NHL General Managers are considering rule changes that could have major impacts on the game at their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. this week.
NHL General Managers are considering rule changes that could have major impacts on the game at their annual meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. this week. REUTERS

According to reports coming out of the NHL General Managers meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., hybrid icing, the return of the red line and the end of the trapezoid are all possibilities in the near future.

All three rule changes are being pushed as a way to increase player safety, especially in the wake of concussions that have cut down stars like Sydney Crosby, David Perron and Marc Savard.

Hybrid icing has been tested at the NHL's research and development camp and has been a part of the NCAA hockey rulebook since the 2010 season has the best chance to pass right now.

Hybrid icing allows the linesman to make a judgment call on icing calls. Players race for the puck as usual but if the defenseman is leading the race at the faceoff circle the linesman will blow the play dead as icing. If the forward is in the lead then the play continues.

The idea behind the rule is that it eliminates some of the big hits taken by defensemen in the corners when chasing the puck. The rule change is the brainchild of Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke and is something he has been trying to implement into the pro game for six years.

We don't want automatic icing. They have it in international hockey and it looks awful. The puck gets iced and everyone stands around and it looks terrible, Burke told NHL.com. But the race is too dangerous for the defensemen right now. I think you can keep the race in, but make it safer for the defensemen. The NCAA rule is you race to the faceoff dot. So if you're the defenseman and I chip it past you, I've only got to beat you to the hash mark and it's play on. If you beat me it's an icing. To me, we keep the chase, we keep the interest for the fans, it's an exciting play for our fans, but we make it safe for the defensemen.

Of the proposed changes, this one seems to have the most weight with the general managers. A select committee of seven GMs voted unanimously to take the issue before the full group of GM's today. They need yes votes from 20 of the 30 GMs in order to present the rule change to the Competition Committee.

If the committee approves the rule as well, then it would go to the Board of Governors for a final stamp of approval.

The removal of the red line has significantly less support. Bruins President Cam Neely said that it would set the game back 10 years, in an interview with a Boston radio station.

The removal of the red line was one of the great victories championed by the league in the wake of the 2004 lockout, and was seen as a way to eliminate the trap defense perfected by the New Jersey Devils, that turned the game into dump and chase hockey.

But the proposal is being considered as a way to slow players down as they head through the neutral zone in an effort to avoid big collisions that lead to injuries.

The final change being considered, the removal of the trapezoid behind the net would give goaltenders the ability to play the puck in the corners again. The trapezoid was put in place for much the same reason as the red line was removed, in the hopes that there would be more offensive action and excitement.

Players like Dominic Hasek and Martin Brodeur were masters at handling the puck and became almost like a third defenseman when they would grab pucks in the corners, limiting the offensive opportunities for the opposition.

Like the red line proposal, it doesn't appear as though there is enough support to get the 20 votes needed to pass the rule up the chain, but there will be plenty of discussion about all three rules before the meetings break up on Wednesday.