by Trevor Uren | Posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

The National Hockey League season begins is just a couple of weeks away and several rule changes mandated by the league have drawn a lot of attention from hockey writers and fans. First, some historical context—for many years hockey was like baseball, loathe to change the way the game was played due to ‘tradition’. That changed in the early 1980’s when the league decided to tinker with the rules as a means of making the game more enjoyable for fans. While a few curmudgeons continued to stress the importance of ‘tradition’ the changes have been largely seen as successful and ever since the NHL has continued to fine tune the sport via this method.

One rule change for the 2015-2016 season is the addition of the ‘coach’s challenge’ which is familiar to any fan of NFL football. Like the NFL, pro hockey is introducing the challenge on a limited basis this season and will inevitably expand and/or ‘fine tune’ it going forward. This season, NHL coaches will be allowed to challenge goals that might be overturned due to goalie interference or an off-sides call. The only proviso is that the team making the challenge must have their time out remaining.

This change isn’t particularly significant and might end up being used very rarely. For one thing, all goals scored in the NHL are automatically reviewed by ‘mission control’ in the league office in Toronto. This means that a coach would be asking for a review on a goal that has already been reviewed once by league officials. He’ll need to be almost certain that a mistake was made during the existing review process to make the challenge. More importantly, any review that is not overturned will result in a team losing their time out. With time outs having more value in hockey, that is a big deal.

The more intriguing rule change involves the overtime period to settle tied games. This season games tied at the end of regulation will go into overtime as before, only the teams will play ‘three on three’ hockey’. This will provide much more open ice and—in theory at least—more games decided in overtime. At the end of the five minute overtime period games that are still tied will be settled by a shootout as before.

The overtime changes could potentially be very exciting for the fans or they could be a ‘non factor’. Coaches could decide to play more cautiously in the three-on-three situation thus negating the hope for a more ‘wide open’ overtime. This all remains to be seen once the regular season begins.

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