The NHL's Bearded Lady


The American Hockey League (AHL) has long been the primary developmental circuit for the NHL. European players are sent here to get acclimated to the smaller North American ice surface, college players to adjust to the more grueling 76 game schedule and all players to work on honing their skills in order to reach their dream of career in the NHL.

The AHL is also used as a testing ground for new rules before they are ready for the NHL. In the 2012-13 season the hybrid-icing rule was tested in the AHL and ultimately approved by the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) it has had no effect on the quality of the game we all love and certainly will remain in the rules.

Full period overtimes were used in the NHL until wartime restrictions eliminated them in Nov. 1942. Regulation time ties were a part of the NHL’s landscape until the 1983-84 season when the league introduced the 5-minute overtime. Games still tied at the end of OT were scored as ties. (The NY Islanders won the first OT game under the new rule on 10/8/83 over the Washington Capitals)

In 1998 the AHL tested a new format, 4-skaters and a goalie would play the five-minute overtime in an attempt to reduce the number of games ending in a tie. Tie games were reduced and the NHL adopted the rule the following season.

This system remained in effect until the 2005-06 season when the NHL introduced the shootout. Whether it was implemented to appease the growing American fan base that demanded a winner or to prevent teams from playing for ties to alter post- season playoff positioning has good arguments on both sides. The resulting skills-competition or bonus-round, has been with us for several years now and still draws mixed reviews. This season the AHL is trying out a new overtime rule, which though still early in the test stage, should not be accepted by the NHLPA for the same reason the hybrid-icing rule was accepted … player-safety.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers played their first three-in-three this past weekend and TCL’s Bryan Curran has the weekend summary here. Friday nights’ game turned out to be an AHL first.

On October 11, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Albany Devils played the first shoot-out under the new rule and like their parent club in 1983 they won. It was the perfect storm of what might happen under the new rule and thankfully both teams survived intact.

The game was the typical fast, physical contest these teams play and resulted in a short bench for the Sound Tigers. Andrey Pedan was ejected 8’ 30” into the first period after a hit on top Devils prospect Stefan Matteau. Scott Mayfield joined Pedan in the locker room with over 15 minutes left in the final period after being face-planted during a fight behind the net.

Bridgeport’s Ryan Pulock, Griffin Reinhart, Kevin Czuczman and Jesse Graham were the last D-men standing for the final 20 minutes of regulation and overtime play. One shift on/one shift off for 20 minutes is too much to ask of any player at any level.

In response to a query I sent to noted hockey writer Mike Ashmore re: the new rule he responded “Don’t see why you implement a shootout if you then put rules in place to avoid them.” Well said, sir.

This season the NHL removed the ‘Spin-O-Rama’ from overtime and penalty shots. Now that the popular ‘Bearded Lady’ has been removed from the sideshow, perhaps the league should close the shootout circus – in the name of player safety.



-Mike Flannery

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