The MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA have all introduced new ways for their respective games to be played. Some changes have enraged fans while others have actually made games faster paced and more enjoyable. From rules that speed up gameplay to rule changes that keep players safe, America's biggest sports leagues have enacted rule changes that sports fans either love or hate. Here are the biggest recent rule changes in America's four biggest sports.
The Shot Clock Reset Change In The NBA
Instead of getting another 24-second shot clock after an offensive board, teams now have 14 seconds to put up a second shot. The reset gives players plenty of time to get the ball in their hands, but it won't be easy for teams to run another set play in a short amount of time.
The rule has been in effect in the NBA G League since the 2016-17 season, the WNBA since 2016 and FIBA since 2014-15.
Kicking The Ball In The NFL
The NFL announced several changes in regards to kickoffs. The most significant of them all is the pre-snap formations allowed, including the prevention of running starts for the kicking team. In addition, the kickoff team is required to have five players on each side of the ball, a change from four players.
On the receiving side, eight players are required to lineup in the 15-yard setup zone before the kickoff. These changes were made to reduce the speed of players and the impact of collisions that often caused injury.
Two Wild Card Teams In The Bigs
In 2011, former MLB commissioner Bud Selig announced a new playoff system. MLB's decision to expand their playoff by adding another wild-card team has made a significant impact, with the change ultimately put in place in 2012.
The 2014 postseason featured the San Francisco Giants and the Kanas City Royals as wild-card teams with the Giants winning it all. The first Wild Card World Series also involved the Giants, but they were on the losing end of the 2002 World Series.
The NHL Shootout Has Changed Considerably
Following the lead of the AHL, the NHL adopted the shootout at the start of the 2005-06 season. This new rule replaced teams ending their games with a tie with a five minute three-on-three overtime with a shootout afterward. The format is three rounds with tiebreaker rounds as needed.
On December 16, 2014, the longest shootout in league history went to 20 rounds with the previous being 15. The shootout is not used for the playoffs as full 20-minute periods are played until someone scores a goal.
Home Plate Collisions In Major League Baseball
Giants catcher Buster Posey suffered a season-ending leg injury in 2011. Shortly after, conversations about protecting catchers rose across the baseball community. In 2014, MLB finally put an end to eliminate home plate collisions. The rule change prohibits catchers from blocking the plate without possession of the ball.
Plus, runners aren't allowed to run out of the basepath in order to make contact with the catcher. The new rule allowed both the runner and the catcher a fair chance to score and defend.
Making Head First Slides In The NFL
This rule tweak hasn't received much notice, but it has an impact. Players who usually slide headfirst are judged to be giving themselves up, as much as they are when sliding with their feet.
As a result of the rule change, the ball is now marked at the point where the player's body first touches the ground. Previously, the ball was marked where forward progress ended. The original intent of this rule change was to address concerns of defensive players who avoided contact with a player by sliding headfirst.
The NBA's Clear Path Foul
This rule is intended to be easier for the referees to decide when to call a clear-path foul. It's now a personal foul against any offensive player during their team's transition scoring opportunity.
As part of the rule simplification, referees will no longer have to determine whether or not the defender was ahead of the offensive player prior to committing the foul. If the foul is committed, then the offending team will be rewarded with two free throws and possession of the ball.
Hybrid Icing In The NHL
The 2013-14 NHL season saw two dramatic changes. A conference realignment and a new hybrid icing rule were adopted. The rule requires officials to stop play immediately in a potential icing situation where the defender would race for the puck ahead of the attacker.
The goal is to avoid any serious injury from occurring. One instance happened after the Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen suffered a broken heel bone when crashing into the boards following an icing touchup.
Mound Visits In The MLB Are Limited More Than Ever
Visits to the mound in MLB were limited to six for the first nine innings of play with teams receiving an additional visit for every extra inning played. Any trip to the mound to clean cleats in rainy weather or to check an injury or a potential injury is excused.
Any communication between a pitcher and a player that doesn't require them to leave their position doesn't count as a visit. The rule limits teams chances of giving players a quick rest on the field or to let their relievers warm up in the bullpen.
The Hostile Act In The NBA
Since the 2007-08 season, the NBA has had an automatic replay review process for certain player altercations. With the new rule change, referees will be able to replay a review if two or more players are engaged in a fight or in a hostile physical interaction.
