American Hockey League President and CEO David Andrews announced today that the league’s Board of Governors has approved, following an independent and thorough evaluation, a number of rule changes aimed at increasing the flow of the game and generating additional offensive opportunities. The changes were approved at the league’s Annual Meeting on Hilton Head Island, S.C., last week.

Among the changes adopted are instituting no-touch icing and tag-up offsides; increasing the size of the neutral zone by moving the goal line and widening the blue lines and center red line; and restricting the maximum width of goaltenders’ pads. (See below for details on rule changes.)

The Annual Meeting also resulted in the following announcements:


The AHL has implemented a shootout to decide regular-season games which are tied after a five-minute overtime period. In the AHL standings, teams will receive two points for a win, one point for a loss in overtime or in a shootout and zero points for a loss in regulation time.


The AHL has reduced the number of qualifying teams for the Calder Cup 2005 Playoffs to 16 (from 20). The format will still feature a divisional playoff, leading to conference finals and ultimately the Calder Cup Final. The top four teams from each division will qualify for the postseason, and all rounds will feature best-of-seven series.


The Board approved the relocation of the inactive franchise owned by Howard Baldwin from Louisville, Ky., to Des Moines, Iowa, to begin play in 2005-06.


The Board approved the transfer of ownership of the Norfolk Admirals from Mark Garcea and Page Johnson to a group led by the Norfolk Tides Baseball Club and its president, Ken Young.


The Board approved the transfer of controlling interest in the Hamilton Bulldogs to Hamilton businessman Michael Andlauer, who had been a minority owner.



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AHL RULE CHANGES:

The American Hockey League’s Board of Governors has approved the implementation of the following rule changes, effective beginning with the 2004-05 season:


In a delayed offside situation, the offending player(s) will be permitted to negate the offside by “tagging up” with the blue line. This rule was in effect from 1986-96 and will enable more flow in the forechecking aspect of the game while reducing the number of stoppages.


“Automatic icing” has been implemented, with icing infractions to be called and the play whistled dead when the puck crosses the goal line.


Goal lines will be moved from 13 feet to 11 feet out from the end boards, and blue lines will be moved back accordingly to maintain a 60-foot attacking zone. This will increase the size of the neutral zone and reduce play behind the goals.


The width of the blue lines and the center red line will be increased from 12 inches to 24 inches each, and passes will be permitted from the defensive edge of one blue line to the offensive edge of the other blue line, adding additional space to the neutral zone


The maximum width of goaltenders’ leg pads will be reduced from 12 inches to 10 inches, creating additional scoring area for shooters.


The AHL will also implement, for the first seven weeks of the 2004-05 regular season, a limited test of a rule restricting the areas where goaltenders may play the puck. This is a step designed to increase offensive opportunities without wholly eliminating a goaltender’s ability to assist his defensemen. Following the completion of the test period, the AHL will evaluate the results and determine whether the rule’s application will continue.



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Entering its 69th season this fall, the AHL serves as the top development league for all 30 National Hockey League teams. The 2003-04 season saw 28 teams compete for the coveted Calder Cup, and more than 6.6 million fans attending AHL games across North America for the third straight year. Over 80 percent of all players to compete in the NHL in 2003-04 were AHL graduates, and more than 400 players took the ice in both leagues.