The Puck Over Glass Penalty Must Go

The National Hockey League continues to make changes that, they believe, improve the game of hockey. So, they need to acknowledge that the penalty implemented when a player, in his defending zone, shoots the puck directly out of the playing surface. The penalty, which has become known as “delay of game – puck over glass”, has become increasingly unpopular since it was created to increase the amount of powerplays and scoring chances. Nobody likes to see their team shorthanded because the puck took a bad bounce before they tried to clear it from their own end. In a time when there is a huge emphasis on player safety, why is one of the most discussed penalties on that never threats a player’s well being? Not only has it become unpopular among the fans, but also within media personalities. TSN, Canada’s Sports Leader created a parody song about the infraction and kept a running total of how many times it was called while they were still broadcasting playoff games.

[Also: Why the Puck Over Glass Rule Should Stay]

Consistency is an Issue

The puck over glass penalty is no different than any other infraction in that it is called at the discretion of the official. Not all calls go detected and some get called when they shouldn’t. The truth is, officials are subject to human error like all the players and wrong calls are unavoidable.

It isn’t a huge factor in the regular season when there are 82 games and bad calls are certain to happen. It is when the game matters most that the inconsistency of this penalty becomes an issue. Two examples of close calls on this penalty show why it should be removed from the game. Look at game three of the Stanley Cup final. Chicago forward Patrick Kane shot the puck from behind his own net while being heavily pressured by Boston forward Patrice Bergeron. The puck nearly missed Bergeron’s stick and rose up and over the glass, according to the rule book that is a penalty. However, the officials on the ice thought the puck deflected off Bergeron and no penalty was called. The instant replays showed it did not in fact hit Bergeron, but t did not have a direct impact on the outcome of the game as the Bruins went on to win even without that powerplay. It was a different story for game two of the Western Conference Semi-Finals between Los Angeles and San Jose. Ahead by only one goal and already shorthanded, Sharks’ defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic attempted to clear a puck that went up and over the glass. He was awarded a penalty which put the Sharks down by two men, but the replays showed that the puck actually deflected off Kings’ Jeff Carter. The Kings scored on the five on three powerplay to tie the game. Then, while Vlasic was still serving his puck over glass penalty, rookie Tyler Toffoli scored the eventual game winner. There is no reason why a penalty for a bad bounce should cost a team so gravely.

(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)
Tyler Toffoli celebrates his game-winning goal while Mar-Edouard Vlasic serves a puck over glass penalty.(Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Not an Effective Penalty

There is only one delay of game penalty listed in the NHL rule book that does not involve a player deliberately causing the stoppage of play. Delay of game is called when a player deliberately freezes the puck, deliberately dislodges a goal, deliberately shoots a puck out of the playing surface, or when a player in their defending zone shoots the puck directly out of the playing surface. One of the definitions doesn’t belong and it is the rule that makes the least sense in today’s NHL. Penalties are called for causing harm to opponents, not from making a slight mistake clearing the puck. Young referee’s are taught that their job is to ensure safety of the players and fairness of play. This penalty does neither. In the 84 playoff games in the NHL this year, the penalty has only been called 26 times.

Referee discussions are common when calling the puck over glass penalty. (Tom Turk/THW)
Referee discussions are common when calling the puck over glass penalty. (Tom Turk/THW)

It is not a game-changing penalty either. Whether it is called or not, it generally does not change the momentum of the game and the powerplay is usually less productive than physical or impeding fouls. Only six goals have been scored off puck over glass penalties this post-season, for a 16.67 per cent efficiency. However, the goals that are scored impact the game more than a simple miscue should. Two game-winning goals were game winners, and one of which was an overtime goal. Only one of the six goals scored was unimportant in the outcome of the game. The solution is simple. The NHL should remove a penalty that is unpopular. inconsistent, and unnecessary.