NHL Rule Change Analysis: Expanded Trapezoid, Eliminated Spin-o-rama and Increased Diving Fines

The NHL introduced a rather lengthy set of updates to the rules on the eve of the 2014-15 season, but are the changes really as significant as they seem at first glance?

As the NHL season creeps ever closer, the league itself has started to prepare by releasing the official rule changes for the next season. Unlike the last few years, there are a few relatively major changes to rules and procedures this year

Here's some of the major changes in a nutshell with a few longer comments and analysis below:

  • The goalie trapezoid will be expanded two feet from the goal post on each side of the net, expanding the area in which a goalie is allowed to play the puck.
  • The spin-o-rama is no longer a legal move on a penalty shot or in the shootout
  • A higher standard of "distinct kicking motion" will be needed to waive off a goal, and there will be increased input from video review officials in some scenarios.
  • A diving defensive player will be guilty of tripping even if he contacts the puck first before taking out the feet of an attacker. If the situation would have resulted in a penalty shot with this sort of trip, a minor will be awarded instead.
  • The cumulative penalties for diving have been changed.
  • For face-offs following an icing, the player who originally lines up to take the face-off will not be tossed from the circle for an infraction. Instead, he will remain in the circle after a warning.
  • Teams will switch ends for the overtime period, and the ice will be dry scraped beforehand.
  • A shot by an attacking team in the attacking zone that deflects out of play off of anything, breaks the glass or gets stuck on the net will result in a face-off in the offensive zone rather than neutral ice./

Here's the player and coach fine schedule that was released today:

Incident # Player Fine(s) Head Coach Fine(s)
1 Warning N/A
2 $2,000 N/A
3 $3,000 N/A
4 $4,000 $2,000
5 $5,000 $3,000
6 $5,000 $4,000
7 $5,000 $5,000
8 $5,000 $5,000

The NHL is touting this as stiffer penalties for divers, but in my reading of the rulebook (and to be fair, the last version available online is the 2012-13 version), it's pretty much lowering the penalties on the player while adding a fine to the coach. The previous cumulative consequences for diving/embellishment is shown below:

64.3 Fines and Suspensions - Regardless if a minor penalty for diving / embellishment is called, Hockey Operations will review game videos and assess fines to players or goalkeepers who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury. See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline. The call on the ice by the Referee is totally independent of supplementary discipline.

The first such incident during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player or goalkeeper. The second such incident will result in a one thousand dollar ($1,000) fine. For a third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations. For subsequent violations in the same season, the player’s suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension – one game, second suspension – two games, third suspension – four games, etc.) See also Rule 28 – Supplementary Discipline.

That's been in the rulebook for a while, and anecdotally, I have never heard of of a player being fined under the old system, let alone suspended. Heck, Maxim Lapierre got called for two legitimate dives in a single game and could have easily been called for two more, and he never got even fined to my knowledge.

Given that history, given that the NHL remains a superstar league and given that some of the larger divers are ones who could be considered stars or at least high-profile players, I'm highly skeptical this will be a meaningful change.

Essentially, I will believe the NHL will actually fine divers under the new system when I see it.

Video Review

The distinct kicking motion change will likely start to hinge on the question of whether the skate lifts off the ice in the motion, something that was talked about during the March GM meetings. Previously, the general standard was that if the puck gained momentum from its contact with the skate, it was considered a kick. This will be interesting to watch in practice. The kicking motion rule is a safety concern - no one wants blades flashing with the goalie's arms and legs nearby, but perhaps this can be a good medium.

As for the other change to video review, I'm going to quote that in full here:

Rule 38.4 (viii) has been modified to allow broader discretion to Hockey Operations to assist the referees in determining the legitimacy of all potential goals (e.g., to ensure they are "good hockey goals"). The revised Rule will allow Hockey Operations to correct a broader array of situations where video review clearly establishes that a "goal" or "no goal" call on the ice has been made in error. The new expanded rule will also allow Hockey Operations to provide guidance to referees on goal and potential goal plays where the referee has blown his whistle (or intended to blow his whistle) after having lost sight of the puck.

This is clear as mud at the moment. It appears they're trying to minimize the always frustrating early whistles and even more aggravating "intent to blow" calls. For a quick primer, the "intent to blow" clause exists because a goalie could have a puck good and frozen but if the whistle is somehow jammed or dropped or whatever, a defensive player could theoretically whack it out from under his glove with 3-4 hard thunks and put it in the net. It's a scenario that almost never happens, so I would be okay with "intent to blow" going away regardless.

Still, I'm not sure how the video review guys are going to be able to minimize this impact unless they are going to be allowed to overrule subjective judgement calls on the ice (i.e., when was the play dead or the puck lost). I'll be very curious to see this in practice.


I love this change. If you have to go through a player's feet to get to the puck, regardless of whether or not you get to the puck first, you are gaining an advantage from the trip. I honestly don't think this will cut down on this play, as you only really see this type of dive when a defensive player has totally lost position and is willing to take a penalty regardless, but it will probably punish the lost advantage. Not sure I like the addendum about this type of trip never resulting in a penalty shot, though.


The Stars loved the little delay move last season of having Antoine Roussel line up for the faceoff after an icing and then have him get kicked out. It bought 15-20 seconds for more rest for the initial attempt and switch. This is now no longer possible, though an intentional cheat will still take 5-10 seconds to warn and reset. It's a minor little tweak, and the penalty for the second violation still exists, but given teams will claw for every inch of advantage, I understand why this needed to come into play.

Offensive zone face-offs after deflections

Not much to say here. The rationale appears to be that if a shot should have stayed in the offensive zone but was deflected by anyone, works its way through the glass (or the boards, I guess) or otherwise gets stopped up, the offensive team shouldn't lose the advantage it had created. It's a nice nod to trying to encourage offense without doing anything too dramatic.

Trapezoid and Spin-o-rama

These are together because former Stars weep. Marty Turco is somewhere shaking his fist that he is not still around to take advantage of the extra area (bonus question: does this mean more or less puck gaffes for Mike Smith?), and while I don't believe Mike Ribeiro has ever done a true spin-o-rama, but I'm sure he's got some move in that bag of tricks that involves one.

Other than that, these are more procedural changes that will affect individual players and teams (depending on how well a given goalie handles the puck, obviously) than overall game flow.