Basic Rules: NHL Hockey - Visual Guide


It saddens me to hear people comment that hockey is too hard to understand because the rules make no sense. I also hear that the game is too slow, and there are not enough points by each team to make the game exciting. I want to try to fix that here, and now.

Like all sports, the NHL (National Hockey League) goes through rule changes from season to season. NHL standard rules are in place to keep the game safe, and make the game more fun to watch.

So lets start with the layout of the ice:

NHL Rink Dimensions

As seen in the graphic above, there are different colored lines, as well as circles.  As would be expected, each of these has significance, and has at least one rule tied to how it effects the game. 

Center Ice / Face-Off Circle:  The face-off circle at center ice is where the puck is put in play (dropping the puck) by the referee at the start of each period, and after a goal is scored.  During the dropping of the puck, only one player from each team may be in the center ice circle.  Once the puck is dropped however, teammates from both teams can enter this area to assist in controlling the puck for his team.

Neutral ZoneThe area between the blue lines indicating each teams' Defensive Zone.

Neutral Zone Face-Off DotsFour dots in the Neutral Zone where a linesman can drop the puck after a stoppage of play. 

Blue LineA solid blue line spanning the width of the ice which indicates the boarder between the Neutral Zone and a given team's Defensive Zone.

SlotThe area directly in front of the goal tender, between the two Defensive Zone face-off circles.  The "high slot" is an area of the slot that is farthest away from the goal, closer to the blue line.

Offensive and Defensive Zone Face-Off CirclesTwo large circles in a given team's zone where a linesman can drop the puck to restart play.  There are four on the ice, two in a team's Offensive Zone, and two in that team's Defensive Zone.  Given that each team has an Offensive Zone and a Defensive Zone, there are only four of these circles on the ice.  I must state the obvious, that one team's Defensive Zone is the other team's Offensive Zone.

Goal LineThe red line spanning the width of the ice on which the goal sits in each zone. 

TrapezoidThe area directly behind the goal in which it is permissible for the goal tender to touch the puck. 

Goal / NetGoals sit on the center of each goal line in a team's Defensive Zone.

Crease:  The area directly in front of the each goal.  This area is painted blue.

Basic Rules: Do you think you know how to play hockey?

Do you think you know how to play hockey?

  • I played for year, I know all the rules.
  • I watch hockey all the time, and could make better calls then the ref.
  • I like the sport, I can follow the puck, but some calls still make no sense.
  • I can recognize hockey on TV, but most of the time I just don't know what is going on.
  • Hockey? What is that?
See results without voting

Basic Rules: Non-Penalty Stoppages

Icing: This is one of the two most misunderstood calls in hockey. The rule is that if the puck is passed into the Offensive Zone by a team from their side of the red Center Ice line, and it is either not touched, nor could it be legitimately determined "touchable" before it passes behind the goal line in that player's/Team's Offensive Zone, then the puck has been "iced." The play will stop in most leagues such as International, Collegiate, and amature play without the need for the defense to touch the puck. In the NHL, play will not stop until the defense touches the iced puck. This gives the offense a chance to get to the puck first. If the iced puck is touched first by the team that iced it (the offense), then play will continue.

In short, if I were on offense, and I passed the puck from my end of the ice into my Offensive Zone, no one touches it, and it is determined that no one could have touched it before it passed behind the goal line in my Offensive Zone, one of my teammates or I would have to get to the puck first and touch it with a stick or the play will stop. If play is stopped for icing, the puck will come back to be dropped in a face off circle in front of my goal tender, and the players on the ice at the time the icing was happening from my team must stay on the ice as a penalty. This is significant because many teams ice the puck to get it out of their zone, and try to get new players on the ice at the same time.

Off Sides: This is also misunderstood some times. Off sides is really not that hard to follow if you remember one thing. The puck always has to be the Offensive Zone before the offensive players. There is one exception; a defensive player can put the puck back into his own zone while the other team has offensive players in his zone. Off sides is waved off, and the offensive players can touch the puck with no consequence.

There are a few things to understand about off sides. First, the whistle will only blow if a player attempts to make a play or touches the puck while the linesman has indicated that a team is off sides. The puck will then be dropped to start play on a face-off dot in the Neutral Zone. Second, delayed off sides is the term used when a linesman has indicated that a team is off sides, and the whistle has not yet blown. During this time, if all offensive players have left the Offensive Zone (retreated back to the Neutral Zone), and the puck has not come out of the zone in question, the linesman will indicate that the delayed off sides is over, and the offense can then re-enter the Offensive Zone, and pursue the puck. Third, there are times that teams will cause an off sides in the Offensive Zone intentionally. If the linesmen feel that this is the case, then the face-off will come all the back in front of the goal tender of the team that is off sides.

Hand Pass: Before explaining hand passes (which really is self explanatory), at no time during play can anyone close their hands on a puck. That will be discussed in a later topic where minor penalties are explained. So, to pass a puck with a swinging motion of a player's arm (like a baseball bat), or to push the puck along the boards or ice with any part of the arm or hand is considered to be a hand pass. Hand passes stop play if the puck is touched by a player of the same team as the one who committed the hand pass. Hand passes are considered legal only if a defensive player does a hand pass in his own zone. The puck will be dropped in the Neutral zone on a face off dot closest to where the puck was touched after a hand pass.

Puck Over Glass: Simply put, the puck leaves the rink and ends up in the spectator seating. There are times that this can be considered a minor penalty, but again, we will get into that later. For this variety of play stoppage, if the puck leaves the rink, the face off will then happen as close to where the player was when he put the puck off the rink.

Puck Touched by a High Stick: This too is a simple rule to see and understand. If the puck is touched by a stick above the player's shoulders, it has been played with a high stick. If this occurs, play will stop if the next player who plays the puck is on the same team as he who touched the puck with a high stick. Also, if a goal is scored by a player who last touched the puck with a high stick, that goal will be dis-allowed, and the face off will come to the face off circle or dot closest to where that player was standing at the time of the high stick. There is no grey area for this call. If the other team controls the puck after the incident of a high stick, and play has not yet been halted (meaning the same team has not touched the puck), then the high stick infraction is waved off, and play will continue.

Puck Kicked in Net with Distinct Kicking Motion: In hockey, sticks get dropped, broken, tangled with other player, etc. So, players are trained to develop the ability to kick and control the puck with their feet. Kicking the puck is very common, and is often used by skilled players to trick other players all the time. No matter how fancy a player's footwork is, it is not allowed to kick the puck in the net intentionally. This is not saying that a puck that is scored off the feet of an offensive player does not count. The rule is stated that the puck can not be scored with a "distinct kicking motion." Players may angle their feet with the intent of deflecting the puck in, as long as it does not appear that their feet move in a kicking motion. Officials have spent considerable amounts of time reviewing goals scored off of players' feet to determine if they were "kicked" into the net. In the event of the non-kicking motion goals, they will count (subject to the opinion of the referee and official staff reviewing the goal). However, in the case that the staff feel that the puck was kicked in with the motion of a kick, the goal will be dis-allowed, and the face off will come to the closest face off circle or dot to where the puck was kicked.

Goal Tender "Freezes" the Puck: I have included this event in this section only because the whistle will blow, and play will stop. In hockey, the only person who can stop the puck on the ice, catch it and close his hand on it, or pin it in clothing and equipment with the intent to stop play is the goalie. The goal tender can and often does stop play when the opposing team is threatening to score. Referees are instructed to stop play once they lose site of the puck under a goalie. Unlike soccer where the game clock continues to run even if the goal tender has the ball, hockey game clocks stop and will require the puck to be dropped in a face off circle close to that goal tender to resume upon goalies freezing the puck.

Penalty Signals

Basic Rules: Minor Penalties

To start, penalties are stoppages where players do personal offenses against other teams and other players. In the event that a penalty is to be called and play is to be stopped, a referee will indicate that a penalty is to be called by raising his hand above his head. He will then wait to stop play until a player from the team of the offending player touches the puck. The referee waiting for this "touch up" is known as a "delayed penalty." During this time, teams often will have their goal tender rush to the bench to get an extra offensive skater on the ice to try to score during the delay.

Penalties will result in the offending player sitting in a "penalty box" isolated from other team players for the alloted time of the penalty. This period of time is know as a power play. The team of the offending player can not put a player on the ice to replace the penalized player. (Teams are allowed 6 players on the ice during regulation play. This is usually 5 players and a goal tender.) During the power play, the team of the penalized player will then be down a man resulting in a 5 on 4 in favor of the other team. There are often times that teams can be down two players resulting in a 5 on 3. Other combinations are 3 on 3, 3 on 4, and 4 on 4. No matter how many players are in the penalty box for a given team, the fewest number of players a team can be restricted to is 3 skaters and their goal tender.

Minor penalties that have caused one team to be shorthanded can end early if the team with more players (on the power play) scores a goal. Then the penalized player with the least amount of time can come out. Any remaining players with time remaining are to remain in the box. For example, if there is a 5 on 3, and player 1 has 20 seconds left, and player 2 has 50 seconds left, and the team with 5 players scores; then the face off comes to center ice, a 5 on 4 will result for the next 50 seconds and the player who had 20 seconds left on his penalty will be permitted to leave the box before the face off. Otherwise, if the time were to expire naturally, and no goal is scored in the period of time during the penalty, then play continues as the penalized player will come out of the box to continue play.

I will discuse Major Penalties later. Here are the minor penalties with their appropriate time penalties.

High Sticking (2 or 4 min): High Sticking is a minor penalty where at anytime a player's stick makes contact with any part of an opposing player above the shoulders. Intent has nothing to do with most minor penalties. In the case of a player's stick, they are to always be in control. Even if someone else causes a high sticking penalty, there is no argument and no grey area. High Sticking is a 2 minute minor offense. However, if blood is drawn by a high stick, the time will be counted as two minor penalties in a row. Because it is determined as two minor penalties, if a goal is scored in the first 2 minutes, then the rest of that 2 minute period is removed, and the second minor is started. If a goal is scored in the second 2 minute period, then the player can come out of the box and continue play.

Tripping (2 min): Tripping is the act of taking down an opposing player by taking his skates out from under him. This can be done with a stick, skate, arm, or other part of the player's body and / or equipment.

Boarding (2 min): There are two varieties of Boarding. The minor (2 min) version is a mild act of attacking a man from behind into the boards while in a defenseless position. This rule was created to protect the health and future career of NHL players. Players are allowed to run into (aka: check or checking) other players who have or are close to obtaining the puck. Players who are hit from behind into the boards around the rink are considered defenseless. The referee will judge weather the defenseless hit into the boards was malicious or not. If he feels it is an offense but not a Major Penalty, it will be a 2 minute minor. We will talk about the major penalty version later.

Goal Tender Interference (2 min): Players are allowed to check other players as long as the puck is close, and it is not an unnecessary hit. There is one exception. Players are never allowed to check the goal tender. In recent seasons, players have found ways to interfere with a goal tender without actually checking him. As a result, a new definition of goal tender interference was adopted. Players must make all efforts to avoid contact with the goal tender while he is in the crease (the blue paint in front of the goal). Players are also prohibited from facing the goal tender and waving in his face or other acts of distraction. It is permitted to stand in front of the goal tender and screen (block his vision) as long as he does not make contact or distracting motions. Like most rules, the referee can call things he sees as interference or have play continue based on his discretion. This is a very hard rule to always uphold. Many teams feel that their goal tender is interfered with more often then it is called by officials.

Interference (2 min): Unlike goal tender interference, contact with other players on the ice is as much a part of the game as ice skating. Hits, checks, and contact happens continuously throughout the course of the game. Although contact is legal, every player is supposed to have an equal chance to get to the puck. This being said, interference is:

"impeding an opponent who does not have the puck, or impeding any player from the bench." - wikipedia

Diving (2 min): People fall throughout the game, but diving is called when a player embelishes a fall to try to draw the attention of the officials. At times, a player gets tripped, and if official feels the nature of their fall was a deliberate attempt to get attention, he too will serve 2 minutes.

Delay of Game (2 min): Delay of Game is somewhat of a blanket penalty that can be called if a player tries to waste time or draw a stoppage of play by either laying on the puck or putting the puck off the ice and into the stands from the Defensive Zone.

Too Many Men on the Ice (2 min): Hockey is such a dynamic sport that players are coming off the bench and into play while the game is still playing. Since players are jumping off the ice and being replaced on the fly, there is bound to be some overlap and extra players are physically touching the ice while the game is going on. This penalty is called when too many players are on the ice "playing" and are not in the act of coming off the ice. Players can get caught on the ice if they are trying to jump onto the bench, and they inadvertently touch the puck with their feet, stick or some part of their equipment after their replacement has already entered the playing surface. No matter how inadvertent this last action is, they are still "in play", and effected play as an extra man, therefore, they are penalized for too many men.

Cross Checking (2 min): As was mentioned before, contact is part of the game. This does include pushing, rubbing, and such. There are certain types of contact that are potentially dangerous and therefore are penalties against players that use these forms of contact. Cross Checking is when a player uses his stick with two hands and forcefully pushes another player by extending his arms, resulting in his stick hitting the opposing player. In other words, the player punches another with his stick using two hands.

Slashing (2 min): Continuing the illegal stick usage penalties, we move on to slashing. This is the use of the stick in action similar to that of a baseball bat aimed towards the stick, legs, arms or body of an opposing player. Stick checking is legal, and is very similar but yet different than slashing. Slashing is usually intended to distract or injure, and at times does the latter.

Holding the Stick (2 min): Each player is to be responsible for his own stick, and at no time can hold anyone elses'. Preventing a player from gaining access to the puck by holding his stick will result in a visit to the penalty box for 2 minutes.

Hooking (2 min): Going back to what you are not allowed to do with your stick, we come to hooking. Hooking is defined as grabbing a part of an opposing player or part of his equipment with a stick parallel to the ice.

Holding (2 min): Holding is when a player grabs or hangs on another player. This is often called as interference, and is recorded as "interference, holding." Interference is often paired with other offenses such as hooking and tripping.

Roughing (2 min): This is usually when players push excesivly after plays are over, or if the referee feels a particular hit was unneccessarily rough.

There are other minor penalties that are not as common. I found a good list of all NHL penalties on

Basic Rules: Major Penalties

Major penalties are called in the exact same way as minor penalties.  The two differences between a minor and a major penalty are the time served by penalized players, and what happens when the team with the ensuing power play scores.  Minor penalties are 2 minutes each (in the case of 4 minute High Sticking, it is really 2 high sticking calls stacked on a player).  A major penalty have a 5 minute timer.  Also, when a team with a penalized player in the box serving his minor penalty gets scored on, the penalty ends and the player comes out.  Not so with a major penalty.  Regardless of how many goals are scored against the penalized player's, if he is serving time for a major penalty, he stays in until his time is up.

