What is the NHL’s offside rule? All you need to know how it works 

NHL: Calgary Flames at Minnesota Wild
Exploring the NHL’s offside rule

The NHL offside rule is one of the most important and frequently invoked regulations within the NHL rule book. The rule dictates that an attacking player must not precede the puck into the offensive zone.

Offside is called when an attacking player crosses the blue line into the offensive zone before the puck. To be considered offside, the player's skates must completely cross the blue line before the puck crosses it.

Players cannot use their stick or any other part of their body to stay onside, except in the case where an attacking player's skates may enter the attacking zone before the puck if they are skating backward and in control of the puck.

The NHL's offside rule was passed on Dec. 16, 1929, at the NHL Board of Governors meeting.

“No attacking player shall be allowed to precede the play when entering the opposing defensive zone,” the NHL Rule Book's offside rule states.

For a play to be considered onside, the puck must completely cross the blue line into the offensive zone before any attacking player does. If an attacking player enters the offensive zone ahead of the puck, the play is deemed offside, resulting in a stoppage of play and a faceoff outside the offensive zone.

This allows the defending team to regroup and regain possession of the puck. The rule also aims to prevent players from gaining an unfair advantage by timing their entry into the offensive zone too early. Without it, attacking players could easily position themselves deep in the opponent's territory, creating scoring opportunities at the expense of defensive strategies.


Exceptions to the NHL offside rule

While the offside rule is generally straightforward, there are instances where exceptions apply. One such scenario is the delayed offside, where an attacking player retreats to the neutral zone before making contact with the puck. However, the attacking team must clear the offensive zone completely before re-entering to avoid an offside call.

Additionally, during defensive clearances as the defending team attempts to clear the puck out, the attacking players are allowed to precede the puck across the blue line without being called offside. This is to prevent penalizing attacking players for the actions of the defending team.

If a player from the attacking team leaves the ice and is replaced legally, the offside rule doesn't apply. In rare instances where the puck completely crosses the blue line but is quickly brought back out by a defending player, the attacking players are not considered offside if they enter the offensive zone before the puck is carried back out.

The NHL offside rule is a fundamental aspect of the game, ensuring fair play on the ice.

Quick Links

App download animated image Get the free App now