Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Goalie Equipment, Illegal Equipment, and Pucks

Welcome to the next installment in our series where the WIIM authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's rulebook post finishes Section 3 on Equipment.

NHL Official Rules 2013-2014 (PDF)

Rule 11 - Goalkeeper's Equipment

We're going to breeze through this section. Not because it's not important, but because it's simply lots of numbers and measurements that are a bit too much detail for our purposes. More importantly, we'll almost never see these rules enforced in action because

The League’s Hockey Operations Department is specifically authorized to make a check of each teams’ equipment (including goalkeepers’’ sticks) to ensure the compliance with the rule.

--NHL Official Rules 2013-2014, Rule 11.1

These inspections can take place at any time, before, during, or after any game. A member of the League’s Hockey Operations, Officiating and/or Security departments may obtain equipment from any or all of the four participating goalkeepers.

--NHL Official Rules 2013-2014, Rule 11.9

There are consequences for rules violations which we will cover in this section, but I'd prefer you read the real rulebook if you want to know the specific sizing restrictions of goalie pads.

11.1 Goalkeeper's Equipment: The purpose of goalie equipment is to protect the goalie. He has a catching glove and a blocker which aid him in stopping the puck, but otherwise, goalie equipment shouldn't allow the goalie to cover more of the net than his body is capable of. In other words, goalie equipment should only be as big as it needs to be for protection and no more. This provision is very similar to Rule 9.4 on the Goalkeeper's Jersey, where the tie-down on a goalie's jersey cannot be done so that it creates a webbing effect that helps a goalie catch a puck in this webbing of the jersey.

11.2 Leg Guards: Hockey Operations has the final say in what the maximum sizes of goalie pads should be based on the different body types of the League's goaltenders. Anything Hockey Ops deems too big for a particular goaltender is considered illegal equipment.

11.3 Chest and Arm Pads: No raised ridges are allowed. This is in keeping with the spirit of Rule 11.1 that equipment should protect goalies and not necessarily aid in stopping the puck. As with the leg guards, Hockey Ops has the final say as to what is the appropriate maximum sizing for a goalie's chest and arm pads based on each goalie's body type; anything deemed "too big" is illegal.

11.4 Pants: No "cheater padding" is allowed to extend the size of the hockey pants. The same provisions about Hockey Ops being in charge and "too big is illegal" also apply here.

11.5 Knee Pads: A goalie's knee protection must be under the thigh guard of his hockey pants.

11.6 Catching Glove: There are lots of measurements and definitions of measurements and diagrams to help you visualize what the rulebook's talking about. [Rulebook p. 21-22, PDF p. 32-33.]

11.7 Blocking Glove: Blockers must be rectangles. They're serious about their shapes. Blockers can't have raised ridges.

In case a goalie is crazy enough to try playing the position without this equipment, the rules actually include a provision that "All goalkeepers must use one of each a blocking glove and catching glove." Perhaps this provision is actually targeted toward preventing goalies from using two catching gloves or two blockers. Although using two catching gloves while also carrying a hockey stick would be mildly entertaining to watch.

11.8 Masks: The League approves the designs of masks worn by goalkeepers. So you won't be seeing anything the FCC wouldn't like showing on TV on a goalie's mask anytime soon.

Just like most of the other provisions in this rule, a goalie mask that increases the stopping area is considered illegal.

11.9 League Inspections: As the citation earlier notes, these inspections are entirely random, and the consequences for violations are pretty severe. Any violation of this rule is an automatic 2-game suspension. It's one thing, I suppose, for a player to try to cheat the game by using illegal equipment, but the League doesn't like it even more when goalies try to do it.

If both a team's goalies are found to have illegal equipment, they're both suspended for two games, staggered, with the goalie who played that night serving the suspension first. So imagine we haven't played Toronto or Pittsburgh yet this week. If Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek (because you know Jonas Gustavsson will be too injured for an equipment inspection) are both found in violation of Rule 11 on Sunday against Chicago, then Howard who started against the Blackhawks would be suspended for the Toronto and Pittsburgh games Tuesday and Thursday; he then returns and Mrazek serves his suspension for the home-and-home series with Minnesota over the weekend.

