The San Jose Sharks were left shorthanded Wednesday night after a last-second roster change resulted in an ineligible player taking the ice.
San Jose defenseman Paul Martin skated in warm-ups and was listed on the game roster sheet. Prior to puck drop, the club decided he wasn’t good to go and opted to dress Mirco Mueller in his place. The only problem? Nobody told the official scorer.
At 6:36 of the first, referees Jon McIsaac and Dan O’Halloran flagged Mueller and sent him off the ice.
The NHL rulebook covers this in section 5.2 Eligible Players:
Only players on the list submitted to the Official Scorer before the game may participate in the game. The determining factor when considering whether or not a player is eligible is that the player’s name, and not necessarily the player’s number, must be correctly listed by the Manager or Coach of that team.
Whenever an ineligible player is identified to the Referee, the ineligible player will be removed from the game and the Club shall not be able to substitute another player from its roster. No additional penalties are to be assessed but a report of the incident must be submitted to the Commissioner.
The game was scoreless at the time, but what would’ve happened if the ineligible player had scored a goal? Rule 5.2 continues:
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.
Mueller went off, leaving the Sharks with five defensemen for the remainder of the game.
“That’s on us, the coaches,” said coach Pete DeBoer. “We have some checks and balances on our lineup. Went into warm-up and we felt Marty could play and there was some last-minute movement there, obviously. He didn’t play and just got left out.”
“I feel badly,” DeBoer added. “I apologized to Mirco. It’s not a good spot to put him in, but I thought the other guys did a good job.”
Officially, Mueller’s 1:09 of ice time was credited to Martin on the game sheet. He finished with one blocked shot attempt.
“You can’t blame anybody for it,” said San Jose’s Mikael Boedker. “There was a guy (Martin) that was going to play that didn’t play. It happens.”
At least the Sharks didn’t have to forfeit the game for dressing a suspended player.