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(Photo: Heather Stebbins, The Pink Puck)

The AHL is having their annual Board of Governors meetings down in Hilton Head, South Carolina. Yesterday, the league announced the new division alignments along with the playoff format for next season. Today, we find out that the Board of Governors have approved a few rule changes for the next season.

The first rule change impacts overtime during the regular season. Last season, if there was a tie at the end of regulation, the teams took a one minute break before playing a 5 minute overtime period. Full strength during the overtime was 4 on 4. Now, the overtime period will follow a dry scraping of the ice (previously only done before a shootout) and the teams will switch sides. The overtime period will now be 7 minutes long and full strength will start at 4 on 4. However, following the first whistle after the 4:00 mark, the teams will switch to a full strength of 3 on 3.

This might seem kind of complicated. It also does seem a little arbitrary. But, there might be a benefit of this. With a longer overtime, teams will have more of a chance to end it without going to a shootout. Then, spending as much as four minutes playing 3 on 3 will open up the ice more, giving more room for skaters and less protection for the goalies. There are a lot of people out there, myself included, that think games should not be decided by a shootout. This could help that.

The second rule change involves major penalties. Any player that gets two fighting majors or three majors of any other kind in the same game will automatically be assessed a game misconduct. This is likely to discourage players from taking dangerous actions. In all likelihood, this is aimed at making the game safer. The AHL frequently has more fights than the NHL, but players will have to be conscious of their actions.

The third and final rule change adds a new minor penalty. The new rule makes it a minor penalty to play without your helmet. If a player’s helmet comes off during play, he has two options to avoid ending up spending 2 minutes in the penalty box. He can either immediately skate to the bench or put his helmet back on, fastening the strap properly, before starting to play again. This would appear to be another rule change aimed at safety. For some players, it seems their helmets come off a lot during the course of the game. Usually these players continue without a second thought. But, if they were to get checked into the boards, it could possibly be dangerous. Unfortunately, this could also punish players and teams for things that are sometimes beyond their control.

So what do you think about the new rules? Will the NHL be next?

A New England girl, born and raised, Jessica Higham has grown up loving few things more than hockey. Although she has never considered herself to be a good skater, she fell in love with hockey back when boys still had cooties and that love has only grown since. She genuinely wishes she had been alive to enjoy ‘Miracle on Ice’ and considers it to be one of the greatest moments in US history. Nothing compares to the feeling of September coming and signaling the start of a new season, complete with a whole new set of ups and downs. After having been an avid reader and occasional writer, Jessica wanted to try putting the two loves together and writing about hockey. Aside from hockey, Jessica also loves music, going to concerts, animals, and walking on the beach. Email: jessica@thepinkpuck.com @JessicaHigham

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