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Basic Rules of NHL Hockey: A Visual Guide

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adhilde is a hockey lover and enjoys sharing their knowledge of the game through writing.

This guide provides information on everything from penalties to stoppages.

This guide provides information on everything from penalties to stoppages.

It saddens me to hear people comment that hockey is too hard to understand because the rules make no sense. I also hear that the game is too slow and there are not enough points by each team to make the game exciting. I want to try to fix that here and now.

Like all sports, the NHL (National Hockey League) goes through rule changes from season to season. NHL standard rules are in place to keep the game safe and make the game more fun to watch.

So let's start with the layout of the ice.

Hockey Rink Layout

As seen in the first graphic below, there are different colored lines, as well as circles. As would be expected, each of these has significance, and have at least one rule tied to how it affects the game.

NHL Rink Dimensions

NHL Rink Dimensions

  1. Center Ice/Face-Off Circle: The face-off circle at center ice is where the puck is put in play (dropping the puck) by the referee at the start of each period and after a goal is scored. During the dropping of the puck, only one player from each team may be in the center ice circle. Once the puck is dropped, however, teammates from both teams can enter this area to assist in controlling the puck for his team.
  2. Neutral Zone: The area between the blue lines indicating each teams' defensive zone.
  3. Neutral Zone Face-Off Dots: Four dots in the neutral zone where a linesman can drop the puck after a stoppage of play.
  4. Blue Line: A solid blue line spanning the width of the ice indicates the border between the neutral zone and a given team's defensive zone.
  5. Slot: The area directly in front of the goaltender, between the two defensive zone face-off circles. The "high slot" is an area of the slot that is farthest away from the goal, closer to the blue line.
  6. Offensive and Defensive Zone Face-Off Circles: Two large circles in a given team's zone where a linesman can drop the puck to restart play. There are four on the ice; two in a team's offensive zone and two in that team's defensive zone. Given that each team has an offensive zone and a defensive zone, there are only four of these circles on the ice. I must state the obvious that one team's defensive zone is the other team's offensive zone.
  7. Goal Line: The red line spanning the width of the ice on which the goal sits in each zone.
  8. Trapezoid: The area directly behind the goal in which it is permissible for the goaltender to touch the puck.
  9. Goal/Net: Goals sit on the center of each goal line in a team's defensive zone.
  10. Crease: The area directly in front of each goal. This area is painted blue.

Basic Rules: Non-Penalty Stoppages

The basic rules of hockey are simple and can be described in a few definitions.


This is one of the two most misunderstood calls in hockey. The rule is that if the puck is passed into the offensive zone by a team from their side of the red center ice line, and it is either not touched or could not be determined "touchable" before it passes behind the goal line in that team's offensive zone, then the puck has been "iced." The play will stop in most leagues such as international, collegiate, and amateur play without the need for the defense to touch the puck. In the NHL, play will not stop until the defense touches the iced puck. This gives the offense a chance to get to the puck first. If the iced puck is touched first by the team that iced it (the offense), then play will continue.

In short, if I were on offense and I passed the puck from my end of the ice into my offensive zone, and no one touches it and it is determined that no one could have touched it before it passed behind the goal line in my offensive zone, then one of my teammates or I would have to get to the puck first and touch it with a stick or the play will stop. If play is stopped for icing, the puck will come back to be dropped in a face-off circle in front of my goaltender and the players on the ice at the time the icing was happening from my team must stay on the ice as a penalty. This is significant because many teams ice the puck to get it out of their zone and try to get new players on the ice at the same time.


This is also misunderstood sometimes. Offsides is really not that hard to follow if you remember one thing; the puck always has to be in the offensive zone before the offensive players. There is one exception; a defensive player can put the puck back into his own zone while the other team has offensive players in his zone. Offsides is waived off and the offensive players can touch the puck with no consequence.

There are a few things to understand about offsides. First, the whistle will only blow if a player attempts to make a play or touches the puck while the linesman has indicated that a team is offsides. The puck will then be dropped to start play on a face-off dot in the neutral zone. Second, delayed offsides is the term used when a linesman has indicated that a team is offsides and the whistle has not yet blown. During this time, if all offensive players have left the offensive zone (retreated back to the neutral zone), and the puck has not come out of the zone in question, the linesman will indicate that the delayed offsides is over and the offense can then re-enter the offensive zone to pursue the puck. Third, there are times that teams will cause offsides in the offensive zone intentionally. If the linesmen feel that this is the case, then the face-off will come back in front of the goaltender of the team that is offsides.

Hand Pass

Before explaining hand passes (which really is self-explanatory), at no time during play can anyone close their hands on a puck. That will be discussed in a later topic where minor penalties are explained. So, to pass a puck with a swinging motion of a player's arm (like a baseball bat), or to push the puck along the boards or ice with any part of the arm or hand is considered to be a hand pass. Hand passes stop play if the puck is touched by a player of the same team as the one who committed the hand pass. Hand passes are considered legal only if a defensive player does a hand pass in his own zone. The puck will be dropped in the neutral zone on a face-off dot closest to where the puck was touched after a hand pass.

Puck Over Glass

Simply put, the puck leaves the rink and ends up in the spectator seating. There are times that this can be considered a minor penalty, but again, we will get into that later. For this variety of play stoppage, if the puck leaves the rink, the face-off will then happen as close to where the player was when he put the puck off the rink.

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Puck Touched by a High Stick

This is a simple rule to see and understand. If the puck is touched by a stick above the player's shoulders, it has been played with a high stick. If this occurs, play will stop if the next player who plays the puck is on the same team as he who touched the puck with a high stick. Also, if a goal is scored by a player who last touched the puck with a high stick, that goal will not be counted and the face-off will come to the face-off circle or dot closest to where that player was standing at the time of the high stick. There is no grey area for this call. If the other team controls the puck after the incident of a high stick, and play has not yet been halted (meaning the same team has not touched the puck), then the high stick infraction is waved off and play will continue.

Puck Kicked in Net With Distinct Kicking Motion

In hockey, sticks get dropped, broken, tangled with another player, etc. So, players are trained to develop the ability to kick and control the puck with their feet. Kicking the puck is very common and is often used by skilled players to trick other players all the time. No matter how fancy a player's footwork is, it is not allowed to kick the puck in the net intentionally. This is not saying that a puck that is scored off the feet of an offensive player does not count. The rule is stated that the puck cannot be scored with a "distinct kicking motion." Players may angle their feet with the intent of deflecting the puck in, as long as it does not appear that their feet move in a kicking motion. Officials have spent considerable amounts of time reviewing goals scored off of players' feet to determine if they were "kicked" into the net. In the event of the non-kicking motion goals, they will count (subject to the opinion of the referee and official staff reviewing the goal.) However, in the case that the staff feels that the puck was kicked in with the motion of a kick, the goal will not be counted and the faceoff will come to the closest face-off circle or dot to where the puck was kicked.

Goaltender "Freezes" the Puck

I have included this event in this section only because the whistle will blow and play will stop. In hockey, the only person who can stop the puck on the ice, catch it and close his hand on it, or pin it in clothing and equipment with the intent to stop play is the goalie. The goaltender can and often does stop play when the opposing team is threatening to score. Referees are instructed to stop play once they lose sight of the puck under a goalie. Unlike soccer where the game clock continues to run even if the goaltender has the ball, hockey game clocks will stop and the puck will be dropped in a face-off circle close to that goaltender to resume play upon goalies freezing the puck.

NHL Penalty Signals

NHL Penalty Signals

Basic Rules: Minor Penalties

To start, penalties are stoppages where players do personal offenses against other players. In the event that a penalty is to be called and play is to be stopped, a referee will raise his hand above his head. He will then wait to stop play until a player from the offending team touches the puck. The referee waiting for this touch up is known as a delayed penalty. During this time, teams often will have their goaltender rush to the bench to get an extra offensive skater on the ice to try to score during the delay.

Penalties will result in the offending player sitting in a penalty box for the allotted time. This period of time is known as a power play. The team of the offending player can not put a player on the ice to replace the penalized player (teams are allowed 6 players on the ice during regulation play, usually 5 players and a goaltender.) During the power play, the team of the penalized player will then be down a man resulting in a 5 on 4 advantage for the other team. There are often times that teams can be down two players resulting in a 5 on 3. Other combinations are 3 on 3, 3 on 4, and 4 on 4. No matter how many players are in the penalty box for a given team, the fewest number of players a team can be restricted to is 3 skaters and their goaltender.

Minor penalties that have caused one team to be shorthanded can end early if the team with more players (on the power play) scores a goal. Then the penalized player with the least amount of time can come out. Any remaining players with time remaining are to remain in the box. For example, if there is a 5 on 3, and player 1 has 20 seconds left while player 2 has 50 seconds left, and the team with 5 players scores, then the face-off comes to center ice. A 5 on 4 will result for the next 50 seconds and the player who had 20 seconds left on his penalty will be permitted to leave the box before the face-off. Otherwise, if the time were to expire naturally, and no goal is scored in the period of time during the penalty, then play continues as the penalized player will come out of the box to continue play.

I will discuss major penalties later. Here are the minor penalties with their appropriate time penalties.

High Sticking (2 or 4 min)

High sticking is a minor penalty where a player's stick makes contact with any part of an opposing player above the shoulders. Intent has nothing to do with most minor penalties. In the case of a player's stick, they are to always be in control. Even if someone else causes a high sticking penalty, there is no argument and no grey area. High Sticking is a 2-minute minor offense. However, if blood is drawn by a high stick, the time will be counted as two minor penalties in a row. Because it is determined as two minor penalties, if a goal is scored in the first 2 minutes, then the rest of that 2 minute period is removed and the second minor is started. If a goal is scored in the second 2 minute period, then the player can come out of the box and continue play.

Tripping (2 min)

Tripping is the act of taking down an opposing player by taking his skates out from under him. This can be done with a stick, skate, arm, or another part of the player's body and/or equipment.

Boarding (2 min)

There are two varieties of boarding. The minor (2 min) version is a mild act of attacking a man from behind into the boards while in a defenseless position. This rule was created to protect the health and future career of NHL players. Players are allowed to run into (a.k.a. check or checking) other players who have or are close to obtaining the puck. Players who are hit from behind into the boards around the rink are considered defenseless. The referee will judge whether the hit into the boards was malicious or not. If he feels it is an offense but not a major penalty, it will be a 2-minute minor. We will talk about the major penalty version later.

Goaltender Interference (2 min)

Players are allowed to check other players as long as the puck is close, and it is not an unnecessary hit. There is one exception. Players are never allowed to check the goaltender. In recent seasons, players have found ways to interfere with a goaltender without actually checking him. As a result, a new definition of goaltender interference was adopted. Players must make all efforts to avoid contact with the goaltender while he is in the crease (the blue paint in front of the goal.) Players are also prohibited from facing the goaltender and waving in his face or other acts of distraction. It is permitted to stand in front of the goaltender and screen (block his vision) as long as he does not make contact or distracting motions. Like most rules, the referee can call things he sees as interference or has play continue based on his discretion. This is a very hard rule to always uphold. Many teams feel that their goaltender is interfered with more often then it is called by officials.

