Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Game Misconducts Continued

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 rulebook post finishes Rule 23 on Game Misconducts.

2013-14 NHL Official Rules (PDF)

Rule 23 - Game Misconduct Penalties (cont'd)

We began the discussion of game misconducts in the last rulebook post, spelling out definitions and fines and suspensions for General Category and Abuse of Officials violations. We pick up that discussion with another subset of fines and suspensions.

23.5 Fines and Suspensions - Stick Infractions, Boarding and Checking from Behind Category: In the regular season, if a player gets two game misconduct penalties for stick-related infractions, Rule 41 Boarding violations, or Rule 43 Checking from Behind violations, then he'll be suspended automatically for one game. The catch is that the second violation must occur within 41 games for the automatic suspension to take place. So if Brendan Smith gets five and a game for boarding in game 1, he avoids the automatic suspension if he gets another five and a game for boarding in game 43. As with the other subsections, if players commit incur additional game misconducts after getting the automatic suspension, he incurs longer automatic suspension times. For those of you who weren't here last time, two infractions means a one-game suspension; a third means a second suspension of two games; a fourth, three, and so on, within the same season.

In the playoffs, the standard is the same for how accruing game misconducts--two of them--leads to automatic suspensions, but because the maximum number of playoff games is 28 for two teams, there isn't the same 41-game reprieve of a player's game misconduct record.

Speaking of that 41-game sample: The rulebook phrases it this way: "In regular season League games, any player who incurs a total of two (2) game misconduct penalties for [stick fouls, boarding, and checking from behind], before playing in 41 consecutive regular season League games without one such penalty . . ." This "41 consecutive games" applies to the player, not the team. This point is relevant to the last paragraph of this subsection:

A player’s total games played will cover a two-year time period from the date of the first game misconduct penalty for each category of foul.

So if Brian Lashoff plays in game 1 of next season, say on October 2, 2014, and gets a game misconduct under this subsection in that game AND plays in 40 more games before being permanently removed from the lineup for the rest of the season, he will incur a suspension if he is assessed a second game misconduct under this subsection in his next game (his 41st "consecutive" game) prior to October 2, 2016. If he plays his next game without incurring a game misconduct, or if he plays his next game past the 2016 date, his record under this rule is wiped clean.

Table 11 on page 134 (PDF p. 145) titled "Summary of Game Misconduct Fouls Included in the 'Stick-related Category'" lists the stick-related infractions that can incur a game misconduct. They are butt-ending, cross-checking, hooking, slashing, and spearing.

23.6 Automatic Game Misconduct: We covered this rule in the post on Major Penalties, specifically Rule 20.4. Basically, if a major penalty results in injury (and it's not a match penalty), it's almost certainly going to result in an automatic game misconduct.

23.7 Other Infractions That Could Result in a Game Misconduct: Table 12 on page 135 (PDF p. 146) titled "Summary of Game Misconduct Penalties" lists *some* of the infractions that can result in a game misconduct penalty. This subsection adds offenses that would literally make someone the most hated player in hockey if they committed any of these things:

In addition, the following list of infractions can also result in a game misconduct penalty being assessed:

(i) interfering with or striking a spectator.

(ii) racial taunts or slurs

(iii) spitting on or at an opponent or spectator

We all laugh about stuff like the Mike Milbury shoe incident, but especially when you watch the video of it, it's actually pretty dangerous and shake-head-worthy. Especially after racially-charged incidents involving Wayne Simmonds and P.K. Subban and Joel Ward, actual and unquestionable racial taunts and slurs coming from players in the middle of a game deserve at least a game misconduct. They should not be tolerated. Same with spitting on or at anyone.

Spectators to hockey games should also take solace in at least the lip service the NHL rulebook pays to protecting spectators from physical harm from the players. Any player that interferes with spectators, gets involved in an altercation with them, or throws something at them gets an automatic game misconduct. The referee then reports any and all such incidents to the Commissioner "who shall have the full power to impose such further penalty as he shall deem appropriate." I hope that Gary Bettman would impose stiffer punishments against players for violating this rule than the Department of Player Safety is willing to dish out for players trying to hurt each other.


I expected to get into penalty shots in this post, but it turns out there was more to finish Rule 23 than I expected. There's no point in starting penalty shots now just to cut it off the way I did with game misconducts. We start Rule 24 on penalty shots next time. For sure.