2013-14 NHL Rule Changes Released: Jersey Fouls Aren’t Just For Fans Anymore

Posted on Sep 19 2013 - 9:25am by Katie Flynn
Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin often has his jersey tucked.

Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin often has his jersey tucked.

It was just last week when the NHL released rule changes for the 2013-14 season that would be implemented and enforced. One of the most controversial is the popular jersey tuck Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin has adapted as an identifier. The league has gone so far as to ban velcro from being sewn into uniform items, preventing the jersey tuck Wayne Gretzky was famous for. Alteration to uniform pieces and equipment is being penalized. It’s not a preference, or guideline put out by the league, they are the rules.

The new (but apparently in place since 1964) rule changes include banning the jersey tuck, having jersey sleeves extend into the cuff of the glove, pants have to be one uniform color with no rips, tears, or cuts, and undershirt logos have to be that of the team’s only.

In complicated terms, these are the rules as written by the league:

Rule 9.1 Team Uniform: All players of each team shall be dressed uniformly with approved design and color of their helmets, sweaters, short pants, stockings, and skates. Altered uniforms of any knifes i.e., Velcro inserts, over-sized jerseys, altered collars, etc., will not be permitted. Any player or goalkeeper not complying with this rule shall not be permitted to participate in the game.

Pursuant to rule 9.1, Players’ pants must be worn in a uniform fashion by all players. The pants must be one consistent color around and throughout the leg of the pant. Pant legs are not to be ripped, cut, or torn in the leg/thigh area. Under no circumstances should a player’s sock, undergarment, or bare leg be exposed through the pant. Players are permitted to alter their pants for comfort and performance-related reasons; however, the pant leg must remain one uninterrupted uniform color as to not expose the bare leg/sock in the thigh area.

Rule 9.3 Player’s Jersey: Sleeves must extend into the cuff of the glove.

The one thing here that is confusing is the idea that the pants must be one solid and cohesive color all around. Does this mean the NHL will no longer allow stripes down the sides of pants like many teams have decided to implement? If a player is allowed to modify his pants for performance reasons, in what ways can he while still abiding by the rules?

Look closely to see the sock covering all of Kessel's leg, but the pants torn open for range of motion.

Look closely to see the sock covering all of Kessel’s leg, but the pants torn open for range of motion.

Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel is known for the seam split in his pants so his stride can be longer when he skates. With this new rule in place, it’s possible he will not be able to modify his pants to have the same effect they had before the rule change.

If these particular modifications are being made for safety concerns due to say, the fact that these men skate at high speeds with blades strapped to their feet, they’ve missed the mark. I understand ensuring there is no exposed skin especially in areas such as the wrist and thigh. Those are two areas that need to be covered and protected simply because of the risk of a deep cut. Those alterations to the rules make sense. It’s leaving out little details but enforcing others that doesn’t jive.

If safety is your number one issue with the pants, I agree making sure there is no exposed skin is the best way to prevent injuries like cuts. What about the laces that hang down from player’s pants and could get caught up in the bench door? Surely this has to be bigger safety issue than the pants being cut on the inseam to allow a little more flexibility.

The exposed skin is what the NHL is looking to ban.

The exposed skin is what the NHL is looking to ban.

The sock is being looked at in this case as the buffer between the skin and the pants, and it is not allowed to be exposed either. If the sock is the point of safety, why aren’t players mandated to wear kevlar socks to prevent serious injuries, including making the players wear their socks over the top of their skates. If the kevlar socks are covering the tongue of the skate as well as the ankle support at the back, the chances of an achilles injury like Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson suffered are virtually impossible.

Mandating players not modify their pants for comfort but for appearance sends the wrong message about safety. To make punishable an incorrect pair of pants instead of compromising your own safety of a tendon as detrimental to your career as the achilles is missing a large safety point. Sure, the look you’re going for has to be clean cut; the image of your league has to look crisp to potential owners and sponsors. If you’re going to go as far as spending hours, days, weeks, and months writing policies for the way a player should wear his socks and pants, other issues are being ignored.

Rule 9.5 governs all protective equipment, including pants. Players are not permitted to tuck their jersey into their pants in such a manner where the top padding of the pant and/or additional body protection )affixed to the pant or affixed to the Player’s body) is exposed outside the jersey. The back uniform number must not be covered or obstructed in any fashion by protruding pads or other protective padding.

Rule 9.5 Protective Equipment: All protective equipment, except gloves, headgear, and goaltenders’ leg guards must be worn under the uniform. Should it be brought to the attention of the referee that a player is wearing, for example, an elbow pad that is not covered by his jersey, he shall instruct the player to cover up the pad and a second violation by the same player would result in a minor penalty being assessed.

The tuck rule has already been implemented into preseason play, and Alexander Semin of the Carolina Hurricanes was the first to receive a uniform violation penalty. On Wednesday night’s game between the Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets, Semin was assessed a delay of game penalty for having his jersey tucked. This is something that can greatly impact the outcome of a game, similar to that of the puck over the glass delay of game penalty.

I understand where the league is coming from in terms of numbers being covered, but no player is going to have a tuck so severe – accidental or intentional – that the referee cannot read the number. Especially since referees get to know the guys on each team, they don’t necessarily need a number to know who the majority of players are. There is also a name on the back of the jersey, and numbers on each arm, and the front and back of the helmets. This rule must be implemented by the NHL for purely aesthetic reasons.

This rule will decide the Stanley Cup winner at some point because a player fell down, reached for a water bottle on the bench, or was hit hard enough that his jersey was unintentionally tucked. Modifications to uniforms cannot be made, specifically mentioning velcro. If you can’t velcro a jersey to make sure it stays in your pants as Wayne Gretzky did, why can’t you velcro it outside your pants to make sure it can’t go inside?

There is already a fight strap included in every NHL jersey that has to be attached to your pants at all times. If it is not attached, you receive a penalty. This keeps the jersey on the player’s back, what does it really matter if the jersey gets tucked the tiniest bit into the player’s pants?

Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal wears his chin strap very loose.

Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal wears his chin strap very loose.

With all the issues cornering helmets and player safety, other than grandfathering in visors (which took way too long to do in the first place), strides were made to ensure the best helmet, the best visor, and the best practices were being used. If there is concrete evidence one helmet is far superior to other models it should be implemented without any vote from the players like these uniform rules have been. Why not mandate all players have to wear a certain visor because it is common sense and you’re crazy not to wear one? It makes sense to fight for the safety of players, not the appearance of safety.

By far the biggest miss besides mandating socks to cover the achilles area is ignoring properly tightened chin straps. It’s not going to save your from suffering a concussion, but it will help with impact. If your chin strap is tightened correctly there is no chance your helmet will come flying off, therefore, your safety is improved.

We’re dealing with grown men, millionaire athletes. They want to be consulted on these matters. When it comes to appearance, the NHL seems to be all for changes that will affect any given game’s outcome due to a jersey tuck, or exposed skin. What they aren’t worried about it the actual longterm safety of a player with these newly enforced rules. It is clear the NHL spent copious amounts of time writing and fine-tuning these rules, but they really missed an opportunity to do more for safety than their own brand.

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Katie Flynn is a news editor at theScore and theScore app, and a Maple Leafs writer at mapleleafscentral.com