SPRINGFIELD, Mass. … The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors convened via conference call on Wednesday and approved a series of rule changes for the 2005-06 season.
“The changes implemented by the AHL last season were successful in increasing the flow of the game and generating additional offensive opportunities, and the NHL’s recent revisions to their own rules package will further enhance the quality of our sport,” said David Andrews, President and CEO of the American Hockey League. “With more than 400 players skating in both the AHL and the NHL every year, our intention remains to substantively follow the NHL rule book in order to allow our players to develop under the same framework of playing standards in each league.”
The following rules will be in effect for the AHL’s 2005-06 season:
The neutral-zone edge of the blue lines will be moved four feet towards center ice, creating 64-foot attack zones and reducing the neutral zone to 50 feet. The goal lines will remain 11 feet from the end boards, as per the AHL’s 2004-05 rules. The blue lines and center red line will each be 12 inches in width. The AHL had played with 24-inch lines in 2004-05. “Two-line passes” will be permitted; a pass from behind the defensive blue line across the center red line will be considered legal. “Touch” icing will be reinstated. Linesmen will have the discretion to wave off an apparent icing violation if it is deemed to be the result of an attempted pass. A team that is guilty of an icing violation will be prohibited from making a line change prior to the ensuing faceoff. “Tagging up” on delayed offside situations will continue to be permitted, as per the AHL’s 2004-05 rules. A shootout will follow regular-season games which are tied after a five-minute overtime period. The shootout format (five shooters aside) will remain the same as the AHL’s 2004-05 system. A penalty for instigating in the final five minutes of regulation or in overtime will carry an automatic game misconduct, an automatic one-game suspension and fines to the coach and team of the offending player. Punishments will double with each subsequent offense. The dimensions of goaltender equipment will be reduced per the National Hockey League’s directives. In addition to a one-inch reduction (to 11 inches) in the width of leg pads, there will be reductions in the maximum size of the blocking glove, upper-body protector, pants and jersey. The goaltender puck-handling zone will continue to be enforced, as per the AHL’s 2004-05 rules. The Board rejected a motion to institute an automatic penalty for delay of game against any player who shoots the puck directly over the glass in his defending zone. AHL Rule 51(a) still calls for a minor penalty against any player who deliberately shoots the puck outside the playing area.
In operation since 1936, the AHL continues to serve as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. More than 80 percent of NHL players in 2003-04 were AHL graduates, and in 2004-05, more than 7.1 million fans – an all-time league record – attended AHL games across North America.