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[Article] Four Ideas to Improve the NHL’s On-Ice Product

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OCT 19, 2023


Why should penalized teams get to ice the puck? From that to bigger nets, Adam Proteau explains his four ideas to increase the entertainment factor during NHL games.


Sometimes, people believe the NHL is a fixed product, an entity that essentially remains the same from year to year and decade to decade. 

While that’s true of certain elements of the league, the reality is the NHL is indeed a fluid, ever-changing industry, either in practical rules changes, the evolution of players and the advancements of technology. Like it or not, the NHL is like any other professional sports league insofar as it requires changes on the regular. 

This year, another pro hockey league, the European-based Champions Hockey League, announced significant changes to its games, including a shorthanded team ending their minor penalty by scoring. Most of those changes make a lot of sense to this writer. But truth be told, we like other major changes that the NHL should consider making. 


Hockey’s top league has a conservative bend in many regards, but the NHL should get credit for adopting rules such as the shootout and the highest-technology cameras and angles to ensure the proper analysis can be made on key plays.


That said, we’ve got other ideas in mind when it comes to changing the NHL. Here are four ways we’d make the game different, all with the mindset of increasing the entertainment factor. In no special order: 



1. Bigger nets.


Don’t get us wrong, we recognize the NHL is in a good place coming off a season in which teams averaged 3.18 goals per game, the highest average in that stat since 1993-94 (3.24). However, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement.


Any time you get to a situation where teams win by a 7-5 margin, you never see lineups for ticket refunds. There’s something to be said for good defensive hockey, but let’s face it, more goals means more fun. 

This is why we’d suggest a minor but important change to the size of nets. Think of how precise NHL players can be when shooting the puck. They can find the most limited of space and put the puck in with ninja-like accuracy. Now imagine giving players a couple more inches around the net. The best players in the sport would be drooling at the opportunity, and they’d make it much more difficult on goalies who simply take up most space by their large physical frames.


NHL players have gotten taller on average over the decades. The same should hold true for nets, which now are often patrolled by men of a 6-foot-3 size or larger. Let’s bring back the era where goalies had to be more athletic, as opposed to being physically imposing. We’d bet fans would hardly be able to tell the difference with slightly bigger nets, but the important people in the entertainment equation – the players themselves – would quickly recognize and benefit from the evolution to be more proportionate to ever-increasing goalie bodies and equipment.


2. All minor penalties are served for the full two minutes, regardless of how many goals are scored by the non-penalized team…


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Unsolicited response to each:


1. Bigger nets are the best of the ideas here. At least it improves scoring overall, and not just on PP (like the other ideas), but why not just focus on trimming down goalie gear, as has been suggested 100 times by 100 people?


2. Isn't this current rule the Gretzky rule or something? Either way it's here for a reason. Great - a team can score 3 pp goals in two mins to win the game. Cool. Imagine every 5 on 3 being fully served. Silliness. 


3. (No icings allowed on PP). Again, are more PP goals really the solution to the current non-existent problem of low scoring? Icing on the PP is a skill. Let the good defenders do it.


4. (Extra ref in the sky). Does he have a jetpack? Just float? What? Seriously though, if refs called things consistently there would be no reffing issues. They dont because their mandate is to make PPs even, or close to. What would the sky floating ref do, then, add extra insurance that the penalties are equally called throughout the game?


I don't mind the shorthanded rule in European Champions League, but in general, the best way to improve the game is to let/force the players to be skilled within the current framework. That's why we have such a better product now compared to the clutch and grab era - cuz the players don't clutch nor grab one another. Skill comes through instead.

Edited by GreenTercel
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Instead of bigger nets, I could get behind angled inwards posts, (instead of current round ones)


I know that the union would not allow less than 2 current refs (now that we have them), but I would be in favour of removing one from the ice, and having one in seats above who has a bigger overall vision like the fans do , while creating more open space on the ice ( I would prefer it tried in development leagues or preseason to get it right first)

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Didn't Montreal ruin the score as many goals on a powerplay back in the '50s? Might have the wrong decade, but I seem to remember that because they were so deadly with the man advantage it forced a rule change. And if they reverted to the old rule, with how bad the Canucks PK was last season, it would have been WAY worse.

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-increasing the size of the nets - would only have to be 4" more each way, wider and taller. hardly noticeable but effective, especially the taller wise. These 6'4 goalies cover a lot of the net even when down on their knees. 


-I like the idea that a short-handed goal ends the PP. I DO think they need to put back in place the puck over glass ' intentional  or not ' rule. but then again the refs don't apply most of the other rules properly now, so...


-@gwarrior ... yes it WAS the Montreal teams that caused the rule to be changed back in the 50's.


-extra ref... I'd be all for it. PROVIDING he wasn't located in Toronto. In the rink with multiple monitors and the power to talk to the on-ice refs live to stop the play. I'll go even further to say that the coaches challenges should be increased. 


-Here's one that hasn't been mentioned... if a penalty is called against team A. they have the OPTION to either kill the penalty OR the other team, B, gets 1 penalty shot for every minute that the penalty would be. ( 2 for a 2minute minor...5 for a 5 minute major) BUT players can't shoot more than once on any given penalty call. That way your goalie could either save 2 shots or give up up to 2 goals for a penalty, but it takes away the chance of a short handed goal. 


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Were #2 and #3 secretly submitted by Jay Woodcroft and Sheldon Keefe?  Hard no on those two.  Not huge on increasing net size, but it is crazy how much of the net some goalies can cover just by standing there, so there is room on that.


23 hours ago, Ballisticsports said:

Instead of bigger nets, I could get behind angled inwards posts, (instead of current round ones)


Is there a safety issue here, regarding players colliding with posts?  I've never heard of them, so not sure if they are being used somewhere already or not.  Think I would still prefer increasing net size than changing the posts, but I'm open to the idea

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On 10/23/2023 at 9:00 PM, Bob Long said:

Calls are weak and arbitrary enough now, anything that can automate that out of ref's hands would be good.

Prob is, like I alluded to in my earlier post, that's a feature, not a bug.


As long as it works to bring about parity, Bettman will be...parroty about it.

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