Line Changing and Faceoff Logistics During a Stoppage In Play
Looking at line changes during stoppages in play
Many people don’t understand how line change work logistically during a stoppage in play during a hockey game. Let’s change that and look at the game within the game and examine why the home team has an inherent advantage.
Free Player Substitution/Change Time
The whistle blows and the official/linesman who is not dropping the puck positions themselves in the neutral zone where they are visible to both benches. This is “free time” for both teams to make a change of players on the ice.
During this time, the away/visiting team is allowed five seconds to decide if they would like to make player substitutions. After that, only the home team can make changes.
Home Team Only Time
After the five seconds expire, the linesman/official will raise one of their hands above their head to signal that the visiting team can no longer change. The home team then has five seconds to decide to initiate player substitutions.
This is where home teams can exploit the situation to get a preferred matchup. For the neutral observer, this is a great time to focus to try to understand what the home team is attempting to do.
After those five seconds have expired, the officials hand goes down and neither team is permitted to change. The official with the puck who will drop the puck blows their whistle and prepares for the faceoff.
Once the whistle is blown, the centers are supposed to be given five seconds to prepare and execute the faceoff procedure.
Centers - Sticks Down
Players taking the faceoff place their stick blades in contact with the ice:
Depending on the league, either the attacking (read: offensive most) player or visiting team shall be the first to place their stick on the ice.
Players not taking the faceoff:
No other player shall be allowed to enter the face-off circle or come within 15 feet of the players facing-off the puck.
All other players must position themselves behind the hash marks on the outer edge of the face-off circle.
If a player facing-off fails to take his proper position immediately when directed by the Official, the Official may order him replaced for that face-off by any teammate then on the ice.
If a player, other than the player facing off, fails to maintain his proper position, the center of his team shall be ejected from the face-off.
A second violation by the same team during the same face-off results in a minor penalty for delay of game, assessed against the player committing the second violation.
After the faceoff
A minor penalty for interference “shall be assessed to any player facing-off who makes any physical contact with his opponent’s body by means of his own body or by his stick except in the course of playing the puck after the face-off has been completed”.
There are a few situations where an on-ice official will call a mulligan and go through the faceoff procedure again. A few examples:
The puck didn’t hit the ice first
Players still moving during the drop
Players encroaching too close or within the faceoff circle
Note: Depending on league/level, there are two-person, three-person, and four-person officiating systems, so how they team up to process the procedure can vary slightly.
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