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Officially Speaking: Non-penalty stoppages

01/02/2019, 9:15am CST
By Mark Lichtenfeld

The worst part of any hockey game are the automatic offsides, shorthanded icing, etc.

Let’s Play Hockey photo by Mike Thill

The NPS.

National Park Service? What’s that got to do with Officially Speaking?

No. The NPS. The Non-Penalty Stoppage.

The worst part of any hockey game is the NPS. You know, automatic offsides. Short-handed icing. That stuff.

OK, piggybacking on a previous column, viewing a hockey game from the stands is often a painful experience at best. And trust me, no one wants to hear a whistle – to have the play halted. What they do want is fast, continuous non-interrupted action to keep their respective interests and stymie thoughts of boredom coupled with the physical sensation of transforming into popsicles imprisoned within the bowels of a zero-degree freezer.

That’s not just for parents. It also goes for players, coaches, refs and scorekeepers.

What’s really incredible is that as players advance to higher levels of competition, the aforementioned USA Hockey NPS rules are no longer applicable. So despite what the “experts” say, most reasonable-thinking participants know these NPS rules make little sense.

So what if 12U McKenzie learns to hold the puck outside the offensive zone until her mates clear the blue line when next season and for the rest of her life, she can legally swat the biscuit into the corner on a delayed offsides’ situation.

Similarly, why should parents and relatives sigh in disgust every time 14U Jackson ices the puck when his squad is down by two players when next year, his 16U coach will instruct him to execute that very play as a correct hockey decision?

Even assuming, for the sake of argument, that skills are somehow improved by these rules, in truth, the negative costs of breaking up action, losing audience concentration and making the game increasingly boring, especially for us officials, are substantially outweighed by these statutory mandates. 

When I watched that game at Lake Forest Academy last month, I cringed at all those NPS whistles.

In other words, the costs outweigh the benefits.

Which means it’s time to rid the hockey world of these NPS rules.


Questions and comments can be sent to, via Twitter @OSpeaking or through the Let’s Play Hockey Facebook page.

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Tag(s): State Of Hockey  News  Officially Speaking