League using exhibition contests to review potential rule changes
The United States Hockey League is using preseason contests to sample a number of playing rule changes and analyze whether to adopt those changes full-time in future USHL play. Additionally, the League has approved a series of rules that go into effect for the 2014-15 regular season.
Any games that go to overtime in the preseason will be played with a 3-on-3 skater format rather than the 4-on-4 format used during the regular season. During the USHL Fall Classic Week, all games will finish with a 3-on-3 overtime session regardless of the score at the end of regulation. The competitive environment of the Fall Classic contests, plus having the large number of NHL and collegiate scouts at the event, will allow the League to gather data and input on the alternate overtime format. The USHL previously experimented with the 3-on-3 overtime during the 2013 preseason.
Icing on Penalty Kill
Also during the Fall Classic Week, the USHL has installed a rule that icing infractions can be called during penalty kill situations for the shorthanded team. Under current regular season rules, a shorthanded team can ice the puck without play being stopped. With the experimental rule, the shorthanded defending team will not be allowed to ice the puck without play being whistled. In the case of icing in this situation, the ensuing faceoff will come back to defending zone, but the defending team will be allowed to make a line change.
Both rules are designed to create more offensive situations and both are being examined by professional leagues as potential rule changes in future seasons. The experimentation by the USHL will provide a sampling that can be reviewed by those leagues, including the NHL. Previous rule implementation by the USHL has been accepted by the NHL and NCAA, most notably the “hybrid icing” that was created by then USHL Referee-in-Chief Scott Brand in 2007 and been part of the USHL ever since. The forward-thinking rule has significantly decreased dangerous situations for players and reducing the risk of injury while still maintaining the pace of play.
Beyond the preseason rule experimentation, the USHL has adopted several rule changes that will go in affect for the 2014-15 season.
The USHL is working with USA Hockey on a one-year pilot program to allow 21 players to dress for USHL games. Previously, the maximum number of players that could dress for a League game was 20. The pilot program is designed to allow teams additional opportunities for player development and getting young players game experience. As with previous seasons, the exception to the rule is for USHL games that include Team USA, as both teams in those matchups will be allowed to dress a maximum of 22 players.
In the instance of skaters losing their helmet during the course of play, the player must either immediately proceed to the bench or immediately put the helmet back on and properly secure chin straps before they can return to play. Failure to follow the rule can result in a two-minute minor penalty. The rule is another step by the USHL to increase player safety, and it follows the lead of the American Hockey League (AHL) which has adopted the rule.
The USHL has modified its tiebreaker rule for the purpose of playoff qualifiers and playoff seeding. In the instance of two teams being tied with the same amount of points in the standings at the end of the regular season, the first tiebreaker will go to the team with the higher number of combined regulation and overtime wins, thus discounting wins that came in the shootout. This rule follows the lead of the NHL which previously installed this tiebreaker formula.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the USHL celebrates its 13th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league in 2014-15. A record 35 players were chosen in the 2014 NHL Draft and more than 300 players on team rosters last season have committed to NCAA Division I schools, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent. For more information, visit us on the web at www.USHL.com or visit the League’s social media platforms, including Facebook (www.facebook.com/ushlhockey), twitter (www.twitter.com/ushl), and YouTube (www.youtube.com/ushlinteractive). Fans can also watch USHL action all season long, live or on-demand via FASTHockey (ushl.fasthockey.com).