The ECHL Board of Governors on Thursday retained the playoff format used last season in the Western Conference while adopting a pair of significant rules changes recently instituted in the NHL.
The Board approved the adoption of the NHL Standard for “head shot” penalties. Directly lifting the NHL’s terminology, “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.” A major penalty and automatic game misconduct will result whenever a penalty is assessed under this rule.
From the ECHL press release:
The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent with an illegal check to the head. Any player who incurs a total of two (2) game misconducts under this rule, in either regular League or playoff games, shall be suspended automatically for the next game his team plays. For each subsequent game misconduct penalty the automatic suspension shall be increased by one game. If deemed appropriate, supplementary discipline can be applied by the Commissioner at his discretion.
A video highlighting illegal checks to the head was shown to the Board of Governors. This video will be played for all officials, coaches and players prior to the start of the season and will also be available to fans.*
The ECHL Board also appeased the anti-shootout crowd by reducing the importance of the skills competition for its standings tiebreaker procedure. In case of a tie in points in the standings, the first tiebreaker shall be the team having won the greater number of games in regulation and overtime. Shootout wins will not be considered in the tiebreaker. The NHL also instituted this rule over the summer.
Shootouts will also start quicker, as the Board eliminated ice scrape prior to a shootout. If a game remains tied after the five-minute overtime period, it will proceed directly to a shootout.
Just like last season, eight Eastern Conference teams and seven Western Conference teams will make the playoffs. Out West, the division winner with the best record in the conference will receive a first-round bye. The other division winner will be seeded second and meet the team that finishes seventh in the conference in the first round. The third seed plays the sixth seed and the fourth seed plays the five seed.
The ECHL coach with the highest winning percentage in the League by 9:00 a.m. EST on Jan. 2 will be selected as the Visiting Team Coach for the All-Star Game. The second Visiting Team Coach will be selected based on votes by peers. The Equipment Manager and Athletic Trainer for the Visiting All-Star Team will be voted on by their peers and selected by the League. The Coaching Staff, Athletic Trainer, and Equipment Manager of the Host Team will remain in place.
If Bakersfield does not have 18 active skaters due to injury or call-up, an additional player or players may be added based on player voting for the All-Star Classic only.
Good news for fans tired of squinting to watch games on their computer: The Board also voted to mandate minimum standards for camera quality and locations to allow for better quality and consistency across the League. B2 Networks, now known as “America One” will continue to carry the games. New features for the 2010-11 season include the pass system (nightly, monthly and yearly) which allows fans the opportunity to watch multiple games during their subscription period as well as an updated multi-player platform.**
*To readers: If any of you want to know how to obtain this video, I’ll track down the info and post it here.
**I’ve never chatted with anyone at B2/America One and have no clue how many of you utilize their services. If you’re interested in details about this “pass system,” leave a comment and I’ll track this down, too.