooting the puck over the ice treated the same way as icing, along with unaided contact with the goalie.

  2. There is more scoring in hockey then soccer, yet soccer got great ratings last summer for world cup. Why do people always want more scoring? Defense win championships.

  3. There are some valid points in some respect, but if the only objective is more goals that’s pathetic. More goals in itself is a stupid thing to aim for, and suggests the public are total morons if that’s all they want to see.

    Watching 10-9 games won’t be any more exciting in fact it would would be anything but,and would just dilute the excitement of a goal being scored.

  4. Wish I could have the last 2 minutes back.
    You are a waste to the internet and shouldn’t be on a site named the hockey writers.
    Try playing the sport before ridiculing it.
    Please have some dignity and eat a bullet.

  5. Simple no, no, no, yes, no, no yes, yes, no, no, yes, ok, no ok, yes.

    One thing I think they need to redefine is the “in the crease” rule. You should not be able to “crash” the net and knock the puck and the goalie over the line. You shouldn’t be able to “redirect” the puck with your skate, the “kicking motion” definition is too liberal. This is hockey, you score with your stick not your arm, leg, body, or skate.

  6. Well one thing is true about the title: this is legitimately crazy. Also awful. The majority of these suggestions would render the sport farcical and subject to ridicule. Almost like the author likes other pro sports only fat and/or giant people an play, and wants hockey to fade into obscurity entirely. IIHF scoring and 3v3 OT make sense and are in fact not crazy, but have been heard before and are likely to be revisited in the next CBA. No mention of increasing ice size to international to improve scoring opportunity as aptly pointed out by a previous poster. No mention on misconducts for any fighting, which allows goons like John Scott and Tom Sestito to provide ‘value’ when they can barely skate. Or add, I can only imagine. Given, it is contentious, but it’s also realistic and worthy of discussion.

    The rest? I have a few of my own legitimately crazy suggestions:

    Allow oscillating sticks, toe spikes, and give coaches the ability to use a flamethrower for 2 minutes a game and urinate on opposing team players. Allow 5 goalies to dress but only if they wear actual dresses, and give teams the option to trade one player for two lashed together like a 3 legged race. Also, mandatory acid throwing, skate fighting, and allowing fans to throw debris (think oil slicks, octopi, Leafs jerseys, and poop) on the ice to provide obstacles to the players.


  7. Just like Much like Schrodinger’s cat

    Schoeninger’s “article” exists in two states at once: smart and stupid. Until it is observed, when the mind-numbing ignorance of the game of hockey and the true insanity that inspired the “crazy” nature of these changes can be fully appreciated.

    I thought the “Get loud! The top 10 NHL arena atmospheres” was the worst hockey writing I’d read this week (heck, in a long time since I stopped reading Steve Simmons), but where Brett Slawson has difficulty putting coherent sentences together, Bill Schoeninger invalidates his few potentially workable ideas by suggesting things that demonstrate he has no knowledge of the game of hockey, its rules, or its appeal.

    The US appetite for hockey is limited because it’s a winter sport, and a large percentage of the US audience lives in a climate that is not conducive to hockey. Hockey is a game you have to experience live before you can appreciate it on TV, especially if you never got the chance to play it during your youth. The lack of a contract with ESPN is a valid gripe regarding the expansion of hockey’s exposure, but that fault lies mostly in the lap of the NHL. “Crazy” rule changes will not increase hockey’s audience any more than the USFL or XFL took eyeballs away from the NFL.

    But let’s look at the proposed changes and give each one a grade, shall we?

    1 – The NHL is no stranger to reverting back to rules it had previously changed, but if you look at the recent history of power play and penalty kill numbers, only about 15-20% of all penalties would be prolonged to any extent. So, maybe 1 extra goal per game? Hardly a solution to those who bellyache that low scoring is boring. The rule in question was called the Montreal Canadiens rule because they had a powerhouse of a power play and could score pretty much at will (during their dynasty of 5 Stanley Cup wins in a row).

    C+ If you show compelling statistics to show that scoring could increase significantly, I’ll bump this to a B.

    2 – Linesmen can barely get offsides right with the current rules, instituting a time-sensitive component is a recipe for a team losing the Stanley Cup when the zebras blow a call that is clearly outlined in the rule book (see Dallas Stars v Buffalo Sabres). If the team on the power play can’t enter the zone properly, odds are they don’t have enough discipline to execute a power play scheme.