Interference (2 min)

Unlike goaltender interference, contact with other players on the ice is as much a part of the game as ice skating. Hits, checks, and contact happen continuously throughout the course of the game. Although contact is legal, every player is supposed to have an equal chance to get to the puck. This being said, interference is described as impeding an opponent who does not have the puck or impeding any player from the bench.

Diving (2 min)

People fall throughout the game but diving is called when a player embellishes a fall to try to draw the attention of the officials. If a player gets tripped and an official feels the nature of their fall was a deliberate attempt to get attention, then he will serve 2 minutes.

Delay of Game (2 min)

Delay of the game is somewhat of a blanket penalty that can be called if a player tries to waste time or draw a stoppage of play by either laying on the puck or putting the puck off the ice and into the stands from the defensive zone.

Too Many Men on the Ice (2 min)

Hockey is such a dynamic sport that players are coming off the bench and into play while the game is still playing. Since players are jumping off the ice and being replaced on the fly, there is bound to be some extra players physically touching the ice while the game is going on. This penalty is called when too many players are on the ice playing and are not in the act of coming off the ice. Players can get caught on the ice if they are trying to jump onto the bench and they inadvertently touch the puck with their feet, stick, or some part of their equipment after their replacement has already entered the playing surface. No matter how inadvertent this last action is, they are still considered in play and affected play as an extra man, therefore, they are penalized for too many men.

Cross Checking (2 min)

As mentioned before, contact is part of the game. There are certain types of contact that are potentially dangerous and considered penalties against players that use these forms of contact. Cross-checking is when a player uses his stick with two hands and forcefully pushes another player by extending his arms, resulting in his stick hitting the opposing player. In other words, the player punches another with his stick.

Slashing (2 min)

Continuing the illegal stick usage penalties, we move on to slashing. This is the use of the stick in action similar to that of a baseball bat aimed towards the stick, legs, arms, or body of an opposing player. Stick checking is legal and can be similar in motion to slashing. Slashing is usually intended to distract or injure, and at times does the latter.

Holding the Stick (2 min)

Each player is responsible for his own stick, and at no time can they hold anyone else'. Preventing a player from gaining access to the puck by holding his stick will result in a visit to the penalty box for 2 minutes.

Hooking (2 min)

Going back to what you are not allowed to do with your stick, we come to hooking. Hooking is defined as grabbing a part of an opposing player or part of his equipment with a stick parallel to the ice.

Holding (2 min)

Holding is when a player grabs or hangs on another player. This is often called as interference. Offenses such as hooking and tripping are also often labeled as types of interference.

Roughing (2 min)

This is usually when players push excessively after plays are over, or if the referee feels a particular hit was unnecessarily rough.

There are other minor penalties that are not as common. I found a good list of all NHL penalties on

Basic Rules: Minor Penalties

Major penalties are called in the exact same way as minor penalties. The two differences between a minor and a major penalty are the time served by penalized players and what happens when the team with the ensuing power-play scores. Minor penalties are 2 minutes each (in the case of 4-minute high sticking, it is really 2 high sticking calls stacked on a player.) A major penalty has a 5-minute timer. Also, when a team with a penalized player in the box serving his minor penalty gets scored on, the penalty ends and the player comes out. Not so with a major penalty. Regardless of how many goals are scored against the penalized player's team, he stays the box in until his time is up.

The most common of the major penalties are as follows.


Very similar to the minor version above, a player who hits a defenseless player from behind into the boards has committed boarding. If the referee determines that the hit was too much and excessive, he can upgrade the call to a major penalty. I have seen some pretty malicious boarding calls, and (like in the case of high sticking) the player was charged with a double major. This would best be described as two 5 minute major calls stacked, making it a 10-minute penalty. That player also receives game misconduct. I will explain that below.


Again, like its 2-minute minor variety, roughing can have a dark side too. If a player gets out of control and starts hitting others high, such as around the head with the intent to injure that player, they will likely see a 5 minute major for roughing. Players, hopefully, are aware of others around them and don't get hit unaware. A solidly placed check on a player not looking up is not considered too rough in most cases. The referee will decide if a player is out of line and is just playing too rough for the safety of the other team.


Players push each other and look like they are fighting all game. They tackle and rub their gloves in each others' faces all day, and this is usually not called. Emotions run hot in hockey. Fighting is called only when gloves are removed or dropped. Once a player has dropped his gloves with the intent to fight, he will get a 5 minute major for fighting. The instigator may get an extra 2 minute minor for trying to pick the fight. Most often, when there are offsetting major penalties (in other words, two players tussle, they both go off... the penalties offset), both teams can still skate 5 on 5 (or whatever the player count was before the fight happened). Fighting is the most common major penalty in the NHL.

Game Misconduct

This is technically not a major penalty, but it only gets called with major penalties these days. This just means the player is ejected from playing the remainder of the game. If he has penalty time to serve, a player on his team will sit in the box for him, since he has been removed from the game. In the NHL, if a player gets three-game misconducts in a season, he will be banned from playing in one game, and other actions can possibly result (fines, suspensions, etc.)

Basic Rules: Penalty Shot

Fast breaks are common in many sports and can best be described as the opportunity for an offensive player to rapidly approach the goal of an opponent where the closest defenders are behind him. In hockey, if a player is tripped, held, or hooked from behind, and it is determined by the referee that the offensive player would have made it to the net to attempt a shot, he may waive the 2-minute penalty time and award the offensive player with a penalty shot.

The rules of a penalty shot are that the puck is placed at center ice and the offensive player has a given amount of time to move the puck into the offensive zone and shoot the puck. The player is not allowed to shoot the rebound if it is available. Once the shot is taken, the game resumes and the game clock starts again at the next face-off.

Penalty shots are one of the more exciting and anxious moments of a game. Players try to score by attempting to fake out a goaltender by spinning or moving the puck erratically with his stick (known as a deke.) Just like in baseball's home run derby, fans pay to watch the shoot out competition during the NHL's All-Star competitions. Basically, fans watch for about an hour or so as the NHL's best players try to score on the best goaltenders in shootout fashion.

Questions & Answers

Question: In NHL hockey, if the starting goalie is replaced by a back-up can the starter return to the game?

Answer: Yes. Hockey does not limit a player from returning to the game once a coach has chosen to replace that player. Often when a goalie is not performing well, or if the team is not playing well around the goalie, the goalie will be replaced. I have seen a coach put a "pulled" goalie back in after the replacement was injured. I have also seen a game where the goalie switch did not help, and after 3 or 4 more goals, the coach decided to put the first goalie back in since the game would be a loss anyway.

So in short, goalies can be put back in after a coach has replaced them.

Question: In hockey, can a player touch the puck if it is flying in his direction and he doesn't intentionally try to catch it?

Answer: The fastest answer is "yes." A player is allowed to intentionally catch the puck in the air. Players are not allowed to close their hands around the puck. Players frequently will pull the puck out of the air and have it drop to their feet so they can play it with their stick. If a player closes their hand around the puck, or takes too long to drop the puck to the ice, the referee can call a delay of game - holding the puck.

Question: How many players are on an NHL team?

Answer: NHL guidelines state that a team must have a bench with 20 to 23 players. The minimum team size includes 18 skaters and 2 goalies as a minimum. The most players dressed for a given game is 23. ( )

Question: What are the rule differences between NHL and WHL?

Answer: I am not exactly sure what rules differ between the different leagues. I am aware of more than five semi-pro leagues in North America alone (AHL, CHL, OHL, ACHL, ECHL). When you say, "WHL" I am assuming you are refereing to the Western Hockey League and not the WNHL: National Womens Hockey League.

Each league has a main core set of rules that are shared across all of hockey. Rules like Icing, High Stick, Hooking, ... the basic rules are typically all the same. The wording in each league's handbook may be slightly different, but they are essentially the same. The biggest differences from league to league will be on faceoff locations based on certain types of stoppages. NHL changed a rule about eight years ago that if a shot coming off an offensive player's stick goes out of play after hitting the frame of the goal, AND no other defensive player (including the goalie) has deflected the shot in any way, the faceoff is to remain in that same zone. USA Hockey along with other leagues' rulebooks indicate that the faceoff will be at the nearest faceoff location in the neutral zone.

Other major rule differences will include automatic icing versus hybrid icing that we see in the NHL today. International play, as well as USA Hockey, have rules where icing will be called automatically as soon as the puck passes the goal line. In the NHL, the line's man will wait until a defensive player show advantage to get control of the puck before icing is called. This means that a player from the team that just iced the puck has a chance to negate the icing call if they can get to the puck first, even after it is behind the goal line.

Another thing to note is the playing surface size may be different between leagues. International ice is a little different then NHL. Most if not all North American rink dimensions are the same, but I don't know all the rinks and leagues.

There are many different examples of differences between league rulebooks. I just illustrated three. As for WHL, I am not sure what their rulebook includes. I am not in the habit of watching nor am I certified as a referee for WHL.

Question: Is there a penalty for not replacing players on time in NHL Hockey?

Answer: If I am understanding your question correctly, you are asking about line changes and the number of players in the game. Teams can not put extra players into the game, but if a player comes to the bench for a line change, and their replacement does not jump on to the ice right away, there is no penalty. This happens from time to time, and there are a few different reasons why a player does not jump on right away. The only downside to this happening is that the other team will have the advantage of more players during this time. Teams should try to have all their players out and playing. But no, there is no penalty for not having enough players out on the ice.

Question: Would it be a penalty if you throw a broken stick at the player with the puck?

Answer: Yes

Question: Is there dribbling in hockey game?

Answer: Yes but this action is not called "dribbling." The action is much like soccer players controlling the ball with their feet. In hockey, this action is referred to as "stick handling" or "handling" the puck.

Question: How many periods does a hockey game have?

Answer: Most ice hockey league games have three periods. I have heard of exceptions for charity events and what not. But in the NHL, Minor Leagues, College, Youth, and Adult leagues, there are 3 periods with intermissions between each period. In the NHL, each period is 20 minutes long. Each league handles tie games based on their own set of rules. The NHL allows for a single, five minute overtime period during the regular season which will be followed by a shootout if necessary. During the NHL playoffs, there will be as many 20 minute overtime periods as needed until one team scores.

Question: Would a player be penalized for hitting people with their stick in NHL hockey?

Answer: Yes, this penalty is called slashing. However, with several other rules in hockey, the severity of the offense is taken into account. If a player taps or very lightly hits the leg pads of another player in an attempt to distract the other player, officials most often will ignore the offense. Slashing calls are generally only made when a player hits another player in a way that has an increased chance of causing an injury, or if it is done in anger. All rules in sports are made to keep the game safe and fair. Hitting with a stick, when done unsafely, can cause long term injury.

