After further review, the NHL will be making some changes to the rule book for the start of the 2019-20 season.

The largest impact comes from changes to video review, both in an expansion of the scope of Coach’s Challenges as well as additional replay opportunities for referees to review their own calls.


Coach’s Challenges Added For Missed Stoppages In Play

For the upcoming season, coaches will be able to challenge goaltender interference and offside, as well as plays prior to a goal that should’ve resulted in a stoppage of play.  Situations covered under this rule include pucks played with a high stick in the offensive zone, pucks that may have hit the spectator netting, and hand passes.

If in effect during the playoffs, this rule would have allowed the St. Louis Blues to challenge the hand-pass that led to the Sharks’ game-winning goal in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

“The way the rules are written, any chance there is to review, everything is reviewed that’s reviewable,” said NHL Officiating Supervisor Kay Whitmore, after that game-deciding goal. “But as the rules currently stand, the play is non-reviewable.”

Not anymore. Going forward, that’s a coach’s challenge.

“The increased use of video replay is something that we’ve considered and discussed over time, and at this point in time, we think it was the appropriate response to what we were seeing coupled with what we believe is our ability to do it,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

The league will continue to allow challenges as long as the puck remains in the offensive zone.  No change was made to negate the ability to challenge based on the defending team gaining possession of the puck.


No Limit to Coach’s Challenges; Failed Challenges Result In Penalty

The Coach’s Challenge was first introduced with failed attempts costing a timeout.  The league then moved to timeouts for interference but a minor penalty for offside. Now, it’s penalties all the way down — and as many as you’d like.

The league has opened the floodgates on Coach’s Challenges, no longer limiting teams to one challenge per game. Teams may challenge as many times as they’d like.  The first failed challenge will result in a two-minute minor for delay of game.  All subsequent challenges will be a four-minute double-minor.

“The theory there is we don’t want lots and lots of challenges,” said Bettman. “We don’t want to disrupt the flow of the game. We only want challenges where it’s crystal clear that an egregious mistake has been made. If it’s, ‘Well, maybe it could be, maybe it shouldn’t,’ then there shouldn’t be a challenge. I think the coaches and video coaches will adapt to that.”

Offside challenges dropped dramatically when a penalty was added for an unsuccessful attempt. We’ll wait to see if the same happens for goaltender interference, or if removing the timeout requirement results in multiple-challenge games — especially when the team feels strongly about the goal being overturned.


Referees to Review Major/Match Penalties

Referees will now be required to take a second look at any major or match penalties called on the ice. The officials will have the option of either confirming the call or reducing it to a minor penalty.

That major penalty to Golden Knights’ forward Cody Eakin that sparked the Sharks’ four-goal comeback?  The officials would’ve headed over for another look at the play to confirm the penalty.

These reviews will be handled entirely by the on-ice officials, with no input from the league’s Situation Room.


Referee Option to Review High-Sticking Double-Minors

Refs will have the option to review a high-sticking double-minor to confirm the call on the ice. They’ll also check to ensure whether the penalized player’s stick actually caused the damage.  The officials will have the ability to wave off the penalty call after review.

“The primary intention there obviously is the friendly fire-type offenses where perhaps a player’s own stick or his teammate’s stick causes the injury to the head,” said NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

This one is at the refs’ discretion, but expect some friction from the penalized player’s bench when a ref opts not to take a second look at the play.  Like the review of majors and match penalties, this one’s all up to the on-ice officials; the Situation Room does not weigh in.

“With respect to the major and the match among other things there is a concern that we may through either hockey ops or player safety have to be reviewing it for other things and we don’t want conflicting decisions,” Bettman added. “With respect to the four-minute (penalty), what we’re really looking at is did they get the call right. These are things that are easier for them to self-evaluate.”


Awarded Goal for Goaltender Deliberately Displacing Net on Breakaway

Goaltenders who intentionally bump the net off its moorings during a breakaway will automatically give up a goal.  Previously, a penalty shot would have been awarded on the play per Rule 63.5. You can thank David Leggio for this one.

(Interesting to note that the AHL’s response was a bit more personal. The league opted to issue a game misconduct to the goalie along with the penalty shot, to be take against the replacement goaltender.)

Intentionally knocking the net off in non-breakaway situations still results in a minor penalty for delay of game.

Dislodged Net, Shots Stopped from Over Red Line to be Treated Like Icing

While the league opted not to treat the dreaded ‘puck over glass’ penalty like icing, they did find two situations that will now result in a defensive zone faceoff with no line changes for the offending team.

Shots fired from beyond the red line must be moved by the goaltender. If the puck is frozen, that goalie’s club will not be permitted to change players. It’s motivation to keep the puck moving.

Similarly, if a defending player dislodges the net, his team will not be able to make a line change.


Pick Your Faceoff Dot

Offensive teams will now be able to pick the faceoff dot for all draws that start a power play or that come after an icing, as well as in newly-added situations with a dislodged net or a shot frozen from over the red line.

Teams will be able to favor the handedness of their centerman, or create favorable positioning for the draw. Have a guy who’s got a great one-timer from the left circle? Now you can pick the right one every time.

Offensive Zone Draw for Puck Out of Bounds

If the offensive team is responsible for the puck going out of play in the offensive zone, the faceoff will now remain in the offensive zone.

Previously, only certain situations would result in an offensive zone faceoff:


No Helmet? Head to the Bench

Forget the flow and grab your bucket, boys. No longer will players be allowed to play helmetless. Players who lose their helmets will have the option of recovering them and putting them back on or heading right to the bench. A player making a play or in position to make a play will be given a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to complete the play.

This is similar to an existing rule within the IIHF and seems a small concession by the league when it comes to player safety and head injuries.


The rules take effect with the start of the 2019-20 NHL season.  The official wording and rule book updates will be available prior to the season.