Hockey Central
NHL Major Rule Changes
 
1910-11 – Game changed from two 30-minute periods to three 20-minute periods.
1911-12 – Nation Hockey Association (forerunner of the NHL) originated six-man hockey, replacing seven-man game.
1917-18 – Goalies permitted to fall to the ice to make saves. Previously a goaltender was penalized for dropping to the ice.
1918-19 – Penalty rules amended. For minor fouls, substitutes not allowed until penalized player had served three minutes. For major fouls, no substitutes for five minutes. For match fouls, no substitutes allowed for the remainder of the game. With the addition of two lines painted on the ice twenty feet from center, three playing zones were created, producing a forty-foot neutral center ice area in which forward passing was permitted. Kicking the puck was permitted in this neutral zone. Tabulation of assists began.
1921-22 – Goaltenders allowed to pass the puck forward up to their own blue line. Overtime limited to twenty minutes. Minor penalties changed from three minutes to two minutes.
1923-24 – Match foul defined as actions deliberately injuring or disabling an opponent. For such actions, a player was fined not less then $50 and ruled off the ice for the balance of the game. A player assessed a match penalty may be replaced by a substitute at the end of 20 minutes. Match penalty recipients must meet with the League president who can assess additional punishment.
1925-26 – Delayed penalty rules introduced. Each team must have a minimum of four players on the ice at all times. Two rules were amended to encourage offense: No more then two defensemen permitted to remain inside a team's own blue line when the puck has left the defensive zone. A faceoff to be called for ragging the puck unless short-handed. Team captains only players allowed to talk to referees. Goaltender's leg pads limited to 12-inch width. Timekeeper's gong to mark end of periods rather than referee's whistle. Teams to dress a maximum of 12 players for each game from a roster of no more than 14 players.
1926-27 – Blue lines repositioned to sixty feet from each goal-line, thereby relarging the neutral zone and standardizing distance from blueline to goal. Uniform goal nets adopted throughout NHL with goal posts securely fastened to the ice.
1927-28 – To further encourage offense, forward passes allowed in defending and neutral zones and goaltender's pads reduced in width from 12 to 10 inches. Game standardized at three twenty-minute periods of stop-time separated by ten-minute intermissions. Teams to change ends after each period. Ten minutes of sudden-death overtime to be played if the score is tied after regulation time. Minor penalty to be assessed to any player other than a goaltender for deliberately picking up the puck while it is in play. Minor penalty to be assessed for deliberately shooting the puck out of play. The Art Ross goal net adopted as the official net of the NHL. Maximum length of hockey sticks limited to 53 inches measured from heel of blade to end of handle. No minimum length stipulated. Home teams given choice of goals to defend at start of game.
1928-29 – Forward passing permitted in defensive and neutral zones and into attacking zone if pass receiver is in neutral zone when pass is made. No forward passing allowed inside attacking zone. Minor penalty to be assessed to any player who delays the game by passing the puck back into his defensive zone. Ten-minute overtime without sudden-death provision to be played in games tied after regulation time. Games tied after this overtime period declared a draw. Exclusive of goaltenders, team to dress at least 8 and no more than 12 skaters.
1929-30 – Forward passing permitted inside all three zones but not permitted across either blue line. Kicking the puck allowed, but a goal cannot be scored by kicking the puck in. No more than three players including the goaltender may remain in their defensive zone while the puck has gone up ice. Minor penalties to be assessed for the first two violations of this rule in a game; major penalties thereafter. Goaltenders forbidden to hold the puck. Pucks caught must be cleared immediately. For infringement of this rule, a faceoff to be taken ten feet in front of the goal with no player except the goaltender standing between the faceoff spot and the goal-line. High sticking penalties introduced. Maximum number of players in uniform increased from 12 to 15.
Dec. 21, –
1929
Forward passing rules instituted at the beginning of the 1929-30 season more than doubled number of goals scored. Partway through the season, these rules were further amended to read, "No attacking player allowed to precede the play when entering the opposing defensive zone." This is similar to modern offside rule.
1930-31 – A player without a complete stick ruled out of play and forbidden from taking part in further action until a new stick is obtained. A player who has broken his stick must obtain a replacement at his bench. A further refinement of the offside rule stated that the puck must be first be propelled into the attacking zone before any player of the attacking side can enter that zone; for infringement of this rule a faceoff to take place at the spot where the infringement took place.
1931-32 – Though there is no record of a team attempting to play with two goaltenders on the ice, a rule was instituted which stated that each team was allowed only one goaltender on the ice at one time. Attacking players forbidden to impede the movement or obstruct the vision of opposing goaltenders. Defending players with the exception of the goaltender forbidden from falling on the puck within 10 feet of the net.
