The official rulebook of the National Hockey League is a voluminous tome. Everything NHL officials, coaches, and players need to know, from which situations call for a penalty shot to when exactly there are too many men on the ice, lies within those pages.
However, there’s another rulebook that governs the NHL, but this one was never in print. Hockey maintains a separate set of unwritten rules whose penalties can be far more painful or embarrassing than two minutes in the sin bin. We’ve picked out five unwritten hockey rules all NHL players need to follow. Keep an eye on these violations as you watch the games, and don’t break these rules in your beer league, either.
A Logo Is Not a Welcome Mat
From the Canadiens to the Kraken, playing for one of the top 32 teams in the world is an honor. Players proudly wear their sweaters and have a special reverence for the crests that appear up front. These logos also appear throughout NHL arenas, including the carpeting in the home team’s dressing room. For anyone, player or civilian, to walk on that logo is an egregious offense, whether it’s the Habs’ CH, Chicago’s illustration of Black Hawk, or the RCAF roundel of the Winnipeg Jets. Call it superstition. Call it a team-building mindfulness exercise. Call it a game of The Floor Is Lava for men who are old enough to buy alcohol. Just watch your step.
Don’t Shoot After the Whistle
Every coach behind every bench instructs their charges to play up to the whistle. Playing past it, however, can be a problem. Want to raise your opponent’s ire? Take a free shot on goal after play is dead and the goalie has relaxed. It’s an unwritten violation that can lead to some written transgressions—namely, five for fighting.
No “I” in “Hockey Team”
Hockey is the ultimate team sport. Aside from the goalie, who plays the full 60, even legends such as Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane rarely exceed 28 minutes a night of short bursts. It takes an entire team to win—and that’s why hockey culture frowns upon leaning too hard on the word “I.” NHLers work hard not to let reporters catch them talking about themselves in a postgame press scrum. Those who make it all about themselves find themselves very lonely on the ice.
Going for the Sh—Shhh!
Speaking of goalies and the full 60 minutes, to stop every shot on goal is a tremendous achievement—especially in today’s shot-happy NHL. But goalies are a different breed. They must be willing to stand in front of high-velocity frozen rubber projectiles. Skaters must respect that and never utter the word “shutout” in earshot of a highly superstitious netminder on his way to one. If the red light goes on, he’ll know who to blame.
Let’s Shake on It
We’ll wrap up the NHL’s unwritten hockey rules with an appropriate closing act. It’s a rite of spring for every best-of-seven series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to end with a handshake line—a show of mutual respect after nights of high-stakes physical intensity. Skipping out on the handshakes may not result in a game misconduct penalty from the refs, but it may draw a judgment of career misconduct from peers. No matter what went down on the ice, you always shake hands.
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