Week 11 – Christmas Special

NHL Rules

Rule / Situation of the week

Welcome back! Everybody needs a little break at Christmas and our Rule/Situation of the week will be no different! The last NHL games before the Christmas break will be played this Wednesday (December 23rd). The games will resume on December 27th giving the players, coaches, team personnel and the officials some well deserved personal time to go back home and celebrate this holiday with their family members.

This week’s column will be a little lighter than the regular ones and has been adapted with the Christmas spirit!!!



It was the night before Christmas, Santa’s team was in a funk, not a player was working hard, they seemed to be eggnog-drunk. The Big man behind the bench that night had seen enough, and after their 5th consecutive minor penalty, flung a water bottle with one huge huff. It bounces off the ice and slides by the Referee who was delivering the bad news, to the thousands of fans and their chorus of boos. This act was witnessed by all of the officiating crew, so my question to you is, what do you do?


A bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct would be applied if, in the opinion of the Referee, the object was thrown onto the ice with no attempt to direct it towards the officials. Rule 75.3


NHL Rule 75.3 (Unsportsmanlike Conduct) states:

Bench Minor Penalty– A bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:

(i)  When a player, Coach or non-playing personnel throws any object onto the ice from the player’s or penalty bench (or from any other off-ice location) during the progress of the game or during a stoppage of play.

** In this situation, if the bottle was deemed to have been thrown in the general direction of an official but did not came close to make any contact, a Game Misconduct penalty would have been assessed to the person responsible for throwing the bottle. See rule 39.5 below.


NHL Rule 39.5 (Abuse of Officials) states:

Game Misconduct Penalty– Game misconduct penalties shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions:

(vi) Any player, Coach or non-playing person who throws or shoots any equipment or other object in the general direction of an official but DOES NOT come close to making any contact. This action may occur on or off the ice.


*** Now let’s pretend that the bottle was thrown at an official! This would be now considered as a physical abuse of an official. A Game Misconduct penalty for physical abuse of officials (Category III) would be assessed here. This incident will then be reviewed by the League and will be subject to an automatic suspension if uphold. See rule 40.4 below.


NHL Rule 39.5 (Abuse of Officials) also states:

Automatic Suspension – Category III– Any player who, by his actions, physically demeans an official or physically threatens an official by (but not limited to) throwing a stick or any other piece of equipment or object at or in the general direction of an official, shooting the puck at or in the general direction of an official, spitting at or in the general direction of an official, or who deliberately applies physical force to an official solely for the purpose of getting free of such an official during or immediately following an altercation shall be suspended for not less than three (3) games.


HO! HO! HO! The NHLOA would like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas.



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!