Question: Is the goalie restricted from playing the puck in the trapezoid?

Answer: No, the goalie can play the puck behind the net in the trapezoid region. The corners are restricted areas where only players can play the puck. If a goalie plays the puck in these corner areas, they would be penalized with a minor penalty for delay of game.

Question: When would a penalty shot be awarded in Hockey?

Answer: Penalty shots are pretty rare in general. A penalty shot can be awarded by a referee if they feel that a clear breakaway with no defensemen between the attacking player and the goal is illegally disrupted by the defense by means of a trip, slash, or any other illegal and penalizable action. Instead of putting the offending player in the penalty box for their infraction, a penalty shot is awarded.

Question: Regarding hockey, what is checking? Are there certain times checking is illegal?

Answer: Checking is the act of taking an opposing player away from the puck by means of body contact.

A check is legal as long as the player being checked has the puck or is close enough to immediately play the puck. It is illegal to hit or check a player that does not have the puck or is not close enough to play the puck.

Checking is only allowed on the trunk of the body such as the torso, chest, or shoulder. Checking below the waist or above the shoulders is illegal. Common penalties for these illegal hits include kneeing, head contact, and roughing. Some of these are automatic major penalties and could result in fines and suspensions.

In recent years, checking from behind has also been redefined. It has been decided that blind side checks that could injure players are not beneficial to the future of the sport. Although some referees do not call all checks from behind, they do make an effort to penalize players who check from behind in a reckless manner.

In the NHL as well as other hockey leagues, checking is tough to call consistently as every situation is different. One legal hit may be called illegal by a different referee, in a different game. Some hits that are ruled as a clean and legal check can still cause injury. The sport is rough and players are taught to always know who is around them at all times. If a player is close enough to the puck, they need to be aware of possible situations where they can be hit.

Question: Is there a penalty given in the NHL for players running into an official?

Answer: To answer this question, we need to understand the intent or perceived intent of the player involved. Rules in all sports are to keep each game fair and safe. If ever a player initiates contact intentionally to intimidate or harm an official, they will be ejected from the game. In most hockey leagues, this ejection is also followed by suspension from future games. League commissioners assess the severity of the offense and determine how long the suspension will last. In the NHL, there are also fines given to players that are aggressive towards on-ice officials.

If contact with an official is accidental, there is no action taken against the team or player involved. If there is an injury to an official, play is stopped and medical attention is given where needed. Contact with a referee happens in most games as players are always trying to find open ice to move and play. To keep play in front of them, officials are always moving. Players are constantly keeping track of open ice, puck location, and their offensive or defensive positioning. Officials movements are often forgotten or not noticed by players as the puck moves around the boards. Officials are allowed to verbally remind players where they are on the ice. This helps players try to move the puck or direct play away from the referees.

Strategically, players often try to use linesmen and referees as barriers to lose defenders chasing them. This is still not going to cause disciplinary action against players. Officials are trained to place themselves in areas of the ice that will keep them out of the flow of the game more effectively.

Question: How long does a game of NHL Hockey last?

Answer: NHL games are three 20 minute periods with two intermissions. Each NHL game will have media coverage and therefore media stoppages will occur. A typical game will take just under 3 hours from start to finish. Games that run longer include at least one of the following: overtime, injuries, broken glass, problems with the ice, or other public safety issues that delay the game. During the regular season, if there is a tie after the three periods are over, there is a 5 minute overtime period, followed by a shootout. If a regular season game goes to a shootout, the total time for the game could be about 3 hours 30 minutes. Playoff games that end in a tie will keep playing 20 minute overtime periods until one team scores. This will end the game immediately. There will be no media timeouts during playoff overtime periods.

So, the quick answer: 3 Hours

Question: A clearing pass in Hockey is most likely to be used by what type of player and why?

Answer: Clearing a defensive zone is often done by anyone in the zone to a player outside the zone. This is typically done by the defense to a forward out in the neutral zone. There are times, however, where a defensive player is out of position and would be the target of a clearing pass.

Question: Are high school ice hockey rules the same as NHL rules?

Answer: Most rules in all ice hockey leagues will be the same. There will be a few differences based on the bylaws and goals of each league. In the NHL, icing can be waived off if it seems clear that the offending team would recover the puck before the defensive team. Most leagues I have played in, or officiated in have "automatic icing" which does not allow the offending team any allowance to prevent the icing. Also, offsides in the NHL is delayed until a player who is offsides directly influences play or touches the puck before the offsides have been cleared by the linesmen. In other leagues, there is no delay to offsides. Once a play is considered offsides, play ends until the puck is dropped to resume play.

In short, there are a few rules that are different, but most rules are the same.

© 2009 adhilde


adhilde (author) on September 09, 2020:

Karl, You know what is funny, the commentators during the Conference Finals game the other day speculated on that exact scenario. It is a good question. Teams always have been allowed to put their goalie back in after an icing.

Rule 81.4 of the NHL Rule book (as of 2020) states: "Line Change on Icing - A team that is in violation of this rule shall not be permitted to make any player substitutions prior to the ensuing face-off. However, a team shall be permitted to make a player substitution to replace a goalkeeper who had been substituted for an extra attacker, to replace an injured player, or when a penalty has been assessed which affects the on-ice strength of either team. The determination of players on ice will be made when the puck leaves the offending player’s stick."

So, it is actually a requirement that goalies are allowed to come back in the game. But I had to look it up myself. I mean, everyone always does it. It has been that way since the introduction of icings preventing line changes. But there you go, the current NHL Rules do allow just a few line change allowances after an icing.


Please forgive broken links as the rule book moves, but I can't edit comments after a certain amount of time.

Karl Haehn on September 08, 2020:

Question: Why can a team who's pulled their goalie for an extra attacker during the last couple of minutes be allowed to put their goalie back in net after being called for an icing? They aren't supposed to be able to change any players.

adhilde (author) on January 15, 2019:

Khris - Teams are allowed 6 skaters on the ice at a time as long as they are not fighting off a penalty, or not in over time during the regular season. These 6 players can either be 5 skaters and a goalie, or 6 skaters. Every team relies heavily on the skills of their goalie. It is only towards the end of the game when a team wants to gamble to try to tie a game. If a team is losing and they want to try to get a little more offense on the ice, they can pull their goalie and put a forward on the ice.

There is one other time that a team will pull the goalie during the game... If a team has committed a penalty, play will continue until that offending team gets control of the puck. Since getting control of the puck would stop play, the offending team can not shoot towards the goal. So, since there is no threat to getting scored on, the team that is still allowed to play the puck can pull their goalie and put an extra skater on the ice. As play continues until the offending team touches the puck, the other team will typically play with 6 players and no goalie. How ever, this does not mean that the offending team can not get a goal at this time. If a wing passing back to an inattentive defenseman accidentally scores on them selves while their goalie is out of the net, that goal will count even if the team getting the point was about to go into the penalty box. Does that answer your question?

Khris on January 15, 2019:

What is up with the empty nets?

adhilde (author) on November 05, 2018:

I really hope it helps. Feel free to ask questions. I have been playing Ice and Roller Hockey for over 20 years and I have been a referee (USA Hockey Certified) for a little while now. I do make errors sometimes (ask the players I put in the box), but my goal here is to help people understand the game enough to enjoy spectating, and/or learn enough of the rules to feel that they can jump in and play.

geoffry on November 05, 2018:

this is a lot of information for my son

adhilde (author) on May 12, 2017:

Tripping is indeed in the list. It is right between High Sticking and Boarding under the Minor Penalty header.

your mom101 on May 12, 2017:

I don't see tripping in the list of penalty's

adhilde (author) on January 31, 2017:

Laz, I am assuming that you mean standings point system and not goal scoring. I am going to explain standing points if that is ok.

NHL standings based on points earned by wins, ties, and losses. The winning team gets 2 points in the standings. The team that losses gets 0 points. However, it the loss comes only after the end of regulations, such as overtime or a shoot-out, then the team that lost would get 1 point in the standings.

A team's record is listed by Wins - Regulation Losses - Overtime Losses in this order. So if I look at the standings and see a team's record (15-3-8), I would know that this team has 15 wins, 3 losses where no overtime was needed, and 8 losses after the end of the 3rd period. A record of 15-3-8 would earn standings points as follows: (15 x 2) + (8 x 1) = 38 Points.

Now comes the fun part. If I am looking at the standings and I see more then one team with 38 points in the standings, how do I know which team should be ranked higher? There are a series of tie brakes rules to sort teams in the correct order. Every so often, the NHL publishes new rules. There are occasionally changes to how teams break ties in the standings.

The current standings tie break rules are as follows (Copy / Paste from

"If two or more clubs are tied in points during the regular season, the standing of the clubs is determined in the following order: The fewer number of games played (i.e., superior points percentage).The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column. The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing. The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. NOTE: In standings a victory in a shootout counts as one goal for, while a shootout loss counts as one goal against. "

I would like to note that for Adult leagues and other non-NHL leagues have different standings points procedures. Such as 3 points for wins, 1 point for ties, and 0 points for regulation losses. Did this answer your question?

Laz on January 30, 2017:

How does the scoring system work?

adhilde (author) on November 04, 2015:


Yes. Play will not continue until both teams are ready. There are a few "delays" which have been employed by coaches in the past. But, if a delay is seen as a stall tactic to just allow tired players to catch their breath, the referee may award the delaying player a 2 minute minor for "delay of game."

Some things I have seen include a weak or fragile stick, goalie pads loosening or buckles need to be refastened. I have even seen a play request that a visor be replaced that has been cracked or need drying with a towel. I even saw one that got called, and I still disagree with the official (who awarded a delay of game for this next example). A player lined up to take the face-off. Tapping the ice with his stick, he felt that the stick was not strong. The referee insisted that there be no further delay. So the player tried proving that his stick needed to be replaced by breaking off the head of his stick in his bare hands. This really is not easy to do with an undamaged stick. Not impressed, the referee gave him 2 minutes in the penalty box for delaying the face-off longer. I imagine more was said before the penalty, which drove the referee to an emotional choice to penalize the player.

So in short, players are usually given time to replace gear during the stoppage. But they are not supposed to enter the bench to rest while waiting for the face-off to line up.

Mike p on November 04, 2015:

Player loses his hockey stick and an icing is called is he allowed to go to the bench to get another stick

adhilde (author) on February 27, 2015:


You should also try playing it :). It is so much more fun to be on the ice playing then watching. And I really do love watching.

Courtney on February 27, 2015:

Ice Hockey is fun to watch!!!!! but scary at the same time.

adhilde (author) on February 19, 2015:


I am not exactly sure I understand the scenario. So, let me rephrase using Player A, and Player B.

So, you want to know that if Player A has the puck, and Player B strips the puck away from Player A, is it tripping if:

1) Player A loses his stick and Player B trips on it?

