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NHL Rules that Changed the Sport Forever

With ongoing discussions around the league about potential mandatory neck protection in the near future, here are the five biggest rule changes and the reasons they were implemented.

Offsetting Penalties

In June 1985, the NHL implemented a new rule for the 1985-86 season. The Board of Governors decided to introduce offsetting penalties, where neither team lost a man when coincidental penalties were called. This made 4-on-4 hockey extremely rare.

This rule was implemented due to Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers during the 1980s. They would frequently enter 4-on-4 and 3-on-3 situations and find ways to score with all the extra space on the ice. This rule would be known as the "Gretzky Rule".

Mandatory Helmets

Wearing helmets was not always mandatory in the sport of Hockey. It was only during the 1960's that the NHL recognized the increasing risks of head injuries due to the game's growing physicality and speed. Following these concerns, the use of helmets became mandatory for all players entering the league in the 1979-80 season. By 1983, all NHL players were required to wear helmets while on the ice.

It wasn't until Bill Masterton's fatal incident on January 13, 1968 that NHL players became more open to the idea of wearing helmets, and another 15 years would pass until they officially became mandatory.

Two-Line Passing

From 1943-2005, the NHL had a rule known as the two-line pass rule. This prevented a player from passing a puck from their defensive zone to a player already on the opposing teams side of the red line. The rule was implemented as a preventative measure to eliminate cherry-picking in the sport.

Goals per game averages from the mid 1990's until 2004 were some of the lowest the league had ever seen, averaging just 2.5 goals per game. This led to dwindling fan interest, fewer games televised and less revenue generated. Due to this, the NHL lockout took place in 2004-05, meaning no games were played during the entire season. The rule change would then follow for the 2005-06 season in hopes of increasing goal scoring around the league.

3-on-3 Overtime

In the 2015-16 season, the NHL implemented 3-on-3 overtime to replace the previous 4-on-4 overtime which had been in place for many years.

The idea of 3-on-3 was to open the ice to more exciting hockey, and to decrease the chances of a game ending in the form of a shootout.