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Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Uniforms

Welcome to the next installment of our series where the WIIM authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's NHL rulebook post covers Rule 9 on Uniforms.

The rulebook didn't say anything about aesthetics, unfortunately.
The rulebook didn't say anything about aesthetics, unfortunately.
Ben Nelms

NHL Official Rules 2013-2014 (PDF)

I originally wanted to blaze through the entirety of Section 3 in one post. Unfortunately, to make a post like that manageable, I would need to cut out a ton of necessary stuff, which isn't the point of these posts. So here we'll just deal with Rule 9 on Uniforms.

Section 3 - Equipment

Rule 9 - Uniforms

9.1 Team Uniform: All players on each team will dress the same way. Playings not uniform with their teammates aren't allowed in the game. Home and away uniforms must be different; only the same pants can be used for both.

9.2 Numbers: Players must wear unique numbers. Numbers must be 1- or 2-digit counting numbers. Players must also have their surname across the back of their shoulders. Interesting when other countries may have a different idea of "last names" than North Americans do.

9.3 Player's Jersey: See diagram on page 11 for allowable maximum jersey sizes. Jerseys must be worn as produced by the manufacturer, and the manufacturer isn't allowed to modify jerseys without advance League approval. Sleeves must extend into glove cuff. Jerseys must be "tied-down" properly at all times.

9.4 Goalkeeper's Jersey: See diagram on page 12 for allowable maximum jersey sizes. Same "wear as manufactured" rules as 9.3. Jerseys cannot be tied in a way that creates a "webbing effect" under the armpit. Jerseys are too long if they cover any area between a goalie's legs.

9.5 Protective Equipment: All protective gear that can be worn under a uniform must be worn under a uniform. If for example a player's shoulder pads aren't covered, the referee will order the player to cover up. A second violation to the same player is a minor penalty.

If a referee notices illegal equipment, he will tell the player to stop using it. Refusal results in a delay of game penalty. Returning to the ice without changing out the equipment is a misconduct. If the player persists, it's a game misconduct. I have to wonder though: if a player is assessed a penalty for illegal equipment and he serves it and it expires in the middle of play, does he just stay in the penalty box until the next stoppage to avoid getting a misconduct if he's still wearing the illegal equipment? It almost sounds like the rules are baiting players into a misconduct penalty that way.

EDIT (1-31-14): After a little bit of discussion n the comments, I'm most convinced by commenter wingingintherain's argument below about the justification for and location of the "jersey tuck" rule, covered in this section 9.5 of Rule 9:

All protective equipment, except gloves, headgear and goalkeepers’ leg guards must be worn under the uniform.

Is the back pad players tuck their sweaters into ‘protective equipment’? Yes
Is the back pad included in ‘gloves, headgear and goalkeepers’ leg guards ’? No
Then the following applies ’must be worn under the uniform’

9.6 Helmets: Everyone has to wear an approved helmet, on the ice and on the bench. Players can continue play if their helmet falls off on the ice, but he must replace it when he gets back to the bench. If he returns to the ice without a helmet, play is stopped upon possession of the puck (like a delayed penalty). It doesn't say a penalty is assessed. If play stops in either end zone, the faceoff will take place at the nearest dot; if play stops in the neutral zone, the faceoff will take place at the nearest dot of the non-offending team.

Play stops immediately upon a goalie losing his mask, unless the opposing team has an "immediate and impending" scoring chance. When the referee will ever wait to blow the whistle when a goalie loses his mask, I don't know. Only the referee, not the linesman, can make this stoppage. Why, I don't know.

The next paragraph details consequences if a goalie intentionally removes his mask during play:

  • In the middle of play: minor penalty for delay of game.
  • On a breakaway: penalty shot awarded to breakaway player.
  • On a penalty shot: goal awarded.

9.7 Visors: The new visor rule. Players who entered this season with 24 NHL games or fewer must wear a visor. Visors must be placed so that they actually protect the eyes. Looking at you, Kronwall.

9.8 Dangerous Eqiupment: Equipment made with material intending to injure is illegal. Referees are the arbiter of what equipment is likely to cause injury. Compliance failure is a delay of game penalty.

Facial protection approved by the League can be worn by a player has sustained a facial injury. The fact they even need to make this a part of the rulebook makes me wonder if full face shields or facemasks that players wear in some lower leagues like the NCAA are outright banned because there's nothing in the rulebook about players not being allowed to wear them if they want.

If an opposing club objects to any additional protective device an injured player is wearing, they can talk to Bettman about it. No, seriously: "it may record its objection with the Commissioner."

If a stick has been modified and the edges haven't been beveled, it's dangerous equipment. No penalty is assessed initially, but if a player returns to the ice with that same equipment after being warned about it, he will be assessed a delay of game penalty.


That's it for uniforms. The section on Dangerous Equipment would probably fit better somewhere else in the rulebook but there it is. For all the hoopla about the tucked-in jersey rule, there's nothing in here about it. So the total lack of enforcement is probably justified because, unless it's stated in another section which we haven't gotten to yet, the rulebook doesn't say to punish players who tuck their jerseys into the hockey pants. Of course, this is the most logical place to include a rule about tucked-in jerseys, so if it is found later on in the rulebook, we're going to have problems. See edit in section 9.5 above.

Tune in next week where it's all about the hockey stick.