What Have We Learned from NHL’s New Helmet Rule for Fights?


Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

You must have heard about the National Hockey League’s new rule regarding helmet removal during a fight.

Rule 46.6 (via Puck Daddy) states:

"Helmets – No player may remove his helmet prior to engaging in a fight. If he should do so, he shall be assessed a two minute minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. Helmets that come off in the course of and resulting from the altercation will not result in a penalty to either player."

It got me thinking. Couldn’t a player goad another player into removing his helmet?

It’s probably something heavyweights Shawn Thornton and Brian McGrattan wouldn’t do, but what about a pest like Patrick Kaleta? Tell their opponent to take off their helmet for the scrap, but keep it on to send his team onto the power play.

Let’s look at three fights from this season thus far…

Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Mark Fraser dropped the gloves with Montreal Canadiens winger Travis Moen on Tuesday.

Fraser is a regular scrapper, but wears a visor now after taking a puck to his forehead last year in the playoffs. Doctors told him the bones are very weak now and another strike to the area could leave him with permanent damage.

Despite this, Fraser showed no hesitation engaging in the fisticuffs fighting Moen and then Brandon Prust later in the game. He did, however, show hesitation removing his helmet. Fraser and Moen discussed at lengths about removing their helmets.

I can’t read lips, but it appears Moen signaled to Fraser to remove his helmet, but Fraser didn’t want to do it because he would be assessed a two minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct (removing his helmet) and put his team on the penalty kill. He unbuckles and loosens his helmet telling Moen to come towards him and take it off.

Moen didn’t do it. Fraser then begins taking his helmet off before quickly putting it back on. He finally takes it off when he gets confirmation from Moen that he will do the same thing.

Both players were assessed a five-minute major for fighting and a two-minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. No team wound up on the power play.

In the same evening at the game between the Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers, we saw another helmet removal.

The visorless Jets forward Chris Thorburn was taking on Oilers winger Luke Gazdic, who wears a visor. Both players engaged and Gazdic proceeded to remove his helmet mid-fight.

They received five-minute fighting majors and Gazdic did not receive an unsportsmanlike penalty since helmet removal took place during the fight.

On Wednesday, we saw a scrap between Anaheim Ducks winger Patrick Maroon and Colorado Avalanche winger Cody McLeod.

McLeod had lost his helmet in the scrum so when they decided to fight, McLeod was helmetless while Maroon still had his helmet on with a visor.

Both players engaged and Maroon removed his helmet before they began exchanging blows.

McLeod and Maroon were only assessed a five-minute major for fighting. Maroon did not receive an unsportsmanlike penalty.

What have we learned from these fights? We see how silly this new rule is from the Fraser and Moen fight.

We also learn of the latest loophole: engage and then remove your own helmet. As well, it appears the referees will be giving the players some leeway and won’t be using this rule to hand teams power plays.

In my books, a fight has not and is not happening until punches are exchanged. No punches had been exchanged between Maroon and McLeod prior to the helmet’s removal thus a fight had no ensued yet. This is in direct violation of Rule 46.6, but no penalty was called on the play.