Most common of the major penalties are as follows.

Boarding:  Very similar to the minor version above, a player who hits a defenseless player from behind into the boards has committed boarding.  In the 2 minute minor variant of this call, the referee may have seen the infraction as dangerous, but not malicious, or not excessively dangerous, thus calling it a minor penalty.  However, if the referee determines that the hit was too much and excessive, he can upgrade the call to a major penalty.  I have seen some pretty malicious boarding calls, and (like in the case of high sticking) the player was charged with a double major.  This would best be described as two 5 minute major calls stacked, making 10 minutes.  That player also received a "game misconduct".  I will explain that below.

Roughing:  Again, like its 2 minute minor variety, roughing can have a dark side too.  If a player gets out of control, and starts hitting others high, such as around the head, with the intent to injure that player, they will likely see a 5 minute major for roughing.  Players, hopefully, are aware of others around them and don't get hit unaware.  A solidly placed check on a player not looking up is not considered "too rough" in most cases.  The referee will decide if a player is out of line, and is just playing too rough for the safety of the other team. 

Fighting:  Players push each other and look like they are fighting all game.  They tackle and rub their gloves in each others' face all day, and this is usually not called.  Emotions run hot in hockey.  Fighting is called only when gloves are removed or "dropped."  Once a player has dropped his gloves with the intent to fight, he will get a 5 minute major for fighting.  The instigator may get an extra 2 minute minor for trying to pick the fight.  Most often, when there are offsetting major penalties (in other words, two players tussle, they both go off... the penalties offset), both teams can still skate 5 on 5 (or what ever the player count was before the fight happened).   Fighting is the most common major penalty in the NHL.

Game Misconduct:  This is technically not a major penalty, but it only gets called with major penalties these days.  This just means the player is ejected from playing the remainder of the game.  If he has penalty time to server, a player on his team will sit in the box for him, since he has been removed from the game.  In the NHL, if a player gets three Game Misconducts in a season, he will be banned from playing in one game, and other actions can possibly result (fines, suspensions, etc.).

Basic Rules: Penalty Shot

Fast breaks are common in many sports and can best be described as the opportunity for an offensive player to rapidly approach the goal of an opponant where the closest defenders are behind him.  In hockey, if a player is tripped, held, or hooked from behind, and it is determined by the referee that the offensive player would have made it to the net to attempt to shoot the puck, he may waive the 2 minute penalty time, and award the offensive player with a penalty shot. 

The rules of a penalty shot are that the puck is placed at center ice, and the offensive player has a given amount of time to move the puck into the offensive zone, and shoot the puck.  The player is not allowed to shoot the rebound if it is available.  Once the shot is taken, the game resumes and the game clock starts again at the next face off. 

Penalty shots are one of the more exciting and anxious moments of a game.  Players try to score by attempting to fake out a goal tender by spinning, moving the puck erratically with his stick (deke: pronounced deek).  Just like in baseball's home run derby, fans pay to watch the shoot out competition during the NHL's All Star competions.  Basically, fans watch for about an hour or so as the NHL's best players try to score on the best goal tenders in shootout fasion. 

Comments 150 comments

kingis profile image

kingis 6 years ago from Springfield, IL

As fan and former hockey coach, I liked your explanation of the rules of the game. Good work and I wish you all the best on HubPages.

honey child 6 years ago

when a hockey stick is dropped during normal game pay, are they allowed to pick it up ?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 6 years ago Author

During play, a player can pick up their stick as long as it is not broken. Broken sticks must be dropped without hesitation and left for officials to remove during a play stoppage.

When a stick is ok to play with, but has been left on the ice, it is often the result of a defender making the decision to leave it there and not take the time to recover it. If the action of picking up the stick ends up causing the other team to score a goal, I would imagine a coach would have some choice words for that player.

So, to recap; sticks can be picked up as long as they are not broken. Players may choose to leave a stick on the ice if it puts their team at a disadvantage.

bob 6 years ago

can any penalties in NHL result in being a man short the whole game (like the red card in soccer).

adhilde profile image

adhilde 6 years ago Author

No. Teams are never so severely punished no matter how bad the penalty committed. Players can be kicked out of games and suspended from future games, coaches as well as players can be fined.

The closest thing to a permenant man advantage at the end of a game would be a 5 or 10 minute major penalty committed with less time remaining on the game clock then the penalty is worth. For example, if a player commits a major boarding penalty and receives a 5 minute major penalty with less then 5 minutes left in the game, the officials would likely send the player to the dressing room, and for the rest of the game, that team would have to skate with one less player with no chance of replacing the missing player.

Steve 6 years ago

Question about returning to the ice after a penalty. A player from Team A gets a major penalty. During the penalty kill another player from Team A gets a minor. During the ensuing 5 on 3 Team B scores a goal. Can the player with the minor return to the ice? How about after a second goal by Team B? I just played a game in which my team was forced

to play 3 on 5 for the duration of both penalties even though the other team scored twice. The guys on my team thought the minor could return to the ice after

the first goal, the ref said no.

pezlady 5 years ago

Thank you for your information. It is very helpful in understanding the rules of the game. One question: If there is a delayed penaty against Team A, and Team A makes a goal during that time, does the goal count? We saw this ALMOST happen last night. The ref made the signal that he was going to call a penalty and then let the play complete. Team A had control of the puck and shot however our amazing goalie didn't let it by. So I wondered if it would have counted if it did go in.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

I have been unable to reply to the last 2 questions. I apologize.

Steve, minor penalties and major penalties are not supposed to influence one another when it comes to priority and goal scoring. Case in point, just this past weekend, my Washington Capitals played the Flames. During the game, Matt Hendricks for Washington got in a fight. As a result, he got a 5 minute major, but the refs found it necessary to also give him a 2 minute minor for roughing. Another player was tasked to fill in for his 2 minute minor. In the event that Calgary would have scored, the player sitting in the box for Hendricks' minor penalty would have been set free. Where as, Hendricks would have remained in the box for the rest of his 5 minute major.

Having said this, most sports are not a democracy, and players are at the mercy of the officials. As a fan, player and coach, I have seen many bad calls in every sport known to man. And the only solution I am given is to petition the call to the league after the game. Referees are given the rules by which the game is to be played, and they call the game as they see it. Refs make errors as do all of us, but during the game, there is little anyone can do to make up the mind of an official.

In the case of your team having been scored on during a 5 on 3, the oldest minor penalty should have been set free. There is only one other thing that I can think of ... my conclusions are based on NHL rules. There is always the off chance that the rules your league plays under may differ slightly. But I would have thought that this rule would be pretty similar.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

On to question #2:

Pezlady, when a penalty is pending and the ref has his arm up, play will continue as normal until the puck ends up out of play or a player on the team that is about to have the penalty called on it "controls" the puck. During this time, goals can be scored for either team. It does not happen too often, but the team that committed a penalty can score, they just can't control the puck to do so.

In one case, Team A caused a minor penalty, so Team B pulled their goalie to put an extra forward on the ice. During the ensuing 6 on 5, someone from Team B passed the puck wildly and it inadvertently went into his own empty net. Team A was awarded the point, the ref then put the player from Team A in the box, and Team B went on the power play. It was pretty embarrassing for Team B, but that is always the risk you face with pulling your goalie to gain an advantage.

dhogeberg 5 years ago

Offsetting penalties usually result in 5 on 5 play. With no other penalties being served, is there any instance when offsetting penalties result in teams playing 4 on 4 in the NHL?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

To be honest, this topic seems to have a gray area which leaves me guessing many times. Most often this is called "matching minors." In the case where a player trips another, and the tripped player retaliates, then they both will likely receive offsetting minor penalties. They both sit for 2 minutes, but neither team has to skate with only 4 players.

On the other hand, I have seen plays where an official has his hand up waiting for the offending team to control the puck. During this time, the team who can control the puck commits an unrelated minor penalty of it's own. As a result, both teams lost a player and skated 4 on 4 for 2 minutes.

Having been around hockey for so many years, I have concluded that these types of gray area calls always come down to who is officiating, and what they want to do. Any two officials at the NHL level can and will make calls differently. So, in all honesty, I have no good answer to this question. I have only found that if the two penalties that could cause a 4 on 4 were in some way related to each other, then both teams will skate 5 on 5.

Selim 5 years ago

If a fight starts and a player jumps on the ice from their bench, does that call for a game ejection?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

In a word, yes. When two players are fighting, if any player leaves the team bench, that player is ejected. If a player that was already on the ice enters into the fight, they are penalized with a "third man in" penalty and will also be ejected. Basically, if two players are fighting, no one from either team is to interfere.

I have seen games where all 10 players on the ice were fighting, but each player had a single opponent. As a result, they all had to sit, but there were no ejections.

To prevent mass rioting on the ice, players are not to leave the bench and enter the field of play unless they are replacing teammates during play stoppages, or regular line changes.

Steve 5 years ago

Another scenario for you...Player 1 on Team A gets a minor penalty and is serving that penalty when Player 2 on Team B gets a minor penalty of his/her own (but non-matching - not at the same time). In this case play would continue 4-on-4 and neither team is short-handed. Now, if either team scores, does the opposing team's player come out of the penalty box? This happened the other day and the referee allowed the opposing team's player out of the box, but I do not believe they were supposed to because it was "even strength". Am I correct? Thanks!

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

I would have also thought a 4 on 4 goal would not allow players out of the box. Was it an NHL game or a different league? I would like to look into why (if it was NHL) the officials would do such a thing.

To me, the rules are very clear that while both teams skate at even strength (5v5, 4v4, 3v3), not caused by the goalie being pulled, any goals would not allow players to come out of the box.

I am curious to see what the official score sheet says happened.

Steve 5 years ago

It was just a youth hockey, house league game. I questioned the referee about it (I was the scorekeeper/timekeeper) and his response was that this rule only applied when the penalties were "matching"/coincidental (received at the same time). I'm pretty sure he was wrong...


adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author


I was asking one of my sources to confirm or correct my answer posted to you, and we had our own small debate... clearly this rule is not quite as easy or straight forward as I initially thought.

So, with doubt, I consulted the NHL rule book to find the answer. Section 16 (Minor Penalties) not only explains that no matter the number of players ruled-off the ice to serve MINOR penalties, if both teams are at even strength, any goals by either team do not result in players leaving the box.

In this same section, on page 144 of the rule book, there is an example... please try to follow as I describe the table that is shown:

- Team A commits a double minor at 3:00 into the period.

- Team B commits a single minor at 3:30 into the same period.

- Team B scores a goal at 4:30. No one leaves the box. Official reason listed; "Teams are at equal strength."

- Team B scores a goal at 5:00. No one leaves the box. Official reason listed; "The first minor penalty to team A is complete but teams remain at equal strength."


There is more from this example, but we can clearly see that in the first goal, the NHL Rule Book states that the player can not come out of the box from either team because each team is skating an equal number of players. As you said, in your second post, it is not the NHL... but most leagues adopt NHL standard penalty rulings. Most of the rule changes are safety related (automatic icing). So, if you see this happen again, or want to set it right, it was Rule 16.2 with the help of the Minor Penalty Reference Table on page 144.

Steve 5 years ago

Thanks so much...that's what I thought! :-)

sherbear 5 years ago

During face off, why does a player get removed from the circle?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 5 years ago Author

Players get "kicked" out of a face-off for several reasons.

First off, most people do not know or realize that there is a process to all face-offs. As explained by the NHL Rule Book; Rule 76.3 - Procedure:

" ...

(i) One or both centers are not positioned for the face-off,

(ii) One or both centers refrain from placing their stick on the ice,

(iii) Any player has encroached into the face-off circle,

(iv) Any player makes physical contact with an opponent, or

(v) Any player who lines up for the face-off in an off-side position,

the Linesman shall have the offending center(s) replaced immediately prior to dropping the puck.

... "

These are the 5 typical procedural explanations for getting kicked out. Not to be condescending, it is better to just assume someone may need each of these explained in more understandable terms.

In case 1, both teams select a player to take the face-off. It is usually a Center, but teams are allowed to have other players try to win the face-off. Whom ever is to take the face-off, they must be squared from the opposing Center (player) and they both must be about a stick length apart.

Case 2; to indicate the player is ready, they must have the blade of their stick on the ice. Failure to do this quick enough (5 seconds from the official dropping the puck being ready is the rule... subject to officials mood as most rules are) can result in being kicked out of the face-off.

Case 3; as players try to jockey for position on the ice, if any player has entered the face-off circle before the puck is dropped, that team's Center will be asked to leave the face-off.

Case 4; technically, players are not supposed to touch each other before the puck is dropped. In the NHL, this is almost always violated with no consequence. But if the officials on the ice decide that contact between players should result in a player being kicked out of the face-off, this could easily be a reason.

Case 5; if players line up offsides and the official decides that they want to speed up the game or prevent players from stalling the game, this can also be a reason players will be tossed from the face-off.

In summary, officials can have people leave any face-off just because. This is especially easy to justify because some of the rules are always being violated such as the no contact case.

The big thing about getting kicked out of a face-off is that if a team has two players kicked from a face-off during the same face-off, that team will incur a 2 minute minor penalty for delay of game.

sherbear 5 years ago

Thank you for a thorough explaination.

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daskittlez69 5 years ago from midwest

Thanks for the hub. This will help settle some arguments with my friends!

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adhilde 5 years ago Author

Happy to be helpful. I still field questions posted here.

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jprfehrenbacher 5 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

Thanks for the hub! I may link to this at some point, I feel like there are a lot of hockey fans out there who don't completely understand the rules.

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adhilde 5 years ago Author

Thank you :). It is hard these days to know exactly what hockey rules are any more. This season (2011-2012), there were some significant rules changes to "defenseless players" and boarding. If I get time soon, I will try to update my section on penalties.

CanadaFan 4 years ago

Awesome explanations and questions.

Hockey is, in my opinion, an awesome game. Very fast, high paced game. The rules can be interpreted on ice by trained officials very differently and this can cause lots of confusion to people who aren't as experienced with hockey.

Thanks again from a Canadian fan!

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Thank you. It is very true that even the officials interpret the rules differently. They also see offenses more or less severe then other officials.

