The United States Hockey League is changing the icing rules for their upcoming season as they will no longer allow teams killing penalties to ice the puck, opting to call icing every time. The USHL is hoping this slight rule change will add to more scoring in the league.
The USHL will be implementing several rule changes for the start of their season and preseason including 3-on-3 overtime which the American Hockey League is also doing. The move to 3-on-3 overtime is to discourage the use of shootouts to solve tied games and create more offence in the league.
The league states that the new icing policy will just be in place for the preseason and they, alongside the AHL and NHL will monitor how it works. The team that is shorthanded will not be able to send the puck to the oppositions end from their own end to relieve pressure anymore and will instead be called for icing the puck as if they were playing 5-on-5.
The only difference between the new rule and the regular icing rule is that the team who iced the puck while on the penalty kill will be able to change lines before the face-off in their defencive zone.
It’s a rule that will take some getting used to and while they stress that it will only be used for the preseason, implementing the rule at all means the USHL is thinking of adopting the new rule at some point. Having it go on for the preseason helps teams get used to the new rule, since players have grown up playing the opposite way.
An added benefit to this rule change being done in minor hockey is the fact it will force young hockey players to keep the puck on their sticks and develop better puck-handling skills. They will no longer be able to just dump the puck out, they will need to wind and weave their way out to get a change.
The NHL has already given some consideration to changing the rule and will be monitoring the USHL’s experiment closely. Brendan Shanahan who used to work in the league office offered this up;
"“When you start thinking about the fact that we give an advantage to the penalty-killers in that they’re allowed to ice the puck, you start to wonder: They’ve broken a rule, they’ve gotten a penalty, so now we’re going to let them break this other rule just for those two minutes.”"
The NHL feels comfortable with the current rule in place but should the AHL adopt the new icing changes, the NHL might be forced to also change their rules when it pertains to icing. While it’s a long way off, the USHL’s experiment could be a sign of a rule change heading to the NHL.