Getting to Know the Rulebook: Who's on My Team?

No, YOU'RE an ineligible player! - Harry How

Welcome to another installment of our WIIM series where the authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's GtK: The Rulebook begins Section 2 dealing with the makeup of teams.

NHL 2013-14 Official Rules here. (Downloads as PDF.)

Section 2 - Teams

Rule 5 - Team

5.1 Eligible Players: Teams are allowed no more than 20 players: 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders. These players must be under contract. The rule is written that "not more than" 18 skaters and 2 goaltenders are allowed, so teams can dress fewer players than 18 and 2 if they want, or if the salary cap forces them to.

The coach must list the 20 players on a Roster Sheet for the referee or Official Scorer before puck drop. Only one roster player not in uniform can be on the bench "in a coaching capacity," so long as his name is listed on the Roster Sheet as such. "After the commencement of the game," no changes can be made, although "after the commencement of the game" is vague enough that I wonder if any coach would ever pull a player off the bench during the national anthem and scratch him in favor of someone else.

If someone--referee, off-ice official--notices a uniformed player who's not on that night's Roster Sheet, the referee will tell the coach to stop cheating and follow the rules. No penalty will be assessed for having a non-Roster Sheet player in uniform before the game.

5.2 Ineligible Player: All players not on the list submitted to the Official Scorer are ineligible players. If the coach screws up writing your number but not your name, you're still an eligible player; if the coach screws up writing your name, well, blame him for now making you an ineligible player.

Let's play a game. I'll call it "Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better." I'll copy a section of the rulebook that's just comically difficult to comprehend and bold it. You find a better way to write it, people rec your comment, and you win a heaping helping of fleeting internet fame. Woohoo!!!

If a goal is scored when an ineligible player is on the ice (whether he was involved in the scoring or not), the goal will be disallowed. This only applies to the goal scored at the stoppage of play whereby the player was deemed to be ineligible. All other goals scored previously by the ineligible player’s team (with him on the ice or not) shall be allowed.

--NHL Official Rules 5.2

So an ineligible player on the ice, whether he scores the goal or he's 200 feet away, automatically disallows the goal. If a team somehow manages to score multiple goals with an ineligible player involved, all their goals except the most recent one will stand.

I interpret the bold text to mean that during the stoppage that occurs when a goal is scored (because play always stops when a goal is scored), only that goal will be disallowed and not any ones earlier in the game. What I think this rule also implies is that once the puck drops after a goal is scored and play resumes, the goal cannot be disallowed because of an ineligible player.

Moving on to things that make more sense, if a team somehow has an ineligible player in the game, he'll be ejected and the team will be down one player for the rest of the game. No actual penalties or misconducts are assessed, but the referee does need to tell the Commissioner about it in the game report.

5.3 Goalkeeper (Michelle's favourite!): Teams can have only one goalie in play at a time. So teams aren't allowed to pull a skater off to have two goalies instead. They are, however, allowed to take their one goalie off and substitute another skater (dubbed the "extra attacker" in general hockey lingo but not in the rulebook). The extra attacker "shall not be permitted the privileges of the goalkeeper." So he can't do things like freeze the puck in the crease. And honestly, why would you throw a skater out to be a goalie when you have two guys in full goalie gear on your bench who would do a better job of stopping a puck?

The rulebook explicitly states that the backup goalie must "at all times, be fully dressed and equipped ready to play." So I expect a minor penalty to be called against the Sharks on Thursday when their backup goalie on the bench doesn't have his mask on or his blocker or glove. (And then they can call the same thing on Petr Mrazek.)

Skaters aren't allowed to wear goalie equipment unless both regular goalies are physically unable to do the job.

The Los Angeles Kings and their three goalies could have used this next paragraph. If both goalies are incapacitated (rulebook's word, not mine), "that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible." Given that we just defined eligible players in 5.1 as those who are listed on the Roster Sheet for a given game, I have no idea what "eligible" means in this instance.

If both goalies get injured "in quick succession," the backup to the backup is entitled to the necessary time to get dressed in goalie equipment and to a maximum two-minute warmup. He will not be allowed the warmup, however, if he enters the game to defend a penalty shot. (Talk about obscure rules.) There are no clarifications about what "in quick succession" entails, but it is mentioned that if the third goalie is dressed and ready on the bench when the second goalie becomes "incapacitated," then he's not allowed the warmup.

I think the next paragraph might be a mistake. If a team needs to recall a goalie from the minors to ice a lineup because both goalies are injured, then the recall is deemed an emergency recall and IS subject to the 23 man roster limit.

5.4 Coaches and Team Personnel: Only players, coaches, equipment managers, trainers, and the like are allowed on the benches. This section also repeats from 5.1 the stipulation that only one roster player can be out of uniform and on the bench as a coach, provided his name is listed on the Roster Sheet.

--

And we're done with Rule 5! Though there are still some issues to clarify, even though no one cares to change the wording of the rules. Next time, we begin by designating players on our team to actually do stuff like be captain and be in the starting lineup.

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