NHL linesmen just got a little busier.  This season, they’ll be picking up a few more face-offs at center ice.

Referees will now only drop the puck to start each of the three regulation periods.  Linesmen will handle all the remaining puck drops, including those after a goal is scored and all draws in overtime.



Previously, referees would drop the puck on a face-off following a goal. They also handled the opening draw in overtime. Not any more.

The change puts more face-offs in the skilled hands of those who are best at it — the linesmen. For those clamoring for consistency among officials, this is a good way to improve consistency on dropping the puck. Let the guys who’ve mastered it handle that job.

So, how much more work is it?

NHL games averaged 60 face-offs per game last season. With an average of six goals per game, that’s six more face-offs for the linesmen in each game. They’ve also picked up the draw to start overtime. With linesmen working 74 games a season, and 21% of games going to overtime, that’s about 16 more overtime face-offs for each pairing of linesmen of the course of the season.

When you break it all down, each linesman averaged 27 face-offs per game last season. They’ll drop the puck, on average, 30 times per game for 2019-20.

Nothing huge, but a minor tweak that may help with consistency.  It also frees up the referees to watch for infractions on those center-ice draws.

With a ten-percent increase in face-offs, let’s hope the linesmen negotiated a comparable raise for their increased duties as part of their new CBA.

Okay, now let’s drop the puck, ref liney!