Seven Rule Changes for the 2020-21 NHL Season

By Vedwik
February 8, 2022

Ever since its establishment, the NHL has continually made the game alive. The committee has adjusted the rules governing the game on several occasions. Some changes produced satisfactory results while others turned out to become controversial.

For example, the NHL started allowing goalies to dive on the ice to prevent the opponent from scoring in 1917. Starting from 1927, players could begin to make forward passes in the defensive and neutral areas of the court. The result became obvious as teams began to score more goals.

In the 1929 season, the Hockey league committee introduced the offside rule to stop dicey plays before the puck goes over the blue mark. Many controversial events around the blue line during games have caused the NHL to adjust the offside rule continuously.

As from the 2020-21 season, the NHL committee has adjusted rules ranging from the usage of timeouts to offside. Some of these adjustments include:

  • Most team meetings will become virtual.
  •  Teams and coaches have to observe COVID-19 protocols.
  • Referees now have a hand signal to denote fighting.

Goalkeeper Requirements

The NHL has been looking to solve the Emergency Backup Goaltenders (EBUGs) saga before COVID-19 kicked in. Teams need more options to be available in the goal.

All squads must come to games with three goalies. These goalies must be distributed across the taxi squad and the NHL’s register. Only one goalkeeper can travel on the taxi squad on away matches.

Observance of COVID-19 Prevention Rules

The NHL has adjusted what teams can do during away visits for matches. Players can only have their meals in the hotel. It is forbidden to go to bars or restaurants. At least in the meantime, each player must have their personal hotel room.

For practice sessions, teams must converge in arenas that the NHL approved. One new physical rule is that team administrators and coaches have to wear nose masks on the sideline.

Some coaches believe that this rule will negatively affect communication between coaches and players during games. Others see it as a good sign. A coach pointed to the fact that no one will be able to read his words during games.

Timeouts and Fighting Hand Signals

The NHL also made a significant change to the structure of timeouts. Teams will not get timeouts for face-off breaches. The defensive team will get no timeouts if a player dislodges the net leading to pausing of the game.

This rule is in addition to the fact that players cannot change players after the buck crosses the middle red line. We have been seeing fewer NHL fights in recent times. 

There hasn’t been a penalty signal for fights in the NHL. Now, referees can clench their fists in front of their chest to denote the penalty.

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Adjusted Game Rooster

As of 2021, each side can include four to six extra players on their “taxi squad.” The reason for this change is to minimize emergency adjustments as key players can become unavailable before games. 

Most teams see this new rule as a big plus. Typically, players get injured or sick hours before games. The players in the taxi squad can get into the lineup to replace hurt or sick players. 

However, this new change is bad news for old players with little time available on their contract. Younger players can take the place of those old-stagers.

The rule allows these players to travel with the team and attend training sessions. They will also receive minor league salaries till they are allowed to feature on the NHL’s roster. Teams must still maintain the $81.5 million salary limit.

Offsides in Games

The offside rule has always been a bone of controversy over the past decades. The NHL has decided to change the meaning of rule 83.1. For a player to be regarded as being onside, his stake doesn’t have to touch the blue mark.

The Hockey league committee is finding ways to make the game fun by helping teams score more goals. This new rule can make that happen.

If the NHL introduced this rule last season, we would have seen 14 extra goals. It will also become easier for match officials to review activities on the blue line. There will be no need to zoom with 50x lenses to see if a player is offside or not.

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New Sources of Revenue for the NHL

The NHL seems to be searching for ways to earn more revenue. The absence of fans in most sports arenas and stadiums has been bad for business. For the first time in history, the organization is allowing players to have ads on their helmets.

Team Meetings

For meetings, the NHL advises that teams should hold online meetings. If they have to meet physically for any reason, everyone must obey social distancing rules to the letter.

The NHLPA and NHL have also penned down an agreement on meetings between club owners and players. Surprisingly, coaches and players cannot have direct meetings with club executives.


Over the decades, the NHL has evolved in several ways. If you watch a game from the 90s and compare it to today’s matches, you will notice an observable difference. 

Players have become faster, bigger, more skillful. Defensive lines and goalie performances have also changed dramatically.

Coaches have tweaked their strategies to provide more efficiency and flexibility. The laws of the games are also ever-evolving.

In the 2021 season, we have seen some rule changes that could extend into future campaigns. Some of these rules will make the game deliver more results and fun. We can’t say the same thing about other regulations. Let’s sit back and see how things will go.

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