2) Player B loses his stick and Player A trips on it?

or 3) Player A or B cause the other player to lose their own stick via a potential "holding the stick" infraction, which is directly the cause of the player who just lost their stick, to trip on that same stick?

If I missed a case that you wish to have answered, please reply. In cases 1 and 2, I don't think a referee would call a penalty for tripping since there was a play made on the puck. If anything, I could imagine a referee calling some sort of interference or holding penalty, but Player A being the player who just lost the puck would likely receive no penalties.

Having said that, if in case 3, Player A had the puck, and not only did Player B knock away the puck, but also caused Player A to lose his stick because Player B held it and pulled it from Player A, and then dropped it, causing Player A to trip, ... it is a stretch, but I could see a referee calling "Holding the Stick", and not tripping.

In summary, I would be surprised to see a tripping call in any scenario. I could see other penalties called in general. But there are many plays that are pretty close, and players drop sticks all the time, even if they are forced to by means of slashing, holding, and other means. Most of the time, as spectators, we see what we believe should have been a penalty, where referees seem to miss, or just plain ignore. And this brings me to a statement I have said in several other posts; a referee is human and will miss calls, or just want to let players play. If it would effect the game adversely, then hopefully, they will make the right call.

Will on February 19, 2015:

If a player hits the ball away from the other player and then he pulls his stick away from the player and the player trips on his stick after is it a penalty?

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newell12345 on September 08, 2014:

The shots on goal stat is based around a defensive minded hockey team. The SOG stat is intended for goalies,and to determine a goalies performance. As it is the opposite in outer sports, where a similar stat would showcase an offensive pressure. In the 2012/2013 season the new york rangers, with henrik lundqviste as the net-minder ranked among the best in the league with the shots on goal/ and goals against average stat. Its Stats like shots On goal and goals against average, help the NHL on making their decision on who wins with the vezina Trophy. Thank you guys for your excellent feed back, as together we can help educate the masses about this awesome sport..

adhilde (author) on September 08, 2014:


That is a great question. A passed puck that bounces wrong or icing that takes a bad bounce and gets directed towards the net does not always count as a shot on goal. Now, NHL players are skilled enough to aim shots off defenders and teammates' skates, backs, legs, pads... you name it. If a clear shot is not there, I have seen players try a pinball approach. It is up to the official at the scores' table to count actions like these as a shot or not. Accidental redirections may not be seen as a shot.

But one that gets me are the intentional "shots on goal" from a defender's own blue line as a clearing attempt. It goes the whole length of the ice to be easily blocked by the goalie on the other half of the ice. This is not a shot on goal, and is not counted as one. I believe it is not counted because it is technically a clearing attempt put on frame just to prevent icing. So the goalie must stop the puck. Sure, the shot would have gone in, and I have seen goalies mishandle such easy pucks in the past. As you said, intent does have some say when counting SOG as a stat.

Having said all this, I have not read anywhere that explains any of this. So it could be all opinion and contain no valid weight at all. But from I have heard and discussed with officials, and other analysts, SOG is a stat for goalie coaches and defense coaches. It is meant to give a team an idea how often they are back on their heals and allowing access to their goalies. Lucky bounces and clearing attempts are not real pressure on a defense or goalie, so it should not be weighed in on the stat. I hope this helped.

jeff on September 08, 2014:

There is no official nhl definition of a shot on goal and other youth hockey parents and I always have the discussion about what constitutes a SOG. Most often I hear "if the goalie didn't stop the puck then it would have gone in so therefore it counts as a save". I say no all the time. There is some intent to be determined as well, right? If a short handed team ices the puck off the boards and it ends up being stopped by the goalie of the team on the power play, that's not a SOG. Can you comment please..

adhilde (author) on April 19, 2014:

Cross Checking is as you described. However, some penalties are subjective to the judgement of the referee. Pushing and body checking is legal. A cross check is dangerous, especially when the stick is near the neck or face of a player. Most cross checks get called when a player is being particularly dangerous towards another. Also, referees may let players get away with one or two, but too many in a row, and they will call it.

Still, the penalty is subject to how the referee wants to call it.

Demetre on April 18, 2014:

I understand cross checking as a player hitting another player with the shaft of the stick while holding it with two hands. Why is it that I see players doing this all the time with no penalty being called? I usually see it around the goal when one player is trying to push the other out of the way.

Thank you.

adhilde (author) on March 29, 2014:

They do look very strong.

newell12345 on March 29, 2014:

keep an eye on the bruins guys there going to make a big splash in the post season this year

adhilde (author) on March 24, 2014:

RJN - I agree that many of the safety inclusions into the rules (such as blind side hits, hits to the head, removing helmets during a fight, and stricter boarding fines ... among others) are really good for the game. Fans of the game love seeing good hits, unless it is at the expense of their favorite team's all star players. All too often, good players are targeted and are injured due to hits that really have no place in the game. Teams have invested financially in these players. Fans rally behind them too. It only hurts the game to see a temporarily "thrilling" hit which has the potential to end a player's ice hockey career.

About fighting; it is not likely to go away. The CBA and GM meetings have looked into removing fighting, raising fines, or imposing other penalties to on-ice fighting. It was decided that fighting was part of the traditional hockey foundations and would somehow negatively impact the game if it were to be removed completely. Seeing this, I don't believe fighting will ever go away... unless future league commissioners force the issue. On a side note, of all the fights I have seen, most have only issued superficial face bleeding and bruises. There was one exception this year where two players fell to the ice, and one (who removed his helmet) had to be rolled off the ice due to hitting his head on the ice when he fell.

The league realignment is still something I have mixed feelings towards. I want to see how the playoffs are influenced by the change. In the past, only 3 spots were reserved and the rest of the conference would fill in the remaining 5 spots. Now, with only 2 wild card spots, it seems like there will be a qualified team or two that are left out of the playoffs. I predict there will be eventual changes to the wildcard conditions.

I just removed about 2 paragraphs trying to defend teams that are centered around a single or multiple stars. Your logic is understandable. Balanced teams acting as a single entity should expect better results then teams focused on an individual. Such player centric teams should expect failure when their focus player is struggling. Teams like Washington should find ways to get other players and other lines to step up and help the team succeed. I don't think Washington is hopelessly lost and won't do well. They did just take 5 points from a 3 game California road trip against 3 of the highest scoring home teams in the NHL this year. And OV scored 1 goal in all of that. But I do get your logic, and I agree that balance is better.

rjn111 on March 24, 2014:

Happy that you are still keeping this conversation going. It is invaluable to hockey.

NHL comments follow:

I love the new alignment. It seems to have evened the playing field (or should I say un-tilted the ice).

I especially love how the west is showing the old school what they are made of. Perhaps the press will adjust their bias somewhat but I am dreaming now.

I am not sure why, but I think the officiating is getting better, more consistent. Perhaps my understanding of the game has grown.

Hockey is a team sport, and when you have a star player who is given free reign to play his game, you end up with a player who has star billings and a non-winning team. OV's +/- stats are proof. When the manager and/owners decide they want more than a star, things will improve for the team.

Hockey is improving in spite of the "traditions" of the game. Fighting will lose it's place in the game. Even checking is being tailored to reduce brutality in the game. I recognize now that a lot of old schoolers' will miss this in the game that they love but injury will eventually force brutality out.

No questions here but feel free to opine on any and all perspectives. I love this column and the game even though I live in an out of market area.

adhilde (author) on March 23, 2014:

Laura - Yes, you have it exactly right. Wins - Regulation Losses - Overtime/Shootout Losses. All teams are ordered in the standings based on a quick math formula based off of these three numbers.

Your example of 12-11-2 would be 26 points:

Wins are worth 2 points.

Regulation Losses are worth 0 points.

Losses in overtime or a shootout are worth 1 point.

Therefore, the teams standings points would be calculated as follows

[12(x2) + 11(x0) + 2(x1)] = [24 + 0 + 2] = 26 points.

There are ever changing tie breaker rules to determine placement in the standings where teams have the same number of points. But the basics of the points are above.

Laura on March 23, 2014:

Hi i have a question, they show the results for the games like 12-11-2 what does that mean. Is it like wins, loses and overtime loses or is it something else?

adhilde (author) on January 22, 2014:

At the start of a season, each team can have between 20 and 23 players which include 2 goalies. Players get injured or perform below the needs of the team or coaching standards. Players that move down to the minor leagues or are injured can be replaced by other players pulled up from minor league farm teams or trades.

However, players (especially young or new players) are given a 9 game evaluation period early in the season. If these players dress for a 10th game, their first year contract starts which allows them to reach free agency sooner. Teams would then lose their farm players sooner if they are not careful.

The rules in the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which is how trades are governed, player contract allowances and restrictions are defined, and team salary caps among many other things, has many moving parts that change during each lockout. To be honest, I have not read up enough on all the stipulations from this last CBA negotiations about team trades to and from their farm teams.

All of this said, teams have the flexibility to pull up players in an "emergency situation" such as player injuries at any time. And a team can only dress 20 to 23 players.

K.W.S. on January 22, 2014:

I see where NHL teams recall players from the the AHL and send them down. How does all that swapping back and forth work?

newell12345 on September 30, 2013:

Thanks for explanation on the offsides rule Adhilde. and yes the bruins will have a great season, and rask will in top 5 goaltenders in the league by the end of the season in my predications.

adhilde (author) on September 29, 2013:

Offsides huh?

Well, as simply put as possible. The puck has to be over the blue line (offensive zone) before any offensive player. That really is the most simple explanation I can come up with. If the puck comes out of the zone, every one of the offensive players must clear the zone before the puck comes back in.

Now, I don't want to complicate the understanding of the rule, but there are a few acceptations. Such as a defending player bringing the puck in when offensive players are in the zone (no offsides). Also, if a player tries to keep the play onsides, but picks up his foot on the outside of the blue line (offsides).

I hope that helps...

I am pretty happy hockey is starting up again here in 2 days. It is good to have a full season again.

Arabrabbra on September 29, 2013:

Dont know if you still see this thread, but it is awesome! hope you enjoyed watching my Bruins almost win this year (go Rask!) I feel really dumb...but I dont get the offside calls! I kniw the pucj has to get ib there first, but a pkayer will be skaing in awith thrbpuck and grt called offsides...can you dumb it doen for me a bit?

adhilde (author) on April 05, 2013:

The rule is that a goalie is to be protected as much as possible. I know the helmet is required... If a ref does not call play dead, he is putting the goalie at risk. The glove is not as critical. I don't think I have seen play stopped for a glove. I would imagine the glove may be up to a ref if they feel like stopping play. But the helmet is a rule, and should have been stopped.

Holly on April 05, 2013:

If a goaltender loses a glove or helmet during play, is it required for the referee to stop play? Reason I am asking is because I have seen both and the NHL referees didn't stop play. I thought this was a safety issue and was a requirement.

James on March 11, 2013:

Thanks for your time and helping a new hockey fan - Go Ducks !!!!!

adhilde (author) on March 10, 2013:

:) Thank you so much. I just love sharing my passion for hockey.

torrilynn on March 10, 2013:

Hi adhilde,

thanks for the basic rules on hockey

and for proving to a lot of people that

hockey is not hard.

