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NHL’s Quirkiest Rules: A Deep Dive into 3 Unusual Regulations

Weird NHL Rules

Like any other sport, hockey (NHL) has rules and regulations governing the game. While many of these rules are essential for maintaining fairness and safety on the ice, a few have raised eyebrows and sparked debates among fans and players alike.

In this blog, I’ll look at three unusual rules in the NHL rulebook that have generated fascination and frustration over the years.

1. The Trapezoid Rule: A Cage for Goalies

In the ever-evolving world of hockey, rule changes are often introduced to enhance the excitement of the game and promote more offense.

One such rule that aimed to achieve this is the trapezoid rule. But has it lived up to its intended purpose, or has it become a cage for goalies?

The Trapezoid’s Origins

Goalie Trapezoid

The trapezoid, a distinctive area behind the net, was introduced into the NHL in 2004-2005 to limit how much goaltenders could handle the puck. The idea was to encourage more offensive plays and reduce the dominance of skilled puck-handling goalies. However, the rule has had mixed results and sparked passionate debates.

A Goalie’s Dilemma

For goalies, the trapezoid can be a frustrating constraint. If a goalie ventures outside this area to play the puck, they risk receiving a delay of game penalty.

This means that even if a goalie sees a golden opportunity to launch the puck down the ice to set up an offensive play, they must think twice before making that move. In this sense, the trapezoid has limited the full potential of goalies’ puck-handling skills.

The Fan’s Perspective

From a fan’s perspective, the trapezoid rule has pros and cons. While it may limit goalies’ creativity, it ensures that every hockey fan knows what a trapezoid is and looks like. It adds an extra layer of excitement and anticipation when a goalie tests the boundaries of this geometric shape.

2. The Intent to Blow Rule: A Whistle’s Enigma

Hockey is a fast-paced sport where split-second decisions can make all the difference. But what happens when the timing of a referee’s whistle becomes a subject of debate? Enter the “intent to blow” rule, a source of confusion and frustration for players and fans alike.

Unpacking the “Intent to Blow”

The “intent to blow” rule comes into play when there’s a scrum in front of the net, and the referee doesn’t blow the whistle immediately but does so a few moments later.

The concept here is that the referee intended to blow the whistle a second earlier but was either too slow or hesitated. This introduces an element of uncertainty into the game.

Blowing Whistle

The Whistle’s Dilemma

In a sport where milliseconds matter, the “intent to blow” rule raises questions about consistency and fairness. Should a referee’s hesitation or delayed reaction impact the outcome of a play? Many argue that whistles should be a straightforward yes-or-no situation, without a mysterious third option where “Schrödinger’s whistle” can exist.

Players’ and Fans’ Frustration

The frustration with the “intent to blow” rule is not limited to players; fans also find it perplexing. The lack of clarity and the potential for game-altering decisions based on a referee’s subjective judgment can be maddening. This rule remains a puzzling enigma in a sport where precision and fairness are paramount.

3. The Tuck Rule: Keeping Uniforms in Check

While the NFL is famously associated with the Tuck rule, the NHL has its own version, and it’s not about footballs or quarterbacks. The NHL’s Tuck rule governs what players can and can’t do with their jerseys, and it’s a rule that has sparked controversy and curiosity.

The Return of the Tuck Rule

The NHL’s Tuck rule made a comeback during the 2013-2014 season, and it quickly made its presence felt. The rule dictates that a player’s jersey must be neatly tucked into their pants during play. While this might seem like a minor detail, it has led to some unusual penalties.

Tuck Rule
Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

Penalties for the Untucked

The penalties for violating the Tuck rule range from a simple warning to a player being slapped with a game misconduct penalty. This means that a player’s fashion choices on the ice can have serious consequences. The rule’s strict enforcement drew criticism from players like Alexander Ovechkin, Patrice Bergeron, and Morgan Rielly.

The Rule That Lingers

Interestingly, despite the backlash and questions surrounding the rule, it continues to exist in the NHL rulebook. While penalties for untucking jerseys have become increasingly rare, the rule remains on the books. It’s a quirky reminder that even in a fast-paced sport like hockey, the details of player uniforms are not to be overlooked.


Hockey is a sport that thrives on its rules and traditions, but it’s also a sport that isn’t afraid to experiment with new regulations.

The trapezoid, the “intent to blow” rule, and the Tuck rule are just a few examples of how the NHL’s rulebook contains some peculiar and occasionally frustrating elements. There are also rules like goalies can’t wear jersey C and more.

While these rules have generated discussions and debates among players and fans, they are also a testament to the unique charm of the game.

As we continue to watch the NHL evolve, it’s important to remember that these rules, no matter how unusual they may seem, are part of what makes hockey the captivating and unpredictable sport that it is. Whether they add excitement or confusion, they are an integral part of the game’s rich tapestry.

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