1932-33 – Each team to have captain on the ice at all times. If the goaltender is removed from the ice to serve a penalty, the manager of the club to appoint a substitute. Match penalty with substitution after five minutes instituted for kicking another player.
1933-34 – Number of players permitted to stand in defensive zone restricted to three including goaltender. Visible time clocks required in each rink. Two referees replace one referee and one linesman.
1934-35 – Penalty shot awarded when a player is tripped and thus prevented from having a clear shot on goal, having no player to pass to other than the offending player. Shot taken from inside a 10-foot circle located 38 feet from the goal. The goaltender must not advance more than one foot from his goal-line when the shot is taken.
1937-38 – Rules introduced governing icing the puck. Penalty shot awarded when a player other than a goaltender falls on the puck within 10 feet of the goal.
1938-39 – Penalty shot modified to allow puck carrier to skate in before shooting. One referee and one linesman replace two referee system. Blue line widened to 12 inches. Maximum number of players in uniform increased from 14 to 15.
1939-40 – A substitute replacing a goaltender removed from ice to serve a penalty may use a goaltender's stick and gloves but no other goaltending equipment.
1940-41 – Flooding ice surface between periods made obligatory.
1941-42 – Penalty shots classified as minor and major. Minor shot to be taken from a line 28 feet from the goal. Major shot, awarded when a player is tripped with only the goaltender to beat, permits the player taking the penalty shot to skate right into the goalkeeper and shoot from point-blank range. One referee and two linesmen employed to officiate games. For playoffs, standby minor league goaltenders employed by NHL as emergency substitutes.
1942-43 – Because of wartime restrictions on train scheduling, regular-season overtime was discontinued on November 21, 1942. Player limit reduced from 15 to 14. Minimum of 12 men in uniform abolished.
1943-44 – Red line at center ice introduced to speed up the game and reduce offside calls. This rule is considered to mark the beginning of the modern era in the NHL. Delayed penalty rules introduced.
1945-46 – Goal indicator lights synchronized with official time clock required at all rinks.
1946-47 – System of signals by officials to indicate infractions introduced. Linesman from neutral cities employed for all games.
1947-48 – Goal awarded when a player with the puck has an open net to shoot at and a thrown stick prevents the shot on goal. Major penalty to any player who throws his stick in any zone other than defending zone. If a stick is thrown by a player in his defending zone but the thrown stick is not considered to have prevented a goal, a penalty shot is awarded. All playoff games played until a winner determined, with 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods separated by 10 minute intermissions.
1949-50 – Ice surface painted white. Clubs allowed to dress 17 players exclusive of goaltenders. Major penalties incurred by goaltenders served by a member of the goaltender's team instead of resulting in a penalty shot.
1950-51 – Each team required to provide an emergency goaltender in attendance with full equipment at each game for use by either team in the event of illness to a regular goaltender.
1951-52 – Home teams to wear basic white uniforms; visiting teams basic colored uniforms. Goal crease enlarged from 3 x 7 feet to 4 x 8 feet. Number of players in uniform reduced to 15 plus goaltenders. Faceoff circles enlarged from 10-foot to 15-foot radius.
1952-53 – Teams permitted to dress 15 skaters on the road and 16 at home.
1953-54 – Number of players in uniform set at 16 plus goaltenders.
1954-55 – Number of players in uniform set at 18 plus goaltenders up to December 1 and 16 plus goaltenders thereafter. Teams agree to wear colored uniforms at home and white uniforms on the road.
1956-57 – Player serving a minor penalty allowed to return to ice when a goal is scored by opposing team.
1959-60 – Players prevented from leaving their benches to enter into an alternation. Substitutions permitted providing substitutes do not enter into altercation.
1960-61 – Number of players in uniform set at 16 plus goaltenders.
1961-62 – Penalty shots to be taken by the player against whom the foul was committed. In the event of a penalty shot called in a situation where a particular player hasn't been fouled, the penalty shot to be taken by any player on the ice when the foul was committed.
1964-65 – No bodily contact on faceoffs. In playoff games, each team to have its substitute goaltender dressed in his regular uniform except for leg pads and body protector. All previous rules governing standby goaltenders terminated.
1965-66 – Teams required to dress two goaltenders for each regular-season game. Maximum stick length increased to 55 inches.
1966-67 – Substitution allowed on coincidental major penalties. Between-periods intermissions fixed at 15 minutes.
1967-68 – If a penalty incurred by a goaltender is a coincident major, the penalty to be served by a player of the goaltender's team on the ice at the time the penalty was called. Limit of curvature of hockey stick blade set at 1-1/2 inches.
1969-70 – Limit of curvature of hockey stick blade set to 1 inch.
1970-71 – Home teams to wear basic white uniforms; visiting teams basic colored uniforms. Limit of curvature of hockey stick blade set at 1/2 inch. Minor penalty for deliberately shooting the puck out of the playing area.
