NHL 2005-06 Rule Changes

The National Hockey League's Board of Governors today approved a series of rule changes that will emphasize entertainment, skill and competition on the ice. Commissioner Gary Bettman, who presented the package to the Board, also formally announced the creation of a new Competition Committee which was responsible for formulating and recommending the proposed slate of rules changes for approval by the NHL Board of Governors.

One primary objective of the new rules will be to reduce the scope of defensive "tools" a team may effectively employ, and to create a corresponding benefit to the offensive part of the game -- thus allowing skill players to use their skills and increasing the number and quality of scoring chances in the game.

The Competition Committee is currently comprised of four NHL players, four General Managers and one owner and is supervised by Colin Campbell, NHL Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations. The players are Rob Blake of Colorado, Jarome Iginla of Calgary, Trevor Linden of Vancouver and Brendan Shanahan of Detroit. The General Managers are Bob Gainey of Montreal, Kevin Lowe of Edmonton, David Poile of Nashville and Don Waddell of Atlanta. The owner is Ed Snider of Philadelphia. NHL Players' Association Director of Business Operations, Mike Gartner, also will provide input to the Committee.

"Over the past 18 months, we have spoken with hockey players, managers, coaches, executives and fans who have expressed their opinions on rule changes that will make a great game even better. We have listened, analyzed and debated," Colin Campbell said. "While all of the constituent groups will never reach complete agreement on what the changes should be, we felt it was our obligation to recommend a slate of changes that will succeed in doing one thing: entertaining our fans -- both those in the arena and those watching on television.

"I am confident these changes will meet that objective and the Competition Committee will continue to ensure a commitment to achieving this in future seasons."

The following rules changes will take effect for the 2005-06 NHL season:


The neutral-zone edges of the blue lines will be positioned 64 feet from the attacking goal line and 75 feet from the end boards in the attacking zone. The addition of four feet in each of the offensive zones should encourage more offensive play, particularly on power-plays.

The goal lines will be positioned 11 feet from the end boards, two feet closer to the end boards than previously.

The size of the neutral zone will be reduced to 50' from 54'.

The blue lines and center line will remain at 12 inches in width.


Passes from behind the defensive blue line to the attacking blue line will be considered legal. The center red line will be ignored for purposes of the "two line pass".

"The Tag-up Rule" will permit play to continue if offensive players who preceded the puck into the zone return to the blue line and "tag" it.


Icing the puck offenses still will be penalized by a face-off in the defensive zone of the team that ices the puck.

A team that ices the puck cannot make a line change prior to the ensuing face-off.

"Touch" icing will remain the practice, although the Linesman will have discretion to wave off apparent icing infractions if they are deemed the result of an attempted pass. Providing the discretion to the Linesman also should have the effect of reducing the number of situations in which a race for the puck might result in an injury to a player.


A player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of a game will receive a game misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension. The length of suspension would double for each additional incident.

As well, the player's Coach will be fined $10,000 -- a fine that would double for each such incident.


The dimensions of goaltender equipment will be reduced by approximately 11 percent. In addition to a one-inch reduction (to 11') in the width of legpads, the blocking glove, upper-body protector, pants and jersey will also be reduced in size.

Goaltenders may play the puck behind the goal line only in a trapezoid-shaped area defined by lines that begin six feet from either goal post and extend diagonally to points 28 feet apart at the endboards.


Zero tolerance on Interference, Hooking and Holding/Obstruction.

Goaltenders who play the puck behind the goal line but outside the designated puck handling area will be penalized for delay of game.

Goaltenders will be penalized for delaying the game if they "freeze" the puck unnecessarily.

Any player who shoots the puck directly over the glass in his defending zone will be penalized for delay of game.


Following a scoreless five-minute overtime, three players from each team participate in the order the coach selects.

Each team takes three shots. The team with the most goals after those six shots is the winner.

If the score remains tied, the shootout will proceed to a "sudden death" format.

Regardless the number of goals scored during the shootout portion of overtime, the final score recorded for the game will give the winning team one more goal than the score at the end of regulation time.


In addition to the minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct/diving that may be assessed by the Referee during a game, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feigns injury in an attempt to draw penalties.

The first such incident will result in a warning letter being sent to the player.

The second such incident will result in a $1,000 fine.

The third such incident will result in a $2,000 fine.

The fourth such incident will result in a one-game suspension.

Public complaints or derogatory comments toward the game also will result in fines.


In February, 2004, the League began a thorough review of all aspects of the game at a meeting of the 30 club General Managers. Three current and former players also participated. Following the meeting, the League requested that six potential rule changes be tested in the American Hockey League during the 2004-05 season.

In July, 2004, the "Game Committee," comprised of current and former players, owners, general managers, coaches, on-ice officials and broadcasters met in New York to further discuss the direction of the on-ice product. Following that meeting, the League continued to review and assess the merits of a number of rule changes implemented in the American Hockey League during the 2004-05 season.

The League's General Managers and nine current players met in Detroit in April, 2005, to further discuss potential changes and the League conducted a Research and Development camp with OHL players and Canadian University players in Toronto last month to test the merits of several suggested rules.

In addition, the League did extensive polling to determine changes desired by NHL fans. The League also spoke to numerous NHL players and coaches as well as representatives of the American Hockey League, East Coast Hockey League, Canadian Hockey League (major junior) and NCAA. As well, the League elicited input from managers, coaches and players from European leagues during the 2004-05 season.

The Competition Committee met for the first time on June 23 in Toronto and, after considering the significant body of information that had been developed over many months, arrived at a consensus for recommending the series of rule changes described above for the 2005-06 season