CHIP’S CLIPS: AHL trying to ruin hockey


By Chip Burch • Last Updated 10:37 am on Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Apparently there were too many NHL games that went into shootouts, and they wanted to do something about it.

Enter the American Hockey League, which contains teams that are the No. 1 affiliate of the NHL teams.

The AHL has been the place that the NHL goes to test out rule changes before implementing them. That will be the case this coming season.

On Thursday the AHL announced a few rules changes, with the idea that they test them out before seeing if they would work in the big league.

One rule change is that anyone who gets two fighting majors in the same game gets a game misconduct after the second fight.

Fine. The less fighting there is in hockey, the better. “Enforcers” will think twice before getting in the first fight knowing that opponents will try to goad them into a second fight to get him out of the game.

Another is that if a player loses his helmet during play, he must either immediately put it back on or immediately leave the ice.

I’m neutral on that one. I know the league is trying to reduce concussions, but forcing a player change in the name of safety won’t be well-received by coaches who manage their lines very closely — or by players who don’t want to come off the ice period.

But the rule that has my ire is a change to the overtime rule.

Because the overtimes in the NHL went to shootouts a lot more than NHL owners thought, the AHL will go to seven-minute overtimes, with two different situations during the overtime.

The first three minutes of the overtime will be 4-on-4, which is how the current NHL rule is for the entire five-minute overtime. But in the AHL, if no goal is scored in the first three minutes the final four minutes will go to 3-on-3. No goal after seven minutes? Shootout.

Why does the AHL have to ruin hockey like this?

Admittedly, I’m one of those hockey purists you see in articles about the sport from time to time.

But the sport is so intent on trying to have exciting finishes that they will do whatever it takes to end games with a clock running instead of the shootout they once thought was the most exciting play in hockey.

It’s amazing how quickly they abandoned that, wasn’t it?

This rule is ridiculous simply because if the teams won’t try to win it in five minutes of 4-on-4, what makes anyone think the teams will try harder when it goes 3-on-3?

Besides, look at how teams deploy their players when they are down to three players during penalty kills.

Teams will put one forward and two defensemen on the ice in that time. That’s likely going to be the configuration when the 3-on-3 overtime begins, since no team is going to want to get scored on.

That configuration will also not lead to much scoring on offense, either, since defensemen are rarely big goal-scorers.

This rule won’t help bring any more excitement to Van Andel Arena than previous rules that were designed to enhance scoring. If anything, it will kill excitement since teams will play conservative so as to not lose in overtime.

There shouldn’t be a need to make sure a win gets as exciting as possible. Manufactured drama will be exposed as fake by well-educated fans, who will not buy into the hype.

Hockey needs to stop trying to ruin itself. It’s already less popular than NASCAR. Rules like this continue the downward spiral to “niche” sport status like the Arena Football League.

Chip Burch is a sports writer for The Daily News. His email address is cburch@staffordgroup.com.

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