AHL implementing new standards

The American Hockey League will enter the 2004-05 season, its 69th year of operation, with a new set of playing standards, including several significant rule changes, changes to the ice markings, stricter interpretations on restraining fouls and a stricter standard on supplementary discipline in cases of deliberate injury or attempt to injure.

These changes to playing standards have been generated as the result of a number of influences. The rule changes implemented by the AHL at its Annual Meetings in June were to a large extent a reflection of those recommended to the NHL by its general managers, and subsequently recommended by AHL management to its competition committee and its Board of Governors.

Earlier this off-season, AHL President and CEO David Andrews established a Playing Standards Committee composed of players, coaches, management and officials in order to review issues related to violence and quality of play; Mr. Andrews also served on the NHL Game Committee which met in New York to examine all aspects of the game. Recommendations from those committees were brought forward for consideration to the AHL Competition Committee and the AHL Board of Governors. The Board unanimously approved the formation of a program aimed at creating more speed and potential scoring opportunities by eliminating restraining fouls as an acceptable defensive tactic. The program also establishes disciplinary standards and educational programs for players and coaches designed to raise the standard of respect among players and ultimately eliminate incidents of deliberate injury of an opponent.

The NHL has assisted the AHL in the development of these standards and has provided technical assistance with program design as well.

The restraining foul standard will focus on stricter interpretation of hooking and holding fouls against a puck carrier who has gained a positional advantage on a defender. If an advantage is taken away through the use of the stick (hooking) or arms/hands (holding) a penalty will be called. In addition, officials are being advised to call a stricter standard of interference in the attacking zone.

The AHL’s standard of supplementary discipline on acts where there is deliberate attempt or deliberate injury of an opponent will include more severe suspensions without pay. An awareness program on violent play and its consequences is in development for presentation to all AHL players. AHL coaches from all 28 teams are attending a playing standards workshop in Springfield on Sept. 22, and AHL referees will be briefed on the material on Sept. 28 in Toronto.

Rule changes approved for the 2004-05 AHL season include:

  • Permission of “tagging up” to negate off-side plays
  • Implementation of “no-touch” icing
  • Widening the blue lines and center red line to 24 inches and moving the goal line back to 11 feet from the end boards, adding space to the neutral zone
  • Employing a shootout to decide regular-season games which are tied after overtime

    The AHL will also implement, for the first seven weeks of the 2004-05 regular season, a limited test of a rule restricting the areas where goaltenders may play the puck in an attempt to increase offensive opportunities without wholly eliminating a goaltender’s ability to assist his defensemen.

    The American Hockey League continues its tradition of excellence when its 69th season begins on Oct. 13, once again serving as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League clubs. More than 100 alumni recently competed in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey tournament, and over 80 percent of all players to compete in the NHL in 2003-04 were AHL graduates, with more than 400 players taking the ice in both leagues.