Week 9 – How to make a second disappear

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 be more on a rule clarification than on a judgement play! A few times a year, sometimes when a team is killing a penalty, there will be a second left on the penalty clock when the play is stopped. And then by magic at this same stoppage of play, the penalty time is erased from the clock and the penalized player is allowed to get out of the sin bin even if the penalty clock was indicating a second left on his penalty at the whistle! Even worst, nobody from the opposing team seemed to protest about it! What happened here?

Well, let’s bring up the official rule from the NHL rule book to clarify situation:



35.1 The Penalty Timekeeper shall inform penalized players and the Penalty Box Attendants as to the correct expiration time of all penalties. In the event of a dispute regarding the time a player is permitted to return to the ice, the game clock is the determining time clock. For example, a player is assessed a minor penalty at the 12:00 mark. A stoppage of play occurs at the 10:00 mark, however, the penalty time clock shows one second remaining in the penalty. Since the game clock is the determining time clock, the penalized player shall be permitted to return to the ice.


Because the penalty’s clocks do not show the tenth of a second, this is why we need to use the main game clock to determine the expiration on a penalty. This is why, every time there’s a second left on a penalty at a stoppage of play, the on-ice officials will make sure to go over to the penalty timekeeper to check on the time when the penalty was assessed and determine if the penalty still have a second left or if the player should be released from the penalty box. This is crucial sometimes when a team is shorthanded by two players (5 on 3) and that they are scored upon with one second left on their first penalty. This might mean playing even strength if the first penalty time was expired according to the game clock rather than playing shorthanded for the remaining of the second penalty time!


Here’s a few situations scenarios involving this week’s column:



With the clock reading 5:26 remaining in the first period, Team B#24 is assessed a minor penalty for tripping. At the next stoppage of play, there is one second remaining in #24’s penalty. Although the penalty clock has time remaining in the penalty, the main clock shows 3:26 remaining in the period. Is #24 allowed to come out or must he serve his remaining second?


The game clock is the determining time clock, therefore #24 is permitted to return to the ice. Rule 35.1



Red Team player #15 is assessed a minor penalty at 2:13 remaining in the period. With 0:13.6 remaining on the game clock there is a stoppage of play. The penalty clock shows 0:01 remaining in the penalty. Is the penalty expired?


No. Since the game clock has not yet reached the 0:13.0 mark, the penalty has not yet expired. This is a tricky one!!! Technically, the game clock is showing the past second and not the one that is being played! For example, when starting a period, the clock shows 20:00. The clock does not go to 19:59 until it has reached 19:59.0. Because the last minute of each period are showing the tenth of a second showing of the clock, the clock is not acting the same way! Now from the 1:00 mark, it goes directly to 0:59.9 immediately instead of waiting to 0:59.0 to show 59 seconds left. To make it consistent with the rest of the game time (other than the last minute of play of each periods) we then need to use the game clock with the .0 tenth in order to determine this type of situation.



With the clock indicating 17:30 in the first period, a player from Team A is assessed a minor penalty. With 17:00 on the clock, Team A is assessed another minor penalty putting them two players shorthanded. Team B scores with 15:30 on the game clock but the penalty clocks indicates 1 second left on Team A first penalty and 30 seconds left on their second penalty. What is the on-ice strength when the play will resume?


According to the game clock, the first penalty to Team A was expired when Team B scored. Therefore the second penalty to Team B is now canceled by the scoring of a goal by Team B. On-ice strength will be 5 on 5 when play resume.



Team A is assessed a minor penalty with 15.6 seconds left in the second period. There is a stoppage of play with 18:16 on the clock in the third period. Team A’s penalty has 1 second left on the penalty clock. Is the Team A penalty over or do they have to play shorthanded for one more second?


Because the last minute of play shows the tenth of a second, we have to consider here that 15.6 seconds left in the second period was like 16 seconds left as the clock didn’t hit the 16.0 mark. Therefore, the minor penalty was over at 18:16 of the third period. The player is released from the penalty box and the remaining second on the penalty clock is also removed.



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!