Be the Referee!!!
Welcome to our Rule/Situation(s) of Week!
Welcome back! This week’s column will bring to light an illegal tactic used by some teams to gain a competitive advantage on a “on the fly” player’s substitution. For safety reasons, players are allowed to step on the ice from the bench on a line change (“on the fly”) when their teammate that they are replacing is within 5 feet from the bench. By allowing this, there’s more room for the player to change without having any collision between players in the narrow door or near the board in the bench’s area. When a player jumps on the ice while his teammate his at a greater distance allowed by the rules (premature substitution) and that this is done in order to gain a competitive advantage by getting that replacement player in the play quicker that he should have been, a bench minor penalty is then assessed to the faulty team for “too many men on the ice”.
This is not an exact science, there’s no painted line on the ice to define the 5 feet area from the benches. The on-ice officials always use common sense on these changes and will usually impose the penalty only if they feel that the premature change was made in order to gain an illegal advantage or if it created a disadvantage to the other team. For example; if the replacement coming on the ice prematurely ends up interfering with a player from the other team who was involved in the play and therefore having a significant impact for that team (even if the replacement made a significant effort to avoid him!) then a penalty shall still be imposed.
This week’s situation is called “magic doors”! Magic because some team have been very creative by using the wording of the substitution rule (5 feet distance) and using it to gain an illegal advantage. Let me explain, the average player’s bench length in the National Hockey League buildings is about 24 feet long. If we give a 5 feet gap to both the players entering and the player leaving the ice, this means that if a player enters the bench from a door and that his replacement comes out of the door at the other end of the bench and that they both use the 5 feet gap, well this team just got a player 34 feet closer to the play in a split second, just like that! Just like magic!
Let’s imagine a player skating up the ice with the puck with an opponent chasing him closely (within a few feet). The puck carrier is leaving his defending zone along the board on the player’s bench side and has nobody in front of him. When he gets to his blue line (in front of the opposing team player’s bench) he has an opponent just behind him. A split second later when he looks back, that same player is now disappeared! Bam! He is now, being checked by an opponent in front of him while a second earlier no one was there! What happened here, is that the player who was chasing the puck carrier made a substitution at his bench at the door inside the zone and that his replacement jumped on the ice from the door at the other end of the bench in the neutral zone. This is a penalty for “too many men on the ice”. Although both players involved in the substitution were within the 5 feet gap allowed by the rules, an unfair advantage was created on this play by using the length of the bench.
The same tactic is also used sometimes to hide a player from the defending players. For example, on a face-off just outside the blue line on the penalty box side, some teams have tried to place a defenseman on the other side of the ice (basically right at the door of their bench along the wall, inside their defending’s zone) and then as soon as the puck is dropped by the linesman, that defenseman enters his bench from the door inside the zone and that his replacement is sent on the ice from the door in the neutral zone (close to the red line and sometimes behind the attacking defensemen positions) in an attempt to sneak a player behind the defensemen and to go for a breakaway pass. This is also an illegal tactic and would also be penalized when a competitive advantage has been gained.
Let’s now stretch the “magic doors” theme to another aspect of the game; the delayed off-side!
Team A is in a delayed off-side position. While the delay is signaled, the only Team A player who is off-side elects to go for a change at his Players’ Bench. The bench door is in his attacking zone and his replacement enters the gamethrough the same door. Does the delayed off-side remain in effect?
Yes, the delayed off-side remains in effect. If the replacement player after entering the game in the attacking zone clears the zone, the delayed off-side would be nullified. Rule 83.3
Team A is in a delayed off-side position. While the delay is signaled, the only Team A player who is off-side elects to go for a change at his Players’ Bench. The bench door is in his attacking zone and his replacement enters the gamethrough the door in the neutral zone. Does the delayed off-side remain in effect?
No! This is the only time that a team could use both doors to gain a territorial advantage! Rule 83.3
Let the “magic” begin!
See you next Monday!
Every Monday during the regular season schedule, we will explain in this column some bizarre or uncommon game situations/rules. Hockey is a particular game when it comes to the rulebook. Hockey officials need to know their rules but more important they have to know the interpretation and application of them! We will see in the next several months, in this series of articles, that a rule hassometimes two different applications depending on the situation that occurred on the ice. This is not theofficialsdeciding on the outcome of the gameshere, by deciding to apply or not the rule, but is rather the interpretation and the application of that rule along with itsintent that dictatesthe final decision made by the officials on the ice! This is not a column to promote or defend our officials but rather an educational tool for all hockey fans and hockey officials to acquire a better understanding of the game of hockey! So let’s start to see if you know your NHL rules! Wewill help you better understand some decisions made by NHL officials some nights and hopefully making you better “couch” referee!