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Have a question? - just ASK the REF!

Welcome to the "Ask the Ref" section of the BYH website. We've been helping answer your questions regarding the rules and regulations of USA Hockey by tapping into our local officials and sharing their responses on this forum. To ask a question please send an to our Panel and check back here for an answer.





November 2011      – time-outs 
                              – kicking puck in goal

December 2011 – hooking

                              – major for head contact

                              – goal frame displaced

January 2012     – player in goal frame area

October 2012     –too many men

November 2012      – tripping

                              – error on Icing

                              – goalie skating out

                              – double minor penalties

                              – shot on goal definition


January 2013     – Body contact vs body checking

January 2013 – Time-outs for the Capital District area

January 2013 – Goalkeeper’s Privileged Area defined








November 2011 UPDATED January2013

Q. Can I use a time-out to warm-up my goalie?

A. Rule 636(f) states that each team is permitted one time-out of 60 seconds duration during the game whether in regulation play or overtime. For time curfew games, no time-outs shall be permitted.

** The key phrase here is ‘no time-outs shall be permitted for time curfew games’. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much every rink in our area; hence refs are instructed not to allow timeouts.  Only rinks in our area allowing time-outs are Frear Park, Clifton Park 1 and Clifton Park 2.  Note that some tournaments may allow them so be sure to read the tournament rules carefully.  If you’re allowed a time-out, either team can warm up their goalkeeper.


Q. Our attacking player near the opposing goal crease clearly kicks the puck which then hits the opposing defensemen before going into the goal. The referee waved off the goal stating it was kicked and it didn’t matter that it hit someone else before going in. Is that right?

A. Referee made the correct call.

Rule 617 Goals and Assists; (c), (1) – states that a goal shall not be allowed if an attacking player kicks the puck directly into the goal or a kicked puck deflects off any player, including goalkeeper, prior to entering the goal.


December 2011

Q. During a game, one of my attacking forwards was being hooked on the hands but the ref didn’t call a hook stating the opposing player only had one hand on his stick. Isn’t this still a hook?

A. Yes, a hook is a hook regardless if you have one hand on the stick or both. Ref should have made the call as per the rule.

Rule 623: Hooking – a minor or major penalty shall be assessed to a player who impedes the progress of the opponent by using the blade of their stick on the body or stick of the opponent.


Q. One of my players received a major penalty for head contact when in fact he hit the opposing player around the neck. Why would this be considered a major head contact penalty?

A. Rule 620 Head Contact - states a minor or major penalty shall be assessed to any player who contacts an opponent in the head, face or neck, including with the stick or any part of the player’s body or equipment. Rules committee added “face or neck” to this year’s rules, hence the official made the right call.


Q. At a recent game, the official awarded a goal even after he realized the goal frame was not in the normal position. Had he noticed it before the shot, he would have blown his whistle to stop play. Should this still be a goal even if a referee notices the frame is off after awarding a goal?

A. Good question since it takes a bit of common sense on the official making the call. In short, the referee should have corrected his call and not awarded the goal even if he initially did so.

Rule 610 Delaying the Game – (e) states play shall be stopped immediately when the goal frame has been displaced from its normal position. Note that a minor penalty can be assessed to any player including the goalkeeper who deliberately displaces the goal frame. Now if you read on through the rule book, you come up with Rule 617 Goals and Assists which states that in case of an obvious error in awarding a goal or an assist, corrections should be made promptly…

From the case book, a situation noted will help clarify the ruling

Situation 2

The goal is tipped forward from behind as the result of player contact with the goal. The goal posts remain anchored to their position on the goal line. However, the cross bar pivots forward and down. Can a goal be scored while the goal is in this position?

No. Rule Reference 617(a).

The goal is considered to be displaced when the goal frame moves, causing the goal posts to no longer be on the same plane as the goal line (extended).


January 2012

Q. Most bizarre thing happened last weekend. One of the opposing forwards fell and went into inside of our goal. Immediately afterwards, another opposing forward shot the puck into the goal. Referee called it a goal since the other player did not interfere with the play. I argued that he was in the crease and it should not be a goal. Who is correct?

A. Great scenario. The official is correct and I have to give him/her credit for making the correct call since this does not happen often and can be tricky in interpreting what to do. First note that the player in the goal is not in the crease area as defined in the rulebook - Rule 104 (a). Second, the player in the goal did not interfere with the goalie, therefore the goal counts.

From the case book, a situation noted will help clarify the ruling

Situation 13

In the process of playing the puck, an attacking player, falls down and slides completely inside the goal frame. The player is behind the goal line and is not interfering with the goalkeeper. At the same time, another attacking player shoots the puck and it enters the goal, completely crossing the goal line. Should this goal be allowed?