If a goalie plays with equipment that hasn't been inspected and approved by Hockey Ops or tampers with equipment after it's been inspected and approved, then he gets a two-game suspension; his club gets a $25,000 fine; and his equipment manager gets a $1,000 fine of his own. You want people to follow the rules, then I guess fining your equipment manager $1,000 would be a pretty good deterrent. If there's another violation, then ALL penalties are doubled. The rulebook doesn't specify if it's in the same season or just by the same player ever. Part of me wants to think it's same to assume they mean in the same season, but I just never know with the NHL.

Refusal to submit goalie equipment to Hockey Ops for inspection is treated with an automatic "illegal equipment" finding and the penalties are assessed accordingly, namely the two-game suspension.

Rule 12 - Illegal Equipment

12.1 Illegal Equipment: All protective equipment that can be worn under the jersey has to be worn under the jersey. So I guess the "Jersey Tuck" rule wins this time. If a player persists after warning, then he's assessed a minor penalty and cannot participate in the game until he complies.

12.2 Gloves: If the palm is worn or cut away to let a player use his bare hand, the glove is illegal. Teams apparently can complain that a player is using an illegal glove; if it's illegal, then it's a minor penalty on the offending player; if it's not sustained, then the complaining club is assessed a delay of game bench minor.

12.3 Elbow Pads: Elbow pads which don't have sufficient "soft, protective" outer coverings are considered dangerous equipment, defined in Rule 9.8.

12.4 Fair Play: The whole idea of this section of rules and limitations on player and goalie equipment is that players should be protected as much as possible without gaining one advantage over an opponent because of equipment, and without using equipment that will cause other players harm in the course of its normal use. (We can wax philosophical on the idea of "fair play" for a while.)

If there is some new equipment development that the League feels flies in the face of "fair play," said equipment will be deemed illegal pending a hearing on whether to make it eligible for use during play or not.

Rule 13 - Puck

13.1 Dimensions: There's not much left to Section 3, so we may as well finish it off here. Pucks are to be made of vulcanized rubber, be one inch in thickness, three inches in diameter, and weigh from between five and a half to six ounces. As if Hockey Ops didn't have enough to do, "all pucks used in competition must be approved by the League."

13.2 Supply: Home team is responsible for providing enough pucks. They're to be kept at the penalty boxes in a freezer.

13.3 Illegal Puck: If there's ever a situation where there is more than one puck on the ice during play, play will only be stopped after a change of possession, provided play continues with the original puck.

Rule 14 - Adjustment to Clothing or Equipment

14.1 Adjustment to Clothing or Equipment: I really wish this rule were enforced more strictly. "Play shall not be stopped nor the game delayed by reasons of adjustments to clothing, equipment, skates or sticks." I know there are provisions in the rulebook pertaining to when goalies are injured and allowing them a bit of time to gather themselves rather than go to the backup, so delaying the game for players to get back into it isn't the most unheard of thing ever. But I've seen goalies go to the bench to tend to an equipment problem, and everyone waits for the problem to be resolved when it clearly says in the rulebook:

No delay shall be permitted for the repair or adjustment of goalkeeper’s equipment. If adjustments are required, the goalkeeper shall leave the ice and his place shall be taken by the substitute goalkeeper immediately.

Just enforce the rules as they're written. And if you don't like it, re-write or get rid of the rule.

EDIT 3/22/14: Commenter fnucchio presents a compelling case for enforcing this rule as it has been instead of as it is written:

In no way do I want to give any goalie, some of whom have been rumoured to possess inferior self-preservation skills, any incentive to pretend the strap on their mask DID NOT just break, or their padding became clumped leaving a portion of his body unprotected, or anything else.
If every goalie knows, "If I let the ref know X, I’ll have to immediately sit on the bench and I won’t get back out here until the next stoppage of play," some goalie somewhere will suffer some horrendous harm because they’re an idiot.

If you're like me and it took you a couple read-throughs to understand what fnucchio's saying, imagine Gustavsson's mask strap broke after stopping a shot with his head. If Gustavsson knows he'll be taken out of the game to tend to his equipment problem, he'll likely not tell anyone so that he can stay in the game. If he stays in the game and gets another puck to the head with an ill-working mask, you can imagine the potential consequences.


Section 3 on player equipment is done. Next time, we take out the big knife and start cutting into the meat of the rulebook and talking about penalties.