Voted up and shared.

adhilde (author) on March 09, 2013:

Yes, if your stick breaks, you must drop it or be given a 2 minute minor penalty. If your stick is not broken, you can pick it back up. If a player knocks it out of your hands, if you drop it ... what ever the case may be. You are never allowed to throw your stick as a means to interfere with a play where you are too far away, or to try to prevent a scoring opportunity.

James on March 09, 2013:

I heard if your stick breaks you must drop it. If you drop a good stick you can't pick it up unless you were in the process of shooting or passing. Is all that true? Thanks

Kevin on March 07, 2013:

Thanks for the response!

Goalie didn't make the save.

adhilde (author) on March 06, 2013:

It sounds like bad luck on your part. That would have been an ESPN worthy highlight. The one ref likely believed you had thrown your stick, which would have resulted in a minor penalty. I don't see why that would have been a penalty shot. But, that may just be the rules of your league. The hard part about being a ref is that you have to make the "best" call you can at real speed and in the moment. Instant replay would probably have shown your stick being knocked out of your hand inadvertently by the goal post. But the ref had to decide what he thought was right at that moment.

The bigger question is; so you stopped the initial goal. Did your goalie make the second save on the penalty shot?

That really is an unfortunate call against you.

Kevin on March 06, 2013:

I was playing center and the other team had a breakaway. As I was back checking the other team with the puck the player faked the goalie and send a soft shot around straight toward the net.

I dove forward to reach my stick forward and accross the net to block the shot. As I slid past the goal line along side of the net my stick was parallel with the goal line half in front of the net. In the same moment the puck bounced off the blade of my stick and out of the goal and the stick came out of my hand as it struck the post. One ref called "no goal "and the other ref called for a penalty shot. They decided on a penalty shot. What are the rules in this situation? I clearly did not throw my stick at the puck but it did come out of my hand at the moment of blocking an inevitable goal.


adhilde (author) on March 06, 2013:

Yes, he has to wait until play is stopped.

And your ironic prediction of getting beat first round of the post season is quite common for Presidents Trophy winners. There seems to be a curse with owning the best record.

Jimbo on March 06, 2013:

^ another question using the example above.... Player 1 gets out at 13:00. His team is still short 2 skaters. So does he have to wait for a stopage in play to return? Otherwise it would be too many men on the ice.

Jimbo on March 05, 2013:

I know that you cant have less than 3 skaters on the ice. I was just curious how the timing worked. Thank you. 20-0-3!! Season is half over and no loss. They'll get bounced in the first round.

adhilde (author) on March 05, 2013:

First off, Chicago is un-stoppable.

A team will always have the ability to put 3 players and a goalie on the ice, no matter how many players are sitting in the box. Every player from a given team can sit in the box at the same time and it would not change how many players can skate free. The trick to these situations is to understand how the clock works during such an occurrence. It once was (and there have been some rule changes to this in recent years causing confusion) that if more then 2 players from the same team were in the box serving penalties, only 2 of the penalty timers would reduce as the game was being played. This would result in the third player sitting in the box to have a longer penalty wait time, as he would not see any time reduce from his timer until the first penalty expired.

Player 1 gets 2 minutes at 15:00

Player 2 gets 2 minutes at 14:00

Player 3 gets 2 minutes at 13:30

Player 1 gets out at 13:00, Player 3 timer starts

Player 2 gets out at 12:00

Player 3 gets out at 11:00

Player 3 would have sat for 2:30 instead of 2:00 only because 2 penalty timers can run at the same time. I will have to confirm this, but that is what I remember. Just know, you can put more in the box then just 2.

Jimbo on March 05, 2013:

What happens when a team has two players in the penalty box and a player on the short handed team commits another penalty? Let's assume all of these are minor penalties. Go Hawks!

newell12345 on February 25, 2013:

good stuff hear, Hockey realy is a such a fun sport to play

WebWatcher Now on February 24, 2013:

Absolutely enjoy the writing you've given the internet. I have added your site to my bookmarks. Looking forward to your next blog. WebWatcher Now if u want to guest write my site.

adhilde (author) on February 09, 2013:

I typically see a coach move players from one side to another, or one position to another to help that player or line get a spark. When that fails, often the player gets put back to the minors to build skills again.

OV switched from left to right as Oates has been moving lines around. OV and Backstrom were the dynamic duo for years. Now they are on different lines. Coaches make moves to see how team chemistry can be improved.

justin on February 09, 2013:

how significant/frequent is the decision to move a winger (i.e., OV) from one side to the other? what are the implications from a coaching perspective and a defensive perspective (guarding a winger who you are used to being on the other side)?

adhilde (author) on February 06, 2013:

I played a game last night where the officials did not know some of the rules. It was ok though since they put their whistles away, and just let us play. But still, there are enough grey areas in hockey at every level. It is funny to see how many people who know a lot but still do not know everything. I am included in that statement. Thanks for reading Steve.

Steve from Sheffield, UK on February 06, 2013:

Thanks this was a good read, I can think of a few people at our local arena who sit near me that could learn from reading this. Maybe one or two of the officials too :)

adhilde (author) on February 05, 2013:


Opinion is hard to prove, disprove, believe, or disbelieve. You will either agree with me, or want to argue with me. The beautiful thing about opinions is that I can believe anything, and it should not matter to anyone else, and the inverse is true.

To be fair, and to answer your questions about my opinion, I think Bettman has a hard job. He has to tell hundreds of players and owners combined what the league is going to do, how it is going to protect agreements, contracts, safety, and other concerns that individuals and groups are going to have each year. If he makes one decision, one portion of the group will approve, and the other will disapprove. The opposite would be true if he decided in favor the other way. That example pretty much is only in binary (yes and no) type answers or problems. Now compound that with more "answers" then just Yes or No... now you have even more people not liking your answer, and even less supporting your stand on an issue.

Bettman has his belief of how the NHL would best prosper, earn money, draw in new fans, and develop future players. One choice could ruin countless hours of effort whereas sticking to a difficult decision now could create a positive culture in 5 years. I often compare management to parenting. Decisions are not always popular. And they are not always seen as "the right way" for something to be done. But someone must make that decision. Not all kids respect their parents. Not every player, coach, owner, and fan respect Bettman. But he is making harder then I have to make. I am glad it is not me. I can guarantee that I would have countless people mad at me if I were the commissioner of anything. I think hockey is still fun to watch. He is not doing bad. I do wish there was no lockout, but I blame the NHL and the NHLPA for that. All sides wanted to be paid fair according to what they believed would be fair. They also wanted to make sure a great many other things as well. So, Bettman, I am ok with him making hard choices and sticking with them. Fan growth is basically why there was a lockout to begin with.

On to #2; I would not be commissioner, ever. As I mentioned before, there are too many things to protect. So, lets say I make a choice to force salary cuts, or ticket price caps, or new rules to improve safety, or any other element of the game. As one element changes, it will affect some other area. Change in player pay will cause tickets to go up. Forcing tickets to go down in price will give owners less to pay for high powered players. Changing rules happen, but they are always years in debate with owners. But these tend to have the least amount of influence to team mechanics. However, referees tend to have a learning curve to adoption of how new rules are called.

But to give you as straight an answer as I can, I would change nothing without knowing more about what is happening under the hood of the league that I do not already know. The uninformed can always judge based on what they know. But we, the uninformed should always be ready to consider that we don't know enough. We can have our opinions, but they will always be missing something. They will always be flawed. Again, I am not envious of anyone who has to keep so many groups of people who don't want to work together happy.

Justin on February 05, 2013:


A couple of bigger-picture questions:

1) How would you describe Bettman's performance as league commissioner? Can you briefly explain why every seems to hate him (besides the obvious involvement in a pair of lockouts), and how deserved do you think his reputation is?

2) This may be too big a question, but what would you change if you were commissioner for a year?

adhilde (author) on February 04, 2013:


Welcome back. The shortened season is so young it is hard to comment on a new coach trying to get a team to adopt his system. Oates is one of the most talented capitals in franchise history. As a fan, I would love to see him be a brilliant coach as well.

OV has a very specific skill set. He hits hard, moves fast, and plays how he learned how to play. I have seen him try different things over the years. Coaches don't always know how to play him. Coaches often have a hard time playing someone on their roster. I don't think Ovechkin can't learn to play different. I don't think he has not played different. His high power, no hold back attitude is what got him noticed. That got shut down, and he slowed down. It would be hard for anyone to take their style that got them noticed and be forced to make it better. Isn't that what makes us human? The ability to adapt to trials, to try to make ourselves better. Sometimes this is harder then it looks. I am not even close enough to pro level to compare myself to even a bench player who spends most of the season in development leagues. But I know I have no room to judge someone else who can stick handle circles around almost every other player, out hit most other players, and shoot a puck from just about any angle and still make a goalie worry if they are going to stop his shot. Sure, he does not make headlines like in Phoenix where he scored on his back with the tip of his stick. Sure he has not had back to back 50 goal seasons for a few years. I still like to watch him score. He gets bad reviews because someone has compared him to other players. He still goes out and does not miss a game. He plays hard. I don't know anyone who likes to lose. I must respect him because I could not do any better. Is he worth what his team and fans are paying for him to be in Washington? I don't know. I am glad I don't have to answer that question with a paycheck. But as a fan, I still let my neighbors know when he and any other Capital scores a goal. I have wondered how many neighbors down can hear my yell when Washington scores.

Justin on February 04, 2013:

Hey adhilde,

I was last on here 9 months ago...I'm back! Haha. Great to see you're still answering these, and hope all is well.

So, I'm just getting into the current NHL season. I watched the Penguins-Caps game on Sunday (and yes, I am asking yet another question about Washington). During one of the period breaks, either Jones or Milbury was saying that the reason Ovie has slumped overall is because he doesn't evolve his game; i.e., he plays exactly the same way he always has, got figured out, and has yet to adapt to how opposing teams play him or develop skills to counter those adjustments (they quoted some unnamed NHL coach as basically saying "we only game-plan for him on power plays...not really worried about him otherwise"). I was wondering, 1) What is your reaction/counter-analysis to this? And, 2) What is your assessment of Adam Oates as the coach so far? I know this is a Hockey Basics hub but I'm sure your responses will be enlightening for all, not just Caps fans...Thanks for the insight as always!

adhilde (author) on February 03, 2013:

This article along with nearly every comment up until March 2012 has been published for kindle and nook devices. I would love any support from readers who want to keep a copy digitally for themselves.

Greatly appreciated.

adhilde (author) on February 03, 2013:

Players are allowed to be in the crease, as well as play the puck in the crease. The only really big rule about crease violation is that a player can't interfere with the goaltender. The technical rules for goaltender interference are: (NHL RULEBOOK - Rule 69)

69.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.




