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AHL to Debut New Rules Next Season; Could NHL Soon Follow Suit?

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The AHL will see several rule changes for the 2014-15 season, changes that could some day be implemented in the NHL. Andrew Krech/AP

With all of the progress the NHL has made since the 2004-05 lockout cancelled an entire season, the rules have remained mostly the same, but several changes announced by the AHL on Thursday could one day have an impact on how the NHL game is played, including how games are decided after 60 minutes.

Starting with the 2014-15 season, when an AHL game goes to overtime, seven sudden-death minutes will now be put on the clock, with teams playing 4-against-4 until the first whistle after three minutes of play. Teams will then play 3-against-3 for the duration of the overtime period.

If there is no winner after seven minutes of overtime, then the game will go to a shootout to determine a victor.

This is significant because it should help reduce the number of games that are decided in a shootout, leading to more results that aren’t based upon what is essentially a skills competition.

Another rule change for the upcoming AHL season includes an automatic game misconduct penalty being called if a player accumulates two fighting majors or three major penalties of any kind in the same game.

The third change is the rule on helmets: if a player loses his helmet during a game, he will be assessed a minor penalty if he does not immediately leave the ice or does not put it back on right away with the chin strap properly fastened.

It is yet to be seen if these rules will have an effect on possible changes to the NHL game, but if they are deemed a success at the AHL level, there is no doubt that there will be discussions in implementing them in the NHL.

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