    D As in delusional that this could work.

    3 – Has Obamacare affected your meds that badly?

    F As in effing stupid.

    4 – How often do you see a goalie covering a puck ANYWHERE outside of the general area of the crease? Basically never. In the same way that the NHL prevents goalies from covering the puck without some part of their body in front of the goal line, the large majority of saves a goalie makes, there is some part of their body in the crease. Please read the NHL rule book.

    D- Seriously, read the rules before proposing another idea like this.

    5 – When did you get into hockey, like 17 minutes ago? You have no sense (or knowledge, it seems) of history. Banana curves were pretty standard in the early days of curved sticks; they also resulted in shots whose trajectory was wildly inaccurate. The greater the curve, the more difficult it is to control where the shot is going. Marty McBananastick? Really? You think he was a scoring threat? Super-long sticks would only result in more stick infractions. Or maybe you enjoy watching players skating off the ice, trying to keep their eyeball from falling out of their head.

    D Maybe your intention was to increase power plays, but so would injuries. Those who ignore history are doomed to make fools of themselves on the Internet.

    6 – The NHL rules basically already allow most any piece of equipment to be used to score a goal. “Distinct kicking motion” is the most subjective disclaimer the NHL has ever put on the books. Maybe you’re a Tom Glavine fanboy and want to see him score with a 90mph split-finger fastpuck. Seriously, did you just learn about hockey?

    D- Read more, write less.

    7 – FINALLY! A suggestion that doesn’t suck. In fact, it’s something that Ken Holland and other GMs have been trying to implement. Hardly crazy.

    C Lack of originality prevents a higher grade.

    8 – Plagiarizing the work of others will not give you or your piece any credibility. Again, something that has been discussed for years at various GM meetings.

    C- Stop trying to pass off the work of others as your own.

    9 – :facepalm: You’re supposed to be a hockey writer, right? Why, then, do you hate hockey to such a degree that you would turn it into a clown show? Setting aside the lack of space in a crease for two goalies, how would you distribute the remaining skaters on the ice? 2F and 2D, 3F and 1D? 4D? 4F?

    F Only because I can’t give you 4 Fs as a grade.

    10 – Be honest. Someone asked you to write an article on hockey, but you’re more of a tiddlywinks kind of athlete, right? Have you noticed that “on almost every line change”, the guys getting off the ice have their back to the play. Almost like they’re not involved in what’s developing on the ice. I’m surprised you didn’t suggest there be some kind of markings on the ice (like a painted box in front of each bench door) to indicate where a player coming off should be before the player replacing him can get on. It’s only been suggested by some GMs in the NHL. Maybe I should be grateful that you didn’t plagiarize again.

    D For dumb.

    11 – I get it now. You’re a baseball fan, and you love the unassisted triple play. That’s the only way to explain away your lack of understanding on how assists work. The 80s didn’t feature “crooked point totals”, there were some truly exceptional players during that time and goalies were playing a completely different style. 8-6 games were not uncommon then. Hockey history, read up on it. If you think that padding the point totals of star players is what is missing to draw in more fans, then there’s no hope for you.

    F Because there is no lower grade.

    12 – I can’t remember this being discussed to any serious degree by any GM or other hockey executive. This could work for hand passes and high sticks, but would only have an impact if the faceoff is in the zone of the offending team. Already, each of these infractions result in a faceoff outside of the offensive zone, so you’re suggesting a tweak to an existing rule. As for offsides, the frequency of line changes after an offside call isn’t that great.

    B This is the first evidence you’ve shown that you know something about hockey.

    13 – Let me get this straight: you want to punish a team by not allowing them to change lines after a hand pass, offside, or high stick AND you want to give the opposing team a free face off by making the offending back off 5-10 feet?

    D I take back what I said about you knowing something about hockey. Soccer wonk.

    14 – I like the concept of this one but it’s not necessary, since the non-offending team can change their lines to get the center whose strong side corresponds to the side that the faceoff is happening on.

    B+ Finally, an original (albeit unnecessary) idea.

    15 – Why not have a 3rd goalie in case the starter and/or backup get injured or have a bad night? Bench and player management is the coach’s job; why give the coach an “undo” button for an injury, keeping him from having to juggle his lines and make in-game adjustments? When a player goes off because of injury, the coach knows pretty quickly whether the player will be coming back or not. Coaching is an oft-ignored component of every hockey game. This proposal would only serve to extend the careers of bad coaches.