Yes. Rule Reference 625(b).

Even though the player is in the back of the goal he is not in the goal crease area as the rulebook defines it. The goal crease area does not extend into the goal, but rather stops at the goal line. In order for the goal to be allowed, the player must not interfere with the goalkeeper in any way.



October 2012

Q: Recently at one of our games, a ref blew the whistle to call a too many men on the ice penalty. To me, I thought my D got to the bench before the other D jumping on the ice got into the play. Although they may have both been on the ice at the same time, neither one of them participated in the play. What is the rule on this?

I get this question at least once a year so here’s the interpretation.

A: Rule 205 Change of Players subsection (a) states: Players may be changed at any time from the players bench, provided that the player or players leaving the ice shall always be at the players bench and out of the play before any change is made. If, in the course of making a substitution, either the player entering or leaving the game deliberately plays the puck with the stick, skates or hands, or checks or makes any physical contact with an opposing player while the retiring player is actually on the ice, then a bench minor penalty for too many players on the ice will be called. (Note) If, in the course of a substitution, either the player entering the play or the player retiring is struck by the puck accidentally, the play will not be stopped and no penalty will be called.

In your case above, a too many men call should not have been made if the retiring player and the player getting on the ice *did not* participate in the play.



November 2012

Q: One of our players got called for a tripping penalty even though the opposing player did not fall down and still got a shot on net. It was a semi-breakaway situation. Very minor impediment from our guy, much less any body contact and almost no stumble from the "tripped" player. Is this a penalty?

A: Seems like a very straight forward call but it’s not. Easy trip call is a player leaves his feet and causes the opposing player to fall. This is not always the case. Digging deep into the situation rule book, we have the following interpretation.


Situation 1, page 307

For a tripping penalty to be assessed, must the fouled player fall to the ice?

No. Rule Reference 639(a).

The Rule uses the words “trip or fall” to describe the offense. In the case where a player does not fall, it must be clearly obvious his progress was impeded and a competitive advantage was gained as a result of the tripping action.

To summarize, a player *does not* have to cause the opposing player to fall. “Impeding” his progress and taking away a better scoring advantage is enough to call a tripping infraction.



Q: If a referee made an error on an icing call why was the face-off at center ice? Why penalize my team for the location of the face-off if it wasn’t our fault. Where should the face-off take place?

A: Rule 624(c) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“If the Officials shall have erred in calling an “icing the puck” infraction (regardless of whether either team is shorthanded) a last play face-off (end zone face-off spot nearest to the location of the puck when play was stopped) shall occur.”


A few years ago, an icing error faceoff was at center ice but not anymore due to the rules committee not wanting to penalize the team that didn’t ice the puck.



Q: Having two goalies on my team, I often have one skate out since I have a short bench. Can he use his goalie skates? There is a rule that states they are required to be in hockey skates but it doesn’t specify goalie skates. A referee noticed my goalie in goalie skates and didn’t allow him to play. Is he right?

A: That’s a good question and not something that comes up often. It is hard to find the actual rule reference in the rule book but if you go to the situation rules, you’ll find the answer. Situation #3 on Page 56 of the USA Hockey Playing Rules Casebook states that “players” may not wear goalkeeper skates during a game.


Q: My player got a double minor penalty during the same play. There was a delay on him for slashing and during the delay, he got another penalty for slashing. Does this go up as four minutes or two separate two minute penalties and how do you write that down on the scoresheet. Ref had it as two separate penalties.

A: Ref made the right call. Too often, a player knowing he just got called for a penalty during a delay will feel like he has a free ride to continue the play without getting dinged again. Not the case. Double minor penalties are assessed and treated as two separate minor penalties and therefore should be written on two separate lines on the game score-sheet.


Q: I’m not a coach but often do the scoresheet. There seems to be a lot of variations as to what constitutes a “shot on goal”. Some goalie parents like to have anything shot toward the net even if it’s 10 feet away from the net as a shot on goal. I say it has to be a shot that would have entered the goal had the goalie not been there. Who is correct?

A: You’re correct. It’s *not* a shot on goal unless it would have went in the net without the goalie there. The USA Hockey Off-Ice Officials Manual (located at the Publications page at the Officials section of defines a shot-on-goal as,

“When a team directs the puck towards its opponent’s goal, causing a goal to be scored or the opposing goalkeeper to make a save, the team shall be credited with a shot on goal.”