With all the changes to the rules each year, this page is rapidly becoming out of date.

mike 4 years ago

Thanks for clarifying the tossed out rules. That's the one thing in hockey that seems inconsistant and I'm 43 years old and was never sure about it . Is that fair something can be determined by a refs mood? Why don't he just drop the darn thing? When are ref calls going to go upstairs for review? Regaurding ,say a bad tripping whistle,and reverse it.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

I really don't see any kind of booth review coming to hockey as we have in football. Yes there is a review, but it is usually only for goals. No coach can challenge a play. Hockey league officials have a similar mindset to baseball officials. Just a year or two ago, the Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game. No walks, no hits, no nothing. For the whole game, not a single opposing batter made it safely to first base. As the game was coming to a close, it was the 9th inning, two outs, last batter, and the Tigers had the field. The perfect game was just a few strikes away from being over. The batter hit the ball short into the in-field. The scramble to get the ball to first was on. It was close... but not that close. Easy out. But just then, the first base umpire called the batter safe. This stunned anyone who watched the game in the stands, and on TV. The perfect game was ruined by a successful hit. Coaching staff and players argued the call. But since the official on the field has the last say, the call stood. After the game, ESPN and other networks slowed down the play and showed how not close the play really was. The first base umpire also watched the play again, and admitted that he was really wrong about the call. In his words, he claims he cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. The game really should have been over with that out that was not called. Tigers won by getting the next batter out. But the perfect game was lost. The MLB league officials said they would never reverse the call of an umpire or game judging official since they (a) trust the calls on the field, and (b) don't want to have to revisit every call ever made after the game has been decided.

Now lets jump back to hockey. I just watched my Washington Capitals lose 2 games in a row. In both miserable games, a goal was scored that really should not have counted. In game 1 against Tampa Bay, the puck was brought in offsides, but the linesman was either at a bad angle and missed the call, or decided to let play continue for some reason. Seconds later, TB scores. Washington loses in overtime. It is always hard to say what would have happened had the rules been enforced. Would TB have gone cold, been demorilized, gotten more desperate, found a better way to put up points? The world will never know, but analysts on TV have looked at that goal as unfortunate since the play really was offsides. Should we have had Toronto or a booth overturn the goal? Even though I am a die-hard Capitals fan, I say no. The game is too dynamic to try to fix every missed call and missed opportunity.

In the second game where Washington lost, the Capitals were down 2-1 later in the game. A puck was redirected with what was believed to be a high stick. So Florida's goal making it 3-1 was disallowed. The referees huddle by the scores table to discuss it. After a few minutes, they decide to review it on video. As time ticks by, Toronto gets involved. Sadly, I could only hear this on the radio, since I was away from my TV, but the commentators are reviewing the goal and sharing what they see for us listening to the game. Both of them were conviced that the puck was redirected from above the cross bar of the goal. Despite Toronto and video review having such a good reputation to "right the wrong," the call was reversed and Florida was credited the goal. I have heard a few NHL commentators reflect that it was a bad call, but it was up to Washington to have had better control throughout the whole game to prevent this one bad call from putting them in a hole they could not crawl out from.

I guess that is why I am not such a big fan of booth reviews for everything. Sure, goals ... that is a big thing. Did the puck get kicked in, was it a high stick ...? Some things happen just too fast for a human referee to call correctly. But to start reviewing everything will disrupt the game enough to make it less about the players talents and lucky breaks, and more about the mechanical processes that could make the game more fair or accurate. I have lost many hockey games and soccer games where bad calls influenced the outcome. It has been my feeling that if we lost a game that close because of one event or maybe two, then we still have things to work on as a team and as individuals. Beat your opponent bad enough so that a bad call just can't effect the outcome. If a missed offsides call, resulting in a goal helps me lose in overtime, then I need to work harder to get an extra goal before the officials have time to mess up the game. It is almost like playing an outdoor game, and you always have an unpredictable weather event such as wind, rain, or snow that randomly makes the game unfair for a few minutes for one team. Or a chip in the ice that robs a shooter a goal by causing the puck to hop up and roll right as the shooter is about to take a shot. Refs are human, and make human judgment errors. I think if we allowed replay to get everything right for every game, we will find some variance in results, but overall, team win and loss averages would be about the same as they currently are trending.

I guess to illustrate this, lets take a team that is 24-10-2 without replaying everything that went wrong with officiating. Who is to say that a few of the wins earned really would have been losses, and some of the losses really would have been wins. Maybe we would see more wins from the overtime losses, or maybe we would see more of the overtime wins turn into overtime losses... We could never know what would have happened if all calls were right. So simply, letting the game stay imperfect with a faster flow not disrupted by replays may just be better for the game of hockey.

Now don't get me wrong. When I see calls that should have been called, like offsides not getting called leading to a goal against my team, I wish the refs had their eyes open more. But to take time to get more refs and video judges involved could slow flow, and reduce team momentum. I hate bad calls. But the way to beat bad calls is to beat the other team first. Then bad calls are just annoying, not heart breaking.

mike 4 years ago

Thanks for the explanation. No wonder the refs go by number ids not their name on the uniform

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Funny. I played a game tonight where the refs probably wish no one knew their names. I can't tell you how many bad calls went both ways. I once thought about reffing... but I decided that it was not worth my time. I know as a player, I see certain things, but as a parent (home based reffing), I now understand how hard it is to make unbiased and fair calls when I only saw part of the "incident." If only I could get paid for my home based reffing.

Still, our refs did pretty good tonight. Other then the calls I swear they had their eyes closed for...

Thanks for reading Mike.

Rebecca 4 years ago

Can you explain when players can switch on and off the ice? I know there are a few times they're not allowed to change the line-up, but I don't understand the details.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

One thing that sets hockey apart from almost every other sport in the world is the dynamic line changes. Simply, this means people can come on and off the ice as play is still going.

Now the question you asked; why are there limitations imposed by officials?

Faceoffs: First off, home teams have an advantage. The away team is given a few seconds to make the first change. During this time, any and all players on the ice are allowed to change. The officials then indicate that the visiting team is no longer allowed to make changes as the home team is given a few extra seconds to make final adjustments. This way, the home team can try to get the matchups they want.

Now a team who tries to pull a fast one on the refs by stalling or getting people out late will be required to return players to the bench that the officials feel were too late. The worst that happens here is, a coach will see the players he just sent on come back to the bench and the player who lines up to take the faceoff will probably be tossed out and someone else will have to take the faceoff.

That takes us to icing. Icing is defined above... but basically, when a team is under pressure and they just want the puck away from their net, they have a tendency to just ice the puck. Historically, the worst that would happen would be a faceoff back in front of the goaltender of the team that just iced the puck. Coming out of the lockout a few years ago, the rules for icing changed. Now, not only does the faceoff come back in front of the goaltender of the guilty team, that team is also not allowed to make a line change. So, tired players are stuck on the ice until they can get another chance to change.

Towards the end of a game, tired teams have a tendency to ice the puck more. Coaches can tell when their teams need a break. Each team gets one timeout per game. Most teams that use their timeout will use it to help rest players during an icing call late in the game. Since the coach can't pull the players off the ice during the icing call, they can give the players a 30 second breather in hopes of surviving to a line change.

So basically, players can come on or off any time during play. Between plays, the home team always gets last change. And a team that ices the puck can't change until the puck is dropped again. Once play has resumed, that team can make changes again.

I guess there is one exception. If a player is injured and goes off the ice and goes directly to the dressing room, then sure, the coach can replace that player. But the remaining players on the ice can't change until play has resumed.

I hope that helps. :)

Becky 4 years ago

Thanks for a great forum on hockey! I have a question about holding. I read through your explanations and they served to confirm my thoughts that this really is one of the the most subjective calls. Today at a game one of our players was attempting to get a puck away from the boards. An opposing player came from the side, almost behind and looped his arm through our players arm. They were practically "promenade" style. The referee was within 10 feet, also along the boards, and this went on long enough for one of our hockey parents to run down to the glass and point to the offending players arm. This was not called as a penalty. I have long questioned the criteria for a holding call. So often when I feel like a fair and balanced bid for the puck is taking place a penalty is given and then there are times like today when I can't imagine how that would not be a penalty. Your thoughts?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


Holding is very subjective. Most times, a referee will get holding right because most times there is holding called, it will be because someone already has the puck and is moving faster then the defense is ready to handle. As a result, the defense will "hold" the puck carrier. In your example, it would be much more subjective. Funny, your description of what seemed to be an obvious hold committed by your opponent happened to me in my last game a week ago. I was collecting the puck off the boards when an opposing player literally looped one of my arms with one of his, and wrapped his stick and other arm around my body. He came from behind me and pretty much interfered and/or held me from making a play.

When I went to the referee after, he said he did not make a call since he could not tell if I was the one who initiated the contact. I thought it would have been pretty obvious, but that was the explanation. I could see this being the same explanation in your example too. Sadly, I felt the call should have been made, and because of it, our 3-0 shutout was ruined.

I am not taking sides for or against the referee's non-call in your example. If the referee just did not see the hold for some reason, even standing that close, then he won't call it. If he sees two players trying to get position and he feels that both have proper positioning to get to the puck, he may have let them play to see who comes up with the puck. Maybe he would have had the same reasoning as the official in my game had by saying he just did not know who initiated the contact. If I had initiated contact in my example, I guess it would not have been holding or interference had I forced him to grab my arm and wrap me up. I can't see why I would have wanted to do this since I would have had the puck in the offensive zone with one defender between me and the goal. But hey, being a ref is not easy. They make some pretty bad calls sometimes.

I just hope the holding non-call in your game did not effect the end result. We still won our game, but our shutout was lost. Like I said in a previous post about officials and calls, hopefully they don't effect the outcome if the call was a bad one. But as for holding, it sounds like you had a good case for holding and it just was not called. Sorry.

hedref 4 years ago

Is there a rule in the NHL where 2 players on the same team commit fouls and their penalties are served at the same time and the penalized team has the choice of being "down" 1 p[l;ayer for 4 minutes or 2 players for 2 minutes?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

To answer your question, yes and no ... How is that?

Just kidding. One thing I like about hockey is that players are held accountable for their actions. Now their fouls aren't always seen by a referee, or they are granted leniency. But to answer your questions, ... can a team have two players penalized at the same time? Yes.

I was watching an NHL game not too long ago where a team was playing 5 on 5, and one player interfered with someone on the other team. The ref put his arm up signaling that a penalty was coming. The team that was about to go on the power play retained possession of the puck, so play continued. As the team was setting up a in the neutral zone, a different player on the soon to be penalized team inadvertently got his stick up too high and clipped a player on the other team. Shortly after, play was stopped, and the referee went to the scorer's box and issued two penalties for the same team. One was interference, and the other, a high stick.

The other part of your question was; would a team have been given a choice to lose two players for two minutes, or one player for four? Teams are not given too many choices when it comes to penalties. There are two exceptions I can think of right off... and I am sure I can come up with more if I really tried. But the only times I really ever see the coach being asked what he wants to do about putting players in the penalty box are when the goalie commits the penalty, or if the penalty was "too many men on the ice." Goalies won't serve their own penalties. The only time a goalie will be removed from the net by officials would be if they got ejected. As for "too many men on the ice," this call is the result of more then one player being at fault. So which one sits? That is for the coach to decide. But no, the coach can't make a player sit longer to keep a different player from having to sit.

I guess just to illustrate more why I like hockey rules for player penalties, I want to compare hockey to football. In football, if a team commits multiple fouls during a play, the refs decide which was the worst and penalize the one player for his actions and decline the other fouls. I would like to see a team get hit for all the fouls they commit in a single play. Imagine a defense doing the following and being held accountable for each foul: Neutral zone infraction, roughing the passer, defensive holding, late hit out of bounds, pass interference, .... depending on where the pass interference happened, you could see 75 yards of penalties in one play. Too bad that would never happen.

Ellen 4 years ago

Tonight during a game and during play, a player deliberately laid his stick down on the ice and skated to the bench (from the opposite side of the rink). Was this because of a line change and by laying his stick down on the ice, he indicated that he was not "playing"? He was not injured.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


I am curious what game, but regardless of what game and when, players' sticks are a very important part of the game as well as a very dangerous part. So to answer your question, not having seen the event occur (leaving me to speculate), I will briefly write about stick regulations in the NHL, followed by what I think happened.

A player must always have complete control of their stick. A six to eight foot shaft of wood or composite material can turn into both an intentional and unintentional weapon at any time during every game. Players can not make contact with opposing players above the shoulder or they will be penalized. There is one exception to this contact above the shoulder penalty. If a player is taking a shot, the follow-through of that stick will usually not be penalized if it makes contact or even draws blood from an opposing player's face, head, or neck.

Control of the stick also means a solid grip on it most of the time. Sure, players get their sticks knocked out of their hands all the time. One thing a player can never do is throw their stick to distract or interfere with the game. One of the most common times you see a player illegally throwing their stick would be during a fast break where the defender gets beat, and they feel that throwing their stick could help prevent a goal. This action is a penalty, and can result in a penalty shot.

There is a time that players must drop their stick. If at any time a player's stick breaks, that play must drop the stick no questions asked. Failure to do so is dangerous for all players on the ice. Broken sticks have sharp edges and must be discarded.

So, in the game in question, a player mysteriously put his stick on the ground and skated off the ice. My guess is that two things happened at the same time. The player was probably due to come off the ice soon, and his stick broke. By rule, he had to drop the stick. When a player must abandon his stick, he has two choices. He can choose to keep playing and try to aid the defense or he can choose to go back to the bench for a new stick. Sometimes, if that player's shift is over, it is better that the player just take a seat, and get a new stick from the safety of the bench. This last speculation is my guess. I think that his stick was broken at the end of his shift.

Unless a penalty happened about the same time, or a goal gets scored because a player is forced to drop his stick, these things are common enough that it will probably not be documented in game highlights, or post game analysis. I am curious what game it was, but I doubt unless it influenced the end result that it would even be mentioned.

Will 4 years ago

Can a player be penalized in the neutral zone? I was watching a game where a player slashed another player and they were in the neutral zone but no call was made on it.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

A player or team can be penalized anywhere on the ice, or on the bench. In your example, the referee may have felt that there was not enough need to call the slash, or he just did not see it as a slash.

I was watching the Capitals ramp up to make the playoffs this year, and one of their last games there were so many times the refs should have called something but did not. To be fair to the officials, as that game went on, the refs also did not call Washington on all sorts of things too.

In a similar game, I was really frustrated that in the second to last game leading into the post season, there was no call on what could easily have been a goal tender interference call. And our goalie has been injured since (We are about to play game 2 of the first round).

I guess what I wish to say about calls and lack of calls is just this; a referee can call anything they want, where ever they want. As a fan, we are not privileged to know what a referee is thinking when he makes or does not make a call. We just hope that the controversial calls don't alter the game unfairly.

