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When businessman J. Ambrose O'Brien acquired a franchise in the NHA (National Hockey Association) on December 4th 1909 to make it an all French-Canadian team, hockey was miles away from what it is today. First off, It was a seven-man instead of six-man game and games would be played using a two 30-minute non stop period formula. Goalies could not drop on the ice to make a save, and forward passes were forbidden!

In order to improve the show, increase the dynamic aspect of the game or for other reasons, many rules have changed over the years. Don't be surprised to learn that the regular season overtime disappeared for over four decades (1942-1983), that the first penalty shots were taken from a static point 38 feet from the net (1934-1935), and that Jean Béliveau is the one responsible for ending power plays after a goal when he took 44 seconds to score a hat trick on a single one.


The original format of games used in previous leagues such as the ECAHA and the CHA being two periods of 30 minutes each, is replaced by the one we know today.

After two seasons played with 7 players on the ice per team, the NHA replaces this system by the one we know today, which consists of 6 players including the netminder.


In its inaugural season, the NHL breaks a huge barrier by allowing goaltenders to drop on their knees to stop pucks. Before this season, a goalie who would fall on the ice, either intentionally or not, would be given a minor penalty and a 2$ fee. One could wonder where would Patrick Roy be without this new rule?

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The NHL takes a big step forward in its inaugural season, allowing goaltenders to drop to the ice in order to make a save.

After the new National Hockey League's first season of activities, numerous changes await hockey at the dusk of the Great War. First of all, the league amends several rules regarding penalties. For minor fouls, the penalised player must stay at the penalty box for 3 minutes without his team being allowed to substitute him. For major fouls, the imposed minutes are established at 5, rule that still applies to this day. For a game penalty though, the player's team must finish the game shorthanded.

The second major change sees the birth of the blue lines, both set at 20 feet from the center of the ice, thus creating a 40 foot neutral zone inside of which forward passes are allowed. Players can also kick the puck in this zone.

It is also during this season that assists start to be tabulated. It was inspired by the Patrick Bros. who started compiling this statistical data in their Pacific Coast Hockey League.


Goalies are now allowed to pass the puck forward up to their own blue line. Hence, they are the only ones allowed to make forward passes in the defending zone, as long as the receiver is inside that same zone.

Imposed minutes for minor penalties are reduced, from 3 to 2 minutes. It had been 3 since 1918-1919.

Duration of overtime is reduced to 20 minutes.

A match foul is imposed to a player who intentionally tries to injure an opponent. For such actions, a player is fined a minimum of 50$ and ruled off the ice for the balance of the game. A player who is given a match penalty can be replaced after 20 minutes of play. The foe must also meet with the league's president, who can assess additional punishment.


In order to emphasize on the offensive aspect of the game, a facet deemed more attractive to the new markets opening south of the border, the maximum width of goalie pads is reduced to 12 inches, reminiscing this other rule somewhat 80 years later.

During this season, the league introduces the delayed penalty rule. The rule says that a team cannot have less than 4 players on the ice including the goaltender. Therefore, if a team receives 3 minor penalties at the same time, 1 is delayed so that play can resume to 5 on 3 for 2 minutes, followed by 2 other minutes at 5 on 4.

Two other new rules are introduced to encourage offense. First off, a maximum of 2 defenders can be in their defensive zone once the puck has exited. The second sees a faceoff taken in the defensive zone, near the goalie, when the puck is ragged unless the defending team was shorthanded. This is the beginning of the icing rule.

Only the team's captain has the privilege of talking to the referees.

The timekeeper is now the one who announces the end of a period with a siren, instead of the referee with a whistle.

Teams are allowed to a maximum of 12 players in uniform, from a 14 player roster.

In order to enlarge the neutral zone, the blue lines are moved to sixty feet from the goal lines, thus making it a 60 instead of a 40 foot zone.

Goal posts must from on be securely fastened to the ice.

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Teams must dress a maximum of 12 skaters from a 14-player lineup limit.


To further encourage offense, the league sets into place a series of measures that will forever change the face of hockey. The first and foremost important change is to allow forward passes in the defensive zone as well as the neutral zone.

The maximum width of goalie pads is reduced from 12 to 10 inches.

Curiously, despite the introduction of these measures, Habs goaltender George Hainsworth allowed 43 goals in 44 games, including 22 shutouts, records that still stand to this day.

Before 1910-1911, hockey was played at 2 periods of 30 minutes each without stop-time. But in 1927-1928, the league added the stop-time to the 3 20-minute periods, each separated by a 10-minute intermissions.

Teams now have to change ends of ice at each new period.

A 10-minute sudden death overtime to be played if the score is tied after regulation.

Minor penalty to be imposed to a player other than the goaltender for deliberately picking up the puck while in play. Minor penalty to be assessed for deliberately shooting the puck out of play.

The Art Ross goal net is officially adopted by the NHL. Some might not know that before being a trophy, Art Ross had played an important role in the evolution of hockey, first as a steady defenseman for the Montreal Wanderers, then as vice-president, general-manager and coach of the new Boston Bruins, the first American team to join the NHL. It will be until the late 80s. His "B" shaped goal net, like his Bruins will survive until the late 80s.

Maximum length for hockey sticks is 53 inches. Length to be measured from the heel of the blade to end of handle. No minimum length stipulated.

Home team has the privilege to decide which end it wants to defend first.

To further increase the number of goals scored and to please the American public, this new rule will revolutionize the way the fastest game in the world is played, making it more fast and dynamic than ever. Some might not know that it is only in 1928-1929, that forward passes were allowed in the defensive zone, thus opening up new opportunities for players and changing hockey, making it more a transition game than a possession one. Before that, it was forbidden to pass the puck to a teammate located in front, a rule similar to rugby, except in the neutral zone. On the other hand, it was still not allowed to make a forward pass in the offensive zone.

A minor penalty to be assessed to the player who delays the game by passing the puck back into his defensive zone.

The 10-minute overtime sudden death period is now a 10-minute overtime without sudden death. Games tied after this extra time declare a draw.

Exclusive of goaltenders, teams to dress at least 8 players and no more than 12 players.

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The "B" style net - an initiative by Bruins coach and general manager Art Ross - is adopted.


After a complete season with forward passes allowed in the neutral and defensive zones, the league moves forward in its makeover. In 1929-1930, forward passes are finally allowed in the offensive zone, changing forever the way hockey is played. On the other hand, no passes were yet allowed across either blue line.

A maximum of 3 players, including the goalie, can remain in the defensive zone once the puck has gone up the ice. Minor penalties to be assessed for the first two infractions. Major penalties are then imposed.

Goaltenders cannot keep the puck. After making a save, they have to let it go right away, otherwise the consequence is a faceoff taken ten feet away from the net. This same rule still exists to this day, but instead of talking of a consequence in a negative way, it is seen as a preventive or strategic action.

High sticking penalties are introduced.

Maximum number of players is increased from 12 to 15.

December 21, 1929

Forward passes being permitted since the beginning of the season more than doubled the number of goals scored. Halfway through the season, a new rule sees the day, as a player is now prohibited to enter the offensive zone before the puck does. The offside rule is born.

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Goalies cannot freeze the puck; they must put it back in play immediately.