Justin, sorry about the long winded quote from the NHL Rulebook. In short, as it says towards the beginning of the quote, a goal can be allowed even if a player was standing in the crease. But it will be disallowed if that player caused the goaltender from being able to move freely.

On a side note, some other leagues have differing rules. Such as amateur leagues have a crease violation rule where any opposing player that enters the crease on his own power and not forced by the defense will cause a stoppage of play, and a resulting face-off out in the neutral zone.

justin d on February 03, 2013:

just curious what is the rule with goals scored with attacking players in the crease

adhilde (author) on September 18, 2012:

(EDIT) In my last post, I mention rule 76. This post is in error. It is rule 67 that was altered.

adhilde (author) on September 18, 2012:

RULE CHANGE 2012: This is a basic rule change from last year... and I am sure there will be more.

Rule 76, Handeling the puck- players who cover the puck with the intent to hide the puck from opposing players will be assessed a 2 minute minor penalty for delay of game. In addition, if the face off player pushes the puck with his hands to clear the face off circle, this will also be assessed a 2 minute minor penalty for delay of game.

chris on June 26, 2012:

ya i know thats rather confusing. but one day outa da blue i just started tracing a puck in a square ft piece of papper and all of these other thoughts just poped into my head ya it makes sense to me or to any one some people would just have to picture it more in there head.

adhilde (author) on June 25, 2012:

Your logic is dizzying. But if that makes sense to you, I can't argue your belief and your conclusions. Live long, and prosper, and may the force be with you.

chris on June 25, 2012:

as promised i gave u a week to think about and possibly come up with an answer to my trick question. i know i said i would post at noon but im up and pumped to explain now. now 2 understand this best as possible i suggest u read it slowly and try to picture a net and a bunch of pucks in your mind. that and read it 2 3 or 4 times if u have time 2 do so.

to recap the question was what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal?.

1. a goal mouth is as we know 6 ft by 4ft creating a 24sq ft goal mouth in which 2 shot at. and as we know to get a % of something u are dividing a number into another number and moving the decimal point 2 spaces. the easy method to figuring this question and keep in mind this is not exact but an estimate is first take a piece of paper eactly 1 sq ft or 12 by 12.

3. next take one hockey puck and trace it within that piece of paper as many times as possible with out over lapping. the reason u dont over lap is because it would suggest a puck pushing itself into another puck.

4.the puck will fit into that one square foot 16 times. because a goal mouth is 24 sq ft u will now muliptply 16 into 24 which = 384. now when u trace the puck within the piece of paper u trace them on a flat surface the flat side down. because a goal mouth is standing up this 384 is equivilaint to u fitting 384 pucks into the goal mouth if they were all standing up the tall way with the flat side facing front and back not side to side.

5.from this point u just take 1 for one puck and divide it into 384 and u get a % of 0.2604.

stacking the pucks alone the entire goal mouth the tall way with each flat side would create a bunch of gaps in which u could fill a portion of a puck inside each. more pucks= a lower % so i estimate about 0.25%

now u could line a bunch of pucks alone the goal mouth flat side down or the tall way flat side facing side to side and mabey u could fit more within the goal mouth that way.

but a puck is olny 3 inches wide and the goal line is 2 inches there for u dont count the entire puck in this case because part of it is outside or inside the goal mouth already. even if the goal line was 3 inches these other ways of line ing up dont create gaps as much there for the % would probally stay the same or close 2 the same 0.25%.

to summerise the question what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal? and what is an easy method one could use to figure this out once u figure out how many pucks could fit inside the goal mouth all u need 2 do is divide one puck into that number and u will get your answer which again i estimate to be 0.25% or a quarter of 1%

chris on June 20, 2012:

yes you are right about that. the only part that needs to be open is the part just big enough for the puck to pass through. and like i said the goal mouth in which you are shooting at which stretches from goal line to cross bar to the 2 post on the side creates 24sq ft in which to shoot at. and as u know a puck is 1 inch high by 3 inches wide. basically it has nothing to do with how goals can be scored from areas that were blocked by the goalie or from behind the net. but more what % of of the goal mouth 24sq ft is equivailaint two one puck. ya i knew that would be a trick question that might be confusing but like i said i will share more next tuesday.

adhilde (author) on June 20, 2012:

Thank you for the link to the CWHL. I will have to keep an eye on that.

As for the "trick" question. I am not sure I am even reading the question right. You are looking for a %? What percent of the open net is needed to score? Well, I have seen goals scored in areas that were blocked by the goalie, or from behind the net, and from weird bounces... so I am sure I am missing the "trick" to your question. They only part of the goal that needs to be open to the puck is the part of the goal the puck is getting scored into it. Meaning, of all of the goal mouth (opening), they only part that needs to be open is the part just big enough for the puck to pass through.

I am sure that is not what you are looking for. I am curious to know your answer.

penny pebs aka chris on June 19, 2012:

OK trick hockey math related question. and bear in mind i already figured this out but im trying to see if i can stump u. what is an estimated % of an opening within the perimeter of a hockey net needed in order to score a goal? and what is an easy method one could use to figure this out. today is Tuesday June 19Th and i will be giving u a week to figure out this equation. ask your kids wife friends family or whoever u can think of to help u if u need it and around noon on Tuesday June 26Th i will give u my answer. i will give u one hint a hockey net being 6ft by 4ft means the perimeter u are shooting at is 24 sq ft.

chris on June 19, 2012:

sweet sounds like were on the same page then. it sadly doesn't get enough credit its a great game. and because its supposed to be non checking i find its often a more open game which can allow for more creativity. I dont know if u know this but there is a relativity new pro league cwhl 6 teams mostly all canadain but there is 1 team in that league outta Boston.

adhilde (author) on June 19, 2012:

Chris, Girls can totally rock hockey. I play recreationally these days, and there are not too many girls, but they come out and play in our league just fine. This season, we have the wife of our team captain on defense, and she has been the most reliable in both positioning and physically challenging the on-coming pressure from our opponents. I watch every game I can find when it comes to watching hockey. I especially like NHL and International play. Sadly, for women's hockey, that usually means I just get the Olympics and the occasionally televised Women's World Championships.

Sure, they don't hit like players in the NHL do, but they do hit. They also don't skate at the same speed that the NHL is played at. But if that argument were truly a concern, how is it that NCAA men's basketball is popular? I like NCAA sports too, but anyone who argues that women's hockey of any kind at a semi-professional level is too slow, the I don't want to hear that person say they like any NCAA sport, for it is much slower then it's professional counter part.

A few years ago, my oldest daughter asked if she could learn to play hockey. I was really happy. Then she realized the puck could get her ... I tried to explain that she would have on pads, and that she would not feel too much of the impact. She however remembered that I broke my foot 3 times playing hockey by blocking shots. She does not want to play. She likes to watch it still. But I thought I had something going.

How do I feel about girls in hockey? I feel there are not enough leagues and teams fostering our young women. I would like to see a women's league that gets national attention. The state I live in has a few traveling women's leagues, but no one knows about them. I would like to see a WNHL, but that seems pretty far off. I totally support anyone anywhere who wants to play hockey. There should be no reason why anyone can't put a stick in their hand and play. Thank you Chris. I hope you stay with helping your boys and girls teams. Managing and coaching teams can be a thankless activity. But if just one becomes passionate about hockey, they can spread it to others.

chris on June 18, 2012:

acually over the past 4 years ive helped out both a boys and girls high school hockey team. i cant make every game for both teams but i jugle it pretty well and make a vast majority.

chris on June 18, 2012:

i just stumbled on this article and seeing that u seam to be a true passionate and very knowledgeable hockey fan i thought i would ask. what is your opinion if you have any on girls ice hockey. and how much if at all do u pay attention 2 it. as a guy who has managed a girls high school team for 4 years now and 2 of them already being graduated from high school in my opinion although it may be a little bit slower and less physical then the men's game its still a lot more so then people give it credit for. and that more people should give it a chance. ill say one more thing i played roller hockey for 10 years and have been involved in ice hockey spring-fall clinics for about 2 years now all coed. there are plenty of girls who proved to be my match.

adhilde (author) on June 13, 2012:

Sure. Good luck. Who knows, maybe your son(s) could be the next hockey all star generation.

larisa on June 12, 2012:

Oh wow thats crazy! & alot of money i need to start saving up now lol.. Well thank you again for the info!=)

adhilde (author) on June 12, 2012:

Larisa, price always varies based on age and equipment requirements. I would imagine peewee to cost a few hundred dollars as a minimum. You can often find second hand stores to provide gloves, skates and some of the basic pads. Kids grow out of pads so fast that it may be better to just buy them used at first.

New pads could run you anywhere from 500 to 1000, especially as your player gets older. My skates were $300, my stick I just replaced was $100. You will also need a chest pad, knee pads, helmet, elbow pads, gloves, and hockey pants. Adult pads could cost $1000 easy. I don't know the exact cost of youth pads as my children are not as enthusiastic as I am about hockey. I had to make the conscious choice not to force it. Sigh, I can dream of them in the NHL. But they each have their own hobbies and passions. At least, I have taught them how to play hockey. They know how to watch it.

About the dangers of hockey; every competative contact sport has opportunity for injury. Hockey allows checking in some leagues, but not all. I have yet to see a checking peewee league. I am sure there is one out there, but I have not actually seen one. I would recommend if a team does not require a full face cage, get one anyway. Teeth cost too much to replace as a kid. The dangers in youth hockey would likely be high sticks to the face or neck, stray pucks, blocked shots (which is how I have broken my foot), and inexperienced skaters accidentally hitting or skating into other players. I find that the pads make the game incredibly safe. I have taken shots off my mask, knees, feet, and other pads. As players start younger, they learn how to avoid danger better. I can't say there will be no risk, but I really think hockey is safer then football. Collisions do less damage to players then being dragged down in semi-defensless positions. Football is fine, but I really think hockey is safer.

Larisa on June 12, 2012:

Makes perfect sence now!.. Thank you for your wonderful explanation! When i first watched a hockey game it was in person i went to see my ex play & fell in love with it but didn't really didn't understand it at times & now makes sence now.. My family is all about football i love football (Raiders!) So now im all for hockey & football!!!=) on about it being an expensive sport i remember my ex's mom would always say how expensive the equipment was & she had 2 boys.. around how much would it be for peewee hockey? Also why is it so dangerous??

adhilde (author) on June 12, 2012:

Larisa, I was very happy to see LA win last night. They deserved the win after such a strong playoff run. And I totally agree that Johnathan Quick should receive MVP with 3 shutouts and a 16-4 record in the post season.

I wanted LA to win at home and treat their fans.

To your questions; a check is the physical use of force or an object to impede the play or progress of another player. For example, a check can be applied by a player running into another. This is the most typical type of check. So, when you see two players collide, and one player caused it on purpose, he "initiated" the check. Most are legal. However, if you recall the first period where LA's Rob Scuderi (#7) was checked from behind into the boards and ended up face down on the ice bleeding for a few minutes... that check was illegal. The call on the ice was "Boarding" and was assessed a 5 minute major penalty. During this time, LA scored 3 goals and really put the game away.

