WHL announces rule changes as 50th season begins

WHL officially introduces three-on-three overtime, enlarged trapezoid among rule changes heading into 2015-16

The Western Hockey League is celebrating its 50th season in 2015-16.

The Western Hockey League is celebrating its 50th season in 2015-16.

Ron Robison, commissioner of the Western Hockey League, was in Regina Monday to officially launch the WHL’s 50th season.

“We are excited to celebrate the rich history of our league this season,” Robison said in a league press release. “We have been fortunate to have many talented players, excellent teams and exceptional people in the WHL since 1966, and we truly look forward to honouring these individuals and sharing the story of our league throughout our 50th season.”

The WHL was established in 1966.

As a part of Monday’s festivities, the league officially announced a number of rule changes heading into the 2015-16 campaign.

The most significant change comes in the alteration of the overtime format.

Teams will now skate a five-minute, three-on-three overtime if a game is tied at the end of regulation time.

At no point will teams skate with less than three players in overtime.

Should a penalty in overtime result in a power-play, the offending team will continue with three skaters while the opponent will receive a four-on-three man advantage.

If overtime penalties results in a  two-man advantage, the offending team will continue with three skaters, while the opponent will receive a five-on-three man advantage.

If the game has not been decided by the end of the the five-minute, three-on-three overtime, a shootout will be used to determine the outcome.

The WHL is also making adjustments to ice markings heading into 2015-16.

The most noticeable change will be the enlargement of the trapezoid behind the net, allowing goaltenders more space to play the puck below the goal line.

The WHL’s 50th season begins Thursday, Sept. 24, when the Moose Jaw Warriors host the Regina Pats. The match-up is in honour of the two teams who competed for the first WHL title in 1967 — the Moose Jaw Canucks defeated the Regina Pats to become the first champions in WHL history.

The Kootenay Ice open the 2015-16 WHL season Friday, Sept. 25, when they host the Calgary Hitmen at Western Financial Place.