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The NHL introduced a set of 5 rules in the year 1985 for the 1985-85 season of ice hockey league, by which the NHL Governors decided to implement offsetting penalties. By following this package of rule changes, neither of the teams lost a player whenever coincidental penalties happened during the play. The implementation of the offsetting penalties had an immediate effect in the NHL because the Gretzky-era Oilers used to take undue advantage of the rule changes during the early 1980s. Whenever they would enter a 4 on 4 or a 3 on 3 situation with the opposing team, they used to make use of the space available on the ice to score a few goals. When Wayne Gretzky won the Hart Memorial Trophy, he organized a press conference the next day and criticized the NHL Governors for penalizing the players and teams who used to benefit previously. After that, the rule change came to known as the Wayne Gretzky rule. However, it was changed back during the 1992-93 season of the National Hockey League.
With the help of this rule change, Gretzky made effective strategies and influenced the playing style of the Edmonton Oilers as well as the other teams in the NHL. He helped to inspire and implement strategies based on the team as a whole. And using this kind of approach allowed the Edmonton Oilers become the top scoring team in the history of the National Hockey League, under the leadership of Wayne Gretzky.
Background of the Wayne Gretzky Rule:
A former NHL goal keeper and hockey writer Ken Dryden said that Wayne Gretzky was the first Canadian forward player to play an actual team game. He also said that before the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in the NHL, the focus of the game in most of the teams, especially the Canadian ones, was on a particular player with the puck. It required a big play to get the puck to a star player.
When Gretzky arrived in the game, he reversed this approach. He was aware of the fact that he was not strong or big enough, or even as fast as other players on the ice, due to which he could not do what he intended to do during the game if the opposition players focused only on him. So, he had to use his magical mind and direct the attention of the players elsewhere, particularly to the other players of his team on the ice. This would create a distraction for a moment and allowed him to move into the open space on the ice unnoticed, where his strength and size did not matter.
Strategy and Effect of the Wayne Gretzky Rule:
With the help of this approach, Wayne Gretzky made the opposition players to compete with all the five players of his team rather than just one of them. He made the players of his team full partners in the game and made them to reach his level of skating and end the game at his level, or else they were embarrassed in front of the spectators. This approach used by Wayne Gretzky had a huge impact on the game of his team, the Edmonton Oilers, and helped them to average 423 goals each season between the years 1982 and 1985. Before that, no other team had even reached up to 400 goals a season. Wayne Gretzky himself averaged around 207 points, when the top score held by a player previously was not more than 152 in a year. In the previous seasons in the NHL, the teams and defenders used to plan strategies to stop the players of the team having the puck. But without the puck, it was termed as interference.
However, if the players without the puck tried to skate harder and faster, and darted and dodged in the open space on the ice with equal determination and effectiveness as the players with the puck, no one would be able to shut them down. In this style of play, Wayne Gretzky influenced the game more as that of the Soviets, who had also strategized a similar team-based play. They had also used the strategy against the bigger teams in the NHL during the Summit Series in the year 1972. With the effective use of the rule change and the strategies, Gretzky became the acceptable face of ice hockey for the Soviets. Due to his popularity, every Canadian kid wanted to play like him. Wayne Gretzky further explains that you do not have to pick up the puck and dodge the opponents to be a good player. Instead, you have to be in the right place and let the puck do all the work. He believes in giving up and getting back the puck alternately and get it in the open. From there, the jump shot is just an easy task. Gretzky says that there is frozen estate between the forward and the defense, which is the called the no man’s land on the ice. If you need to be a good goal scorer, if should be able to find that spot frequently.