It pays to know the rulebook.  Especially in those cases when it might cost you.

The Pittsburgh Penguins need to brush up on Rule 9.6 after a lost helmet led to the New York Rangers’ game-tying goal.Helmet Rule Costs Penguins in Loss to Rangers

Pittsburgh’s Marcus Petterson was battling with the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere behind the net.  The New York winger appeared to get his skates caught in the goal net; he fell to the ice, taking Petterson with him and popping off his helmet in the process.


The Pens’ defenseman appealed to referee Gord Dwyer who made no penalty call on the play. Petterson then headed to the bench for a change.  The Rangers took advantage of the numerical advantage, with Mike Zibanejad scoring the game-tying goal moments later.

“He has to come off by rule — by the rule,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “I think it stinks.  He has to come off.  His helmet got pulled off intentionally, but that’s the rule.”

Not exactly.   While both Petterson and Sullivan were aware that players aren’t permitted to play without a helmet, neither seemed to be aware of the alternatives.

A skater who has lost his helmet has two options: go to the bench for a change or put the helmet back on.   Here’s Rule 9.6:

A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play shall be assessed a minor penalty if he does not exit the playing surface, or retrieve and replace his helmet properly on his head (with or without his chin strap fastened), within a reasonable period of time. It is reasonable if a player who is making a play on the puck or who is in the vicinity of the puck and engaged in the play at the time his helmet comes off, takes the opportunity to complete the play before either exiting the ice or retrieving and replacing his helmet.

With Petterson’s bucket only a few feet away, he would have been able to replace it and stay in the play.   He likely couldn’t justify continuing in the play, as the puck was not in the vicinity.   Still, he didn’t have to go to the bench, leaving his team shorthanded.

“I think that’s a rule made by the NHL that could be changed,” said Pens goaltender Tristan Jarry. “I don’t think there’s many injuries that happen when players play without helmets. I think it’s something that’s cost us. I think that he loses his helmet, he comes back to the net and he plays a guy out front, I think that’s a nothing play.”

As far as a penalty on Lafreniere, the officials would need to determine that it was intentional.  Removing an opponent’s helmet can result in a minor for roughing. That penalty has been handed out a few times this season, but typically when a player grabs and pulls off the helmet.  It’s a bit less obvious with both players falling to the ice.

A player who intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play shall be assessed a minor penalty for roughing.

The call is not eligible for review, nor would the goal be able to be challenged in this case.  Goals can only be challenged for goaltender interference, offside, or a potential missed stoppage — and a possible missed penalty call does not apply.

“That terrible rule ends up probably being the difference in the game,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

The Penguins may object to the rule, but they might also want to make sure they know it.   Especially since they had an issue with it last year. 

Pittsburgh found themselves in a similar situation against another New York team in 2021, as noted by Taylor Haase of DK Pittsburgh Sports. Defenseman John Marino – who was on the ice when Petterson lost his helmet against the Rangers – had his bucket come off during a battle along the boards with the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck.  Marino picked up the helmet and carried it with him as he skated to the bench.  The Isles took advantage, scoring on the play.

“We’re actually asking for a little more clarity on that circumstance because it’s our understanding that John can stay in the battle there,” Sullivan said back in 2021. “We obviously get outnumbered because of it. We’re asking for clarity on that from the league. It’s my understanding that he can stay in that battle and look for the opportune time to get to the bench. That was just a circumstance that occurred in the game. Hopefully, we can avoid those moving forward. But part of it is just getting clarification from the league.”

Hopefully the Pens received that clarification.  If not, they should’ve followed up.  If they did, they should’ve remembered.


The New York Rangers went on to win the game 4-3, winning their best-of-seven series against Pittsburgh.

Referees for the game were Kelly Sutherland (#11) and Gord Dwyer (#19); linesmen were Steve Barton (#59) and Devin Berg (#87).