Furthermore, if a goalie comes out of their crease and a shot is a few feet wide and they make the “save”, it’s not a shot on goal since it would not have went in the net. Same thing for a shot that is heading over their head and they glove it down.


Q: I’ve received a few emails and game clips in regards to what is the difference between “body contact” and “body checking”.  Below is an explanation as well as a link to a video put together by USA Hockey that will help you differentiate between the two.

A: Once USA Hockey went to no body checking in the Pee Wee level two years ago, it was decided that officials should allow more “body contact” from the no body checking  levels (mites through Pee Wee).  Sure, it’s a gray area for many officials but we do have a standard we are taught and need to enforce accordingly.  To help you see the differences between a legal “body contact” play and an illegal “body checking” play, I’m including here a link to a video made by USA Hockey.  Please look it over and share with your coaches.

Body contact for non checking levels =>

From the rule book, they have this definition of “body contact” and “body checking”


Body Contact

Contact that occurs between opponents during the normal process of playing the puck, provided there has been no overt hip, shoulder or arm contact to physically force the opponent off of the puck.

Body Checking

A legal body check is one in which a player checks an opponent who is in possession of the puck, by using his hip or body from the front, diagonally from the front or straight from the side.

Legitimate body checking must be done for the purpose of separating the opponent from the puck, only with the trunk of the body (hips and shoulders) and must be above the opponent’s knees and at or below the shoulders.


The video shows some very good examples so please take the time to view it.  These types of scenarios are great learning tools for officials, coaches and players alike.  As per the rule book, “The purpose of a body check is to separate the opponent from the puck” and this is what an official will look for when assessing a play.

An official on the ice has to make that very assessment – did player x use his body in any manner to gain an advantage over player y and if so, should there be an interference or checking penalty.  The officials on the ice often sees the play as two players trying to gain an advantage on the other to play the puck, hence the no call.  Safety though is paramount so you have to be careful when assessing a play near the boards and make that determination if it was legal or not.

The onus is on the coaches to teach their kids the correct way to use their body in a “no check” game by doing angling drills, body positioning in front of the net and along the boards and staying away from checks from behind and head contacts.  The onus is on the officials to enforce these rules accordingly.  From what I’ve seen over the past two years, much more “body contact” as defined above is being emphasized to prepare these kids for when they reach the bantam checking level.  As coaches, we need to prepare these kids for that level by introducing some good “body contact” drills.  USA Hockey has a slew of body contact drills, so please visit their website or contact your ACE for assistance.



Q. Some rinks allow time-outs, some don’t.  USA Hockey rule book states you are allowed a time-out.  What’s the ruling.

A: I had a posting about warming up a goalie last year in regards to time-outs but it’s worth repeating the rule again.  Rule 636(f) states that each team is permitted one time-out of 60 seconds duration during the game whether in regulation play or overtime. For time curfew games, no time-outs shall be permitted.

** The key phrase here is ‘no time-outs shall be permitted for time curfew games’. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much every rink in our area; hence refs are instructed not to allow timeouts.

The ONLY rinks allowed time-out's in the Capital District are now:

A) Frear Park  B) Clifton Park 1 and Clifton Park 2.  All other rinks run curfew's on their ice slots, therefore no time-outs are allowed.  When you travel outside our area, check with the opposing coaches and officials BEFORE the game to find out if time-outs at their rinks are allowed. 
Note that some tournaments may allow them so be sure to read the tournament rules carefully.


Q. We were just at a tournament here in your area and a coach told me about your Ask the Ref column so thought I would give it a try. Although I’m not a local coach, hopefully you can help me out.  During a midget game, the opposing goalie came out to play the puck before my forward got there and the goalie was beyond the top of the circle when a collision took place.  Ref called a charging penalty on our forward even if the goalie was way out of his crease.  Isn’t the goalie considered a player once he gets out this far and can be checked?

A) First off, thanks for taking the time to pose your question and yes I do answer any question sent to me, some from several states away from our area.

First off, let’s define the “goalkeeper privileged area”.

Rule 104 Goal Crease and Goalkeeper’s Privileged Area

The goalkeeper’s “PRIVILEGED AREA” is an area outlined by connecting the end zone face-off spots with an imaginary line and imaginary lines perpendicular to the end boards.


Rule 607 Charging states:


(d) A goalkeeper is NOT “fair game” because he is outside his privileged area. A penalty for interference or charging should be called in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. Likewise, Referees should be alert to penalize goalkeepers for any infractions they commit in the vicinity of the goal.


Official made the right call.  Even if the goalie is well beyond his/her privileged area, they are not fair game.