Fraser: Explaining rule on 'Deliberate Illegal Substitution'

Kerry Fraser
3/27/2013 1:20:03 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!


Here's an interesting question that arose while watching Tuesday's game in Toronto, between the Leafs and the Panthers. At approximately the 13 minute mark of the second period, the Florida Panthers dumped the puck off the boards and into the Toronto zone in an attempt to change lines.  While doing so, several of the Panthers jumped over the boards before the other line had come off the ice.  Toronto had possession of the puck at the time, and threw a long pass up to Frattin breaking across the Florida blue line. The official called a delayed "too many men/ice" penalty against Florida, and the Leafs added an extra attacker and had puck possession for close to 30 seconds.
This play seemed a bit unusual in that normally a "too many men/ice" penalty is called immediately, and is not often a delayed penalty.  However, in this scenario Toronto clearly had possession of the puck, and with a delayed penalty could pull their goalie and add the extra attacker.
In this case, where Florida was already being charged with too many men, could they have intentionally had several more of their players jump onto the ice to help stop the play?  After all, they were being called for too many men already.
In trying to answer my own question I thought maybe rule 74.4 "Deliberate Illegal Substitution" might apply, resulting in a second bench minor being awarded if the penalized team intentionally had additional players jump over the boards onto the ice.  The whole situation raised the question, that if a team was going to be called for too many men already, the team might as well have as many of their own players on the ice to break up the delayed penalty. 
What would be the official interpretation?
Don Clark (@TML_fan)

Rule 74.4 states that a penalty shot is to be assessed if by reason of insufficient time remaining, or by reason of penalties already imposed, a bench minor penalty for deliberate illegal substitution (too many men on the ice) cannot be served in its entirety within the legal playing time, or at any time in overtime.

It is important to note that the penalty shot would only be assessed if, as the title of the rule suggests, DELIBERATE ILLEGAL SUBSTITUTION took place as opposed to a bad line change which falls under the "too many men" category. I was made aware of the history of this rule during a rules session at my very first NHL training camp for Officials in 1972. You might find it interesting as it was told to us at training camp by Scotty Morrison, NHL Referee-in-Chief.

During the original six team era, a coach made a mockery of a game when his team was playing two men short with a third player also sitting in the penalty box on a delayed minor and less than two minutes remaining in regulation time.  At this point it made no difference how many minor penalties were called against the team so after each face-off the frustrated coach dumped another player over the boards and received yet another bench minor for too many men on the ice. These subsequent penalties had no effect for the on-ice numerical strength and the only purpose for the coach was to embarrass the referee and the game through this delay tactic.  A rule was put into the book to differentiate between "deliberate" illegal substitution and a routine too many men on the ice we see on a line change.

In your scenario, Don, where multiple players jumped over the boards on the delayed penalty for too many men on the ice it would definitely be deemed "deliberate" and the penalty shot would only be assessed if there was insufficient time remaining to serve the bench minor.

The Referee could assess a second bench minor penalty under rule 68—Illegal Substitution when a player (or in this case players) enters the game illegally from the players' bench; or Rule 63—Delaying the Game which says in the broad sense that a player or a team may be penalized, when in the opinion of the Referee, is delaying the game in any manner if play had to be stopped. The third option would be to deem the coach guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct and assess a bench minor penalty under Rule 39—Abuse of Officials for making a mockery of the game.

Justice would be best served if the Referee assessed a second minor penalty when illegal substitutions were made as you suggested.  A report to the Commissioner setting out the full details of the incident would also be filed by the Referee after the game for this unusual situation.

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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