Earlier today, the NHL and NHLPA jointly announced that they are making what could be a pretty big change to the (somewhat) controversial shift rule.
As you are no doubt aware, the NHL has experienced a variety of “millimeters or maybe not” offside challenges over the past two years, with umpires needing 100x zoom to try to determine if a player was on. on or offside.
Good stuff, right?
One of the most common offside issues was whether or not a player’s skate was on the ice, with officials zooming in so far that we were analyzing hockey games pixel by pixel.
It’s crazy to do such a thing in such a fast-paced game, and it looks like the league and its players agree.
With this in mind, both parties have added a new section to rule 83.1 which eliminates the need for a player’s skate to be on the ice for it to be considered in play.
This new section reads (emphasis added):
A player is on the side when one of his skates is in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the line, as the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line. Its side of the line should be defined by a “plane” of the blue line which should extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards. If a player’s skate has not yet broken the “plane” before the puck passes the leading edge, it is considered to be sideways for the purposes of the offside rule.
Basically, if a player’s skate is in the air, but is not completely in the attacking zone, it will be considered to be in play.
This setting eliminates the need to determine whether or not a player’s skate is touching the ice or is 2mm from the ice.
It’s a bit like the way the NFL treats the goal line when it comes to ‘breaking the plane’, except players break the front (side closest to the court) of that plane, while NHL players are going to smash the back (side closest to the offensive. zone) of the plane.
Planes, breakage, leading edges… all very important terms in hockey.
If nothing else, that seems like a nice rule change in common sense on both sides.
I still think they should change the offside review process as well and give referees 30 seconds of full-game speed reruns to make the call, but that’s a fight for another day.