    F As in “First thing about hockey, you know not of it”

    Please never write about hockey again.

    Also: Google Now, please stop suggesting these awful articles. Bad Google!

  8. 1 – no it’s fine as it is
    2 – no this is just stupid
    3 – This isn’t the NBA and we like it that way. Hell no.
    4 – agree and if a goalie leaves his crease he can be hit.
    5 – No
    6 – No there needs to be limits
    7 – bring back ties after 5 minutes of 4-4 overtime
    8 – Yes, yes a thousand times yes
    9 – Huh?
    10 – I could live with this
    11 – No
    12 – Try this in the ECHL and see how it works. Might be worth a shot if it goes well down there.
    13 – a soccer change???? Ummmm, no.
    14 – sure why not
    15 – no need for this.

  9. which team has Last change needs to be looked at. how about the team in offensive zone has last change. Or take it a step further and expand on the icing rule to include “team cannot change when their goalie smothers the puck.”

    Further, limit when teams can use their time out To “only prior to a neutral zone face off or during the last five minutes Of play.” The time out should be used for strategy, and now it is mostly being used to circumvent the icing rule.

    • These are terrible ideas.First off it’s called freezing the puck and everything you said there is idiotic. And using a timeout to get around icing is strategy, your players are tired and need a break. Please stop making suggestions for everyones sake.

  10. Are you on drugs??? I’m being dead serious, you must have been drunk as hell when you wrote this. Have you actually been to a game lately? Say in Chicago, Washington, Detroit, or St.Louis? Fans really like the NHL and it’s starting to grow on non-traditional fans. The NHL needs to do the IIHF point system, that’s almost a given (surprised they haven’t already but it keeps teams like LA in it so it may stick around). The NHL puts a really nice product on the ice and has def. improved over the years. How is scoring not up??? The NHL’s problem was that ESPN never really supported it and it waned. Then NBC scooped it up for cheap. If they started playing more OTA network games the audience will follow. But it will never happen on any channel during the NFL season since no network wants to derail that gravy train. I think the NHL can make some lucrative deals when it’s contract is up again like they did in Canada. There is nothing inherently wrong with the current product. It could use some tweaks, but doesn’t real “Need” anything, especially most of the garbage you talked about. It’s people like you who have no idea what your talking but stick their noses in it anyway to mess up good things.

  11. Have you been to a hockey game? No fan is crying that the NHL isn’t making 10 figures. Sure, the revenue is down compared to the other Big 4 leagues, but do you think Blackhawk fans care when they can’t get to a game because their stadium is hovering around 110% capacity for the year? I grew up on ESPN so the NHL was a joke, even with my team winning multiple cups. After traveling throughout the US I’d rather go to a hockey game than any other sport. If more exposure is the goal, It’s all about location – Winnipeg has a population just over 600,000 and averages a sell out. Phoenix is over 1.4 million and can’t get past 75% on the year. Get teams to cities that care and leave the league comparison alone.

  12. How about get rid of the instigator penalty? It’s no secret that major injuries have risen because the players can’t enforce themselves without fear of the NHL cracking down on them.

  13. With the exception of eliminated shootouts, those were the dumbest suggestions I’ve ever herd. The day some of those are implemented is the day I stop watching NHL hockey. Good thing my tickets to the Habs/Wings game in 10 days is still for real hockey.

  14. Does no one else see the obvious solution of changing the NHL to European size ice? It’s refreshing to watch Olympic or European hockey. Players can breath and skate and pass, rather than the current situation of constant broken plays. Open the ice up, let the superstars shine, and sell a few more front row tickets while we’re at it.

