While most of North America follow a very standard set of rules for hockey, the rest of the world tend to follow what the IIHF has in store. For the most part, the game is the same, but there are differences that change the pace of the game. A lot of fans prefer the NHL rules just due to the fact they’re used to it, and that means it takes of a bit of getting used to when switching over to play pretty much anywhere else.
Let’s take a look at a few rules that do have a bit more importance to the game in an effort to help you better understand the differences between the two major sets of guidelines.
NHL Rule 47: The one thing that can be considered a positive at international events is the fact that fighting is non-existent. Yes, there have been the occasional bench clearing brawl during the World Juniors, but like many junior leagues around the world, players receive a match penalty and are ejected from the game if they decide to drop the gloves. Imagine if the Americans were to bring Columbus Blue Jackets goon Jared Boll to the Olympics to beat on the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Henrik Zetterberg. Oh, that would go over well. That’s not to say he would actually make the team, but if NHL teams think face smashers improve the overall makeup of their squad, who knows?
NHL Rule 84: Traditional hockey fans have never been fond of the shootout. That’s understandable. Why should a game, where points mean everything, end in a one on one format? While this isn’t the time to debate this, you won’t be pleased with the IIHF. In an international tournament, tied playoff games are followed by ten minutes of sudden death overtime. If the game remains tied, it is decided by a shootout. If the game remains tied after the first three shooters, any player can be chosen to shoot any number of times, just like Jonathan Toews did at the 2007 World Junior Hockey Championships against USA in the semi-final round. And while the NHL ditches the whole shootout gimmick during the playoffs, the IIHF holds on to it throughout the entire tournament, even during the championship game. Man, imagine if the Stanley Cup was decided off of a skills competition. That would go over well.
NHL Rule 11: The one rule that interests many this year more than in previous tournaments comes at the expense of goaltenders. It’s been well documented so far this year about how NHL netminders will be forced to use smaller pads for the upcoming season, losing 2 inches off each leg pad for a total of 4 inches less five hole coverage. For starters, it’s going to be interesting to see how the world’s top puck stoppers react to the changes, but it’s also going to be enticing to see what they do at the Olympics. Four extra inches does make a big difference, yes, but are they going to be able to switch right back to the old pads, which are allowed by the IIHF, only to have to re-adjust their game once again?
NHL Rule 1.8: Speaking of goaltenders, it is prohibited for an NHL goaltender to handle the puck anywhere behind the goal line that is not within the trapezoidal area. Dubbed the “Martin Brodeur Rule”, the rule was designed to make it more difficult for the goaltender to possess and clear the puck, as well as avoid collisions with opposing players in dangerous areas. Many goaltenders have expressed displeasure with the rule as it doesn’t allow them to capitalize on their puck handling skills, and overall it just tends to make games a little bit slower with it in place since the goaltender has to wait for the defenseman to come scoop it up himself.
NHL Rule 1.2: Hockey rinks in most of the world follow the International Ice Hockey Federation specifications, which is 61 meters (200 ft)×30.5 meters (100 ft), while the NHL has specifications of 61 meters (200 ft) × 26 meters (85 ft). The extra 4.5m may not sound like a lot on paper, but in a five on five situation where space is critical, it can actually make a big difference. A good example of this happened at the 2012 Spengler Cup championships when Canada, a super-team featuring John Tavares, Tyler Sequin and Matt Duchene, lost to Jochen Hecht and Adler Mannheim of the DEL in Germany. Yes, it may have been a close, hard fought battle, but considering Canada would go on to win the championship thanks to a 7-2 smashing of HC Davos, it came as a shock. Why were they bested? It was clear that many of the players, who have little to no experience with hockey in Europe, weren’t accustomed to the larger ice surface most of the world used to play the greatest game on earth. In some tournaments, where North American teams cant send all their best players, the ice does make a difference, but it doesn’t take time to get used to the extra footing.
NHL Rules 57 and 60: Now, these one’s may come off as being weird if you don’t follow international hockey all too closely. In the NHL, only a minor penalty may be assessed for tripping. However, at the world stage, you can be assessed a game misconduct, and even a suspension just for tripping your opponent. Now, that’s not common, considering 99% of the time it is usually just a two minute sit down, but hey, it can happen. While its not likely for that to happen for tripping, high sticking is a different story. In many cases, high sticking will actually result in an injury. During the Olympics, you can be assessed a minor, double minor, major plus game misconduct, or a match penalty for getting your wood in the way of the opponent. When it causes an injury, you can receive a major penalty, plus a game misconduct and when the injury is accidental, which usually isn’t the case, you can be handed a double minor. Remember back in kindergarten when your teacher told you to keep your hands to yourself? Same goes for you and your stick swinging antics, so don’t expect to see Andre Deveaux suiting up for Canada in the near future.
Rule 184: This is the rule the IIHF has that the NHL doesn’t have. If a player gets caught in the crease during an international event, the play will be automatically called. Call it the Brett Hull rule if you want, but NHL fans will never forget the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals and the controversy surrounding the former Dallas Star forward that helped his team win their first, and only, championship. You can guess why many hockey fans are not a fan of this rule, but for goalies, you won’t see them complaining,
While there are a couple of major changes between the NHL and IIHF rulings, there are a lot of other’s that don’t have a whole lot of significance. In fact, NHL.com has a list comparing the 58 rules that the two organizations differ in for full reference. For another outlook on the differences in rules, ESPN put together a piece on the subject prior to the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, and the IIHF also have published a page explaining all the discrepancies pertaining to the rules.
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