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A three-in-the-key rule for hockey?

May 10, 2012, 5:59 PM EDT

Boyle in front of Caps net Getty Images

A couple of weeks ago we asked our fantastic readers, and even just the average ones, if the NHL needed to do more to generate scoring opportunities to combat the trend towards defensive, shot-blocking hockey that we’ve seen on full display during the playoffs.

About 46% of you said yes, the other 54% were wrong said no.

For those in the “yes” camp, one “radical measure” we floated was to create a rule that would prevent all five defenders from collapsing around the goalie and blocking shots all day.

How that would work exactly we weren’t sure, but The Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatschek has an idea. Well, actually it’s former NHL coach and GM Pierre Pagé’s idea — why doesn’t the NHL borrow the three-in-the-key rule from basketball?

The rule states that an offensive player shall not remain in the key for more than three seconds. Pagé’s application to hockey would affect both offensive and defensive players, with the primary goal to keep the area in front of the net unclogged.

It’s an idea worth considering, given how established the shot-blocking trend is today. Teams all collapse back toward the goal, with every player instructed to get in front of shots, even if they happen to screen the goaltenders. Under the Pagé plan, hockey could create a zone in front of the goaltender that perhaps only three, or even two, players a team could enter at the same time.

Duhatschek understands it would be a drastic measure that would dramatically alter the look and strategy of the game. I mean, imagine a big forward not being allowed to park himself in front of the net the entire power play. What would Tomas Holmstrom do? Retire probably.

Personally I don’t see a rule like this being introduced in the near future, if ever. However, like Duhatschek writes, I do sometimes feel like “every goal seems to come off a cycle down low and requires that the puck carom to a player in a shooting position, usually off a deflected pass.”

  1. rosselliott - May 10, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    The downside is, you’d be giving goalies much better looks at the puck and most goalies these days, if they can see they puck, they’ll stop it most of the time. Obviously, this doesn’t include Marc-Andre Fleury…

    • twopadstack31 - May 10, 2012 at 6:12 PM

      or bryzgolov.. his five hole is humongous big!!!!!

      • dougr42 - May 11, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        yeah, michael leighton big.

    • eigglesnosuperbowls - May 10, 2012 at 8:11 PM

      The refs can’t get the calls right as it is now, this would be a joke !

  2. twopadstack31 - May 10, 2012 at 6:06 PM

    This would be highly ineffective because forwards would still block shot from out higher and without traffic in front, the goalies, who may I remind you are not only the best in the world but also the best and biggest they have ever been, would be able to see the puck much easier without all the screens and it would eliminate rebound chances in front of the net with less players being allowed to crash the front of the net.

  3. buffalomafia - May 10, 2012 at 6:24 PM

    Leave it alone! Why ruin the game!

  4. Stiller43 - May 10, 2012 at 6:25 PM

    TERRIBLE idea

  5. bearsnbills - May 10, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    We could just make the net bigger and goalie pads smaller…

    • barkar942 - May 10, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      Soccer Sized Goals. And all shots come form outside the blue line.Take away the goalie’s stick. And all players in their own defensive zone must skate to the bench and hand off their sticks before going in their own zone.And instead of using sticks to shoot the pucks, how about bazookas! That ought to get a few more goals scored per game! Think Chara’s slapper is hard- wait till they block one from a bazooka!
      All of my ideas sound better that the one offered up by this article!

  6. govtminion - May 10, 2012 at 6:34 PM

    I think my main question would be, how would you enforce this? Let’s be honest, the NHL doesn’t do a particularly good job of enforcing the rules it already has, is this one going to be any different? And what if it IS called? Faceoff in the attacking zone? Two minutes?

    I hate the overkill-shot-blocking too, but I sure can’t see this working well.

    • underthefish - May 11, 2012 at 12:00 PM

      Yeah its seriously a bad idea. The refs already have 100 things to watch and now they should set timers on every player too? It will just lead to mass confusion and even more upset fans.

      Here’s another suggestion: add even more trapezoids and stupid markings on the ice where designated players can’t go and add three-pointers and a shot clock. Also add in a Nok Hockey UFO shot if it goes over the glass. And disallow poke checks and add a few more lines in the middle and make a 4 line pass illegal.

      • govtminion - May 11, 2012 at 12:16 PM

        All very good ideas you have here. I’d add in having the little remote-controlled blimps fly around over the ice and occasionally drop an extra puck on the ice to make things interesting during games. Why not really add some chaos?

  7. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - May 10, 2012 at 6:38 PM

    Has anyone considered that perhaps this is how hockey is supposed to be played? It’s not meant to be a high-scoring game as evidenced by the fact scoring only went up when looking at a guy wrong was called a penalty. This isn’t basketball. Leave our game alone.

  8. busieks - May 10, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. This would kill the game. Please never bring this up again.

  9. sebmono - May 10, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    Get rid of offsides, that would open up the game by eliminating neutral zone trap. That’s what really killed the offensive game, just look at what it did to the Caps run-n-gun. No offsides, more stretch passes, more wide open, more excitement, more goals.

    • underthefish - May 11, 2012 at 12:02 PM

      This might be even stupider than the original idea.

  10. capsfan19 - May 10, 2012 at 7:55 PM

    Rediculous rule. That would completely diminish the needs for certain role players. Dumb dumb dumb

  11. sonofsuzycreamcheese - May 10, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    What if they went to Olympic sized ice? All that extra ice could generate more scoring opportunities.

