Week 12 – Time’s up? Not Really!

NHL Rules

Rule / Situation of the week

Welcome back! This week’s column will go over some situations where a penalized player ends up going on the ice during the play, thinking that his penalty his expired, but finds out at the next whistle that he has to go back in the “sin bin” for illegal substitution!



With major penalties to B-2 and A-4 being assessed at 16:00 of the first period for fighting, A-4 goes off to his dressing room due to an injury. He makes his way back to the Players’ Bench area but play has continued on for some time with no stoppages and A-4’s coincidental major eventually ends without a whistle. His Coach puts him out on the fly at the 10:30 mark of the first period (when his penalty time is technically expired) and his team scores a goal while he is on the ice. The Penalty Timekeeper informs the on-ice officials of A-4’s participation. What is the final decision at the stoppage?


Disallow goal and assess a bench minor penalty. Player A-4 must have waited until a stoppage of play before returning. Rule 68.2, 68.5 and Rule 78.5(iv). *** Because A-4 is coming from his player’s bench in this situation and because his penalty time was expired, Team A can elect ANY player (except for their goalkeepers) to serve the minor penalty, as it is a bench minor penalty.


There’s also times where due to multiple penalties or by a miscalculation of the releasing time that the off-ice officials in the penalty box (timekeeper) release by error the penalized player creating a similar situation. In theses situations, the actions taken by the referee at the next stoppage of play are a little different that when the player join the play on his own.



A player on Team A is in the Penalty Box and is accidentally released by the penalty timekeeper prior to his time expiring. His team has control of the puck in the attacking zone when a delayed penalty to Team B is signaled by the Referee. Prior to the play being stopped for the penalty, Team A scores a goal while he is on the ice. At the stoppage, it is brought to the attention of the Referee that the player was released in error. What does the Referee do?


The goal shall be disallowed to Team A. The penalty to Team B shall still be assessed. The player from Team A must return to the Penalty Box to serve his unexpired time. No additional penalty to Team A as he was released due to the penalty timekeeper’s error. Rule 68.5, 70.4, 70.9 and Rule 78.5.



At a stoppage in play Team A # 4 and Team B # 2 are each assessed minor penalties for roughing. Team B # 2 is also assessed a misconduct penalty. Team B places # 12 in to serve B # 2’s minor and the teams play 4 on 4. During the play when the minor penalties are completed Team B # 2 leaves the Penalty Bench due to timekeeper error. While Team B # 2 is on the ice Team B scores a goal. Does this goal count? Is Team B # 2 assessed further penalties?


The goal will not count as he is an illegal player. The player would have to return to the Penalty Box and serve out his misconduct penalty but no further penalties should be assessed as he was released due to the penalty timekeeper’s error. Rule 68.5


Although situation #2 & #3 are caused by an off-ice official releasing a penalized player before the expiration of his penalty, in today’s game, these mistakes don’t happen much anymore. The reason is simple, there’s an army of dedicated off-ice officials at each NHL game and these men do a fantastic job! From handling all the penalty times, working the clock, helping during video replays, tracking all the different stats on every players, teams, plays, etc… These “part time” men are the reason why everything flows smoothly during the game, as they make sure that everything behind the scenes is taken care of! They are always a great help for the on-ice officials. We would like to thank all the off-ice officials around the league for their great work and level of professionalism that they bring every game and we are proud to say that they are part of our officiating family!


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!