  15. 1 – No – Power plays have already become way too big of a factor in the game, and the mentality of more goals equals a better product has practically ruined the game.
    2 – No – It’s dumb, and would lead to less shorthanded goals.
    3 – NO – Shoot yourself please.
    4 – No – Unless maybe they make the crease a little bigger along the sides of the goal.
    5 – No – This isn’t broke, so don’t try to fix it.
    6 – Maybe
    7 – Yes/No – Yes, please eliminate the shootout. I’m not too big on the idea of 3 on 3 OT, but whatever has to happen to make the shootout go away is probably fine with me.
    8 – Yes/No – 3 pts for a win, 2 points for an OT win, 1 pt for an OT loss. But I’d really prefer they just go back to ties after a 20 minute 5 on 5 OT.
    9 – No – See #3.
    10 – Yes – I have always wondered why they give them so much leeway.
    11 – No – This is just dumb. There is no need to “pad the stats of top players”.
    12 – No – Unnecessary.
    13 – No – Again, unnessary.
    14 – Maybe – It might be interesting, but is unnecessary.
    15 – No – The roster size is fine as it is, as it has been. We don’t need another 30 scrubs in an already watered-down league.

    16 – Eliminate the Delay of Game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass in your own zone.
    17 – Eliminate the trapezoid. Goalies can play the puck anywhere they want, but if they play it outside of their crease, they are considered a skater and fair game for being hit.

  16. um….what? too much obstruction???? bring it on! slow this game down! it’s way too fast. There is no more skill involved…it’s only about speed. Speed does not make good hockey…skill does.

  17. These hockey writers “columns” are getting ridiculous. You guys doing the writing are blowing your opportunity.

  18. Mr. Schoeninger, with all due respect, you are an idiot. You took two possibly logical changes to the game and surrounded them with moronic rules that you might institute during a street hockey game. Sure, you can eliminate restrictions on stick length/curve, however the NHL already grants exceptions for players desiring longer sticks and in recent years has loosened sanctions on the curves, going to .75 inches which is a pretty healthy curve that few, if any, NHL players use. You can also make a point about changing the point structure to that similar to the IIHF, although you incorrectly noted that an OT loss earns 2 points. Every other suggested rule change is ridiculous. As another commenter opined, you should refrain from writing about hockey if you’re going to post this garbage.

  19. OMG I with Eddie on this….the only ice you should be near is the ice cubes in your drink. A total waste of my time…Please dont embarrass yourself again writing about hockey on any level thanks!

  20. I like a few of the changes. Most don’t do anything for me. I do think the too many men rules should be better, and I’d be fine if the team gets to select the face-off dot post-icing. An extra, dressed player does make sense — its really tough for team to lose a player during a game and juggling lines or d-pairs. I would like to see a 1 minute minor for specific penalties like too many men or delay of game. Those aren’t glaring enough to deserve what a guy gets for holding or slashing, but it’d be enough of a deterrent to avoid player abusing the rules. Might even see too many men called a bit more often. If you want more goals, cut down on the padding the goalies get to use these days.

  21. Please never write about the NHL again, or sports in general. This is the dumbest thing I have ever read. Just trying to ruin a sport so people who don’t care about it will watch it instead of the die-hards that support it already? Just keep watching the NBA games that end 118-98 instead of an exciting 3-2 hockey game. Also, a 3-2 hockey game is the equivalent of a 21-14 football game. They just don’t get 7 points for scoring a goal. You probably only watch the Stanley Cup Final every year and think you’re an expert on the sport. Stick to the NBA, bud

  22. Nice article Bill. I like 1, 4, 5, 7, 8. Not only should goalies not be allowed to cover the puck outside the crease, it should result in a delay of game penalty. Also, if the goalies can ramp up their gear, why not let the players curve their sticks even more? I’d love to see an AHL OT model in the NHL or maybe something like a ten minute extra frame with five minutes of 4-on-4 and the final five with 3-on-3. The loser point should also probably be eliminated. I wouldn’t mind seeing the trapezoid go away either.

  23. If a team DOWN BY ONE GOAL gets a power play at the end of the game. They should get the full 2 minutes just as it would carry over between periods. If a goal is scored, the power play ends and the game goes to OT. If they don’t score in the 2 minutes the game is over. If the PK scores a shorty, the game is over.

    For example: Team A is down by a goal and gets a power play with 1 minute 18 seconds left in the game. Team A gets penalized with a shortened PP because the game is almost over. Any other point in the game that PP would carry over in to the next period. Even if the game was tied it would carry over in to OT.

    It is only in this instance that a team does not get the benefit of a full PP. So let it complete, like extra time in soccer.

    • I could roll with this idea. Also think suspensions where other players are hurt should be served against that team (or against the team that guy who injured the other player now plays for in the event he’s changed teams). You’d see a lot less of the dumb nasty stuff. Wouldn’t stop hard hitting and tough play, just the really garbage things

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