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Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Captains and Starters

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Welcome to another WIIM series where the authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's NHL Rulebook post deals with Captain's privileges and starting lineup procedures and violations.

Did anyone NOT get pregnant looking at this picture?
Did anyone NOT get pregnant looking at this picture?
Gregory Shamus

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

Rule 6 - Captain and Alternate Captains

6.1 Captain: Only the Captain identified by the C on his jersey can talk about rule interpretations with the referee. No co-Captains allowed. Teams can designate one Captain and two Alternates or three Alternates.

The next paragraph is strange:

Only the Captain, when invited to do so by the Referee, shall have the privilege of discussing any point relating to the interpretation of rules.

I don't know of any instances when a referee would willingly invite players to talk about the rules in the middle of the game, so I'm guessing this refers to the pre-game meeting when the referees call for captains at the end of warm-ups. Moreover, I'm fairly certain every time I see the captains talking to the referee after something controversial happens in-game, the Captains went to the referee on their own. I'm guessing the last thing the referee wants to do is invite the Captains to talk it over.

The "when invited" clause comes to play in Rule 39 - Abuse of Officials where players receive a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct if they leave the bench to make any kind of protest about a call. If the penalized player persists, he gets a misconduct. Continue still, and see a game misconduct on your PIM stats. The misconduct would be in addition to the minor penalty. The rulebook also explicitly states that complaints about calls don't fall under the provision of "interpretation of rules."

Only skaters can be Captain (or Alternate), not coaches, goalies, managers, or whoever else that's not a skater. I don't really know why goalies can't be Captain, and the only explanation I can find comes from Wikipedia, which basically says that it's too logistically inconvenient to wait for a goalie to get back to his crease while he's relaying messages from the referee to his bench.

6.2 Alternate Captains: First, it's "Alternate." Not "Assistant." Alternates are allowed the Captain's privileges whenever the regular Captain isn't on the ice. They wear an A on their jersey.

Rule 7 - Starting Line-up

7.1 Starting Line-up: Coaches must give their game starters to the referee or Official Scorer. In keeping with "home team gets last change," the visiting team produces its starting lineup, and the home team picks its starters knowing who the visiting starters are. If you remember this season's 24/7 in the first Red Wings/ Maple Leafs tilt, Randy Carlyle announced the Red Wings' starters in his team's locker room, pronouncing Tomas Tatar's name as "Tatter" (tatter like "tattered clothing").

No changes to the starting lineups, except when reviewed and accepted by the referee, are permitted. Someone should proofread the rulebook because this is the whole paragraph which explains it:

No change in the starting line-up of either team as given to the Official Scorer, or in the playing line-up on the ice, unless reviewed and approved by the Referee prior to the start of the game.

That's it. That's the whole "sentence." Someone forgot that sentences need a predicate even when they serve as their own paragraph. I'd like to see a coach challenge this rule because someone forgot to say "No change . . . [is permitted.]"

7.2 Violation: Putting out players as starters other than those listed in a team's starting lineup gets the offending team a bench minor penalty. Teams can only make appeals under this rule before the second faceoff of the first period. So if the puck has dropped a second time in the game, the offending team is off the hook. The rulebook explicitly says second faceoff "in the first period," so I guess a team is theoretically also off the hook if by some miracle the first period goes by without a single stoppage.

If a team cries foul about their opponent's starters, it does NOT get assessed any penalty if the appeal is unsustained. Just like Rule 5.1 about eligible players, the determining factor in who's on the starting lineup is if the player's name, not number, is written correctly.

The next paragraph deals with starting lineup violations when a goal is scored before the second faceoff:

  • Offending team scores: The goal IS allowed to stand, and the team is assessed the bench minor penalty for improper starting lineup.

  • Non-offending team scores: similarly to delayed penalties being wiped out if the non-penalized team scores a goal, if Team A scores and then challenges Team B's starting lineup and the appeal is sustained, Team A's goal nullifies Team B's bench minor penalty. No further penalties are assessed.

The actual wording of the rule is "In the event a team scores on the first shift of the game" as opposed to "before the second faceoff" as I wrote above. I have a feeling that, for consistency's sake, the rulebook means "before the second faceoff" because it's a much more concrete event as opposed to when the second shift of the game is.

On the other hand, I can also see the rulebook intending to mean "on the first shift of the game" because players are identified in the boxscore when they're on the ice for a goal, so it can easily be checked against the starting lineup provided by the coaches. If the second faceoff hasn't happened, but the first goal is scored, say, 7 minutes into the game, likely no one remembers who was on the ice if there was a starting lineup violation. I doubt this thing is video reviewable.

In layman's terms, I just want the rulebook to be clear and consistent, especially since I don't ever remember starting lineup violations being invoked against a team ever, so I have no idea how the referee would apply these rules.

If the offending team scores a goal before the second faceoff, the goal IS allowed to stand. I don't think this instance qualifies as a violation of Rule 5.2 on Ineligible Players (thereby disallowing any goal scored because an ineligible player is on the ice) because even if a coach messed up with his starting lineup, any wrong players on the ice are theoretically still eligible under Rule 5.1 because they're listed on the Roster Sheet.

If you're ever Team A in the scenario above, I have no idea why you would ever want to challenge your opponent's starting lineup if you know already that you'll get nothing out of the appeal.


That's it for this week's Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook. Tune in next week for a very topical discussion on Injured Players as we will conclude Section 2 - Teams.