If by change the game you were watching was a recent playoff game, then I should also add this. During the playoffs, referees are either asked to make less calls, or be less of a factor in the game's result. Players are "allowed to play" which means that players can get away with more things they would not have been able to do or get away with during regular season games.

Angie 4 years ago

I have been watching hockey for years and love the game. I have never seen it happen so I am asking what the official rule is: Can a goal tender who is having a tough time in the net be replaced in the same way a pitcher is in baseball?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Yes. Goaltenders are replaced for bad performances mid game. It is not as common as pitching changes, but it happens enough. During the Philly vs Pit game last night (round 1, game 3, 2012 Eastern conference playoffs), Marc Andre Fleury, the goaltender for Pittsburgh was replaced with Brent Johnson as the Penguins entered the third period down by a few goals. In this case, it did not matter as the Flyers downed Pittsburgh 8-4, but it sometimes can turn a struggling team around, or give a struggling goaltender a break.

Usually, by the time a goalie gets pulled, it will already be too late for a team to rebound. Sometimes a coach may just want to get a goalie more live "practice" time if a game is too far out of reach.

To go back to pitching changes, in Baseball, a pitcher pulled cannot reenter a game to pitch. This is not the case for hockey goaltenders.

A goalie can get pulled, and put back in at any time later in the game. Washington goalie Semyon Varlamov replaced struggling Jose Theodor mid way through a game, only to struggle just as badly. At the start of the third period, coach Bruce Boudreau had Theodor back in net to finish the losing game.

William 4 years ago

Ok I have watched hockey for a few years. I have a question about a call in the senator vs wranger game.2 rangers were, penalized but it was 5 on 4 not 5 on 3 why was that?

Justin 4 years ago

Great job here; as a new-ish fan it's been really helpful. I have two questions:

1) Why do NHL coaches get fired ALL THE TIME?! I've tried to research this and the best answers I got were "They're cheap to replace, the GM just wants to shake things up, the players know Coach is dispensable and stop playing hard for him when they want him fired, etc..." Is it really just that simple, that NHL coaches aren't as valuable to a franchise as compared to other sports (e.g. NFL)?

2) What are the most common reasons superstar players have subpar year(s)? I'm thinking Ovechkin here in particular; when I first started paying attention he was dominant (like '08-'09?), now I hear he's declined to less than 40 goals a season---not bad, but not 60+, MVP Ovie. I think I understand goalies' struggles or changes in fortune (Fleury, what happened?) because their game is so mental, opponents "figure out" star forwards over time, is it just really hard to be a consistent star for a decade, or what?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

William: in the NY Rangers game, there were 3 penalties called at 14:21 (or the clock read 5:39 remaining in the first period). You saw two Rangers go in the box, but on TV, they may have neglected to show that an Ottawa player was also put in the box.

14:21 NYR Brian Boyle : Roughing - 2 min

14:21 NYR Brandon Prust : Roughing - 2 min

14:21 OTT Jason Spezza : Roughing - 2 min

Two of the roughing minor penalties offset and would have resulted in a 5 on 5, however, NY also got an extra minor. This caused a 5 on 4, even though there were 3 players in the box.

Often times, if penalties offset, the teams won't be required to skate with less players. This generates a lot of confusion since many times, two calls will be made at the same time, but they won't be offseting, and teams will then play 4 on 4 for 2 minutes. In the game you asked about, I am guessing that was what you saw. And the TV crew failed to show and/or say that Ottawa was also penalized.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Justin: I am always glad to hear of new and new-ish fans. The sport really is fun to watch.

To answer the coaching question; yes they are easy to replace. I doubt they get payed millions of dollars per season as the players are paid. Also, GMs do try to make a change when players stop playing for or stop respecting a coach. Bruce was fired this year from Washington for that reason. McPhee explained that the players just weren't playing for him, so he wanted to put someone in charge that would get the team playing again. Every sport has expectations, and if the fans yell enough, or if the players stop playing, someone has to go. I liked Coach Boudreau and was really mad when he got fired. Still, the team moves on, and I keep watching.

Your second question about slumping stars is just as you guessed too. Players come into the NHL as unknown players. Ovechkin had less prestige and other teams did not know his dangerous speed, stick skills, and aggressive checking abilities until after he had played a few seasons. Players do slump on their own, but players such as Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and many other team stars just get figured out by coaches and players eventually. Boston in game 1 of the playoffs this year figured out how to keep Alex Ovechkin in check. About Fleury (Pittsburgh's Goalie), he has really had a difficult time stopping the Flyers' shots. Last year, Roberto Luongo of Vancouver had equal struggles. Goalies get beat up, and lose confidence, or they too get "figured out" by opposing teams.

In short, teams do figure out how to play better against veterans, and when teams get frustrated, coaches get fired. It is really pretty sad. I just take a breathe and say, "Well, I hope these changes help us win." I do hope OV can help bring a cup to Washington soon.

DLo 4 years ago

So glad I stumbled upon this thread; it's answered pretty much every hockey rules question I ever had!

My question is: Above you stated "Players are allowed to run into (aka: check or checking) other players who have or are close to obtaining the puck".

Is this as subjective to the officials as it sounds? I see most body checking occur just after the player in possession of the puck passes the puck. Is there an unwritten amount of time or distance the puck travels from the offensive player once he gets rid of the puck where he can be legally checked by a defensive player?

New hockey fan 4 years ago

Forgive me for my ignorance but is there some rule that States that who ever scores a goal has to go to the bench? I have yet to see a goal scorer staying after scoring!! Seems odd and potential momentum breaker!

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


There is no exact amount of time before or after a puck has been played, or could have been played by a player that would qualify him to be hit. If the hit comes too early or too late, then the call is most often Interference (2 min. minor). It is subjective.

I have seen a player get called for interference for checking a player who skated by the puck. As he was passing it, it looked like he had no intent to play the puck. But the check came, and the penalty was called. I am pretty sure I see that action happen EVERY game, but it never gets called.

So, there is an unspoken amount of time, and it varies between referees. It is usually pretty similar between refs.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

New hockey fan:

All players are formed into "Lines" by their coach before the game starts. A line consists of a Center, Right Wing, Left Wing, Right Defenseman, and Left Defenseman. As a line jumps on the ice, the coach expects that line to change back on the bench in 45 to 60(ish) seconds. Some players seem to be out a lot more then others such as key play makers or defensemen.

Teams try to stick to lines as much as possible. Many times, goals take up most of a line's time. Even if a particular line has momentum, if the coach feels that it is time for a new line, they jump over the boards and take the face-off when play starts again.

In tonight's game 6 between Boston and Washington, most of the time, players who scored stayed on the ice. Some coaches like to leave players on to reward them for a hard won goal. But it is a gamble. If a tired line gets trapped on the ice against a fresh line, the worst that can happen would be that the tired line is held responsible for giving up a goal right after they scored a goal.

Basically, it comes down to what the coach feels will be best to get a win. If it means taking the risk with potentially tired players, then so be it.

Thomas Kelley 4 years ago

Another question about interference calls. I think it is clear that subjectivity plays a big role in calling interference penalties. Now, are defenemen allowed even more lee-way in this matter. It appears to be a legitimate hockey play when a defenseman plays the player rather than the puck. The best d-men will ride a player off the puck instead of trying to keep up with the stick handling of a speedy center or forward. Are there any written rules singling out this part of the game or is it just one more area of the game that calls for referees to use judgement? And finally, being a Boston Bruin's fan, I would like to know if there are any rules allowing for a team to decline a penalty & turn down the opportunity to go on the power play?

Thomas Kelley 4 years ago

In my above comment, I was referring to times when a rushing offensive player will try and self pass the puck ahead, past the defenseman, who, more often than not, will ignore the puck & simply play the body of the opponent.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


Being a Washington fan, I wish Boston well in game 7 this week. Of course I want my team to win, but I must say, if Tim Thomas plays as well as he did in game 6, Boston will move on. I think he was 70% of the win against Washington. Very impressive to watch.

More about interference. A player with the puck is always a target that can receive a legal check. There is time just after the release of the puck from a passing or shooting player where the defense can hit them, even if he passes to himself. If the puck has been gone too long, then the hit, or rubbing out done by the defense could be considered interference. There is another rule to interference that should be taken into account in your "self pass" example.

A defender can not impede the progress of any player going to the puck to play it. So, in your example of a self pass entering the offensive zone (which is very common to see), if the defenseman holds on too long, or has to check the player a little late to slow them down in an attempt to prevent him from getting to the puck, that should be interference. It does not always get called. Most of the time, as one defender is trying to slow down the offensive player, his defensive partner will likely be going for the puck. When this happens, the offensive player going for the puck will not be granted as much consideration for being interfered with, since the scoring chance is now over. If there was no other player back to get the puck for the defense, and a defender held up the progress either too long or too late, that should get called. But as you said (as well as my other comments) all of these kinds of calls are subjective. If the ref does not want to make that call, it does not get made.

And no, there is no rule or allowance for defensemen to get away with more interference like actions then a wing or center. It may just be that defensmen are more likely in a position to try to stop players breaking for the net. Because of the frequency of defensemen doing this semi-legal interference, they seem to get away with it more often.

Justin 4 years ago

Are there any penalties that a majority of NHL fans think are called too often/not enough in today's game? A parallel example would be how a lot of NBA fans say (as I often do): "They never call traveling anymore," or "That wouldn't have been a foul 15 years ago."

Along the same lines, one of my frustrations when trying to get into hockey is that while I can learn the rules and stats and such, learning the "pop culture" of a game is much more difficult; by this I mean popular viewpoints that only a seasoned fan would have...topics like "Who is widely regarded as the best player(s) at their position? What are the historical and current reputations/playing styles of specific teams? What franchises are routinely said to be the best and worst-operated?" I've picked up a few pretty quickly, like "Ovechkin is a badass. People think Crosby and Kovalchuk are soft. The Canucks are a bunch of floppers. Detroit is a perennial power. Brodeur is a living legend but kinda sucks now..." Does this make sense? Is there any site or other resource you can recommend to can help me catch up, or will I just have to wait and watch for a couple of years to know better? In the meantime I'd be interested in your two cents on the examples I mentioned above (who's awesome/dirty/classy/etc). Thanks!

Justin 4 years ago

And please point out if any those quick judgments I've made aren't really true or fair (I'm pretty sure Kovalchuk is indeed soft because I live near Atlanta and remember his rep from the Thrashers days, haha)...and for what it's worth from a newbie: I've only been watching intently since the playoffs started, but I think Pekka Rinne is my favorite goalie. :)

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


You raise a very interesting and valid point. Just like all sports, teams have a historic and "trending" style or reputation. I grew up watching sports of all kinds... well, US sports of all kinds and looking back, I remember the Dallas Cowboys (NFL) were THE dynasty at the same time as the Chicago Bulls (NBA). Soft teams like Portland (NBA), hard hitting teams with most probable injuries to the opposition to Pittsburgh Steelers (NFL). Classy players, now there my mind tends to blank for almost all sports. Let me take a quote from Batman, The Dark Knight. "You die the hero, or live long enough the become the villain." What I mean by this is that I would pick a classy player, but the ones I would have picked have fallen somewhere, or somehow. I guess call me jaded, but I have long watched players as a fan, photographer, writer, and blogger to find that even my favorites are usually self absorbed. But who am I to judge. Put me in a public spotlight all day, every day. I am sure I would offend enough people also.

So back on topic. You are exactly right about players of reputation and/or infamy. Players such as Todd Bertuzzi will forever be booed in Denver for a career ending hit on an Avalanche player. Todd was suspended for his hit, but he still plays in Detroit. There are Great players such as Gretzky. I could list players from the hall of fame all day and why they were the best.

But I think what you are looking for is maybe a list of teams and specific players that you can associate reputations and expectations to.

I will admit this right now, I don't have the time to watch or follow every market team or every star that plays hockey. I am from the east, so my attention tends to favor teams my market plays against most often.


Ok, so I just deleted maybe a books worth of text about each and every team. I figured it just was too much to read. So here are some basics to think of when looking at standings and player stats.

Good and Great Teams (current trends, and my opinion):

- Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia are Great

- Boston, Vancouver, Chicago, Washington, New York Rangers, San Jose

Clean play, Finesse teams:

- Buffalo, Carolina, New Jersey, Los Angelas, Tampa Bay

Dirty Play:

- Philadelphia, New York Rangers

Players to watch:

- Sidney Crosby - Great leadership and ice presence. Recent concussion problems have made it hard for him to play a solid game.

- Alex Ovechkin - Very physical play. Gives up when plays break down, but when they don't, he can really make defenders look like high school players trying to defend him.

- Sedin Twins - Henrik and Daniel play in Vancouver and lead the team in points almost every year. These twin brothers can almost read each other's minds.

- Martin Brodeur - Best goaltender I have ever seen play. But that was probably 15 years ago that I saw him play live. His mortality has come forward as he approaches 40 years old.

- Tim Thomas - Defending Stanley Cup Champion goaltender in Boston. He has some of the best reflexes in the NHL.

- Martin St. Louis - Fast, strong and smart offensive play in Tampa Bay. He lead the way to their championship run, and he plays just as well now as he did then.

- Shane Doan - A physical presence in Phoenix. He has had some struggles this year, but he should never be ignored on the ice.

- Jonathan Quick - LA Kings goaltender who lives up to his name.

- Roberto Luongo - The first goaltender captain I had ever heard of at the time. He was so respected and talented that his team wanted him in charge in the locker room and on the ice. Later removed from captain-ship, he has also found mortality. Still very strong in net, and hard to beat.

- Evgani Malkin - It is hard to be a star on a team of stars. But when Crosby went on the injured list after receiving what was thought could be a career ending concussion, Malkin stepped up to lead the team in points. With Crosby back, Malkin has not lost ice as the two of them shine together in Pittsburgh.

- Phil Kessel - Maybe Toronto fans may disagree with me, but as an outsider can be highly influenced by media and brand messaging, I have been lead to believe that Kessel is a sleeping giant ready to explode. He was an obvious choice for the All Star selection. But Toronto fell short of post season play this year. From what I have seen of Phil, he can find goals and opportunities many others wouldn't.

- Brian Miller - Buffalo's primary goaltender. He has had some great years. He makes protecting the net look easy.

- Mike Green - Best defense Washington has ever seen. He has a great shot from the blue line. Injuries have slowed him down this year.

- Ilya Kovalchuk - There are so many great players in New Jersey. Gionta, Sykora, Hedburg, and others really could be mentioned in this section. I would argue though, that most of these players are getting older. Kovalchuk has had a career better than many, and he has not been in the league very long.