It doesn't have to be against another player, it can also involve a coach, fan, or another referee. This gives referees greater discretion to look over who was involved and how it all transpired.
Process Of A Catch In The NFL
After the controversial Dez Bryant catch in the NFC Divisional Round in 2014, there are now three main requirements for completing a catch. Players must have control of the ball, and get two feet or a body part down.
Players no longer must control the ball through the ground for a completed catch. If a player losses control of the ball, it's ruled an incomplete pass if the ball hits the ground before he regains control of it.
Faceoff Violations In The NHL
This was already in the rulebook, but there's a new focus to crack down on encroachment in the NHL. Players who are taking the draw must have their feet within the limits of the markings by the dot and they cannot be inside or touching.
For instance, if a center lines up incorrectly, he's replaced by the linesman and if happens twice in the same process, a bench minor will be called. The rule was put in place to avoid cheating in the faceoff circle.
Timing Of Pitcher Changes In MLB
A timer counts down between innings from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised games, from 2:25 for nationally televised games and from 2:55 for a tiebreaker and playoff games. When teh 25-second mark is reached the umpire will signal for the final warmup pitch with the pitcher throwing before the clock hits 20.
Afterward, the batter will be announced and the pitcher must begin his windup to throw within the five seconds before the clock hits zero. In addition, pitchers are no longer guaranteed eight warmup pitches between innings.
The Defensive 3-Second Violation In The NBA
Prior to the 2001-02 season, the NBA added the defensive three-second rule. It made a significant impact on how teams use their centers on defense. Bigs no longer need to be anchored near the rim during the majority of a defensive possession.
They now have to add quickness to their game in order to remain effective on the court. Plus, a player who's guarding an opponent with the ball may be in the paint without actively guarding an opponent.
Ejections For Non-Football Offenses In The NFL
The NFL now has the authority to demand the ejection of any player who has been penalized for a non-football act. Fighting, punching, and post-play hits are incidents that can eject players for the remainder of the game.
The rule doesn't include football acts including roughing the passer or a hit against a defenseless receiver. But, most importantly, the league can't call for an ejection unless a flag is down on the field.
The Coach's Challenge In The NHL
Since the NFL has a coach's challenge, the NHL introduced one for their league in 2015. Two years later, the NHL introduced a harsher penalty for one particular review.
Any failed offside challenge, as a result of a goal or not, will result in a minor penalty for the team who asked for the review. As for any incorrect goaltender interference calls, they remain the same, with the team who challenges losing a timeout.
Intentional Walks In The Bigs
A pitcher who wants to intentionally walk a batter has to actually lob the four pitches outside the strike zone. In 2017, MLB decided to eliminate the boring process. Instead, the league introduced a no-pitch intentional walk rule to speed up the pace of play.
The new change allows managers to signal their intentional walk decision to home plate instead of having the pitcher waste pitches outside the strike zone.
The Tuck Rule In The NFL
The infamous tuck rule has had a big impact on the New England Patriots. Introduced in 1999, no one was familiar with the rule until the AFC Divisional playoff game between the Patriots and the Oakland Raiders in 2001.
After officials overturned Tom Brady's fumble, the Patriots went on to win the game, beginning a dominant dynasty. Since the Tuck Rule game, the league decided to scrap it altogether in 2013. But, it's too little too late for the Oakland Raiders.
3-On-3 Overtime In The NHL
The change in overtime for the NHL occurred in 2015, the same time they introduced the coach's challenge. The League went from a 4-on-4 to its current 3-on-3 format for overtime like it did in years past.
The new overtime format is designed to create more space on the ice, allowing for more goals to be scored and more games ending in overtime rather than a shootout. This rule change was the result of success experienced by the American Hockey League when that league enacted the rule in 2014.
The Derrick Rose Rule In The NBA
After the conclusion of Derrick Rose's MVP season in 2011, the NBA went into a lockout to renegotiate the collective bargaining agreement. With the new CBA, the "Derrick Rose Rule" was put into place so teams could compensate young players who come out of the ranks and prove to be an elite talent on the court.
When a player is eligible for a rookie extension, teams are allowed to offer the player 30 percent of the cap. The rule only applies if the player was voted an All-Star, twice made an ALL-NBA team, or if they win the league MVP award.