The summer of 2022 is a biennial rule change year for men’s and women’s ice hockey, and a few tweaks to the rulebook have made it through the appropriate levels of the NCAA Bureaucratic Inferno for adoption next season.
For the first time in over a decade, tweaks to the overtime format were only a secondary concern for the Rules Committee, rather than the primary concern. Instead, the primary focus was a much-needed overhaul of the video review process.
With the new rule change, coaches will now be required to formally request a challenge for several reviewable situations, including goaltender contact, offsides infractions, and high-sticking the puck which leads to a goal. Any unsuccessful challenge will cost the team their timeout, and any subsequent unsuccessful challenges will result in a two-minute delay of game penalty.
Although the release still leaves some wiggle room in saying that officials continue to have the ability to review goal-scoring plays and major penalties at their own discretion. We’ll have to see how this change plays out in practice. The previous rule regarding video review wasn’t necessarily bad as written and intended—to correct obvious and egregious missed calls. But in practice, it turned out to be a disaster, with seemingly every goal forced to endure a five to 10-minute examination, searching for any possible reason to discount the goal. Hopefully this change corrects some of that. A proposal suggesting a time limit on reviews never made it through the process, but just following the review philosophy as written—that something must be egregious to overturn a good goal on the ice—would go a long way in improving the flow of the game.
Because it was a rule change year, and because every college hockey ends in a 2-2 tie, the rules committee couldn’t get by without tweaking the overtime format yet again. This time it was pretty minimal, basically allowing schools to use shootouts to break ties after a 3-on-3 overtime, if the hosting school’s conference uses shootouts.
There is also a proposal, still needing official NCAA approval, to change the weighting of overtime results in men’s hockey from the 55/45 split last year, to the 67/33 split currently used in women’s hockey. The 55/45 split rendered overtimes as essentially meaningless. Last year’s final Pairwise would not have changed if all games that ended regulation in a tie—and there were a lot of them—were ruled as ties. This actually adds a bit of meaning to overtime.
Finally, the NCAA has added the ability for officials to call just a five-minute major for checking from behind or contact to the head, rather than automatically adding a game misconduct to the call. A lot of reasoning I heard behind the push was this was: “Most hits look really bad when you slow them down to slow motion,” which seems like kind of weird logic to me to say that you shouldn’t dangerous hits as harshly because most of them are dangerous anyway. But it is what it is. Head injuries have apparently moved far enough out of the discourse that the NCAA felt they could take a step back on it.
There were some other minor changes as well. They’ve adopted the NHL rule that a player just has to have their skate over the blue line to be considered onside on a play. That’s a good change. If you have to use the blue lines at all—you really don’t offsides as a call in hockey—then every advantage and benefit of the doubt should be given to the attacking team. It’s hard enough to score goals without extra technicalities getting in the way.
Speaking of which, the rules committee took a step backwards by eliminating a rule that the defending team touching the puck in the defensive zone negated the ability to review for offsides on zone entry. Again, it’s hard enough to score a goal. Stop searching for technicalities to disallow them.
Overall, I think the committee did fine with their two-year rule change. Like I said, we’ll have to see how the changes to video review actually plays out. The rules, as written, are good. The problem has been how they’ve been interpreted these past few years. Hopefully this change leads to more goals being scored, and less time spent at the video review booth searching for excuses not to count them.