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Ask the Official

USA Hockey's "Ask the Official" forum has concluded for the 2020-21 Season. We will return in August 2021!

Best wishes for a safe and relaxing off-season.


IMPORTANT NOTEDiscipline, Suspension, and Team Roster related questions cannot be answered at this forum. Please contact your USAH Affiliate for answers to these questions. Contact information is located in the Directory of the USA Hockey Annual Guidebook.


2021-22 ATO | WEEK 7

By USA Hockey 09/17/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features:

QUESTION: We have a Dr. who we rostered as a coach to be the teams “medical trainer”. Would he be included in the (4) coaches on the bench or are we allowed to have (4) coaches + (1) medical trainer? (5) total?

ANSWERUSA Hockey Rule 201(b) states that a team may have up to four Team Officials which includes coaches and medical trainers.


QUESTION: At the final buzzer, players from both teams are leaving their benches to congratulate/console their respective goalies. An altercation breaks out near the goal where play ended and the players from both benches skate towards the altercation. Some players get involved in pushing, shoving, etc. Should any of the players be assessed a 629(a) penalty for leaving the bench?

ANSWERAssuming the players were in the act of leaving the bench when the altercation occurred, Rule 629(a) would not apply to your situation. However, any infractions that these players commit should definitely be penalized.


QUESTION: A player on the ice punches/slashes a player who has left the ice after being ordered off by a referee. Ordered player was headed to the dressing room with under 5 minutes remaining in the game when opposition player slashed the back of his legs after he stepped through the gate. Player then sucker punched the other player when he turned around after the slash. Player who left the ice returns What penalties and are both players subject to suspension?

ANSWERThese infractions should be penalized under Rule 634 (Slashing) and Rule 615 (Fighting).


QUESTION: Are officials required to wear a HECC Certified Helmet and does that include wearing ear guards, as required of players?

ANSWERRule 501(c) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“Each official is required to wear a black hockey helmet, with chin strap properly fastened, and a half-shield visor properly attached to their helmets.”

The helmet does not have to be HECC approved.


QUESTION: A substitute player whose teammate is already standing on the bench plays the puck while seated on the top of the boards (has not yet made contact with the ice). Both skates are dangling in the playing area. Should this have been penalized as interference seeing he hadn't made contact with the ice yet (rule 625(a)9); or, because both feet were in the playing area the play was good?

ANSWER: A player must be standing on the ice to participate in play. This situation should be penalized for interference.


Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 6

By USA Hockey 09/10/2021, 4:00am MDT

This week’s features: When to assess a 5+GM, Taunting and Goalkeeper Crease questions.

QUESTIONA player deliberately sprays snow onto a goalie. Unsportsmanlike conduct would be the infraction I would call but looking through rule book, I really didn't see anything pertaining to this.

ANSWER: This would be interpreted as “taunting or inciting an opponent” under Rule 601(a)2.


QUESTIONWe're being told by several officials that if a player is "injured" during a minor penalty, the offending player is to receive a minor and a 10 minute misconduct for the injury, regardless of the severity. Ex. player is tripped, player falls injured elbow, stays on the ice for 30-60 secs then returned to the bench. One he got to the bench we were told that since he was "injured" it's a mandatory misconduct as well. Mind you the "injured" player was back on the ice the very next shift.

ANSWER: This was the main purpose of the recent USA Hockey Playing Rules change that replaced "injury" with "reckless endangerment" as to the guideline for determining whether to assess a minor penalty or a major plus game misconduct.

Generally speaking, officials are not doctors. Which means determining whether a player is "injured" is difficult. Judging the offending action to be "reckless endangerment" is a much easier guideline for game officials to follow.


QUESTIONHad this incident last night, does the man in crease rule still apply when it's an empty net? Had a player trip up and slide into his offensive crease, upon getting to his feet one of his teammates had shot the puck into the net for goal. There was some controversy about it, so just looking for some clarification.

ANSWER: The Goal Crease exists to protect the Goalkeeper during play. Therefore, if the Goalkeeper is removed then the crease does not exist as far as the position of attacking players.


QUESTIONThere are 30 seconds left in the game. There is a turnover and a Team B player now has a breakaway. In the neutral zone the Team B player is tripped from behind by a team A player. All the criteria of a penalty shot have been met. The Team B player gets up and before he regains possession of the puck, the horn sounds to end the game. Is a penalty shot still awarded to the Team B player?

ANSWER: In this case, the penalty shot would still be awarded and taken after the period has ended.


QUESTIONIs a goalkeeper required to wear hockey socks or other clothing (long johns, sweatpants, etc...) underneath his goal pads?

ANSWER: There is no rule in the USA Hockey Playing Rules that requires a goalkeeper to wear leg coverings under his/her leg-pads.

Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 5

By USA Hockey 09/03/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features: Curfews, Sled Hockey rules, and When to start the game clock.


QUESTIONWhat type of offsides will all sled hockey games be played under?

ANSWER: The USA Hockey Sled Hockey Playing Rules can be found at the Rulebook and Resources page in the Officials section of Currently, all Sled Hockey games use delayed "tag-up" offsides.


