Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Injuries

Since it's not the Red Wings, it's probably not a groin injury. - Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo

Welcome to another installment of our WIIM series where the authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's rulebook post is out with a groin injury.

NHL Official Rules 2013-2014 (PDF)

Rule 8 - Injured Players

8.1 Injured Player: There are paragraphs of scenarios on what should happen if a player gets injured or is "compelled to leave the ice during a game." The simplest is that an injured player can leave the ice and be substituted for immediately.

An injured player can leave the ice during play only through the player's bench; if he goes through the zamboni door or the door to the visitor's dressing room or elsewhere during play, and a teammate subs in for him, it's a bench minor for an illegal substitution. If you remember Rule 3.1 about players' benches, the rules state the benches must be "as convenient to the dressing rooms as possible." Yet, in some arenas, visiting teams can't get to the dressing room from the players' bench, so an injured player will have to go to the bench and wait for a stoppage of play before he can get to the dressing room.

If an injured player has taken a penalty, he can go immediately to the dressing room while a teammate serves his penalty. If the injured player returns and there's still time left on his penalty, he will replace his substitute at a stoppage of play; while he's at his bench and his penalty time is ticking, he remains an ineligible player triggering Rule 5.2.* So if Kyle Quincey gets a high sticking penalty and hurts himself somehow, he would go to the dressing room while Tomas Jurco serves Quincey's time. If Quincey returns to the bench, and there's still 30 seconds left, Quincey is ineligible to return to play for 30 seconds; he is eligible return to the game when Jurco comes out of the box and goes back to the bench. If play stops within those 30 seconds, Quincey replaces Jurco in the penalty box and serves the remaining time.

If, in the hypothetical scenario above, Quincey tried to come back to the ice before his penalty time expired, he would violate Rule 68 - Illegal Substitution, and the Red Wings would be assessed a bench minor penalty. More on this when we get to it in many weeks from now.


The previous paragraphs dealt with minor injuries where players could still go to their bench. In cases where a player is hurt "so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench," then play won't stop until his team has the puck; if an injured player's team is in the middle of a scoring chance, the officials can still delay the whistle even though a player is hurt. Despite that provision, if any of the four officials on the ice determine a player is hurt severely enough, they can stop play immediately. The referees and linesmen are given lots of latitude in exercising their judgment about if and when to stop play because of an injured player.

At this very moment, I realize I've been using the term "player." The rulebook explicitly says in Rule 5 about eligible players that the term "player" refers to both skaters and goalies while the term "skater" distinguishes non-goalie players. So why does the rulebook use "player" in this section when they have a separate rule 8.2 for injured goalkeepers? /rant

If an official stops play because of an injured SKATER, the skater can be attended to on the ice as needed for the sake of his health. Once he is off the ice, play must resume immediately with a substitute for the injured skater. In other words, the game won't wait for the skater to return. A weird wrinkle is that the injured skater "cannot return to the ice until play has resumed." So if play stops because Darren Helm got hurt, and he had to be attended to by trainers or medical staff, if he miraculously is healthy enough to be out for the next faceoff, he's actually not allowed to return to the ice until after the puck has dropped to resume play.

If play is stopped for an injured skater, the ensuing faceoff takes place at the dot nearest the puck in the same zone when play stopped, with one exception. If an injured player's team is in the offensive zone and play stops, the faceoff comes out to one of the dots outside the blue line in the neutral zone.

8.2 Injured Goalkeeper: If a goalie gets hurt, he has to be ready to play immediately or else he must be replaced. Of course, if a goalie is hurt enough to warrant trainer or medical attention on the ice, then he'll obviously receive it on the ice. If he's good to go, he can resume his position; if not, he will need to make it to the player's bench at which point the backup goalie takes over. The backup gets a 2-minute warmup in preseason games and a 0-minute, 0-second warmup in regular season and playoff games. If there are any "undue" delays in goalie subs, the referee will report it to the Commissioner. If the first goalie can return to the ice, he has to wait for a stoppage before coming back out.

8.3 Blood: Players bleeding or having visible blood on them will be told to get off the ice at the next stoppage of play. So Dan Cleary can get high-sticked again and draw a cut and lose more teeth, and he won't be told to get off the ice until the next whistle. Once he's off the ice though, he can't return until he stops bleeding and decontaminates or exchanges whatever equipment or jerseys got blood on them.


I probably ended up using more words than the NHL rulebook itself did for this section, but you probably understood me better than the original, right, right? Well, we're done with Section 2 -Teams! There will be more next time as we quickly skim most of Section 3 - Equipment.

*The consequence of an ineligible player under Rule 5.2 is that any goal for his team while he is on the ice is disallowed, regardless of where on the ice he is when the puck crosses the line.

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