- Steven Stamkos - 60 goals this year in Tampa Bay. He is a very clean player. I don't think I have ever seen him try to cause trouble on the ice. He will be one of the best.

- Henrik Lundquist - Goalie for the Rangers, he really has surprised me. He looks average. I really don't know how else to describe him. But on the ice, he really is hard to beat.

Like I said, I just made a list I could think of quickly. The list does favor the Eastern Conference quite a bit. That is where my eyes are most. But there are great power hitters in Detroit. Growing starts in LA, Nashville, and I am sure in every franchise. If you want to see who is trending with fans and coaches, look up the rosters that played in the All Star games for the past few years.

Most of the fan favorites will be clean-ish players. They will always be good.

The last thing I want to add to this lengthy reply is something about interpreted game changes in officiating but not rules per say. Penalties are hard to criticize from a fan's perspective. True fans have a bias towards their favorite team. I played in a game (non-checking league) where someone from my team rubbed out an opponent. There was a particular fan that yelled that my teammate should have been ejected for checking. Where as there was a similar rubbing out and subsequent non-call the other way, and that same fan sat approvingly saying "now that is hockey is played." I just illustrate that people will always see what they want.

But there are some rules that have been called more or less in years past then they get called in the NHL these days. Goaltender interference was one that was so diversely called by officials, that the league had to redefine what referees were looking for. What I think happened was that coaches were seeing ways to get around the rule. This exploit to the verbiage on paper in the rule book had to be reworded just to make sure such exploits could be avoided. Even now though, many fans think goaltender interference is not called consistently.

Another call that does not seem to get called as often as it could would be interference. The rule states in summary that any player that prevents a player from getting to and or making a play on a puck that does not already have possession of the puck has "interfered" with that player. Well, this happens in just about every game I have ever watched (and that is quite a few games).

One call that happens more then it should is high sticking. This is an odd one to pick on. But there are a some actors out there. Everyone hates seeing floppy players that drop to get the attention of officials. One of the most common things for any player to do when a stick hits them on the neck, head, or upper shoulder is to drop their stick, grab their face, and hit the ice. I have seen replays where a players stick missed an opposing player completely, but not by more then an inch or two. But the replay showed very clearly that there was air between the stick and the player. Still, the player dropped and the ref gave a penalty for high sticking. Now, the game is played in feet and meters. There is no way for every ref to

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Justin (continued),

My comment got abridged somehow ... so I will try to wrap it up again.


Now, the game is played in feet and meters. There is no way for every ref to make every call right. I am glad they are overly eager to call high sticking, and not the other way around.

I hope this comment chain has help answer your questions.

rjn111 4 years ago

Excellent explanations, clear and complete. My wife and I are relatively new hockey fans (about 15 years). You have answered most of my questions. I still am concerned with the Referee situation. I agree wit what you observe about the non-stopping of the game to review calls. But I would still like the fans to know that a call was questioned by the "upstairs" folks and will be reviewed and results posted for public review. This will keep the game going. It will stop the opinion-ating from fans who claim the officals are biased and hopefully give those who are responsible for the game officials a way to praise and penalize their people. Comments?

rjn111 4 years ago

And another thing; The Toss Out of the Face Off Circle. I have NEVER seen a delay of game penalty assessed because I never have seen two players from the same team tossed. I seems this rule is used for something other than its intended purpose. It should be dropped, revamped or enforced consistently. Comments?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


Refereeing is such a hard job. I have been a basketball, baseball, and soccer referee and I can say, even at an amateur level, the game moves too fast to always make the right calls. I may get on a specific ref or official when I think they blew a real obvious call. But I have learned a few things about missed calls, that I think the NHL officiating staff also realize. One, if a call gets missed, it can be called again later. This is also true the other way. If a call is made that should not have been, there will be close calls the other way to compensate for a bad call. I hear NFL commentators speak of this every season how the refs make a call to make up for a bad one earlier in the game.

The other thing I have learned that I am very sure NHL refs also know is that the only time a call really matters is when it influences the outcome of the game. All other calls really are not too significant. Causing a 4 on 4 is easy to call. You will find a referee will let a foul go if it is nearing the end of the game or if it would cause a 5 on 3. Referees don't want to decide games, but they have to call the obvious things and look for the judgment calls, and be the judge.

You have an interesting idea about the upstairs officials having an outlet to convey how they felt about a call or lack there of from the ice level. I am sure the transparency would resonate well with the feelings of fans. It would be challenging to be able to incorporate such a review or belated officiating system into the game. But still, very cool to think through.

You also mention the faceoff circle toss out rule.

NHL RULE #76.4 (Face-off) Procedure – Centers


If a player is ejected from the face-off, his replacement must come into position quickly or risk having the puck dropped by the Linesman without the player being set, or ejected from the face-off by the Linesman resulting in a bench minor penalty for delay of game for a second face-off violation during the same face-off.


I just thought I would look it up to see if it were still in the rule book. I don't recall now if I have really ever seen a minor called for a double face-off infraction by the same team, but there it is at the bottom of rule 76.4. I think linesmen make excuses for players all the time. I have seen a linesman toss a team's center. Then try to drop the puck. After another false start, he elects to talk to the player that replaced the center, but lets him not only stay in the game, but also stay in the face-off center. I am sure it may not be much different then a parent who really does not want to ground a teen for a poor choice, so he gives a second "final" warning.

Who knows. I imagine it is in the rules to just keep the game moving. I am sure they could lose the rule and find some other way to get people to behave at the face-off.

rjn111 4 years ago

Thanks for the consistency in your responses and the quick turnaround. Let me add to my first concern. I don't advocate overturning ref's calls or non-calls. I do believe most fans want consistent calls more than anything. Your response on the Toss Out concern seems to support inconsistency. I feel the same way about Calls to make up for previous misses. Everyone knows what is going on but wouldn't it be better if they just move on and make better Calls?

I picked up on the history and practices of this game being what is driving a lot of the "strange" things about the sport. Maybe it should be looked at by Sports professionals and reducing the effect of history on how this game is played.

One last question, if "they" really want to get rid of the intent to injure how do you explain allowing fighting? There couldn't be any more specific intent to injure, could there?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

I will address fighting first. That is always a hot topic in hockey. Most leagues fine and suspend players that fight. The NHL has not stamped out fighting because of it's historic roots in the game. The team General Managers and NHL Commissioner get together every year and talk about how the sport effects their team, fans, and budgets. It seems that fighting comes up almost every year. The NHL keeps fighting every time. Some years, they come up with different penalties such as off ice fines. One year, they had in their TV contract that the fights would not be allowed to be televised. For what ever reasons they give each year, fighting is still in the game as a release of frustration.

Call consistency is what every sport wants. I don't think any sport plays games with a looming perception that the officials are going to favor a specific team. In most sports both national and international, if an official can be held on proof of bias and his or her calls reflect that bias, they are fired and sometimes fined. This has happened in the Olympics, NBA, FIFA, and the NHL would do the same. I don't like bad calls. But I don't like inconsistency more. I can take bad calls as long as bad calls are getting called both ways. But it does make me upset when the team I am supporting gets hit with a high stick with no call, and then gets called for a very minor that could not have been called. Bad calls and inconsistent calls will happen. That is the human element of sports officiating.

I had a college professor that introduced the grading scale for a test. When someone asked him about a curve and his policy on "arguing" questions for more points, he had a unique response that has stuck with me. My teacher pointed out that people never come to him when he accidentally gives too much credit or too many points when he makes an error in the student's favor. But you know they will be beating down his door for the 1 point he took away that the student should have had. His point was that people make mistakes both ways, and the result could even out over time. But we don't like being wronged, so we insist on the fix to our wrong but fail to fix it when it benefits us positively.

My point is, bad calls should even out as long as there is consistency. And in the lack of consistency, you should hope your team you are cheering for can run up the score before the officials can have a significant impact on the game.

Lastly, you mentioned having profesional analysts look at the fundamentals of the game. The funny thing is, most of the analysts are former hockey players and coachees. They grew up playing the game, and they will probably want to keep the game as it is. Hockey still has some what of a cult following. The United States is so saturated with sports that it is hard for less popular sports to gain ground. We have the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NCAA (Basketball and football). Hockey has always been considered a minority although it is gaining ground. Ask people if they follow MLS (soccer) in the US. I live in an MLS market. When we won the cup, the media outlet I work for literally said "oh crap, now we will have to cover more soccer." That made me sad that we would ignore a professional team because it was not as popular as our NBA team or our college teams. I am getting off topic.

The NHL is always under review to make good changes to the game. But the people looking at the game to make the changes are those that grew up playing it. There is very little outside interest on how the game is conducted. I am always trying to get more fans to games, or to watch the NHL on TV. This was my goal to explain the rules (above). I love hockey. I play hockey. My wife now is married to hockey (me), and my kids get excited about hockey. To see changes away from the historic and possibly out dated rules and trends, such as fighting, from a nontraditional hockey mindset, there will need to be more interest from outside the current professional NHL analysts.

But having said all this, I would classify myself as a player and I would favor how the game is played now. I don't condone fighting. I don't get excited to see people get up in each other's faces. But the game is pretty stable right now. Games are played, and the officials keep things under control. When players get too far over the line, the league suspends them. I may just add that the roots to hockey is a very violent native traditional game. Lacrosse is said to also be based on the same game. It was said that in Lacrosse, it was not unheard of for players to die.

Justin 4 years ago


Thanks for your comments; they were indeed helpful (though I certainly wouldn't have minded the "book's worth" of team descriptions you wrote, and I implore you to post 'em if you still got 'em).

I have yet another question. I've been watching each and every game on the NBC networks, playing the hell out of NHL 12 on my xbox, and regularly checking out sites like the full throws of a probably-permanent hockey binge, in other words. So, like everyone else, I've been inundated with talk and speculation over Ovechkin's playing time. Thus, my question is about player specialization. It seems to me that while other sports have strictly specialized positions, hockey, with its tough, physical, and utterly team-oriented game, would place a premium on "two-way talent"...that is, all-around good players, like Callahan from NY (though I already hate the Rangers). And yet here's Ovechkin, making like $10 million a year, the subject of a huge playing time issue caused solely by the accepted fact that he's a defensive liability. I simply do not understand this. What the hell is stopping him or any other "skill" player? In virtually any sport, good defensive play is largely the product of effort and willing physicality, not just specialized talent. I've seen Ovechkin hit people, and hard; he can be a physically overwhelming player (except when he tried to check Chara recently, yikes). He's not an idiot, he's able-bodied, he's well-compensated, and all this drama could be laid to rest if he'd only "D-up" please explain to me, however long-winded and painstaking it may be, the cultural rationale (or at least, common acceptance) of the one-way superstar. Thanks again.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


your question is not easy to answer. In hockey, we do have many specialized players. But none as highly paid as OV. I have seen many players sell out completely for a team. They play hard on D, and block shots. They will hurry to help the offensive rush, but be mindful to get back on D.

I think it has been a topic of concern in Washington and across the league when a failed offensive surge ends with Ovechkin gliding back onto the Defensive side of the ice. He has a lot of talent, there is no dispute there. I think what makes most analysts mad is that he seems to give up once the rush is over. I have seen him in the defensive zone. When he knows that the defense is either out of position or late coming back, he steps up and defends hard.

Ovechkin has a specific style of play that boarders on reckless. Is he worth $10 Million a year? I have not seen the Cup in Washington yet. As much as I want him to play harder, if he gets too far out of his position, then he won't be ready to break out of the defensive zone. I am not defending that he is less mindful of defense. Years ago, when he got his huge contract, people were not sure how to play against Alex. He was too big, and too explosive. In the past 2 years, teams have really figured out how to make him less of a factor. Also, he is the captain of the team. That is voted on by the players.

Alex Ovechkin is a bit one sided when it comes to hockey. But management knew that even when they agreed to pay him a lot. Fans loved him, especially before he got figured out. And players respected him and still do for his speed and heaving hitting. So what has changed? Not his style. Just our expectations. We want a cup. What is funny about the whole "one dimensional" play discussion is that most defenders are not criticized for not having an offensive mindset. I want to see Washington win, but I don't think getting all over Alex Ovechkin will make a win appear before us.

I have played hockey for so many years. I could never even come close to the skill Alex has. As a player and fan, I feel Ovechkin is getting beaten up in the media and by fans for no reason other then impatience. Micheal Jordan went to the Wizards and could not win a championship. He is arguably the most influential and possibly the best professional basketball player ever. So, what did people say just before he retired in Washington? Did people blame him? Now, it is a hard comparison to make, but I feel OV is playing hard. He is playing his game. I bet he hates losing as much as the fans hate watching a loss. No star athlete feels successful until they have a trophy to show for it.

I don't mind that Ovechkin is up front more then he is back. The gamble can pay off with high percentage chances to score.

Justin 4 years ago

Adhilde, thanks for your honest feedback...In my past, I've quickly attached to a certain player or team when discovering a new sport based on first impressions, emphasizing obvious skill and effort; I realize that this criteria is somewhat random, yet perfect and fair in that I'm judging favs the same way a very young, new fan would: first impressions. Long story short, when I started paying attention to the NHL my adoring eyes were squarely set on Ovechkin and Ryan Miller. Again, this seems random, but I used the same mind and methodology to pick Jimmie Johnson as my favorite NASCAR driver about ten years ago, so, seeing how that worked out, I trust my sports spectator instincts. These same instincts tell me to push you on this topic.

I sympathize with your "the player hasn't changed, just expectations" argument, as it's clear even to a noob like me that Washington has accrued a lot of talent recently and Holtby has been a great, positive surprise. But to dismantle said argument, I point to the fact that all the reluctance to sacrifice offensive breakout positioning you say OV indulges in has resulted in an underwhelming year and playoffs, goal-wise, for him. So his one-end style hasn't paid off this year from what I gather; the offensive output hasn't been making up for the lack of defense, thus degrading his value. I know, I know, Dale Hunter has demanded a playoff-style, defense-first approach...which is the problem. I'm looking for a "real talk" answer: Why can't OV just play defense(or, again, any other offensive star...I hesitate to bring this up also, but I've been reading stuff that suggests that Russian stars are offense-only and difficult to coach; deny/confirm, please? I just read all about Alexei Yashin, ugh)? If the answer is essentially "He doesn't want to," then as "a newish fan" I have a huge problem with his respectability off the bat, which would be very disappointing since WAS has been "my team" based on those newbie instincts I referenced. If this is the case, why would a team tolerate such resistance? Are there teams that are famous for indulging in/refusing this lopsided star approach to the game? Please spill your mind to your heart's content, and, if you can, convince me that OV is justified in his one-sided game.