1971-72 – Number of players in uniform set at 17 plus 2 goaltenders. Third man to enter an altercation assessed an automatic misconduct penalty.
1972-73 – Minimum width of stick blade reduced to 2 inches from 2-1/2 inches.
1974-75 – Bench minor penalty imposed if an penalized player does not proceed directly and immediately to the penalty box.
1976-77 – Rule dealing with fighting amended to provide a major and game misconduct penalty for any player who is clearly the instigator of a fight.
1977-78 – Teams requesting a stick measurement to be assessed a minor penalty in the event that the measured stick does not violate the rules.
1979-80 – Wearing of helmets made mandatory for players entering the NHL.
1980-81 – Maximum stick length increased to 58 inches.
1981-82 – If both of a team's listed goaltenders are incapacitated, the team can dress and play any eligible goaltender who is available.
1982-83 – Number of players in uniform set at 18 plus 2 goaltenders.
1983-84 – Five-minute sudden-death overtime to be played in regular-season games that are tied at the end of regulation time.
1985-86 – Substitutions allowed in the event of coincidental minor penalties. Maximum stick length increased to 60 inches.
1986-87 – Delayed off-side is no longer in effect once the players of the offending team have cleared the opponents' defensive zone.
1990-91 – The goal lines, blue lines, defensive zone face-off circles and markings all moved one foot out from the end boards, creating 11 feet of room behind the nets and shrinking the neutral zone from 60 to 58 feet.
1991-92 – Video replays employed to assist referees in goal/no goal situations. Size of goal crease increased. Crease changed to semi-circular configuration. Time clock to record tenths of a second in last minute of each period and overtime. Major and game misconduct penalty for checking from behind into boards. Penalties added for crease infringement and unnecessary contact with goaltender. Goal disallowed if puck enters net while a player of the attacking team is standing on the goal crease line, is in the goal crease or places his stick in the goal crease.
1992-93 – No substitutions allowed in the event of coincidental minor penalties called when both teams are at full strength. Wearing of helmets made optional for forwards and defensemen. Minor penalty for attempting to draw a penalty ("diving"). Major and game misconduct penalty for checking from behind into goal frame. Game misconduct penalty for instigating a fight. Highsticking redefined to include any use of the stick above waist-height. Previous rule stipulated shoulder-height.
1993-94 – High sticking redefined to allow goals scored with a high stick below the height of the crossbar of the goal frame.
1996-97 – Maximum stick length increased to 63 inches.
1998-99 – The league instituted a two-referee system with each team to play 20 regular-season games with two referees and a pair of linesmen. Also, the goal lines,blue lines, defensive zone face-off circles and markings all moved two feet closer to center, creating 13 feet of room behind the nets and cutting the neutral zone from 58 to 54 feet. The goal crease was altered so that it extends only one foot beyond each goal post (eight feet across in total) and has square sides for the first 4'6". Only the top of the crease remains rounded.
1999-00 – Each team to play 25 home and 25 road games using the 2-referee system. Crease rule revised to implement a "no-harm, no foul, no video review" standard. An attacking player's position, whether inside or outside the crease, does not, in itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed.

The on-ice judgment of the referee(s) – instead of video review – will determine if a goal is "good" or not. Also, regular-season games tied at the end of the three periods will result in each team being awarded one point in the standings. As before, there will be a five-minute sudden death overtime when the score is tied after three periods. but each team will play "four on four", with four skaters and a goalkeeper.

In the event that penalties dictate that one team has a two-man advantage, the penalized team plays with three skaters while the team with the two-man advantage adds a fifth skater. A team scoring in overtime will receive one additional point in the standings.

2000-01 – All games to be played using the two-referee system.
2002-03 – "Hurry-up" faceoff and line-change rules implemented.
2003-04 – Home teams to wear basic colored uniforms; visiting teams basic norm uniforms. Maximum length of goatender's pads set at 38 inches.
2005-06 – The NHL adopted a comprehensive package of rule changes that included the following:
Goal line moved to 11 feet from end boards; Blue lines moved to 75 feet from end boards, reducing neutral zone from 54 feet to 50 feet. Center red line eliminated for two-line passes. "Tag-up" off-side rule reinstituted. This rule was previously used from 1986-87 through 1995-96. Goaltender not permitted to play the puck outside a designated trapeziod-shaped area behind his net. A team that ices the puck will not be permitted to make any player substitutions prior to the ensuing face-off. A player who instigates a fight in the final five minutes of regulation time or at ay time or overtime will receive a minor, major, a misconduct and an automatic one-game suspension. The size of goaltender equipment has been reduced by approzimately 11 percent. If a game remains tied after five minutes of overtime, a shootout will be conducted to determine a winner.
2011-12 – Rules and penalties modified to address contact with the head.