The National Hockey League has made a few tweaks to the rulebook for the upcoming season.

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2017-18 NHL Rulebook


Minor Penalty for Failed Offside Challenge

The league has upped the stakes on an offside challenge. A failed challenge will now result in a minor penalty for delay of game rather than just a forfeited timeout.

From Rule 78.7:

If the result of the challenge is that the play was “On-side”, the goal shall count and the team that issued the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

Coaches challenged goals for offside situations 117 times last season, with 39 overturned.  Coaches could challenge a pivotal goal with only their timeout at stake. In many cases, it was a no-risk situation.  Best case: the goal was overturned.  Worst case: The team was given a chance to regroup, with the review delay taking far longer than a thirty-second timeout.

“We’re in effect trying to discourage using the coach’s challenge on offside unless you’re really 100 per cent certain that you’re going to win because it was a blown call,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. “The coach’s challenge was really intended to focus on glaring errors. And by imposing a two-minute penalty if you’re wrong, it should limit the number of challenges to those instances where there’s a glaring error.”

The possibility of going shorthanded – especially right after giving up a goal – may make teams a bit more hesitant to throw their challenge flag on a close play.  That speeds up the game, and reduces the number of momentum-killing challenges.

“We don’t want to get scored on, go back on the penalty kill right away, and give the game away,” said Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan. “Last year, when you could gamble, when it was worth taking the risk, we took the risk. This year, we’re going to have to be a little more selective.”

General managers voted 30-1 in favor of the change.  Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan, though, is not a fan.

“Personally, the way I viewed it was the intent of the rule was to try and get the call right,” Sullivan told the Post-Gazette. “It seems to me like adding a punitive measure to a challenge is trying to discourage a challenge, and not necessarily to get the call right. If the league wants less challenges, that’s exactly what’s going to happen because if anything’s close, I’m not sure coaches are going to run the risk. For me, it was more about the intent of the rule, which was to get the call right.”

No change was made to Coach’s Challenges for goaltender interference, which require a team have a time-out available. No minor penalty will be handed out for an unsuccessful interference challenge; the challenging team will continue to forfeit its timeout as a result.

No Timeouts After Icings

Rule 87.1 has been modified to prevent a club from taking an extended break after icing the puck.

No time-out shall be granted to the defensive team following an icing

“You’re always trying to think about things that create offense, and that’s another way for a coach to stall an opportunity to take advantage of a vulnerable situation,” said New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton. “I think it’s a pretty good thought.”

In 2005, the league changed the rules to prevent teams from changing players after an icing. The newest tweak reinforces the original goal: punishing teams who ice the puck.

“The notion was if you ice the puck there should be a consequence to it,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, “having players who aren’t rested.”

The AHL adopted this rule prior to the start of the 2016-17 season.

Faceoff Location After Puck Played With High Stick

Rule 80, which covers high-sticking the puck, has been updated. Section 80.4 has been removed entirely.

Previously, if a team on the power play used a high stick to play the puck, deflect the puck out of play, or tip the puck into the net, the faceoff would go to the offending team’s defensive zone.

In all cases, the faceoff will now move to the neutral zone faceoff location nearest to where the puck was played with a high stick.


While slashing and faceoff violations were called more frequently during the preseason, neither uptick resulted from changes to the rule book. The league tightened up enforcement of the rules as already written.