Ron Hainsey is one of the five players serving on the NHL-NHLPA Competition Committee who pushed for a few minor rule changes to the game for 2017-18.
First and foremost was an adjustment to the much-derided offside challenge. In 2016-17, the first season in which the NHL instituted a poorly received offside challenge, coaches called for an offside review 117 times in the regular season. On 78 occasions, or 66.6 per cent of the time, the official’s original call was upheld.
We asked the veteran Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman to give his take on the impact the new rules could have on the upcoming season.
• A failed offside challenge will now result in a two-minute minor penalty to the challenging bench and not just a lost timeout.
HAINSEY: “That’s interesting. We always talk about it over the years on the Competition Committee. Before we went to the replay rule, everybody was like, ‘Why wouldn’t you do a replay? Do a replay right!’ We kinda punted it two years in a row. Everybody in the media was calling for a better replay: ‘Why wouldn’t you do a replay?’
“Well, sometimes you don’t know what’s going to happen once you install a rule. No one would’ve predicted that every quarter-inch blade off the ice at the blue line would [result in an offside challenge]. We kinda thought coaches would just throw it at the wall late in a game: ‘Screw it. Let’s just challenge it because it’s worth it.’
“Still, late in a game if you’re losing, you’re probably not going to worry about the two minutes [for a failed offside challenge]. I think this will ease the super-close offside, which wasn’t the intent of the rule. The intent of the rule was the five-foot offside where everyone in the stands was like, ‘Holy cow! How’d they miss that?’ That penalty is going in to satisfy what was an unintended consequence.”
• The punishment for a failed goaltender interference challenge, however, will remain the same — a lost timeout. There will be no penalty for delaying the game.
HAINSEY: “Goaltender interference is just tougher. It’s such a judgment call. If you have it, it’s never going to be perfect: Hey, looks like the goalie faked it! Did he or did he not? Is this a bump or is that a bump? It’s a hard one. If you have a penalty for goalie interference, there are going to be calls you don’t agree on. It’s like balls and strikes—a judgment call.”
• No time-out shall be granted following an icing for the team that committed the icing infraction.
HAINSEY: “It doesn’t happen that often. Now you can’t take a timeout after a five-on-five icing. I usually was of the mind to not take a timeout anyway; I’d rather win the faceoff and ice it again. There’s ways to burn time. I mean, if you lose the draw dead-right to the guy on the blue line, then it can be a problem. That one, we’ll see.”
• Although not an official change to the rulebook, the Competition Committee also urged on-ice officials to be more diligent with calling slashes to the hands. Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and Ottawa’s Marc Methot were seriously injured by this nasty trend.
HAINSEY: “The increased focus on guys slashing on the hands is only really going to benefit the best players, which is probably what you want to do. You want them to have more freedom to carry the puck and not have to worry about their fingertips breaking in half.
“Get the refs to pay attention to that, call it early, and that tends to take things out of the game. You won’t have guys slashed in the hands, hopefully.”