What Happens When an NHL Referee is Injured

[AUTHOR’S NOTE: This was written for The Broad Street Bully, a blog and podcast my friend Drew and I started based off of our mutual interest in the Philadelphia Flyers. See it on http://broadstreetbully.net.]

There are two referees and two linesman on the ice surface, along with the six players for each team, for every NHL game.  It has been the two referee system every game since the 2004-2005 lockout.  The two referee system does allow some leeway in case one of the referees is injured and unable to continue. But how does that replacement system work exactly?  Let’s look at the NHL rulebook for the answer.

Here’s the verbatim rule straight from the NHL rulebook:

31.11 Unable to Continue

Should a Referee accidentally leave the ice or receive an injury which incapacitates him from discharging his duties while play is in progress, the game shall be automatically stopped. If the Referee is unable to continue, the game shall continue using the one Referee, two Linesmen system.

If, owing to illness or accident, one of the Referees is unable to continue to officiate, the remaining Referee shall perform the duties of the ill or injured Referee during the balance of the game. In the event that a member of the League’s Hockey Operations or Officiating departments is in attendance at a game where a spare official is present, he shall have the authority to substitute the injured Referee with the spare official.

If, through misadventure or sickness, the Referees and Linesmen appointed are prevented from appearing, the League will make every attempt to find suitable replacement officials, otherwise, the Managers or Coaches of the two Clubs shall agree on Referee(s) and Linesman(men). If they are unable to agree, they shall appoint a player from each side who shall act as Referee and Linesman; the player of the home Club acting as Referee and the player of the visiting Club as Linesman.

If the regularly appointed officials appear during the progress of the game, they shall at once replace the temporary officials.

And now, to break it down by paragraph to make it easier to understand:

Should a Referee accidentally leave the ice or receive an injury which incapacitates him from discharging his duties while play is in progress, the game shall be automatically stopped. If the Referee is unable to continue, the game shall continue using the one Referee, two Linesmen system.

Referee injuries are treated like player injuries and play is whistled dead while the referee is attended to.  If the injured referee cannot go on, they are allowed to leave the game.

If, owing to illness or accident, one of the Referees is unable to continue to officiate, the remaining Referee shall perform the duties of the ill or injured Referee during the balance of the game. In the event that a member of the League’s Hockey Operations or Officiating departments is in attendance at a game where a spare official is present, he shall have the authority to substitute the injured Referee with the spare official.

If one referee is injured in the course of a game, they go back to operating under a one referee system.  This was the regular system from the advent of the game, until they changed to the two referee system in the mid 2000s.  If someone from NHL Management, or a head of NHL Officiating, is at the game then they have the authority to substitute who they deem fit for the injured referee.

If, through misadventure or sickness, the Referees and Linesmen appointed are prevented from appearing, the League will make every attempt to find suitable replacement officials, otherwise, the Managers or Coaches of the two Clubs shall agree on Referee(s) and Linesman(men). If they are unable to agree, they shall appoint a player from each side who shall act as Referee and Linesman; the player of the home Club acting as Referee and the player of the visiting Club as Linesman.

If neither the referees or the linesmen can continue, and the league cannot find a suitable replacement in a timely manner, then there is actually a codified solution.  The coaches of the two teams playing will agree on appointed Referee(s) and Linesmen.  If the coaches cannot come to an agreement then a player from each team is appointed to act as a Referee and a Linesman.  The home team player would act as the referee and the visiting team player would act as the Linesman.

If the regularly appointed officials appear during the progress of the game, they shall at once replace the temporary officials.

If the injured referee returns to the ice surface (like after stitches were done being administered), they can resume their duties.

In addition, here’s the rule for Linesmen being injured:

32.6 Unable to Continue

Should a Linesman appointed be unable to act at the last minute or through sickness or accident be unable to finish the game, the Referees shall have the power to appoint another in his stead, if they deem it necessary, or if required to do so by the Manager or Coach of either of the competing teams. If no replacement Linesman is available, the two Referees will assist the remaining Linesman with his duties while still retaining their ability to assess penalties when deemed appropriate.

If a linesman goes down to injury or illness, the referees can replace them with anybody deemed suitable and available.  If there are no backup linesman then the referees continue with their refereeing duties and also assume linesman duties to help for the remainder of the game.

And now, if you read all this, you know what happens when an NHL officiating crew suffers injuries during the course of an NHL hockey game.

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