Week 10 – Third man in welcomed!

NHL Rules

Rule / Situation of the week

Be the Referee!!!

Welcome to our Rule/Situation(s) of Week!


Welcome back! This week’s column will focus on a more aggressive aspect of the game than the previous weeks; third man in an altercation. As you may all be aware, no one is allowed to enter an altercation in progress as a “third man in” without paying the price. In fact, being guilty of such infraction is warranting of a game misconduct penalty plus any additional penalties that such player incur during this incident.


Rule 46.16 (Third Man In)states: A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress…

The reason behind this rule is simple, when a fight occur or when a strong altercation between two players happen, when a third man gets involved, generally speaking, the flood gate opens and more players get involved trying to re-establish the man power for their teammates! So instead of having a controlled chaos (a fight or a strong altercation between two players) the referees have now multiple simultaneous fights or an altercation involving most of the players on the ice at that time. The strong punishment (game misconduct) and the possibility of a suspension for such actions usually prevent the players from doing so!


So, let’s go over a text book situation involving a “third man in”:



Two opposing players become involved in a mutual fight. A teammate of one of the two fighting players comes in and intervenes. What penalty(ies) are assessed to the intervening player?


The intervening player is to be assessed a game misconduct penalty for being the third man into an altercation (plus any additional penalties he my incur). Note that this rule is most often applied when a fight is in progress. Any subsequent players who elect to intervene in the same or other altercations during the same stoppage of play would also be assessed a game misconduct penalty in addition to any other penalties incurred at the same stoppage of play.


Ok, well this was common knowledge for most of you! Now let’s bring a little twist to this rule. Can a player be granted the right to intervene as a third man in under the same rule? Well, rule 46.16 also states: this game misconduct shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation.  Really?


Let’s go over a few situations that would be affected by this portion of the rule.



A player is about to be assessed a match penalty. An opposing player takes exception to the foul and the two players fight. A third player enters the altercation. Is a game misconduct assessed to this third player?


No game misconduct is assessed as a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation. He would, however, receive any other penalties he may incur (minor penalty for roughing or major for fighting, etc.).



Players A#2 and B#24 engage in a fight. B#24 has tape on his hands (below the wrist) and during the fight injures A#2 (match penalty). Seeing this, A#10 enters the fight. Is a game misconduct assessed to this third player?


Yes, a game misconduct is assessed to the third player, as the match penalty was not the original altercation here. The fight itself shall be considered as the original altercation. The fact that one of the players had tape on his hands (below the wrist) and that he injured his opponent (a willing combatant) during the fight was a secondary element in this play. On this play, the penalties would be assessed as follow:

A#2   – 5 min for Fighting

B#24 – 5 min for Fighting  + Match Penalty

A#10 – Game Misconduct Penalty (Third Man In) + any additional penalties (2 min for Roughing or 5 min for Fighting, etc.)



Team A#25 sucker punches Team B#20 who is unsuspecting of the punch and this causes an injury. Seeing this, B#11 & B#10 takes exception to the foul and both jumps A#25. Is the third player (either B#11 or B#10 depending on who gets in the altercation last) is assessed a game misconduct under the third man in rule?


No, any player guilty of delivering a sucker punch to an unsuspecting player causing an injury shall be assessed a match penalty. Therefore, because a match penalty was being imposed in the original altercation, the game misconduct is not application in this situation. The same would have been true here if instead of having a player throwing a sucker punch to an unsuspecting player we would had a goalkeeper using his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to or to deliberately injure his opponent. This is also warrant of a match penalty to the goalkeeper and therefore



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!