QUESTIONA Referee notified the coaches that the third period would be shortened to 6 minutes from 15 minutes due to the games being behind (ice time) by 20 minutes. The rink manager wanted to keep the 3rd period to the usual 15 minutes but was overruled by the referee who shorted the period to six minutes. The question is does a USA hockey referee have the authority to shorten a game?

ANSWER: Game Officials might be forced to modify period lengths due to short ice time, however if the Rink Manager is willing to allow the game to be played to completion then the game should be completed. These situations should be managed between the teams, the officials and rink management with the best interest of the game in mind

Furthermore, guidelines for these situations should to be outlined by your local league and local officials association for future reference.


QUESTION: Two players receive coincidental 2-minute minors. One of the players also receives a 10-minute misconduct. At the first whistle following the expiration of the minor penalty both players are let out of the penalty box. Eight minutes later, the same player scores a goal. What is the ruling? Is the goal allowed? Does the player have to server all ten minutes or the remain two minutes?

ANSWER: In the case where two opponent’s each receive a minor penalty and one player receives an additional misconduct, they both immediately enter the penalty bench. Since the two minors are coincidental and cancel each other out, play remains at 5 vs. 5. Player A (single minor) would leave the penalty bench at the first whistle after two minutes elapsed, and Player B (minor plus misconduct) would leave the penalty bench at the first whistle after twelve minutes elapsed.
If Player B leaves early due to “Timekeeper Error” and scores a goal, the goal shall be allowed. However, they must return to the penalty bench and serve all unserved penalty time.


QUESTIONWhen does the clock start on a face-off? When the ref drops the puck, when the puck hits the ice, or when a player's stick hits the puck?

ANSWER: Play shall begin as soon as the puck is dropped, and no player is required to play the puck once it hits the ice. Therefore, the clock shall start as soon as the official drops the duck (“dropping the puck” and “hitting the ice” is a split-second difference so there’s no distinction).


QUESTIONIs there a way to submit a post game complaint about a player's behavior on ice? My son was badly slashed by an opponent during today's game.

ANSWER: We encourage you to contact your league or hockey association with this problem. At the very least they can track the behavior of teams and players and as reports pile up they can address the problem with the team.

Furthermore, we suggest filing your complaint through your team due to the credibility it will carry, rather than risk being dismissed as an email from a grumpy player or parent who didn’t agree with how a game situation was handled.


Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 4

By USA Hockey 08/27/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features: Puck shot off the goal frame, puck shot after the whistle and a "sticky" situation...


QUESTION: If players from opposing teams lose their sticks and each player picks up the other player's stick, is that a penalty on each player or no penalty at all?

ANSWERRule 625(a) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,
“(a) A minor penalty shall be assessed for interference. This includes the following actions which shall be penalized under this rule:
Preventing an opponent who has dropped his stick or any other piece of equipment from retrieving it.
However, if neither player is trying to retrieve their stick and each player accidentally grabs the wrong stick, then there should be no penalty.


QUESTION: A goalie slides post-to-post to make a save and the shot goes in as the net is coming off the moorings (goalie slide is the cause) and it is too close to tell which happened first, what call should be made?

ANSWERIn this situation, the officials must use their best judgment as to whether the goal was dislodged before the puck completely crossed the goal line. If the net was dislodged first, the goal must be disallowed.


QUESTION: Is a player who is serving a 10 minute misconduct allowed to take off his helmet and leave it off while in the box. I understand that on the players bench they are required to keep the helmet on, but does that go for the penalty benches as well?

ANSWERPlayers are always required to wear their helmets and face-masks while on the team bench and penalty bench.


QUESTION: If the puck is shot off of a part of the goal frame that isn't the posts or crossbar by an attacking player, where is the ensuing face off location?

ANSWERIf this is in regard to the recent rule change for face-off locations, then the interpretation is the puck must be "shot" (not dumped in) and deflect off the crossbar, goal-post, boards or glass for the face-off to remain inside the attacking zone.


QUESTION: A player is offside and the whistle blows. Player then shoots the puck into the net after the whistle had blown. Where should the face-off be?

ANSWERRule 601(a) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

(a) A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed to any player who commits the following actions:

Shoots the puck after the whistle, if in the opinion of the Official such shot was avoidable.

In this situation, the player who shot the puck after the whistle would receive a minor penalty and the face-off would be located in the defending end-zone of the offending team.

Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 3

By USA Hockey 08/20/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features: Offsides, Dislodged goals and Goalkeeper Sticks...

QUESTION: During a game, the team benches straddle the blue line. During a delayed offsides, and attacking team player is offside, and gets off the ice inside the end-zone. The replacement player gets on the ice also inside the end-zone. Still offside? Or on-sides?

ANSWERIf the puck enters an end-zone with attacking players offside, and one player changes at the bench inside the end-zone (both retiring and new player are still in the attacking zone) then the play would remain off-side. All attacking players must be simultaneously clear of the attacking zone to nullify the delayed offsides.


QUESTION: Can a player use a goalie stick?