Justin 4 years ago

And, to confirm your statement, the "Wizards-era Jordan" analogy doesn't compute at all IMO, for a few reasons, but most importantly: at that point, Jordan was a legend who was holding onto his own ghost on a mediocre team out of sheer competitiveness; with the Caps, OV is in his prime and surrounded by talent.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

First off, I just realized I called Miller "Brian Miller" in an earlier post... I don't know why... But thank you for mentioning him your post.

I don't think he wants to play defense. But I could only guess that. If it is true, then I can only guess why. Many defensive players get serious injuries blocking shots. I don't know. Someone needs to ask him.

I think defense before offensive is a better strategy, unless you were the Indianapolis Colts the year they won the Super Bowl. For every point their defense gave up, their offense would get back quickly. For every stop their defense made, the offense would still score. So, if you have a weak defense, you better have the best offense.

Don't get me wrong when I defend OV. I don't think his style of play is good for most teams. I don't even know if it right for Dale Hunter and the Capitals. I just argue that he has not changed. He has been the same Alex Ovechkin for as long as he has played hockey. He was celebrated for it a few years back. But now, he is seen as a liability for it. I stress, I don't know what team can really build around a player such as him, but it sucks that fans and management were completely behind him. And now it seems like no one wants to be. Before Backstrom got hurt this year, they were a very powerful duo. Because of Backstrom's ability to pass and get the puck to Alex, they were very hard to defend against.

I don't pretend to know what is best in Washington. I like OV now just like I did 6 years ago when Washington was the bottom of the NHL.

Justin 4 years ago

Adhilde, because of how great you've been to me and others regarding timely and informative responses to our queries, and how deftly sensical your responses have been, I really respect you. So please, please resist all present and future urges to get defensive regarding certain players or teams; not that you really have done so to this point, but to myself and others I think you're as close to an objective hockey source that we'll get, and I truly want to preserve that...I still don't understand the anti-defense star culture. It absolutely blows my mind that such a physical, results-based sport could kowtow to a "specialized" offensive skill set at the expense of effort on defense, especially when said offense isn't producing; again, it seems to me that all OV'd have to do is put forth the effort. Not too much to ask...You've admitted as much, that OV's offensive skills have been emphasized absolutely. Fair enough. But please explain WHY HE CANT PLAY DEFENSE!? I watch the NHL analysts describing his lackluster effort on the defensive end and wait for them to slam him, and yet they don't. Like only caring about scoring is okay in a star forward's book. Am I right in that this cultural feature stands out like a sore thumb, or is there some hard-to-define logic to it all? I know I'm missing something here; please help...

Justin 4 years ago

And Lord knows wanting to avoid slapshots is understandable, especially after seeing how many D-men left the ice shaking their hands last night, haha...

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


I really don't know why OV either can't or won't play more defense. I would speculate that he has learned that how he plays brings him success. So I am guessing that what ever motivations he has, lack of defense has become his habit or style.

I would doubt that any coach anywhere (US, Canada, Russia, etc.) would ever train a player to ignore defense. I play in an amateur league now, and my team is always yelling at each other to play more defense. I am curious if Alex would even answer that question straight. When players are exposed for bad habits, sometimes they just deflect the question. After hearing some of his post game and post season interviews, he just says things like "we need to play better" or "We missed it." I am curious if any interviewer has ever asked him point blank about his defense or lack there of.

I guess looking back at this comment, I remember in all sports growing up, there were always "lazier" players that would cherry pick all day, and that was it. They were the ones at half court in basketball allowing a 5 on 4 down under basket. They were also the ones sitting on half field playing soccer. They would have a good chance to score when the goalie could clear it out to him. In hockey, he is an opportunist. I see him the same way as a cherry picker.

But a good cherry pick play catches the defense unaware sometimes and can lead to great scoring chances. The problem is, they leave the defense stranded down a man.

Justin 4 years ago

Hmm, an opportunist...that makes sense I suppose, especially seeing how well it's worked for him thus far in his career. Thanks for the effort you made in your answers, I think I'm finally getting it. I'll still be rooting for the Caps of course, and maybe Ovie will get to make some big contributions now that Hunter is giving him some time.

Justin 4 years ago

Wow, you can really tell how drunk I was looking back on some of the nonsense in those last posts. My bad...After watching today's game myself and then reading some fans' reactions, I've noticed a pattern of conspiracy theories regarding the officiating in the playoffs. It's implied that the forces that be want to keep big-ticket players and teams in it for popularity's sake. Even as a casual fan I remember this popping up all the time in the past, too. Do you think all that talk is just sour grapes or can some fans legitimately argue that poorly-called playoff games are no accident?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author


just as you called it a conspiracy, it does seem to ring true to many fans. Would any official really be asked to make inaccurate calls to boost ratings? Maybe. Just imagine the fallout if that ever was made public, if it were true.

Phily beating the comeback of Sidney Crosby, and the all star roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins could easily be an argument that it is not credible conspiracy. I have seen games that made me think of these claims. But I guess I just don't want to believe in them. It would mean my passion for the game is based on a lie and a flawed system. It would mean I have put love and time into something fabricated.

I have heard the same fear from fans of the NFL, NBA, MLS, WWF/WWE/etc., and even NCAA sports. I believe it is an argument brought up when inconsistent calls are made. So people start asking how calls can be made against one team but the same offense went uncalled against the other. This question becomes a theory that there must be intent and bias towards the team that benefited from the apparently one-sided officiating. After watching enough of any sport, a viewer will undoubtedly find enough evidence to support this theory, making it fact in their mind, even if there is evidence to prove otherwise.

I don't want to spend too long talking about the ladder of inference. You should look it up. It is really a pretty interesting concept of how people take what they see around them and define their beliefs and their actions in accordance to this data. But in short, people come up with how they feel officiating is run based on what they have seen. And if a conclusion is formed before enough data can be collected, someone can jump to the wrong conclusion.

For me, I have seen enough games that I can understand the frustration with officiating, but I also don't agree that it is rigged by ratings hungry executives. Nor is it setup for teams to get more home games by extending a series to 7 games. I am sure the St. Louis market would love more money, but they are a single game away from getting swept out by LA. Last year, Washington got swept by Tampa Bay in the second round. Detroit, one of the most faithful markets to their team had to watch as Nashville eliminated them quickly this year. If there was a city in the country that could use revenue and marketing, it would have been Detroit. But they not only lost in the first round, but they lost quickly.

Joey 4 years ago

Can u get a penalty for calling a second timeout?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Each team only has one time out per game. I have never seen a team try to call a second. In NCAA Basketball, if a player tries to call a timeout after their last timeout, they get a technical foul. But I have never seen it in hockey. I will have to look into the rules. I bet the refs just remind the team they can't take a second and then drop the puck for play to continue.

Emily 4 years ago

Thanks so much - I starting watching NHL hockey this season, but I couldn't figure out some of the rules, and this helped a lot!

I also hear the term "line" thrown around a lot: "He went from being the center on the first line to being the winger on the third," stuff like that. What does that mean? What's a line?

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Emily, a line is basically the group of players that play together. So the First Line, also known as the Top Line are your goal scorers and your players that may have been on the team the longest. The First Line usually will start a game, but they do not have to. The coach can have any line start, and can play the lines in any order.

First Line (Top Line), Second Line, Third Line, Fourth Line, Checking Line (usually Forth Line). Some teams have a Power Play Line, and a Penalty Kill Line. Basically, during the game, the coach just wants to be able to yell to his team, "Second Line, your next" and those players know that they will jump over the boards and onto the ice when the players on the ice start coming off the ice.

We hear about lines more from commentators and fans when significant players or strategies influence these lines. I am a Capitals fan, so I know that Alex Ovechkin is on the First Line. He usually plays with the same players on the Top Line, but this past year, while one of the best centers on the team was recovering, Coach Hunter tried the Second Line center and the Third Line center on the first line. That kind of thing.

Fans like to hear when the Checking Line is on the ice. It may even be fun to know who these guys are. The checking line in Washington scores a good percent of goals each season. They work hard, but their focus is to disrupt the playing style of opposing teams. They are out there trying to take advantage of mental mistakes from the other team. Lines really are for the coach to be able to yell who should be on the ice in as little words as possible.

larisa 4 years ago

Ive learned so much by you, thanks for posting all this info! My question is what do you mean by "checking" does it mean the same as in basketball?

larisa 4 years ago

Also i want to be a hockey mom when i have my kids.. How soon should i start involving him in this sport? Also i must say my tteam LA Kings won last night which made mefall in love more with hockey!!! ;-) what did you think of the game if you watched it??

s won last night

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Larisa, I was very happy to see LA win last night. They deserved the win after such a strong playoff run. And I totally agree that Johnathan Quick should receive MVP with 3 shutouts and a 16-4 record in the post season.

I wanted LA to win at home and treat their fans.

To your questions; a check is the physical use of force or an object to impede the play or progress of another player. For example, a check can be applied by a player running into another. This is the most typical type of check. So, when you see two players collide, and one player caused it on purpose, he "initiated" the check. Most are legal. However, if you recall the first period where LA's Rob Scuderi (#7) was checked from behind into the boards and ended up face down on the ice bleeding for a few minutes... that check was illegal. The call on the ice was "Boarding" and was assessed a 5 minute major penalty. During this time, LA scored 3 goals and really put the game away.

There are also other types of illegal checks such as cross checking, high sticking, and tripping. Stick checking and lifting other player's sticks are legal, but if you slash, hook, or use excessive force with your stick, you will get a penalty for it. Basically, a check can be as simple as poking someone or as violent as running into them and causing them to go flying through the air (which can be legal if done in accordance with NHL rules).

The question about when to get youth into hockey for the first time is up to the kid and parents. Many NHL players played Peewee hockey from 3 or 4 years old through high school. If you just want your kids to be good, or to have fun playing sports, then it is never too late to get involved in hockey. Adults pick up the sport a little slower, but they still pick it up just the same.

I would caution that if you get a child hooked on playing hockey, you may be committing yourself to an expensive sport. I will not sugar coat the cost. My gear cost me enough that I questioned playing recreationally year over year. My wife says I am happier the rest of the week after a game regardless of a win or loss. I guess I like the stress relief hockey gives me.

I taught a few friends how to ice skate and roller blade by putting a hockey stick in their hands and pulled them into pick-up games. When a new skater is focused on chasing the puck, and has a mild crutch to lean on for balance, the feet figure out how to stay under you. It is really easy to teach someone how to skate for the first time when they are not focused on falling, and you give them a task to chase something.

So in short, the sooner the better.

Larisa 4 years ago

Makes perfect sence now!.. Thank you for your wonderful explanation! When i first watched a hockey game it was in person i went to see my ex play & fell in love with it but didn't really didn't understand it at times & now makes sence now.. My family is all about football i love football (Raiders!) So now im all for hockey & football!!!=) on about it being an expensive sport i remember my ex's mom would always say how expensive the equipment was & she had 2 boys.. around how much would it be for peewee hockey? Also why is it so dangerous??

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Larisa, price always varies based on age and equipment requirements. I would imagine peewee to cost a few hundred dollars as a minimum. You can often find second hand stores to provide gloves, skates and some of the basic pads. Kids grow out of pads so fast that it may be better to just buy them used at first.

New pads could run you anywhere from 500 to 1000, especially as your player gets older. My skates were $300, my stick I just replaced was $100. You will also need a chest pad, knee pads, helmet, elbow pads, gloves, and hockey pants. Adult pads could cost $1000 easy. I don't know the exact cost of youth pads as my children are not as enthusiastic as I am about hockey. I had to make the conscious choice not to force it. Sigh, I can dream of them in the NHL. But they each have their own hobbies and passions. At least, I have taught them how to play hockey. They know how to watch it.

About the dangers of hockey; every competative contact sport has opportunity for injury. Hockey allows checking in some leagues, but not all. I have yet to see a checking peewee league. I am sure there is one out there, but I have not actually seen one. I would recommend if a team does not require a full face cage, get one anyway. Teeth cost too much to replace as a kid. The dangers in youth hockey would likely be high sticks to the face or neck, stray pucks, blocked shots (which is how I have broken my foot), and inexperienced skaters accidentally hitting or skating into other players. I find that the pads make the game incredibly safe. I have taken shots off my mask, knees, feet, and other pads. As players start younger, they learn how to avoid danger better. I can't say there will be no risk, but I really think hockey is safer then football. Collisions do less damage to players then being dragged down in semi-defensless positions. Football is fine, but I really think hockey is safer.

larisa 4 years ago

Oh wow thats crazy! & alot of money i need to start saving up now lol.. Well thank you again for the info!=)

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Sure. Good luck. Who knows, maybe your son(s) could be the next hockey all star generation.

chris 4 years ago

i just stumbled on this article and seeing that u seam to be a true passionate and very knowledgeable hockey fan i thought i would ask. what is your opinion if you have any on girls ice hockey. and how much if at all do u pay attention 2 it. as a guy who has managed a girls high school team for 4 years now and 2 of them already being graduated from high school in my opinion although it may be a little bit slower and less physical then the men's game its still a lot more so then people give it credit for. and that more people should give it a chance. ill say one more thing i played roller hockey for 10 years and have been involved in ice hockey spring-fall clinics for about 2 years now all coed. there are plenty of girls who proved to be my match.

chris 4 years ago

acually over the past 4 years ive helped out both a boys and girls high school hockey team. i cant make every game for both teams but i jugle it pretty well and make a vast majority.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Chris, Girls can totally rock hockey. I play recreationally these days, and there are not too many girls, but they come out and play in our league just fine. This season, we have the wife of our team captain on defense, and she has been the most reliable in both positioning and physically challenging the on-coming pressure from our opponents. I watch every game I can find when it comes to watching hockey. I especially like NHL and International play. Sadly, for women's hockey, that usually means I just get the Olympics and the occasionally televised Women's World Championships.

Sure, they don't hit like players in the NHL do, but they do hit. They also don't skate at the same speed that the NHL is played at. But if that argument were truly a concern, how is it that NCAA men's basketball is popular? I like NCAA sports too, but anyone who argues that women's hockey of any kind at a semi-professional level is too slow, the I don't want to hear that person say they like any NCAA sport, for it is much slower then it's professional counter part.

A few years ago, my oldest daughter asked if she could learn to play hockey. I was really happy. Then she realized the puck could get her ... I tried to explain that she would have on pads, and that she would not feel too much of the impact. She however remembered that I broke my foot 3 times playing hockey by blocking shots. She does not want to play. She likes to watch it still. But I thought I had something going.

