A two line pass in hockey is when a player passes the puck from their own defensive zone past the defensive blue line and the center red line to a teammate.
After a two line pass occurs, the referee stops the game and a face off occurs in the zone closest to the violation. If the puck moves across the red line before the receiving player does, it is not considered a two line pass.
In 2004, the NHL decided to remove the two line pass rule. During the 2004 season, the NHL experienced a lock out due to decreased game attendance, televised games, and lack of money made by the league. This was attributed to the lack of excitement in games. In the previous seasons, only 2.5 goals were scored per game on average. With hopes to increase the pace of the game through longer passes and more scoring opportunities, the NHL opted to remove the two line pass rule.
The removal of the two line pass rule in the NHL changed the style of play in the league. After removing the rule, players could send the puck farther down the ice to teammates which greatly increased the speed of the game. In addition, the game is more spread out and open because players can skate down the ice to receive passes up to the offensive blue line instead of crowding the defensive zone.
After the NHL removed the two line pass rule, several other hockey leagues began to remove it as well. Before the 2005-2006 season, both the American Hockey League (AHL) and Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) removed the rule. Along with these two, junior hockey leagues such as the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and the United States Hockey League (USHL) also abolished the rule shortly after. All of these leagues have ties to the NHL and wanted to keep their rules consistent.
Although removing the rule has positively impacted the game, many argue that the rule should be reinstated. One reason the removal may have hurt the game is that it resulted in more dangerous play. While players are tracking stretch passes down the ice, they may fail to notice a defender who is about to deliver a big hit. Additionally, the removal of the rule has not significantly increased the number of goals scored per game as intended.
Originally, the two line pass rule was implemented to prevent offensive players from cherry picking past the red line and being able to score too easily. However, this led to the game being excessively defensive and low scoring. Defenders used the rule to their advantage by crowding the neutral zone past the blue line but before the red line so that the other team had difficulty completing passes to players down the ice.