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NHL rule changes will enhance fan experience

By Ahmad Nasser, October 13 2015 –

The NHL has implemented some intriguing new rules for the 2015–16 season that look set to reverse the league’s recent trend of declining offence. The changes should open up scoring for the league’s top offensive stars, and could set hockey fans up for a much more exciting experience when games reach their tipping point.

Two particular changes stand out among the rest, and figure to be among the best updates to modern televised professional hockey since video replay was first introduced over a decade ago.

The true game-changer is the inclusion of three-on-three overtime as a replacement for the longstanding format of a five-minute four-on-four overtime period. Starting this season, if a game remains tied after 60 minutes, teams will settle the score with five minutes of three-on-three hockey. This will likely open up enough space to allow offensive creativity to run rampant. If neither team scores in the overtime period, a shootout will then determine the victor.

While the previously used four-on-four overtime period could be effective, it resulted in far too many games decided by shootouts. Though the shootout is held in high regard by fans, many in the league feel it is simply a ‘lucky’ way to decide games, as it relies on a very specific type of offensive skill instead of the fundamental aspects of team play that define the sport.

While there was considerable pushback against the proposition of removing the shootout altogether, the inclusion of three-on-three overtime serves as an excellent compromise. It will likely decrease the amount of shootouts fans get to see — as the space created by sending out fewer players brings a greater chance of back-and-forth offence and thus, more overtime game-winners — but the excitement factor is sure to remain.

Another key change is the coach’s challenge, which allows head coaches to call for an in-game review of goals scored if they feel the opposing team was offside or interfering with the goalie.

The coach’s challenge and its predecessor, video review, have become staples in many professional sports, helping to decrease the risk of human error in officiating.

More importantly, they enhance the fan experience, reducing the sense of injustice felt by fans watching miscalled plays. Where human error may have previously led to incorrect calls and bad officiating, the addition of measures like video review and the coach’s challenge ensure that fans feel vindicated when these things occur.

While the new rules changes figure to significantly change the game, they’ll surely bring about more excitement, and should do an excellent job of getting fans more involved.

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