ANSWERRegular skaters may not use a Goalkeeper Stick due to the fact that it does not conform to the legal measurements for a Players’ Stick.


QUESTION: Can a youth hockey player use a visor instead of a cage?

ANSWERHalf-shield Visors are not permitted to be worn at any level of Youth Hockey (8U through 18U, including High School) regardless of the age of the player.


QUESTION: If stoppage of play is near center ice face off spot. Is the face off at the center ice face-off spot?

ANSWERSince most face-offs are determined by what caused the stoppage of play, we cannot completely answer this question. However, if your question is whether the center ice spot can be considered for a location of a Last Play Face-off, then yes this is the case.


QUESTION: I saw a game where a goaltender slid to the post and a puck was in his equipment somewhere. When his body hit the post, the net was dislodged. After hitting the post, the puck fell out of his equipment and rolled into the net. A goal was awarded. Is that the correct call?

ANSWERRule 610(e) in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“Play shall be stopped immediately when the goal frame has been displaced from its normal position.”

Therefore, play should be stopped as soon as the net is dislodged, and you cannot have a goal occur after a whistle.


Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 2

By USA Hockey 08/13/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features: Broken skate blades, broken doors and managing equipment violations.

QUESTION: When hosting a tournament, what are the earliest and latest start and stop times for each age group?

ANSWERGuidelines for game times, period lengths, and other game operations are dictated by the Local Association and USA Hockey Affiliate of each team. We recommend reaching out to them with this question.


QUESTION: If a goalkeeper loses a skate blade would that be cause for an immediate stoppage of play?

ANSWERSituation #1 under Rule 304 in the USAH Playing Rules Casebook states,

“What action should the referee take when the goalkeeper loses one of his gloves during play?

Keeping safety as the primary consideration, the referee should stop play whenever the goalkeeper loses a glove and is in a vulnerable position UNLESS there is an imminent scoring opportunity in which play should be allowed to continue until the imminent scoring opportunity has passed. Rule References 304(a & e).”

This would apply to a goalkeeper with a broken skate blade, play should be stopped immediately unless there is an immediate scoring opportunity.


QUESTION: After the ice was resurfaced the Zamboni door wouldn't close properly. It took (17) minutes for the rink employees to fix the door. We decided to play the game and adjust the game clock accordingly, but at what point, if any, should the game have been suspended due to unplayable rink conditions per 636(e)?

ANSWERAccording to your question, the rink conditions were not unplayable since the door was fixed. If the door was not fixed and presented a risk of injury or unfair playing conditions, then the game should be suspended immediately and the issue reported to the Local Hockey Association or League.


QUESTION: Can a Mite aged player play on a squirt aged team?

ANSWERUnfortunately, we cannot answer this question since it does not specifically regard the USA Hockey Playing Rules.
We encourage you to contact your District or State Registrar (through your local hockey association) with this question. Registrars are responsible for tracking all team rosters and player eligibility in their respective areas.


QUESTION: I have a question, players on bench with no helmets, and shaking hands after game without helmets. If there is no issue or penalty or warning given what is the next step? High school level, this has been corrected but what could and can happen if someone complains about the above situation.

ANSWERIf a player on the bench does not have his helmet in place, the next face-off can be delayed until he/she puts the helmet on. The coach, who is responsible for the safety of the players, should maintain control of his/her players on the bench and fix this quickly.
If players are removing helmets during handshakes, the game officials should remind the players to keep them on. If this situation is beyond control and happening repeatedly, the Officials Association can bring this issue to the attention of the league who is responsible for enforcing the USA Hockey Playing Rules and looking out of the best interest and safety of their players and teams.

Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

2021-22 ATO | WEEK 1

By USA Hockey 08/06/2021, 6:15am MDT

This week’s features: Membership registration, rule exams & extra crests 

QUESTION: Do I have to advance a level each season?

ANSWER: No, once an official advances to Level 2, they are no longer required to advance any higher. With that said, an official who is 16 years-old or older, and has two seasons of complete registration, must advance from Level 1 to Level 2.


QUESTION: Are there any changes to registration requirements for 2021-22?

ANSWER: No, the same core requirements for registration are still in place. You can learn more about the various steps here.


QUESTION: Will the classroom seminars be online or in-person this season?

ANSWER: Both. With the success of online virtual classroom seminars during the 2021-22 Season, the District Referees-in-Chief have decided to continue this option to returning advanced officials.

However, all new Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a local in-person classroom seminar. This ensures them the opportunity to meet local administrators, game assignors and teammate officials.


QUESTION: Will the Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 Closed Book Exams remain online this season?

ANSWER: Yes, all Open Book and Closed Book exams will be hosted online in the eLearning system. The only change to the Closed Book Exam will be shortening the time-limit to 90 minutes.


QUESTION: How do I get an extra referee crest for my sweater?

ANSWER: Extra or replacement sweater crests may be purchased from the USA Hockey National Office for $5.00 (check or money order only). Please contact for more information.


Download the USA Hockey Mobile Rulebook App to your mobile device from your app store today!

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