How do I feel about girls in hockey? I feel there are not enough leagues and teams fostering our young women. I would like to see a women's league that gets national attention. The state I live in has a few traveling women's leagues, but no one knows about them. I would like to see a WNHL, but that seems pretty far off. I totally support anyone anywhere who wants to play hockey. There should be no reason why anyone can't put a stick in their hand and play. Thank you Chris. I hope you stay with helping your boys and girls teams. Managing and coaching teams can be a thankless activity. But if just one becomes passionate about hockey, they can spread it to others.

chris 4 years ago

sweet sounds like were on the same page then. it sadly doesn't get enough credit its a great game. and because its supposed to be non checking i find its often a more open game which can allow for more creativity. I dont know if u know this but there is a relativity new pro league cwhl 6 teams mostly all canadain but there is 1 team in that league outta Boston.

penny pebs aka chris 4 years ago

OK trick hockey math related question. and bear in mind i already figured this out but im trying to see if i can stump u. what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal? and what is an easy method one could use to figure this out. today is Tuesday June 19Th and i will be giving u a week to figure out this equation. ask your kids wife friends family or whoever u can think of to help u if u need it and around noon on Tuesday June 26Th i will give u my answer. i will give u one hint a hockey net being 6ft by 4ft means the perimeter u are shooting at is 24 sq ft.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Thank you for the link to the CWHL. I will have to keep an eye on that.

As for the "trick" question. I am not sure I am even reading the question right. You are looking for a %? What percent of the open net is needed to score? Well, I have seen goals scored in areas that were blocked by the goalie, or from behind the net, and from weird bounces... so I am sure I am missing the "trick" to your question. They only part of the goal that needs to be open to the puck is the part of the goal the puck is getting scored into it. Meaning, of all of the goal mouth (opening), they only part that needs to be open is the part just big enough for the puck to pass through.

I am sure that is not what you are looking for. I am curious to know your answer.

chris 4 years ago

yes you are right about that. the only part that needs to be open is the part just big enough for the puck to pass through. and like i said the goal mouth in which you are shooting at which stretches from goal line to cross bar to the 2 post on the side creates 24sq ft in which to shoot at. and as u know a puck is 1 inch high by 3 inches wide. basically it has nothing to do with how goals can be scored from areas that were blocked by the goalie or from behind the net. but more what % of of the goal mouth 24sq ft is equivailaint two one puck. ya i knew that would be a trick question that might be confusing but like i said i will share more next tuesday.

chris 4 years ago

as promised i gave u a week to think about and possibly come up with an answer to my trick question. i know i said i would post at noon but im up and pumped to explain now. now 2 understand this best as possible i suggest u read it slowly and try to picture a net and a bunch of pucks in your mind. that and read it 2 3 or 4 times if u have time 2 do so.

to recap the question was what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal?.

1. a goal mouth is as we know 6 ft by 4ft creating a 24sq ft goal mouth in which 2 shot at. and as we know to get a % of something u are dividing a number into another number and moving the decimal point 2 spaces. the easy method to figuring this question and keep in mind this is not exact but an estimate is first take a piece of paper eactly 1 sq ft or 12 by 12.

3. next take one hockey puck and trace it within that piece of paper as many times as possible with out over lapping. the reason u dont over lap is because it would suggest a puck pushing itself into another puck.

4.the puck will fit into that one square foot 16 times. because a goal mouth is 24 sq ft u will now muliptply 16 into 24 which = 384. now when u trace the puck within the piece of paper u trace them on a flat surface the flat side down. because a goal mouth is standing up this 384 is equivilaint to u fitting 384 pucks into the goal mouth if they were all standing up the tall way with the flat side facing front and back not side to side.

5.from this point u just take 1 for one puck and divide it into 384 and u get a % of 0.2604.

stacking the pucks alone the entire goal mouth the tall way with each flat side would create a bunch of gaps in which u could fill a portion of a puck inside each. more pucks= a lower % so i estimate about 0.25%

now u could line a bunch of pucks alone the goal mouth flat side down or the tall way flat side facing side to side and mabey u could fit more within the goal mouth that way.

but a puck is olny 3 inches wide and the goal line is 2 inches there for u dont count the entire puck in this case because part of it is outside or inside the goal mouth already. even if the goal line was 3 inches these other ways of line ing up dont create gaps as much there for the % would probally stay the same or close 2 the same 0.25%.

to summerise the question what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal? and what is an easy method one could use to figure this out once u figure out how many pucks could fit inside the goal mouth all u need 2 do is divide one puck into that number and u will get your answer which again i estimate to be 0.25% or a quarter of 1%

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

Your logic is dizzying. But if that makes sense to you, I can't argue your belief and your conclusions. Live long, and prosper, and may the force be with you.

chris 4 years ago

ya i know thats rather confusing. but one day outa da blue i just started tracing a puck in a square ft piece of papper and all of these other thoughts just poped into my head ya it makes sense to me or to any one some people would just have to picture it more in there head.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

RULE CHANGE 2012: This is a basic rule change from last year... and I am sure there will be more.

Rule 76, Handeling the puck- players who cover the puck with the intent to hide the puck from opposing players will be assessed a 2 minute minor penalty for delay of game. In addition, if the face off player pushes the puck with his hands to clear the face off circle, this will also be assessed a 2 minute minor penalty for delay of game.

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adhilde 4 years ago Author

(EDIT) In my last post, I mention rule 76. This post is in error. It is rule 67 that was altered.

justin d 3 years ago

just curious what is the rule with goals scored with attacking players in the crease

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

Players are allowed to be in the crease, as well as play the puck in the crease. The only really big rule about crease violation is that a player can't interfere with the goaltender. The technical rules for goaltender interference are: (NHL RULEBOOK - Rule 69)

69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.




Justin, sorry about the long winded quote from the NHL Rulebook. In short, as it says towards the beginning of the quote, a goal can be allowed even if a player was standing in the crease. But it will be disallowed if that player caused the goaltender from being able to move freely.

On a side note, some other leagues have differing rules. Such as amateur leagues have a crease violation rule where any opposing player that enters the crease on his own power and not forced by the defense will cause a stoppage of play, and a resulting face-off out in the neutral zone.

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

This article along with nearly every comment up until March 2012 has been published for kindle and nook devices. I would love any support from readers who want to keep a copy digitally for themselves.

Greatly appreciated.

Justin 3 years ago

Hey adhilde,

I was last on here 9 months ago...I'm back! Haha. Great to see you're still answering these, and hope all is well.

So, I'm just getting into the current NHL season. I watched the Penguins-Caps game on Sunday (and yes, I am asking yet another question about Washington). During one of the period breaks, either Jones or Milbury was saying that the reason Ovie has slumped overall is because he doesn't evolve his game; i.e., he plays exactly the same way he always has, got figured out, and has yet to adapt to how opposing teams play him or develop skills to counter those adjustments (they quoted some unnamed NHL coach as basically saying "we only game-plan for him on power plays...not really worried about him otherwise"). I was wondering, 1) What is your reaction/counter-analysis to this? And, 2) What is your assessment of Adam Oates as the coach so far? I know this is a Hockey Basics hub but I'm sure your responses will be enlightening for all, not just Caps fans...Thanks for the insight as always!

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adhilde 3 years ago Author


Welcome back. The shortened season is so young it is hard to comment on a new coach trying to get a team to adopt his system. Oates is one of the most talented capitals in franchise history. As a fan, I would love to see him be a brilliant coach as well.

OV has a very specific skill set. He hits hard, moves fast, and plays how he learned how to play. I have seen him try different things over the years. Coaches don't always know how to play him. Coaches often have a hard time playing someone on their roster. I don't think Ovechkin can't learn to play different. I don't think he has not played different. His high power, no hold back attitude is what got him noticed. That got shut down, and he slowed down. It would be hard for anyone to take their style that got them noticed and be forced to make it better. Isn't that what makes us human? The ability to adapt to trials, to try to make ourselves better. Sometimes this is harder then it looks. I am not even close enough to pro level to compare myself to even a bench player who spends most of the season in development leagues. But I know I have no room to judge someone else who can stick handle circles around almost every other player, out hit most other players, and shoot a puck from just about any angle and still make a goalie worry if they are going to stop his shot. Sure, he does not make headlines like in Phoenix where he scored on his back with the tip of his stick. Sure he has not had back to back 50 goal seasons for a few years. I still like to watch him score. He gets bad reviews because someone has compared him to other players. He still goes out and does not miss a game. He plays hard. I don't know anyone who likes to lose. I must respect him because I could not do any better. Is he worth what his team and fans are paying for him to be in Washington? I don't know. I am glad I don't have to answer that question with a paycheck. But as a fan, I still let my neighbors know when he and any other Capital scores a goal. I have wondered how many neighbors down can hear my yell when Washington scores.

Justin 3 years ago


A couple of bigger-picture questions:

1) How would you describe Bettman's performance as league commissioner? Can you briefly explain why every seems to hate him (besides the obvious involvement in a pair of lockouts), and how deserved do you think his reputation is?

2) This may be too big a question, but what would you change if you were commissioner for a year?

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adhilde 3 years ago Author


Opinion is hard to prove, disprove, believe, or disbelieve. You will either agree with me, or want to argue with me. The beautiful thing about opinions is that I can believe anything, and it should not matter to anyone else, and the inverse is true.

To be fair, and to answer your questions about my opinion, I think Bettman has a hard job. He has to tell hundreds of players and owners combined what the league is going to do, how it is going to protect agreements, contracts, safety, and other concerns that individuals and groups are going to have each year. If he makes one decision, one portion of the group will approve, and the other will disapprove. The opposite would be true if he decided in favor the other way. That example pretty much is only in binary (yes and no) type answers or problems. Now compound that with more "answers" then just Yes or No... now you have even more people not liking your answer, and even less supporting your stand on an issue.

Bettman has his belief of how the NHL would best prosper, earn money, draw in new fans, and develop future players. One choice could ruin countless hours of effort whereas sticking to a difficult decision now could create a positive culture in 5 years. I often compare management to parenting. Decisions are not always popular. And they are not always seen as "the right way" for something to be done. But someone must make that decision. Not all kids respect their parents. Not every player, coach, owner, and fan respect Bettman. But he is making harder then I have to make. I am glad it is not me. I can guarantee that I would have countless people mad at me if I were the commissioner of anything. I think hockey is still fun to watch. He is not doing bad. I do wish there was no lockout, but I blame the NHL and the NHLPA for that. All sides wanted to be paid fair according to what they believed would be fair. They also wanted to make sure a great many other things as well. So, Bettman, I am ok with him making hard choices and sticking with them. Fan growth is basically why there was a lockout to begin with.

On to #2; I would not be commissioner, ever. As I mentioned before, there are too many things to protect. So, lets say I make a choice to force salary cuts, or ticket price caps, or new rules to improve safety, or any other element of the game. As one element changes, it will affect some other area. Change in player pay will cause tickets to go up. Forcing tickets to go down in price will give owners less to pay for high powered players. Changing rules happen, but they are always years in debate with owners. But these tend to have the least amount of influence to team mechanics. However, referees tend to have a learning curve to adoption of how new rules are called.

But to give you as straight an answer as I can, I would change nothing without knowing more about what is happening under the hood of the league that I do not already know. The uninformed can always judge based on what they know. But we, the uninformed should always be ready to consider that we don't know enough. We can have our opinions, but they will always be missing something. They will always be flawed. Again, I am not envious of anyone who has to keep so many groups of people who don't want to work together happy.

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SteveJarvis78 3 years ago from Sheffield, UK

Thanks this was a good read, I can think of a few people at our local arena who sit near me that could learn from reading this. Maybe one or two of the officials too :)

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

I played a game last night where the officials did not know some of the rules. It was ok though since they put their whistles away, and just let us play. But still, there are enough grey areas in hockey at every level. It is funny to see how many people who know a lot but still do not know everything. I am included in that statement. Thanks for reading Steve.

justin 3 years ago

how significant/frequent is the decision to move a winger (i.e., OV) from one side to the other? what are the implications from a coaching perspective and a defensive perspective (guarding a winger who you are used to being on the other side)?

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

I typically see a coach move players from one side to another, or one position to another to help that player or line get a spark. When that fails, often the player gets put back to the minors to build skills again.

OV switched from left to right as Oates has been moving lines around. OV and Backstrom were the dynamic duo for years. Now they are on different lines. Coaches make moves to see how team chemistry can be improved.

WebWatcher Now 3 years ago

Absolutely enjoy the writing you've given the internet. I have added your site to my bookmarks. Looking forward to your next blog. WebWatcher Now if u want to guest write my site.

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newell12345 3 years ago

good stuff hear, Hockey realy is a such a fun sport to play

Jimbo 3 years ago

What happens when a team has two players in the penalty box and a player on the short handed team commits another penalty? Let's assume all of these are minor penalties. Go Hawks!

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

First off, Chicago is un-stoppable.

A team will always have the ability to put 3 players and a goalie on the ice, no matter how many players are sitting in the box. Every player from a given team can sit in the box at the same time and it would not change how many players can skate free. The trick to these situations is to understand how the clock works during such an occurrence. It once was (and there have been some rule changes to this in recent years causing confusion) that if more then 2 players from the same team were in the box serving penalties, only 2 of the penalty timers would reduce as the game was being played. This would result in the third player sitting in the box to have a longer penalty wait time, as he would not see any time reduce from his timer until the first penalty expired.

Player 1 gets 2 minutes at 15:00

Player 2 gets 2 minutes at 14:00

Player 3 gets 2 minutes at 13:30

Player 1 gets out at 13:00, Player 3 timer starts

Player 2 gets out at 12:00

Player 3 gets out at 11:00

Player 3 would have sat for 2:30 instead of 2:00 only because 2 penalty timers can run at the same time. I will have to confirm this, but that is what I remember. Just know, you can put more in the box then just 2.

Jimbo 3 years ago

I know that you cant have less than 3 skaters on the ice. I was just curious how the timing worked. Thank you. 20-0-3!! Season is half over and no loss. They'll get bounced in the first round.

Jimbo 3 years ago

^ another question using the example above.... Player 1 gets out at 13:00. His team is still short 2 skaters. So does he have to wait for a stopage in play to return? Otherwise it would be too many men on the ice.

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adhilde 3 years ago Author

Yes, he has to wait until play is stopped.

And your ironic prediction of getting beat first round of the post season is quite common for Presidents Trophy winners. There seems to be a curse with owning the best record.

Kevin 3 years ago

I was playing center and the other team had a breakaway. As I was back checking the other team with the puck the player faked the goalie and send a soft shot around straight toward the net.