There are also other types of illegal checks such as cross checking, high sticking, and tripping. Stick checking and lifting other player's sticks are legal, but if you slash, hook, or use excessive force with your stick, you will get a penalty for it. Basically, a check can be as simple as poking someone or as violent as running into them and causing them to go flying through the air (which can be legal if done in accordance with NHL rules).

The question about when to get youth into hockey for the first time is up to the kid and parents. Many NHL players played Peewee hockey from 3 or 4 years old through high school. If you just want your kids to be good, or to have fun playing sports, then it is never too late to get involved in hockey. Adults pick up the sport a little slower, but they still pick it up just the same.

I would caution that if you get a child hooked on playing hockey, you may be committing yourself to an expensive sport. I will not sugar coat the cost. My gear cost me enough that I questioned playing recreationally year over year. My wife says I am happier the rest of the week after a game regardless of a win or loss. I guess I like the stress relief hockey gives me.

I taught a few friends how to ice skate and roller blade by putting a hockey stick in their hands and pulled them into pick-up games. When a new skater is focused on chasing the puck, and has a mild crutch to lean on for balance, the feet figure out how to stay under you. It is really easy to teach someone how to skate for the first time when they are not focused on falling, and you give them a task to chase something.

So in short, the sooner the better.

larisa on June 12, 2012:

Also i want to be a hockey mom when i have my kids.. How soon should i start involving him in this sport? Also i must say my tteam LA Kings won last night which made mefall in love more with hockey!!! ;-) what did you think of the game if you watched it??

s won last night

larisa on June 12, 2012:

Ive learned so much by you, thanks for posting all this info! My question is what do you mean by "checking" does it mean the same as in basketball?

adhilde (author) on May 28, 2012:

Emily, a line is basically the group of players that play together. So the First Line, also known as the Top Line are your goal scorers and your players that may have been on the team the longest. The First Line usually will start a game, but they do not have to. The coach can have any line start, and can play the lines in any order.

First Line (Top Line), Second Line, Third Line, Fourth Line, Checking Line (usually Forth Line). Some teams have a Power Play Line, and a Penalty Kill Line. Basically, during the game, the coach just wants to be able to yell to his team, "Second Line, your next" and those players know that they will jump over the boards and onto the ice when the players on the ice start coming off the ice.

We hear about lines more from commentators and fans when significant players or strategies influence these lines. I am a Capitals fan, so I know that Alex Ovechkin is on the First Line. He usually plays with the same players on the Top Line, but this past year, while one of the best centers on the team was recovering, Coach Hunter tried the Second Line center and the Third Line center on the first line. That kind of thing.

Fans like to hear when the Checking Line is on the ice. It may even be fun to know who these guys are. The checking line in Washington scores a good percent of goals each season. They work hard, but their focus is to disrupt the playing style of opposing teams. They are out there trying to take advantage of mental mistakes from the other team. Lines really are for the coach to be able to yell who should be on the ice in as little words as possible.

Emily on May 26, 2012:

Thanks so much - I starting watching NHL hockey this season, but I couldn't figure out some of the rules, and this helped a lot!

I also hear the term "line" thrown around a lot: "He went from being the center on the first line to being the winger on the third," stuff like that. What does that mean? What's a line?

adhilde (author) on May 19, 2012:

Each team only has one time out per game. I have never seen a team try to call a second. In NCAA Basketball, if a player tries to call a timeout after their last timeout, they get a technical foul. But I have never seen it in hockey. I will have to look into the rules. I bet the refs just remind the team they can't take a second and then drop the puck for play to continue.

Joey on May 18, 2012:

Can u get a penalty for calling a second timeout?

adhilde (author) on May 05, 2012:


just as you called it a conspiracy, it does seem to ring true to many fans. Would any official really be asked to make inaccurate calls to boost ratings? Maybe. Just imagine the fallout if that ever was made public, if it were true.

Phily beating the comeback of Sidney Crosby, and the all star roster of the Pittsburgh Penguins could easily be an argument that it is not credible conspiracy. I have seen games that made me think of these claims. But I guess I just don't want to believe in them. It would mean my passion for the game is based on a lie and a flawed system. It would mean I have put love and time into something fabricated.

I have heard the same fear from fans of the NFL, NBA, MLS, WWF/WWE/etc., and even NCAA sports. I believe it is an argument brought up when inconsistent calls are made. So people start asking how calls can be made against one team but the same offense went uncalled against the other. This question becomes a theory that there must be intent and bias towards the team that benefited from the apparently one-sided officiating. After watching enough of any sport, a viewer will undoubtedly find enough evidence to support this theory, making it fact in their mind, even if there is evidence to prove otherwise.

I don't want to spend too long talking about the ladder of inference. You should look it up. It is really a pretty interesting concept of how people take what they see around them and define their beliefs and their actions in accordance to this data. But in short, people come up with how they feel officiating is run based on what they have seen. And if a conclusion is formed before enough data can be collected, someone can jump to the wrong conclusion.

For me, I have seen enough games that I can understand the frustration with officiating, but I also don't agree that it is rigged by ratings hungry executives. Nor is it setup for teams to get more home games by extending a series to 7 games. I am sure the St. Louis market would love more money, but they are a single game away from getting swept out by LA. Last year, Washington got swept by Tampa Bay in the second round. Detroit, one of the most faithful markets to their team had to watch as Nashville eliminated them quickly this year. If there was a city in the country that could use revenue and marketing, it would have been Detroit. But they not only lost in the first round, but they lost quickly.

Justin on May 05, 2012:

Wow, you can really tell how drunk I was looking back on some of the nonsense in those last posts. My bad...After watching today's game myself and then reading some fans' reactions, I've noticed a pattern of conspiracy theories regarding the officiating in the playoffs. It's implied that the forces that be want to keep big-ticket players and teams in it for popularity's sake. Even as a casual fan I remember this popping up all the time in the past, too. Do you think all that talk is just sour grapes or can some fans legitimately argue that poorly-called playoff games are no accident?

Justin on May 04, 2012:

Hmm, an opportunist...that makes sense I suppose, especially seeing how well it's worked for him thus far in his career. Thanks for the effort you made in your answers, I think I'm finally getting it. I'll still be rooting for the Caps of course, and maybe Ovie will get to make some big contributions now that Hunter is giving him some time.

adhilde (author) on May 03, 2012:


I really don't know why OV either can't or won't play more defense. I would speculate that he has learned that how he plays brings him success. So I am guessing that what ever motivations he has, lack of defense has become his habit or style.

I would doubt that any coach anywhere (US, Canada, Russia, etc.) would ever train a player to ignore defense. I play in an amateur league now, and my team is always yelling at each other to play more defense. I am curious if Alex would even answer that question straight. When players are exposed for bad habits, sometimes they just deflect the question. After hearing some of his post game and post season interviews, he just says things like "we need to play better" or "We missed it." I am curious if any interviewer has ever asked him point blank about his defense or lack there of.

I guess looking back at this comment, I remember in all sports growing up, there were always "lazier" players that would cherry pick all day, and that was it. They were the ones at half court in basketball allowing a 5 on 4 down under basket. They were also the ones sitting on half field playing soccer. They would have a good chance to score when the goalie could clear it out to him. In hockey, he is an opportunist. I see him the same way as a cherry picker.

But a good cherry pick play catches the defense unaware sometimes and can lead to great scoring chances. The problem is, they leave the defense stranded down a man.

Justin on May 03, 2012:

And Lord knows wanting to avoid slapshots is understandable, especially after seeing how many D-men left the ice shaking their hands last night, haha...

Justin on May 03, 2012:

Adhilde, because of how great you've been to me and others regarding timely and informative responses to our queries, and how deftly sensical your responses have been, I really respect you. So please, please resist all present and future urges to get defensive regarding certain players or teams; not that you really have done so to this point, but to myself and others I think you're as close to an objective hockey source that we'll get, and I truly want to preserve that...I still don't understand the anti-defense star culture. It absolutely blows my mind that such a physical, results-based sport could kowtow to a "specialized" offensive skill set at the expense of effort on defense, especially when said offense isn't producing; again, it seems to me that all OV'd have to do is put forth the effort. Not too much to ask...You've admitted as much, that OV's offensive skills have been emphasized absolutely. Fair enough. But please explain WHY HE CANT PLAY DEFENSE!? I watch the NHL analysts describing his lackluster effort on the defensive end and wait for them to slam him, and yet they don't. Like only caring about scoring is okay in a star forward's book. Am I right in that this cultural feature stands out like a sore thumb, or is there some hard-to-define logic to it all? I know I'm missing something here; please help...

adhilde (author) on May 03, 2012:

First off, I just realized I called Miller "Brian Miller" in an earlier post... I don't know why... But thank you for mentioning him your post.

I don't think he wants to play defense. But I could only guess that. If it is true, then I can only guess why. Many defensive players get serious injuries blocking shots. I don't know. Someone needs to ask him.

I think defense before offensive is a better strategy, unless you were the Indianapolis Colts the year they won the Super Bowl. For every point their defense gave up, their offense would get back quickly. For every stop their defense made, the offense would still score. So, if you have a weak defense, you better have the best offense.

Don't get me wrong when I defend OV. I don't think his style of play is good for most teams. I don't even know if it right for Dale Hunter and the Capitals. I just argue that he has not changed. He has been the same Alex Ovechkin for as long as he has played hockey. He was celebrated for it a few years back. But now, he is seen as a liability for it. I stress, I don't know what team can really build around a player such as him, but it sucks that fans and management were completely behind him. And now it seems like no one wants to be. Before Backstrom got hurt this year, they were a very powerful duo. Because of Backstrom's ability to pass and get the puck to Alex, they were very hard to defend against.

I don't pretend to know what is best in Washington. I like OV now just like I did 6 years ago when Washington was the bottom of the NHL.

Justin on May 03, 2012:

And, to confirm your statement, the "Wizards-era Jordan" analogy doesn't compute at all IMO, for a few reasons, but most importantly: at that point, Jordan was a legend who was holding onto his own ghost on a mediocre team out of sheer competitiveness; with the Caps, OV is in his prime and surrounded by talent.

Justin on May 03, 2012:

Adhilde, thanks for your honest feedback...In my past, I've quickly attached to a certain player or team when discovering a new sport based on first impressions, emphasizing obvious skill and effort; I realize that this criteria is somewhat random, yet perfect and fair in that I'm judging favs the same way a very young, new fan would: first impressions. Long story short, when I started paying attention to the NHL my adoring eyes were squarely set on Ovechkin and Ryan Miller. Again, this seems random, but I used the same mind and methodology to pick Jimmie Johnson as my favorite NASCAR driver about ten years ago, so, seeing how that worked out, I trust my sports spectator instincts. These same instincts tell me to push you on this topic.

