The NHL rule book has been updated for the 2020-21 season.  Download your copy here.  There’s not much in the way of changes for the upcoming season, though the one that was made is potentially a big one: a change to the offside rule.


From the NHL:

“Beginning in the 2020-21 season, a player’s skate will not have to be in contact with the blue line in order to be onside.”

Here’s the updated portion of the rule, with the update underlined:

Offside (83.1)

A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line.

On his own side of the line shall be defined by a “plane” of the blue line which shall extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards. If a player’s skate has yet to break the “plane” prior to the puck completely crossing the leading edge, he is deemed to be on-side for the purpose of the off-side rule.

A player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered “off-side,” provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the leading edge of the blue line.

While the rule says ‘break the plane’, we’re taking the league to mean the skate has ‘cleared the plane’ as the determining factor, as it’s not the leading edge ‘breaking’ the plane that is the determining factor, but the trailing edge of the skate completely crossing the line.

Note that this does not apply to player exiting the zone to tag up on a delayed offside. In those cases, a player’s skate must still contact the blue line.

In the video above, the league provided three examples off offside calls that would be considered onside under the new rule.

Two more minor changes were made to existing rules:

Time-Outs (87.1)

The league previously took away a team’s ability to change players after a shot from beyond the center ice red line or when a defending player dislodged the net.  Now they’ve also removed the ability to take a time out.

No time-out shall be granted following a face-off violation.

No time-out shall be granted to the defensive team following an icing, following the goalkeeper causing a stoppage of play from a shoot-in from beyond the center red line, or when a defending player accidentally dislodges the net causing a stoppage of play


Hand Signals – Fighting (29.11)

The NHL has also introduced a hand signal for fighting.  There was not an official one previously.

We’d like to think this was inspired by referee Dan O’Halloran’s famous gesture.   (Stick-tap to Sebastien Goulet for catching that!)



Don’t forget to brush up on the many rule changes from the 2019-20 season, which saw the expansion of Coach’s Challenges; changes to failed challenges; additional ref reviews for major penalties, match penalties, and high-sticking double-minors, and some minor tweaks to lines changes, displaced nets, and faceoff locations.

Time for some reading! Catch up on the rule book before the puck drops on the 2020-21 season!


Download the 2020-21 NHL Rulebook