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Officially Speaking: Leaving the bench/box early

03/05/2019, 9:00am CST
By Mark Lichtenfeld

Once in a while, a question comes into the OS mailbox which is most difficult to dissect.

Photo: Christine Wisch

Once in a while, a question comes into the OS mailbox which is most difficult to dissect.

Dear OS:

My kid was playing in a squirt tournament up in Northern Minnesota and we had a unique officiating call in our championship game. Team A (my son’s team) is up 3-1. Team B has a player in the box on a major penalty. Then, coincidental minors are assessed. Team A stays on a 5-on-4 power play. At the end of their coincidental penalties, they are let out of the box during game play. Seconds later, Team B scores on a 2-on-1. The tournament director sees this and runs to the scorer’s box to tell them they messed up by letting the players out before a stoppage. Initially, it appears they were not going to allow the goal as both teams had too many players on the ice – if only for a moment (it’s not clear if it was 6-on-5 when the goal was scored). After a lengthy discussion, the goal stands. Thankfully, it didn’t end up making a difference in the game as Team A won 3-2. Obviously, the folks in the box messed up, first by putting the penalties on the scoreboard, and second by letting the kids out before a stoppage. But what should have happened after the goal was scored?

Wow! Here’s a set of circumstances that occurred through no fault of the officials, though the final call was squarely on the zebras’ shoulders. And unlike some Chicago refs that have a direct line to OS (and have actually called the hotline during game stoppages for instant rule advice), the aforementioned officials did not avail themselves of such assistance.

Here’s a quick analysis of what should have happened. Naturally, we start with the USA Hockey insurance manual . . . errr . . rulebook.

Rule 629 | Leaving the Players’ Bench or Penalty Bench 
 (c) If a player illegally enters the game either from the players’ bench or penalty bench (Timekeeper error or not), any goal that is scored by the offending team while he is illegally on the ice shall be disallowed. However, all penalties assessed to either team shall be served in the normal manner.

Quite simply, the goal should not have been allowed. The rulebook and casebook do not distinguish between both players on the ice illegally or just one participant illegally entering the game from the penalty bench. As a result, a clear reading of the rule would require that the goal be disallowed. Based on eyewitness testimony, the players were erroneously let out of the box during play and a goal was scored seconds later, so the goal cannot stand. Of course, the rule was written for instances when only one player entered the game illegally, but for you high school seniors looking to major in pre-law, the rule does not make exceptions for that and in fact, the team that scored had six players on the ice, including one player who had illegally entered the game from the penalty box due to timekeeper error. 

Goal disallowed. Moreover, scorekeeper forfeits pay for the game.

Now, call the next case!


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