Fraser: What happens if players leave box in wrong order?

Kerry Fraser
1/22/2013 3:04:18 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

Hi Kerry,

I loved your book and what you bring to the TSN website with this column, especially reading it from a (minor hockey) ref's perspective.

My question is about a play that occurred during the Leafs' home opener against the Buffalo Sabres. In the first period, Drew Stafford took an interference penalty, then Tyler Myers took a delay of game penalty and then Steve Ott got a penalty for closing his hand on the puck. Now I'm sure you saw this if you were watching the game but the penalties were stacked because they had three guys in the box so they needed to wait for two penalties to expire before being able to send another guy out there and when the penalty finally expired (and no whistle had gone yet) it was Myers who left the box instead of the first penalized play, Stafford. At the stoppage of play they reviewed it but why was there no penalty on that play? Myers would have been an ineligible player for leaving the box before he was allowed to, wouldn't he?

Belleville, Ontario

Hi Ryan,

Thank you for your question and kudos for The Final Call.

As you are aware, the delayed penalty rule states, "During the play, the Penalty Timekeeper shall permit the return to the ice of the penalized players, in the order of expiry of their penalties, but only when the penalized team is allowed to have more than four players on the ice."

Drew Stafford, as the first player penalized had the first penalty to expire and should have returned to the ice ahead of Tyler Myers. The reason that no additional penalty was assessed on this play is because the Sabres were entitled to relief once the penalty to Myers expired on the clock and it is the responsibility of the Penalty Timekeeper to send out the correct player (in this case Stafford).

Let's play this out and envision how this could have possibly happened.

- Stafford is penalized for interfering with Joffrey Lupul at 14:24 of the first period.

- Myers shoots the puck over the glass 21 seconds later to put the Sabres two men short.

- With both penalties clicking down on the clock Steve Ott receives another Sabres penalty at 16:01 for closing his hand on the puck. Ott's penalty becomes delayed until the first penalty on the clock to Stafford expires at 16:24.

- As Stafford's penalty clicks off the clock, Ott's two-minute minor immediately starts. Stafford must however remain in the box for another 21 seconds until Myers' penalty expires on the clock.

This is where the breakdown occurred. Myers and the penalty box attendant, who is responsible for opening the door, were intently watching Myers penalty click down second by second on the clock until it finally hit :00, the door is opened and out flies Myers. There was a failure to communicate that when Myers penalty expired on the clock it was Stafford that must jump through the open door and onto the ice!

I had this happen to me only once as a result of the gentleman in the penalty box failing to inform the players which one was entitled to return to the ice during play. From that moment on (and as the Captain of the Ship) I felt it incumbent upon me to remind the Penalty Timekeeper and advised the players in the penalty box the order in which each player was entitled to return to the ice should play continue after the expiration of penalties. 

The Sabres were entitled to have four skaters on the ice but it was through the error of the penalty timekeeper that the wrong player was let out of the box. As such no additional penalty was deserved.

Taking this one step further, if through the fault of the penalty timekeeper a player is let out of the box with time remaining on his unexpired penalty that player would return to the penalty box at the first whistle to serve the balance of his unexpired penalty. The player would not incur any additional penalty for leaving the penalty bench prematurely unless he did so on his own and through no error of the penalty timekeeper.

It is most prudent for all referees to be proactive and communicate to the penalty timekeeper and to the players serving penalties the order in which they must return to the ice with play in progress!

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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