Why the Delay-of-Game Penalty Should Be Removed from NHL

Eric He@@erichesportsContributor IINovember 1, 2011

It is no secret that many fans, players, and media dislike the NHL's "delay of game" penalty. For anybody who is not familiar to this rule, here it is word-for-word from the NHL rulebook:

When any player, while in his defending zone, shoots or bats (using his hand or his stick)  the puck directly (non-deflected) out of the playing surface, except where there is no glass, a penalty shall be assessed for delaying the game. 

With this rule, the NHL is attempting to cut back on players deliberately shooting the puck out of play in their own zone. If he does shoot the puck out, he is assessed a two-minute minor penalty, and the opposing team is on the power-play. 

I believe this rule is silly and unnecessary. By assessing a two-minute penalty, the NHL is basically implying that a delay-of-game penalty is the same as a hooking, interference or slashing call. 

Not only is the delay of game penalty ridiculous, it also has the potential to decide the outcome of games. 

Consider the Sharks vs. Islanders game on October 29. In a 2-2 game in overtime, Islanders defenseman Travis Harmonic shoots the puck into the crowd. (See video, the penalty occurs around the 25 second mark of the video).

Replays show that the puck appeared to have deflected off the top of the glass. Instead, the Islanders were given a penalty, and the Sharks won the game on a four-on-three power-play goal by Brent Burns. After the game, several Islanders players and coaches were visibly upset, yelling at the referees, who had missed the call.

The Islanders had seemingly outplayed the Sharks the entire game, and had plenty of momentum during the overtime. Unfortunately, a simple missed call and a ridiculous penalty gave the Sharks the win. 

Two nights later, on October 31, the Sharks were once again involved in a delay-of-game penalty situation, but this time, they were on the wrong end. Midway through the second period in a game against the Rangers, Colin White clearly shot the puck over the glass, resulting in a Ranger power play.

Up to that point, the Sharks had all the momentum. They had just scored two unanswered goals in the second period to tie the game up at 2-2, and they were applying more pressure in an attempt to take the lead.

But that would never happen. Due to the delay-of-game, the Rangers scored a power-play goal, then went on to score two more unanswered goals to win the game 5-2. The Sharks never seemed to regain their momentum that they had before the penalty.

Now, I'm not saying that the delay-of-game was the only reason why the Sharks lost, but if one was asked to name the turning point of the game, they would most probably refer to the penalty.

Here is a very clear and considerable alternative to the current rule. As Niko stated in an entry in HockeyOpinions.com:   

By replacing the two minute penalty for clearing the puck over the glass with the current icing rule that players aren’t allowed to change the NHL will still be able to deter players from intentionally clearing the puck over the glass when they are tired and not risk drastically affecting games from slight misplays.  

That makes a lot of sense. Changing the reprimand from a minor penalty to an "icing" situation is the most appropriate way to handle this. That way, the players will not purposely shoot it out of play because they know that the faceoff will be in their own end, and they will not be allowed to change. 

I hope more and more people start noticing just how ridiculous this rule is, and I hope the NHL will eventually take notice and make changes to the rulebook. It is quite alarming to think that such an unintentional act of clearing the puck over the glass can change the result of games. 

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