On July 13, 2005, the NHL, and NHLPA jointly announced that they had tentatively agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement which would allow the resumption of hockey for the 2005-06 season. The agreement was voted on July 21 by NHLPA members, and approved by a nearly 7-to-1 margin. The following day, the NHL's board of governors (owners) voted unanimously to approve the new agreement.
A new logo for the NHL was also unveiled, with "NHL" printed in upward-reading letters to project a vibrant, optimistic image, and having silver as the dominant color to pay homage to the Stanley Cup. Also, new Eastern and Western Conference logos were unveiled before the Olympic break, with red as the dominant East color, and blue as the dominant West hue.
American television also had a new look. OLN took over broadcasting rights after ESPN decided not to renew their rights on cable television. The network, owned by Comcast, had Monday and Tuesday night games during the regular season under an exclusivity clause prohibiting local telecasts those nights in the two participating teams' markets. NBC returned as the NHL's over-the-air partner after ABC parted ways following the 2003-04 season. Comcast high-speed cable internet customers could watch at least seven games a week over the internet as part of the new TV deal.
After experimenting with many rule changes in 2004-05 in the American Hockey League, many of the rule changes from the previous year were adopted, with changes:
The shootout features only three shots per team, and if it is still tied, the shootout becomes sudden death. In preseason games (regardless of the outcome) shootouts were held. This rule is similar to the one used in 2004-05 in the Southern Professional Hockey League. For 2005-06, however, the AHL and ECHL shootouts remained at five shots, and the SPHL adopted the five shot format. Shootouts are only in effect for regular-season games. Playoff games will continue with twenty-minute periods until a sudden-death goal is scored.)
The no-touch icing rule used in the AHL in 2004-05 is abolished. However, the ECHL continues no-touch icing.
All blue and red lines are returned to the traditional width of 12 inches (31 cm). The double-width lines used in the AHL 2004-05 season were abandoned.
If a team ices the puck, it is not allowed to make a line change afterwards. (This rule was not experimented with in the 2004-05 AHL season.)
Linesmen are given more discretion when it comes to waving off icing calls when they are accidentally made as the result of a failed pass attempt.
A longstanding ECHL rule in which players who instigate a fight in the last five minutes of a game will be given a game misconduct penalty plus a one-game suspension is adopted. Furthermore, the player's coach will be fined $10,000 (US).
All referees are equipped with wireless microphones so they can now announce penalties over the public address system, similar to NFL referees.
With multiple penalties, only the first will be announced by the referee calling the penalty, with the others being announced by the arena's ice-side PA announcer.
Any player that shoots the puck over the glass (without deflection) from his own defensive zone will be penalized for delay of game. After the 2006 Olympic break, the rule has been modified to read that the puck must cross the glass before crossing the blue line.
After the 2006 Olympic break, all sticks to be used in the shootout will be measured prior to use.
The rule experimentation was based on the previous season of play in the American Hockey League, and was based on creating a more exciting game and will create more scoring opportunities, and therefore more goals.
Furthermore, a new Competition Committee was formed to discuss future rule changes, and players were invited to participate in the discussion.
The NHL season began on October 5, and for the first time in the league's history, all of the league's thirty teams played a game on opening night. In the first period of each game, all teams wore a jersey (sweater) with a special patch as the league and players association auctioned off those jerseys for the benefit of the Red Cross in both the USA and Canada earmarking the proceeds for Hurricane Katrina victims (the Islanders' ECHL affiliate in Biloxi, Mississippi suspended operations for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons because of this disaster; furthermore, the NHL had a Stanley Cup tour of ECHL cities to raise additional funds for relief efforts; Hurricane Rita also affected the Minnesota Wild, as their AA affiliates.). On opening night of this season, Jean-Pierre Dumont of the Buffalo Sabres scored the first goal of the regular season, and Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley, of the Ottawa Senators became the first players to score the winning goals for a shoot out in NHL history, both scoring against Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Ed Belfour. Their sticks were subsequently sent to the nearby Hockey Hall of Fame.
The All-Star Game, which would have been in Phoenix this year, did not take place (the city will host the event in a future year as a replacement); the league instead took a break in February so that many of its players could participate in the XX Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy. The new schedule features more intra-division games in order to promote division rivalries. Consequently, there are whole divisions in the opposite conference that teams never played during the season.
Three early-season games had to be rescheduled due to various events. Hurricane Wilma had forced the NHL to reschedule two Florida Panthers home games. Their game against Ottawa Senators scheduled on October 22 was rescheduled to December 5, the game against Washington Capitals scheduled for October 29 was moved to December 1.
The Nashville Predators-Detroit Red Wings game on November 22 was called off with 7:30 left in the first period after Red Wings defenseman Jíři Fischer suffered a seizure and had to be resuscitated. It was rescheduled to January 23,2006, with the game starting 1-0 for Nashville as Greg Johnson's goal from the original date was allowed to stand. The game that was originally scheduled for January 23 at Nashville between the two teams was moved to March 30, 2006.
On January 19, Los Angeles Kings veteran left-wingerLuc Robitaille scored his 550th, 551st, and 552nd goals as a member of the Kings, eclipsing Marcel Dionne's franchise record (550). The 40-year old Robitaille retired at season's end.
The season was rocked with scandal in early February when it came to light that Phoenix Coyotesassistant coachRick Tocchet was found to be involved in a $1.6 million illegal sports gambling ring with Mafia ties. Apparently no betting on NHL games was being done, but bets were being placed on college and professional football and college and basketball. Although Coyotes head coachWayne Gretzky denied any knowledge or involvement in the ring, initial reports stated that wiretapped phone conversations he had proved that he not only knew about the ring, but was trying to find ways to conceal his wife's involvement in it. He was later cleared of these accusations, but long-term implications to his reputation are still unknown. For more information, see Operation Slapshot.
On April 15, in the Nashville Predators' 81st game of the season, Nashville goaltender Chris Mason was credited with a goal when Phoenix Coyote Geoff Sanderson put the puck in his own net. Mason was given the goal as he was the last Predator to have touched the puck. It was the ninth regular season goal scored by a goaltender in NHL history. The last goal of the regular season was scored by Kyle Calder of the Chicago Blackhawks in overtime in a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues, which ended the 2005-06 regular season at 10:50 EDT on April 18, 2006.
Red-shaded team won the Presidents' Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
Orange-shaded team clinched the other conference.
Yellow-shaded teams clinched the other four divisions.
Green-shaded teams clinched the remaining ten playoff berths.
Numbers in parentheses indicate ranking in conference. Division leaders are automatically ranked 1-3. These three, plus the next five teams in the conference standings, earn playoff berths at the end of the season.
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OTL = Overtime Losses, GF = Goals For, GA = Goals Against, Pts = Points