NHL makes important change to offside rule

Justin Cuthbert
·1-min read
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 21:  Referee Wes McCauley overturns a goal by the New York Rangers in the second period for offsides against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden on January 21, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
The NHL made a vital change to its offside rule ahead of the upcoming 2021 season. (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hallelujah.

As part of a release with finalized details around medical protocols and transition rules for the NHL’s return to play, the league and the players’ association announced a change to the offside rule as written in the league’s officiating handbook.

The often exasperating NHL Rule No. 83 now states that a player will be considered on- or off-side based on the "plane" of the blue line, “which shall extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards.” This means that a player’s position in space — and no longer simply their point of contact with the ice — will be considered when making calls on the ice and when examining offside reviews.

Whether the technology is in place to efficiently imagine and implement the vertical plane now being used to determine the legality of a player’s position within the review process remains to be seen. If not, there will still be a degree of interpretation involved and remain the work in progress it has been since offside review was first implemented. Still, the change will remove needless nuance to the rule while also significantly cutting down on review time, making it an important step forward in fixing an obvious flaw in the rulebook.

Among other conditions announced Tuesday, the identities of players who test positive for COVID-19 will be shared to the public, which marks a significant change to the highly-secretive approach mandated in the league’s summer return.

What’s also new is that coaches will have to wear masks behind the bench.

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