October is the Christmas season for hockey fans – it’s the most wonderful time of the year. There are only six days before the NHL drops the puck, eight days until the AHL takes the ice, 15 more days and the ECHL begins play, and 21 days until the boys of the SPHL lace up the skates.

Rosters will be revealed like presents under the tree, then immediately ripped open, fawned over, and put through their paces. The lucky ones will be exactly what was needed, while others will be sent back to Walmart and repeatedly exchanged until everything fits. Stripes will be painted on the ice with care, in the hopes your favorite players soon will skate there.

Now, Sheldon! Now, Maverick! Now Chaos and Rocky!
On, Boomer! On, Anthony! On, Gaston and Chilly!
To the top of the crease! To the top of the goal!
Now Shoot away! Shoot away! Shoot away all!

Pensacola and Columbus Announce Player Signings

This week in the SPHL, the Pensacola Ice Flyers bring back a familiar face. Joe Caveney, the 2013-14 SPHL rookie of the year and first-team all-star, returns to hockey after spending last season sidelined with an unfortunate training camp injury with the ECHL Wichita Thunder. Caveney played in 36 games for the Ice Flyers in the 2013-14 season, scoring 26 goals and 31 assists for the team that would go on to win the President’s Cup. A speedy winger with great hands, Caveney was one of the most potent offensive threats in the SPHL. He won’t have Paul Rodrigues and Mitch Good as linemates this time, but Adam Pawlick and Corey Banfield should be potent replacements.

The Columbus Cottonmouths signed a rookie defenseman, and a pair of familiar faces. Blueliner Rusty Hafner joins the Snakes after completing four years at NCAA Bowling Green. Hafner missed most of his senior season with an injury, and completed his collegiate career with two goals and 14 assists in 76 games for the Falcons. Tyler MacPherson rejoins the Cottonmouths for a second season. MacPherson, a 6’3″ defenseman, played in 43 games for coach Jerome Bechard, scoring eight points and only 19 penalty minutes. Scrappy forward Will Aide may top MacPherson’s penalty total in the season opener. Aide will begin his fourth season in Columbus having accumulated 378 penalty minutes in 104 games – most of those coming in 5-minute increments.

The SPHL Updates Their Rule Book

The SPHL released its updated rule book this week. Here are the Cliffs Notes to this year’s rule changes. Most of the new rules, not surprisingly, involve goalkeeper shenanigans.

  • The David Leggio rule is now in effect throughout all of professional hockey. Leggio, a goalie for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers, decided to implement a unique strategy to a two-on-none breakaway. A penalty shot was awarded, which Leggio stopped.
  • Goalies who deliberately dislodge the net from its moorings will be assessed delay of game penalty, a game misconduct, and a $250 fine. If the net is dislodged during a breakaway, a penalty shot will be assessed and may be taken by any player on the ice. Violations will be reviewed by the league office and a one-game suspension may be imposed.  If a goalie removes his mask deliberately to stop play, goalies will be dinged for a game misconduct and a $250 fine in addition to the existing delay-of-game minor. If the goalkeeper’s mask is dislodged to prevent a scoring opportunity, a penalty shot will be awarded and the backup goalkeeper will face the shot.

Note: A $250 fine in the SPHL means someone is eating ramen noodles for a week. 

  • Sneaky stick-breaking skaters are no longer immune from the long arm of the law. Players who lose or break sticks on the ice are no longer allowed to steal one from an opponent, and tossing or sliding a stick to a teammate will get penalized.
Can we call this the Corey Perry rule?
  • The new NHL face-off rules will be adopted in the SPHL. The defending zone player must put his stick down first before any face-off not in the center ice circle.
  • Linesmen may now call icing when the defending player reaches the face-off dots, rather than when the puck crosses the goal line – as long as he believes the puck will cross the goal line.
  • Finally. the league clarified rules involving breakaways during empty-net situations. Now, the referee may award a goal if a player on an apparent breakaway is tripped by an opponent and had at least a reasonable chance of getting control of the puck.

NeuLion Releases SPHL Live Subscription Rates

NeuLion, the league’s video streaming provider, released their subscription options today. The popular away-game package for a single team will cost $84.99 until the season begins. Fans who want to get all of the games for a single team will have to pay $149.99, and the all-inclusive package will cost $199.99.

Despite the lack of player signings this week, the creatures are stirring, even the FireAntz. Players are beginning to arrive and team staffs are working to get them housed, coaches are completing their 30-man training camp rosters, and final preparations are being made to start the season. Most of the league’s teams will start their camps between October 12th and 14th, with exhibiton games will take place the 16th through the 18th. On October 19th, the final 18-man rosters will be turned in and hockey finally returns to the SPHL on the 23rd.

Soon, our nights will no longer be silent. Merry Christmas, hockey fans.

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