Time to tinker as NHL's RDO camp opens

Publish date:

Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke wants to bring back the bear hug to help prevent serious boarding injuries. (Jean Levac/ZUMApress)


By Stu Hackel

The NHL's second Research, Development and Orientation Camp opens today in Etobicoke, Ontario with a group of the best draft eligible junior players (here's the list) testing more than 30 potential new rules under game conditions while simultaneously showing their stuff to scouts.

Once upon a time, rule tests were staged during the NHL preseason, or for a year in the AHL, before the NHL would adopt them. Now, they do it this way. The camp provides NHL GMs with a chance to see them as a group and discuss what they've just seen. One wise commenter noted that if the GMs wanted to see how removing the trapezoid behind the net would work, they didn't need the RDO Camp; all they needed to do was watch any NHL game film prior to 2005.

We wrote about some of these proposed rules last month. While a few have a real shot at being adopted, some are just pet ideas of a single GM who wants to convince his colleagues of the rule's value. Toronto's Brian Burke, for example, has never been a fan of the 2005 rule changes that sped up the game, and he has pushed his notion of the "bear hug" rule in which a player can wrap his arms around an opponent and take him into the boards. That would essentially legalize holding and re-introduce clutching and grabbing along the boards. Ostensibly, this is a safety measure in response to the numerous dangerous boarding incidents that have taken place over the last few years. But it seems like an unnecessary suggestion considering the NHL has strengthened Rule 41 on boarding this summer.

NHL.com had a list of the rules to be tested in the sidebar to this story by Dan Rosen, but it changed the page and took it down. So we'll list the session agenda for the four RDO Camp games here:


10 a.m-Noon

• No-touch icing

• No line change for team committing an offside

• Face-off variations (penalty line for center committing an infraction; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)

• No icing permitted while shorthanded

• Verification line (additional line behind the goal line)

• Overtime variation (four minutes of four-on-four followed by three minutes of three-on-three)

• Shootout variation (five-man shootout precedes sudden-death format)

• Shallow-back nets

2:30-4:30 p.m.

• After offside, face-off goes back to offending team's end

• Face-off variations (both centers must come set on whistle; all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)

• Delayed penalty variation (offending team must exit zone in possession of puck to stop play)

• Changes only permitted on-the-fly (except after goals and upon manpower changes)

• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)

• Remove trapezoid

• Verification line

• Allow hand passes in all zones

• Overtime variation (switch ends)

• Shootout variation (five-man shootout with repeat players if tied after five shooters)

• Thin-netting nets


9:30-11:30 a.m.

• "Hybrid" icing

• Offside variation (offending team can’t change and face-off in its end zone)

• Face-off variations (player encroaching can’t replace thrown-out center, all face-offs in circles; same linesman drops puck for all face-offs)

• All penalties to be served in their entirety

• Strict enforcement of goaltenders covering puck outside crease (Rule 63.2)

• Bear-hug rule

• Verification line

• Overtime variation (switch ends for four minutes of four-on-four, followed by three minutes of three-on-three)

• Shootout variation (three-man shoot out with repeat shooters if tied after three shooters)

• Shallow-back nets

1:30-3:30 p.m.

• All-Star Skills competition (fastest skater, breakaway challenge, accuracy shooting, skills relay challenge, hardest shot, elimination shootout)

Other technology/modifications to be tested during various sessions:

• On-ice officials communication (ref-to-ref wireless)

• Overhead camera to assist Hockey Operations reviews of various initiatives (verification line/goal netting/in-net camera)

• In-net camera (mounted camera at one end with one net with camera view focused on the goal line to help verify goals)

• Robotic camera (to test camera angles for coverage closer to ice)

• Video replay application review

• Curved glass (protection options at players bench areas)

Last year, the NHL Network aired two very informative hour-long programs from the RDO Camp, each covering one day of the proceedings and showing how the rule tests worked or didn't work. Here's video of a condensed version of that programming. The network won't be mounting their own telecast this year, however, although TSN will originate its That's Hockey program from the RDO Camp during the two days, and the NHL Network in the U.S. will simulcast those shows and then replay them numerous times over the next few days.