    • cardsandbluesforever - May 10, 2012 at 11:31 PM

      i dont tihnk olympic sized ice would work, it would cost several million per rink to increase the size, plus it would take out some seats reducing revenue.

      some of the best hockey i see in most games is when they are playing 4 a side. its usually great end to end action because the players do have more space. 4 players a side would not only give the guys more space, but the coaches will have an extra line to play with. players can take shorter shifts resulting in fresher legs for everyone on each team.
      scoring would go up garanteed.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - May 11, 2012 at 2:37 AM

        Bell and Rogers own the Leafs. I’m sure they could afford to increase the size of the ACC ice and help out some of the other teams once they’re done.

    • fedfedcaps - May 12, 2012 at 12:53 PM

      It’d not, because then, with more open ice, the game would get slower with a lot of action going too far from the goal. In the NHL, every bounce can be crucial. With the Olympic-sized ice, it’d be different because of more space.

  12. caps247 - May 10, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    Just… no. This would do more than just change the game. Players would have to adjust to different roles while coaches have to invent new strategies to get the puck around, especially on a power play. Not to mention, suddenly changing a rule that NHL coaches, players, and fans have lived with forever would probably be very chaotic. This isn’t basketball, and we don’t need it to be like it. If the NHL wants more scoring from defensive teams and they don’t get it, that’s their problem. Teams like the Caps and Rangers finally found a way to be successful in the playoffs, and the NHL wants to change that to see more goals and make it “exciting”?

    Please, it should be the teams’ decision to play the want to play, it is exciting nonetheless. Just let them skate.

    Sure, everybody enjoyed it when the Caps were an offensive exploding machine in the regular season and the playoffs with Bruce Boudreau, but look where it’s got them – only to the 2nd round twice vs Tampa Bay and they got swept.

    Dale Hunter is only on his 1st season as a coach and he already made it farther than Boudreau, defeating the defending Cup champs and putting a good fight against the #1 seed in a race for the Conference finals.

    Sure, it was exciting when the Caps scored a lot, but it was far less exciting when they got eliminated in the 1st round.

    Perhaps straight up defensive hockey is the way the game was meant to be played all along? It’s working for the teams, so why not? Why would the NHL want to take away something that made most playoff teams this year so successful?

    Dumb rule. Not happening.

    • comeonnowguys - May 11, 2012 at 9:50 AM

      There’s a difference between conservative defensive hockey and turtling. There’s a rash of turtling in the West.

      In every other sport, if you play “not to lose,” you lose.

      • comeonnowguys - May 11, 2012 at 9:52 AM

        Oh, and for the record, I would hate this rule, too.

  13. itsallniceonice - May 10, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    A crappy article written by an average PHT blogger.

    • billlaforge22 - May 10, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      No. A good article written by a good PHT blogger commented on by a crappy commenter.

    • comeonnowguys - May 11, 2012 at 9:51 AM

      To bad a WordPress install is so expensive, otherwise I’m sure you’d show everyone how much better at it you are.

  14. oviovertime - May 10, 2012 at 8:22 PM

    This is a stupid idea. Hockey is finally getting popular and this crap would ruin it. I’m a caps fan and I miss the run and gun but this type of hockey is so much more fun to watch when it is tight like this. Don’t change anything

  15. lesleyvissersfacelift - May 10, 2012 at 8:30 PM

    I actually think something like this would work. But it can’t be a timed rule, like “three seconds”. It should be something more in the spirit like the soccer offsides rule. How about the number of defenders in the slot can at no time be greater than the number of attackers in the slot? So someone like Holmstrom can park in front for as long as he wants, but you eliminate having 4 or 5 defenders collapsing down low. Otherwise, 2 minute bench minor for illegal defense. In theory the slot will only get clogged when all the attacking players swarm the goalmouth.

  16. banshee950 - May 10, 2012 at 8:57 PM

    leave the game alone and stop pandering to dill wads that don’t get it. they can enjoy baseball or watching bright shiney cars whip around in circles

    • comeonnowguys - May 11, 2012 at 9:54 AM

      This has been the first year in many where I’ve turned from a playoff hockey game to a baseball game and not been bored to tears with baseball. Not exactly good for hockey.

  17. quonce - May 10, 2012 at 9:52 PM


    How many useless trapezoids do we need painted on the ice?


  18. quizguy66 - May 10, 2012 at 11:24 PM

    Still annoyed the league went to the 82-game schedule to be like Bettman’s precious NBA.

    Why don’t they just put the net 10 feet above the ice and make goaltending illegal while they are at it?

    People love to overreact to trends. The solution to blocking shots is let the guy go down and maneuver around him since he’ll be out of position. I mean this great Rangers strategy has gotten them what, a 7-6 record in the playoffs so far this year?!?


  19. howardforvezina - May 10, 2012 at 11:52 PM

    More goals does not increase excitement necessarly. The All-Star game is not exciting and there are more goals

  20. comeonnowguys - May 11, 2012 at 12:02 AM

    Olympic sized ice

    3-2-1 point system to minimize the impact of pity points

    I have no problem with 1-0, but I do have problem when it’s because they collapse 5 guys on goal.

    • bisonaudit - May 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM

      Olympic ice will never happen. It’s expense to implement and it reduces revenue.

      I agree, they need to fix the standings points.

      A nit pick on the pull quote: The NBA has BOTH offensive and defensive 3 seconds already. I don’t have any idea how this would translate to hockey but I think it’d be interesting to see in the experimental games that they run at the meetings.

  21. datsyukx13 - May 11, 2012 at 5:53 AM

    Worst idea ever

  22. fullbagg - May 11, 2012 at 11:42 AM

    Problem is, you’d have to add 2 more refs. That alone would block most clearing attempts on the boards…

  23. jetspackers - May 11, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    how about making the shin pads thinner, so it would actually hurt when you blocked a shot??

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