I dove forward to reach my stick forward and accross the net to block the shot. As I slid past the goal line along side of the net my stick was parallel with the goal line half in front of the net. In the same moment the puck bounced off the blade of my stick and out of the goal and the stick came out of my hand as it struck the post. One ref called "no goal "and the other ref called for a penalty shot. They decided on a penalty shot. What are the rules in this situation? I clearly did not throw my stick at the puck but it did come out of my hand at the moment of blocking an inevitable goal.


adhilde profile image

adhilde 3 years ago Author

It sounds like bad luck on your part. That would have been an ESPN worthy highlight. The one ref likely believed you had thrown your stick, which would have resulted in a minor penalty. I don't see why that would have been a penalty shot. But, that may just be the rules of your league. The hard part about being a ref is that you have to make the "best" call you can at real speed and in the moment. Instant replay would probably have shown your stick being knocked out of your hand inadvertently by the goal post. But the ref had to decide what he thought was right at that moment.

The bigger question is; so you stopped the initial goal. Did your goalie make the second save on the penalty shot?

That really is an unfortunate call against you.

Kevin 3 years ago

Thanks for the response!

Goalie didn't make the save.

James 3 years ago

I heard if your stick breaks you must drop it. If you drop a good stick you can't pick it up unless you were in the process of shooting or passing. Is all that true? Thanks

adhilde profile image

adhilde 3 years ago Author

Yes, if your stick breaks, you must drop it or be given a 2 minute minor penalty. If your stick is not broken, you can pick it back up. If a player knocks it out of your hands, if you drop it ... what ever the case may be. You are never allowed to throw your stick as a means to interfere with a play where you are too far away, or to try to prevent a scoring opportunity.

torrilynn profile image

torrilynn 3 years ago

Hi adhilde,

thanks for the basic rules on hockey

and for proving to a lot of people that

hockey is not hard.

Voted up and shared.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 3 years ago Author

:) Thank you so much. I just love sharing my passion for hockey.

James 3 years ago

Thanks for your time and helping a new hockey fan - Go Ducks !!!!!

Holly 3 years ago

If a goaltender loses a glove or helmet during play, is it required for the referee to stop play? Reason I am asking is because I have seen both and the NHL referees didn't stop play. I thought this was a safety issue and was a requirement.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 3 years ago Author

The rule is that a goalie is to be protected as much as possible. I know the helmet is required... If a ref does not call play dead, he is putting the goalie at risk. The glove is not as critical. I don't think I have seen play stopped for a glove. I would imagine the glove may be up to a ref if they feel like stopping play. But the helmet is a rule, and should have been stopped.

Arabrabbra 3 years ago

Dont know if you still see this thread, but it is awesome! hope you enjoyed watching my Bruins almost win this year (go Rask!) I feel really dumb...but I dont get the offside calls! I kniw the pucj has to get ib there first, but a pkayer will be skaing in awith thrbpuck and grt called offsides...can you dumb it doen for me a bit?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 3 years ago Author

Offsides huh?

Well, as simply put as possible. The puck has to be over the blue line (offensive zone) before any offensive player. That really is the most simple explanation I can come up with. If the puck comes out of the zone, every one of the offensive players must clear the zone before the puck comes back in.

Now, I don't want to complicate the understanding of the rule, but there are a few acceptations. Such as a defending player bringing the puck in when offensive players are in the zone (no offsides). Also, if a player tries to keep the play onsides, but picks up his foot on the outside of the blue line (offsides).

I hope that helps...

I am pretty happy hockey is starting up again here in 2 days. It is good to have a full season again.

newell12345 profile image

newell12345 3 years ago

Thanks for explanation on the offsides rule Adhilde. and yes the bruins will have a great season, and rask will in top 5 goaltenders in the league by the end of the season in my predications.

K.W.S. 2 years ago

I see where NHL teams recall players from the the AHL and send them down. How does all that swapping back and forth work?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author

At the start of a season, each team can have between 20 and 23 players which include 2 goalies. Players get injured or perform below the needs of the team or coaching standards. Players that move down to the minor leagues or are injured can be replaced by other players pulled up from minor league farm teams or trades.

However, players (especially young or new players) are given a 9 game evaluation period early in the season. If these players dress for a 10th game, their first year contract starts which allows them to reach free agency sooner. Teams would then lose their farm players sooner if they are not careful.

The rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is how trades are governed, player contract allowances and restrictions are defined, and team salary caps among many other things, has many moving parts that change during each lockout. To be honest, I have not read up enough on all the stipulations from this last CBA negotiations about team trades to and from their farm teams.

All of this said, teams have the flexibility to pull up players in an "emergency situation" such as player injuries at any time. And a team can only dress 20 to 23 players.

Laura 2 years ago

Hi i have a question, they show the results for the games like 12-11-2 what does that mean. Is it like wins, loses and overtime loses or is it something else?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author

Laura - Yes, you have it exactly right. Wins - Regulation Losses - Overtime/Shootout Losses. All teams are ordered in the standings based on a quick math formula based off of these three numbers.

Your example of 12-11-2 would be 26 points:

Wins are worth 2 points.

Regulation Losses are worth 0 points.

Losses in overtime or a shootout are worth 1 point.

Therefore, the teams standings points would be calculated as follows

[12(x2) + 11(x0) + 2(x1)] = [24 + 0 + 2] = 26 points.

There are ever changing tie breaker rules to determine placement in the standings where teams have the same number of points. But the basics of the points are above.

rjn111 2 years ago

Happy that you are still keeping this conversation going. It is invaluable to hockey.

NHL comments follow:

I love the new alignment. It seems to have evened the playing field (or should I say un-tilted the ice).

I especially love how the west is showing the old school what they are made of. Perhaps the press will adjust their bias somewhat but I am dreaming now.

I am not sure why, but I think the officiating is getting better, more consistent. Perhaps my understanding of the game has grown.

Hockey is a team sport, and when you have a star player who is given free reign to play his game, you end up with a player who has star billings and a non-winning team. OV's +/- stats are proof. When the manager and/owners decide they want more than a star, things will improve for the team.

Hockey is improving in spite of the "traditions" of the game. Fighting will lose it's place in the game. Even checking is being tailored to reduce brutality in the game. I recognize now that a lot of old schoolers' will miss this in the game that they love but injury will eventually force brutality out.

No questions here but feel free to opine on any and all perspectives. I love this column and the game even though I live in an out of market area.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author

RJN - I agree that many of the safety inclusions into the rules (such as blind side hits, hits to the head, removing helmets during a fight, and stricter boarding fines ... among others) are really good for the game. Fans of the game love seeing good hits, unless it is at the expense of their favorite team's all star players. All too often, good players are targeted and are injured due to hits that really have no place in the game. Teams have invested financially in these players. Fans rally behind them too. It only hurts the game to see a temporarily "thrilling" hit which has the potential to end a player's ice hockey career.

About fighting; it is not likely to go away. The CBA and GM meetings have looked into removing fighting, raising fines, or imposing other penalties to on-ice fighting. It was decided that fighting was part of the traditional hockey foundations and would somehow negatively impact the game if it were to be removed completely. Seeing this, I don't believe fighting will ever go away... unless future league commissioners force the issue. On a side note, of all the fights I have seen, most have only issued superficial face bleeding and bruises. There was one exception this year where two players fell to the ice, and one (who removed his helmet) had to be rolled off the ice due to hitting his head on the ice when he fell.

The league realignment is still something I have mixed feelings towards. I want to see how the playoffs are influenced by the change. In the past, only 3 spots were reserved and the rest of the conference would fill in the remaining 5 spots. Now, with only 2 wild card spots, it seems like there will be a qualified team or two that are left out of the playoffs. I predict there will be eventual changes to the wildcard conditions.

I just removed about 2 paragraphs trying to defend teams that are centered around a single or multiple stars. Your logic is understandable. Balanced teams acting as a single entity should expect better results then teams focused on an individual. Such player centric teams should expect failure when their focus player is struggling. Teams like Washington should find ways to get other players and other lines to step up and help the team succeed. I don't think Washington is hopelessly lost and won't do well. They did just take 5 points from a 3 game California road trip against 3 of the highest scoring home teams in the NHL this year. And OV scored 1 goal in all of that. But I do get your logic, and I agree that balance is better.

newell12345 profile image

newell12345 2 years ago

keep an eye on the bruins guys there going to make a big splash in the post season this year

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author

They do look very strong.

Demetre 2 years ago

I understand cross checking as a player hitting another player with the shaft of the stick while holding it with two hands. Why is it that I see players doing this all the time with no penalty being called? I usually see it around the goal when one player is trying to push the other out of the way.

Thank you.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author

Cross Checking is as you described. However, some penalties are subjective to the judgement of the referee. Pushing and body checking is legal. A cross check is dangerous, especially when the stick is near the neck or face of a player. Most cross checks get called when a player is being particularly dangerous towards another. Also, referees may let players get away with one or two, but too many in a row, and they will call it.

Still, the penalty is subject to how the referee wants to call it.

jeff 2 years ago

There is no official nhl definition of a shot on goal and other youth hockey parents and I always have the discussion about what constitutes a SOG. Most often I hear "if the goalie didn't stop the puck then it would have gone in so therefore it counts as a save". I say no all the time. There is some intent to be determined as well, right? If a short handed team ices the puck off the boards and it ends up being stopped by the goalie of the team on the power play, that's not a SOG. Can you comment please..

adhilde profile image

adhilde 2 years ago Author


That is a great question. A passed puck that bounces wrong or icing that takes a bad bounce and gets directed towards the net does not always count as a shot on goal. Now, NHL players are skilled enough to aim shots off defenders and teammates' skates, backs, legs, pads... you name it. If a clear shot is not there, I have seen players try a pinball approach. It is up to the official at the scores' table to count actions like these as a shot or not. Accidental redirections may not be seen as a shot.

But one that gets me are the intentional "shots on goal" from a defender's own blue line as a clearing attempt. It goes the whole length of the ice to be easily blocked by the goalie on the other half of the ice. This is not a shot on goal, and is not counted as one. I believe it is not counted because it is technically a clearing attempt put on frame just to prevent icing. So the goalie must stop the puck. Sure, the shot would have gone in, and I have seen goalies mishandle such easy pucks in the past. As you said, intent does have some say when counting SOG as a stat.

Having said all this, I have not read anywhere that explains any of this. So it could be all opinion and contain no valid weight at all. But from I have heard and discussed with officials, and other analysts, SOG is a stat for goalie coaches and defense coaches. It is meant to give a team an idea how often they are back on their heals and allowing access to their goalies. Lucky bounces and clearing attempts are not real pressure on a defense or goalie, so it should not be weighed in on the stat. I hope this helped.

newell12345 profile image

newell12345 2 years ago

The shots on goal stat is based around a defensive minded hockey team. The SOG stat is intended for goalies,and to determine a goalies performance. As it is the opposite in outer sports, where a similar stat would showcase an offensive pressure. In the 2012/2013 season the new york rangers, with henrik lundqviste as the net-minder ranked among the best in the league with the shots on goal/ and goals against average stat. Its Stats like shots On goal and goals against average, help the NHL on making their decision on who wins with the vezina Trophy. Thank you guys for your excellent feed back, as together we can help educate the masses about this awesome sport..

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adhilde 24 months ago Author

Thanks Mr decfcffcefk and Edafddbebdeg. People who wish to write comments to me directly are encouraged post mail to me directly. It will make it easier for people looking for answers to questions if this ever growing comment section remains reserved for the purpose of questions and answers. But still, I do appreciate the kind words of those that enjoy this Hub article.

Will 20 months ago

If a player hits the ball away from the other player and then he pulls his stick away from the player and the player trips on his stick after is it a penalty?

adhilde profile image

adhilde 20 months ago Author


I am not exactly sure I understand the scenario. So, let me rephrase using Player A, and Player B.

So, you want to know that if Player A has the puck, and Player B strips the puck away from Player A, is it tripping if:

1) Player A loses his stick and Player B trips on it?

2) Player B loses his stick and Player A trips on it?

or 3) Player A or B cause the other player to lose their own stick via a potential "holding the stick" infraction, which is directly the cause of the player who just lost their stick, to trip on that same stick?

If I missed a case that you wish to have answered, please reply. In cases 1 and 2, I don't think a referee would call a penalty for tripping since there was a play made on the puck. If anything, I could imagine a referee calling some sort of interference or holding penalty, but Player A being the player who just lost the puck would likely receive no penalties.

Having said that, if in case 3, Player A had the puck, and not only did Player B knock away the puck, but also caused Player A to lose his stick because Player B held it and pulled it from Player A, and then dropped it, causing Player A to trip, ... it is a stretch, but I could see a referee calling "Holding the Stick", and not tripping.

In summary, I would be surprised to see a tripping call in any scenario. I could see other penalties called in general. But there are many plays that are pretty close, and players drop sticks all the time, even if they are forced to by means of slashing, holding, and other means. Most of the time, as spectators, we see what we believe should have been a penalty, where referees seem to miss, or just plain ignore. And this brings me to a statement I have said in several other posts; a referee is human and will miss calls, or just want to let players play. If it would effect the game adversely, then hopefully, they will make the right call.

Courtney 20 months ago

Ice Hockey is fun to watch!!!!! but scary at the same time.

adhilde profile image

adhilde 20 months ago Author


You should also try playing it :). It is so much more fun to be on the ice playing then watching. And I really do love watching.

Mike p 11 months ago

Player loses his hockey stick and an icing is called is he allowed to go to the bench to get another stick

adhilde profile image

adhilde 11 months ago Author


Yes. Play will not continue until both teams are ready. There are a few "delays" which have been employed by coaches in the past. But, if a delay is seen as a stall tactic to just allow tired players to catch their breath, the referee may award the delaying player a 2 minute minor for "delay of game."

Some things I have seen include a weak or fragile stick, goalie pads loosening or buckles need to be refastened. I have even seen a play request that a visor be replaced that has been cracked or need drying with a towel. I even saw one that got called, and I still disagree with the official (who awarded a delay of game for this next example). A player lined up to take the face-off. Tapping the ice with his stick, he felt that the stick was not strong. The referee insisted that there be no further delay. So the player tried proving that his stick needed to be replaced by breaking off the head of his stick in his bare hands. This really is not easy to do with an undamaged stick. Not impressed, the referee gave him 2 minutes in the penalty box for delaying the face-off longer. I imagine more was said before the penalty, which drove the referee to an emotional choice to penalize the player.

So in short, players are usually given time to replace gear during the stoppage. But they are not supposed to enter the bench to rest while waiting for the face-off to line up.

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