Hockey is a constantly evolving game, and the rules must change along with it. So the NHL rule book—which now stretches to more than 200 pages—is a living document that must account for any situation that can happen on the ice. The basic laws of the hockey game are pretty easy to understand, but the book also contains a host of arcane and sometimes strange rules that are rarely applied. We’ve posted about “5 Weird Hockey Rules You May Not Know,” but there are plenty more examples, so here is another set of oddities to help you win trivia contests or impress your buddies.
1. A player’s skate must be touching the blue line to be considered onside.
NH Rule 83.1: “A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line. . . .”
If an attacking player’s skate is in the air above the blue line but not actually touching the ice when the puck enters the offensive zone, the player is considered offside. For instance, if the attacking player is mid-stride—with his front foot across the blue line and his rear foot in the air directly above the blue line—when his teammate brings or passes the puck across the line, the referee will blow the whistle. This is why you will often see experienced players drag their back foot as they come across the blue line. The NHL uses blue-line cameras to determine if the skate is touching the ice, if the team challenges the call.
2. You can’t face the goalie and wave your stick to distract him.
NHL Rule 75.1 Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Players and non-playing Club personnel are responsible for their conduct at all times and must endeavor to prevent disorderly conduct before, during or after the game, on or off the ice and any place in the rink.
Statement from NHL director of hockey operations Colin Campbell on April 14, 2008: “An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender’s face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play.”
While it is a common practice to position a player in front of the opposing goalie to create a screen that obstructs the goalie’s vision, the offensive player must have his back to the goalie and cannot wave an arm or stick to distract the keeper. This is known as the “Avery Rule,” as the interpretation of the Unsportsmanlike Conduct rule was issued the day after a 2008 playoff game in which the New York Rangers’ Sean Avery harassed and distracted the New Jersey Devils’ keeper Martin Brodeur. Avery faced Brodeur and waved his stick in the goalkeeper’s face repeatedly. Although there was no rule specifically meant to forbid this behavior, most hockey fans and players believe it was not in the spirit of the game. The league agreed, offering a new interpretation of Rule 75.1 to cover Avery’s actions, specifically.
3. If you pull your goalie in overtime and get scored on, you get zero points.
During the regular NHL season, games tied at the end of regulation go to 5-minute, 3-on-3 overtime. Both teams receive 1 point in the standings for going to overtime, and a team that scores in the extra period is awarded 1 more point. But in the rare instance in which one team pulls its goalkeeper to gain an extra attacker during overtime, the stakes are higher. Should the other team score on the empty net, the losing team forfeits its point for getting to overtime.
Why would a team make this risky move? Say it’s the final game of the season and a team needs 2 points to make the playoffs. Gaining a single point wouldn’t do them any good, so they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by chasing the winning goal.
4. A Goalie cannot handle the puck in the other team’s zone.
Rule 27.7: If a goalkeeper participates in the play in any manner (intentionally plays the puck or checks an opponent) when he is beyond the center red line, a minor penalty shall be imposed upon him. The position of the puck is the determining factor for the application of this rule.
Most hockey fans know that the goalkeeper is not allowed to play the puck behind the goal line if he is outside the trapezoidal zone behind the net. But this is not the only part of the ice where it is illegal for the keeper to play the puck. In a famous clip from the 1997 season, Colorado goalie Patrick Roy skates past several New York Rangers, executes a spin move at the red line, and passes to a teammate. While this may have made excellent theater, it was illegal, and Roy was assessed a minor penalty.
5. An own goal can be scored during a delayed penalty.
When the referee signals a delayed penalty, the non-offending team often pulls its goalkeeper to add an extra attacker. There is little danger in this tactic because the play will be blown dead as soon as a member of the other team touches the puck, which means that the offending team can’t score on the empty net. However, if the team that pulled its goalie accidentally puts the puck in their own net, the goal stands. This usually happens once or twice a season in the NHL, often when a player on the attacking team attempts a back pass that goes awry and ends up in the net.