I sympathize with your "the player hasn't changed, just expectations" argument, as it's clear even to a noob like me that Washington has accrued a lot of talent recently and Holtby has been a great, positive surprise. But to dismantle said argument, I point to the fact that all the reluctance to sacrifice offensive breakout positioning you say OV indulges in has resulted in an underwhelming year and playoffs, goal-wise, for him. So his one-end style hasn't paid off this year from what I gather; the offensive output hasn't been making up for the lack of defense, thus degrading his value. I know, I know, Dale Hunter has demanded a playoff-style, defense-first approach...which is the problem. I'm looking for a "real talk" answer: Why can't OV just play defense(or, again, any other offensive star...I hesitate to bring this up also, but I've been reading stuff that suggests that Russian stars are offense-only and difficult to coach; deny/confirm, please? I just read all about Alexei Yashin, ugh)? If the answer is essentially "He doesn't want to," then as "a newish fan" I have a huge problem with his respectability off the bat, which would be very disappointing since WAS has been "my team" based on those newbie instincts I referenced. If this is the case, why would a team tolerate such resistance? Are there teams that are famous for indulging in/refusing this lopsided star approach to the game? Please spill your mind to your heart's content, and, if you can, convince me that OV is justified in his one-sided game.

adhilde (author) on May 03, 2012:


your question is not easy to answer. In hockey, we do have many specialized players. But none as highly paid as OV. I have seen many players sell out completely for a team. They play hard on D, and block shots. They will hurry to help the offensive rush, but be mindful to get back on D.

I think it has been a topic of concern in Washington and across the league when a failed offensive surge ends with Ovechkin gliding back onto the Defensive side of the ice. He has a lot of talent, there is no dispute there. I think what makes most analysts mad is that he seems to give up once the rush is over. I have seen him in the defensive zone. When he knows that the defense is either out of position or late coming back, he steps up and defends hard.

Ovechkin has a specific style of play that boarders on reckless. Is he worth $10 Million a year? I have not seen the Cup in Washington yet. As much as I want him to play harder, if he gets too far out of his position, then he won't be ready to break out of the defensive zone. I am not defending that he is less mindful of defense. Years ago, when he got his huge contract, people were not sure how to play against Alex. He was too big, and too explosive. In the past 2 years, teams have really figured out how to make him less of a factor. Also, he is the captain of the team. That is voted on by the players.

Alex Ovechkin is a bit one sided when it comes to hockey. But management knew that even when they agreed to pay him a lot. Fans loved him, especially before he got figured out. And players respected him and still do for his speed and heaving hitting. So what has changed? Not his style. Just our expectations. We want a cup. What is funny about the whole "one dimensional" play discussion is that most defenders are not criticized for not having an offensive mindset. I want to see Washington win, but I don't think getting all over Alex Ovechkin will make a win appear before us.

I have played hockey for so many years. I could never even come close to the skill Alex has. As a player and fan, I feel Ovechkin is getting beaten up in the media and by fans for no reason other then impatience. Micheal Jordan went to the Wizards and could not win a championship. He is arguably the most influential and possibly the best professional basketball player ever. So, what did people say just before he retired in Washington? Did people blame him? Now, it is a hard comparison to make, but I feel OV is playing hard. He is playing his game. I bet he hates losing as much as the fans hate watching a loss. No star athlete feels successful until they have a trophy to show for it.

I don't mind that Ovechkin is up front more then he is back. The gamble can pay off with high percentage chances to score.

Justin on May 03, 2012:


Thanks for your comments; they were indeed helpful (though I certainly wouldn't have minded the "book's worth" of team descriptions you wrote, and I implore you to post 'em if you still got 'em).

I have yet another question. I've been watching each and every game on the NBC networks, playing the hell out of NHL 12 on my xbox, and regularly checking out sites like the full throws of a probably-permanent hockey binge, in other words. So, like everyone else, I've been inundated with talk and speculation over Ovechkin's playing time. Thus, my question is about player specialization. It seems to me that while other sports have strictly specialized positions, hockey, with its tough, physical, and utterly team-oriented game, would place a premium on "two-way talent"...that is, all-around good players, like Callahan from NY (though I already hate the Rangers). And yet here's Ovechkin, making like $10 million a year, the subject of a huge playing time issue caused solely by the accepted fact that he's a defensive liability. I simply do not understand this. What the hell is stopping him or any other "skill" player? In virtually any sport, good defensive play is largely the product of effort and willing physicality, not just specialized talent. I've seen Ovechkin hit people, and hard; he can be a physically overwhelming player (except when he tried to check Chara recently, yikes). He's not an idiot, he's able-bodied, he's well-compensated, and all this drama could be laid to rest if he'd only "D-up" please explain to me, however long-winded and painstaking it may be, the cultural rationale (or at least, common acceptance) of the one-way superstar. Thanks again.

adhilde (author) on May 01, 2012:

I will address fighting first. That is always a hot topic in hockey. Most leagues fine and suspend players that fight. The NHL has not stamped out fighting because of it's historic roots in the game. The team General Managers and NHL Commissioner get together every year and talk about how the sport effects their team, fans, and budgets. It seems that fighting comes up almost every year. The NHL keeps fighting every time. Some years, they come up with different penalties such as off ice fines. One year, they had in their TV contract that the fights would not be allowed to be televised. For what ever reasons they give each year, fighting is still in the game as a release of frustration.

Call consistency is what every sport wants. I don't think any sport plays games with a looming perception that the officials are going to favor a specific team. In most sports both national and international, if an official can be held on proof of bias and his or her calls reflect that bias, they are fired and sometimes fined. This has happened in the Olympics, NBA, FIFA, and the NHL would do the same. I don't like bad calls. But I don't like inconsistency more. I can take bad calls as long as bad calls are getting called both ways. But it does make me upset when the team I am supporting gets hit with a high stick with no call, and then gets called for a very minor that could not have been called. Bad calls and inconsistent calls will happen. That is the human element of sports officiating.

I had a college professor that introduced the grading scale for a test. When someone asked him about a curve and his policy on "arguing" questions for more points, he had a unique response that has stuck with me. My teacher pointed out that people never come to him when he accidentally gives too much credit or too many points when he makes an error in the student's favor. But you know they will be beating down his door for the 1 point he took away that the student should have had. His point was that people make mistakes both ways, and the result could even out over time. But we don't like being wronged, so we insist on the fix to our wrong but fail to fix it when it benefits us positively.

My point is, bad calls should even out as long as there is consistency. And in the lack of consistency, you should hope your team you are cheering for can run up the score before the officials can have a significant impact on the game.

Lastly, you mentioned having profesional analysts look at the fundamentals of the game. The funny thing is, most of the analysts are former hockey players and coachees. They grew up playing the game, and they will probably want to keep the game as it is. Hockey still has some what of a cult following. The United States is so saturated with sports that it is hard for less popular sports to gain ground. We have the NBA, NFL, MLB, and NCAA (Basketball and football). Hockey has always been considered a minority although it is gaining ground. Ask people if they follow MLS (soccer) in the US. I live in an MLS market. When we won the cup, the media outlet I work for literally said "oh crap, now we will have to cover more soccer." That made me sad that we would ignore a professional team because it was not as popular as our NBA team or our college teams. I am getting off topic.

The NHL is always under review to make good changes to the game. But the people looking at the game to make the changes are those that grew up playing it. There is very little outside interest on how the game is conducted. I am always trying to get more fans to games, or to watch the NHL on TV. This was my goal to explain the rules (above). I love hockey. I play hockey. My wife now is married to hockey (me), and my kids get excited about hockey. To see changes away from the historic and possibly out dated rules and trends, such as fighting, from a nontraditional hockey mindset, there will need to be more interest from outside the current professional NHL analysts.

But having said all this, I would classify myself as a player and I would favor how the game is played now. I don't condone fighting. I don't get excited to see people get up in each other's faces. But the game is pretty stable right now. Games are played, and the officials keep things under control. When players get too far over the line, the league suspends them. I may just add that the roots to hockey is a very violent native traditional game. Lacrosse is said to also be based on the same game. It was said that in Lacrosse, it was not unheard of for players to die.

rjn111 on April 30, 2012:

Thanks for the consistency in your responses and the quick turnaround. Let me add to my first concern. I don't advocate overturning ref's calls or non-calls. I do believe most fans want consistent calls more than anything. Your response on the Toss Out concern seems to support inconsistency. I feel the same way about Calls to make up for previous misses. Everyone knows what is going on but wouldn't it be better if they just move on and make better Calls?

I picked up on the history and practices of this game being what is driving a lot of the "strange" things about the sport. Maybe it should be looked at by Sports professionals and reducing the effect of history on how this game is played.

One last question, if "they" really want to get rid of the intent to injure how do you explain allowing fighting? There couldn't be any more specific intent to injure, could there?

adhilde (author) on April 30, 2012:


Refereeing is such a hard job. I have been a basketball, baseball, and soccer referee and I can say, even at an amateur level, the game moves too fast to always make the right calls. I may get on a specific ref or official when I think they blew a real obvious call. But I have learned a few things about missed calls, that I think the NHL officiating staff also realize. One, if a call gets missed, it can be called again later. This is also true the other way. If a call is made that should not have been, there will be close calls the other way to compensate for a bad call. I hear NFL commentators speak of this every season how the refs make a call to make up for a bad one earlier in the game.

The other thing I have learned that I am very sure NHL refs also know is that the only time a call really matters is when it influences the outcome of the game. All other calls really are not too significant. Causing a 4 on 4 is easy to call. You will find a referee will let a foul go if it is nearing the end of the game or if it would cause a 5 on 3. Referees don't want to decide games, but they have to call the obvious things and look for the judgment calls, and be the judge.

You have an interesting idea about the upstairs officials having an outlet to convey how they felt about a call or lack there of from the ice level. I am sure the transparency would resonate well with the feelings of fans. It would be challenging to be able to incorporate such a review or belated officiating system into the game. But still, very cool to think through.

You also mention the faceoff circle toss out rule.

NHL RULE #76.4 (Face-off) Procedure – Centers


If a player is ejected from the face-off, his replacement must come into position quickly or risk having the puck dropped by the Linesman without the player being set, or ejected from the face-off by the Linesman resulting in a bench minor penalty for delay of game for a second face-off violation during the same face-off.


I just thought I would look it up to see if it were still in the rule book. I don't recall now if I have really ever seen a minor called for a double face-off infraction by the same team, but there it is at the bottom of rule 76.4. I think linesmen make excuses for players all the time. I have seen a linesman toss a team's center. Then try to drop the puck. After another false start, he elects to talk to the player that replaced the center, but lets him not only stay in the game, but also stay in the face-off center. I am sure it may not be much different then a parent who really does not want to ground a teen for a poor choice, so he gives a second "final" warning.

Who knows. I imagine it is in the rules to just keep the game moving. I am sure they could lose the rule and find some other way to get people to behave at the face-off.

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