Well, if nothing else, the first round of the playoffs has been educational.
On Saturday, fans learned that a player can be offside even if his skate is clearly still over the blueline, because it has to be touching. That was news to some of us, and leads to some interesting philosophical questions. If a player jumps across the line with both skates in the air, is he onside? Offside? Both at the same time, like Schrödinger’s cat?
Then on Sunday, we found out that you can get an interference call for touching the puck from the penalty box. That one has come up before, but it’s rare enough that many fans were probably hearing about it for the first time. So that’s two new rules that at least some of us weren’t aware of in a single weekend – and that’s without even getting into whatever it was that happened on that Antoine Roussel goal.
Well, why stop there? Every now and then, it’s fun to dig into the NHL’s official rulebook and find some of the oddities, quirks and loopholes hidden within. Many are rarely enforced, or have literally never come up in a real game. But they’re still in the books, and fans might as well get to know them. As we’ve been reminded this week, you never know when an obscure rule will turn out to be crucial.
Here are five actual NHL rules that many fans may not have heard of.
The other area where a goalie can’t play the puck
Every fan knows about the trapezoid behind the net, and the sections of ice on either side of it in which a goalie is forbidden to play the puck. (Well, almost forbidden – there’s a little-known exception for goalies who keep one foot in the crease.) But many fans forget that there’s another section of the ice where a goaltender isn’t allowed to touch the puck. And it’s much larger.
According to rule 27.7, a goalkeeper can’t touch the puck or otherwise participate in the play on the other team’s side of center ice. That’s a minor penalty. And while it’s a situation that virtually never comes up, it probably won’t surprise you to learn the identity of the one guy in recent memory to get nailed for it:
“He’s out of his mind.” Yep, pretty much.
By the way, we can go back even further for some rarely seen footage of Jacques Plante leading a rush through the neutral zone – and being familiar enough with the rulebook to dish the puck off just before hitting the red line.
You’re not allowed to disagree with the referee
Fans know that there’s an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the books for abuse of officials, one that referees can use to hand a minor penalty or even a ten-minute misconduct to players who cross the line. But where is the line? Is it swearing? Personal abuse? Mom jokes?
Luckily for us, the rulebook does offer an explanation as part of Rule 39, Abuse of Officials. And it’s, uh, a little more strict than you might expect.