The NHL Board of Governors should pay close attention to the AHL overtime rule changes. If these new rules are successful, it could mean a steep decrease in shootouts and head trauma in the NHL.
Starting in October, the AHL will institute three new regulations. The first, and what may have the most impact, are the changes to the overtime format.
Teams will institute the “long change” to encourage more offense. Overtime itself will be seven minutes but with a few twists. Both teams will play four-on-four until the first whistle following the four-minute mark. If neither team has scored, the remaining time will be played at three-on-three. A shootout will determine the winner if the score remains tied.
Contrary to what commissioner Gary Bettman says, I have yet to meet a hockey fan who likes the shootout. The shootout is a skill competition/gimmick. Hockey is a team game. The winner and loser ought to be decided by the team. Not four players.
As much as the fans would probably like to end shootouts, it looks like they are here to stay. The general managers of the NHL do not even seem lukewarm to the idea of a three-on-three overtime.
Players would also likely want more compensation if a three-on-three or a seven-minute overtime is presented. They are the ones who are at risk. With the 2012-13 lockout still fresh, these kinds of disputes probably will not happen for a while.
Let’s say, however, the new rules present more scoring and few injures. Let’s say the new overtime format is successful. It generates more scoring and makes for an exciting product. The topic could gain some traction in the coming years.
Record revenues have come in and with the new TV contracts more money is on the horizon. Extra money will not only increase the salary cap, but it may persuade the Board to re-evaluate overtime. The GMs have already begun to look at instituting the long change in overtime.
All of this rests on how well this new format works in the AHL. If the new overtime gains positive reviews, it could gain traction with the NHL. If the new overtime falls on its face, the current format will likely stay.