The 2004–05 NHL season
would have been the
88th regular season
of the National Hockey League
season was officially canceled on February
due to an unresolved lockout
that began on September 16
loss of the 2004–05
made the NHL the first North
American professional sports
league to cancel an entire season because of a labour
dispute. It was also the first time
the Stanley Cup
was not awarded since
when a Spanish flu
pandemic cancelled the
According to the International Ice Hockey
, 388 NHL players were on teams overseas at some
point during the season, spread across 19 European leagues. Many of
these players had a contract clause to return to the NHL when the
league started up again, even if it was during the current
Key rule changes which would dominate after the lockout were
established through a key meeting between the NHL and its top minor
league, the American Hockey
. On July 5, 2004, the AHL announced publicly the 2004–05
rule changes, many of which were passed as a result of the NHL's
recommendation for experimentation.
Experimental rule changes
AHL's Board of Governors meeting in June
2004 at Hilton Head Island, South
Carolina, the Board, in agreement with the NHL, agreed to
adopt new rules for the season.
- In case of a tie game after overtime of regular season games,
there is a shootout with five shots per team in the AHL and 3 shots
per team in the NHL, and if it is still tied, the shootout becomes
sudden death. The shootout would be similar to what is used in most
minor leagues which have adopted the rule, such as the ECHL. When the NHL resumed play, shootouts were cut to
an initial three shots per team.
- The "tag-up offside" rule that was eliminated in 1996 was
reinstated for 2004–05. An attacking player is considered offside
if he enters his offensive zone prior to the puck entering the
- Between 1996 and 2004, if a player was offside, the play would
continue only if the attacking players cleared the zone and allowed
the defending team to carry the puck all of the way out of the
- The tag-up offside rule allows for play to continue as long as
all offside players are clear of the offensive zone simultaneously
by touching the blue line (and "tag up") prior to touching the puck
or becoming involved in the play.
- Goaltenders' leg pads were reduced in size from 12" (30 cm) to
11" (27.5 cm). This rule was postponed for a season, but by the
resumption of the NHL, the leg pad rules were in effect. However,
the original proposal was to cut the pads down to 10" (25 cm).
- Automatic ("no-touch") icing, as enforced in other minor
leagues such as the ECHL (as well as in European ice hockey leagues
such as Elitserien), was enforced. An
icing infraction is called immediately when the puck crosses the
goal line. This rule did not continue into the next season of the
AHL or NHL.
- Blue and red lines were doubled in width, from 12 inches (31
cm) to 24 inches (62 cm). This added additional space to the
neutral zone in between the blue lines. Passes would still be
allowed from the defensive edge of the blue line to the offensive
edge of the red line.
- Goal lines were moved two feet closer to the end boards, from
13 feet to 11 feet. The blue lines were moved to maintain a 60-foot
attack zone in a 200-foot rink.
- During the first seven weeks of the 2004–05 AHL season, an
experimental rule added a new trapezoid-shaped zone directly behind
the net, restricting the area where a goaltender may play the puck
behind the net. This rule was approved permanently after the
seven-week experimental period.
These rule changes combined to make games shorter by 10 to 15
minutes per game, therefore "improving" the quality of the game by
having less downtime.