Consider the segment from 1:22 to 1:28 of the video at https://twitter.com/sportsnet/status/1469495840079327233

These events occurred in this order:

  • An attacking player A0 is in the attacking zone.
  • An attacking player A1 possesses the puck in the neutral zone.
  • A1 causes the puck to completely cross the blue line into the attacking zone, without touching it after it has crossed the blue line.
  • A0 leaves the attacking zone, causing the attacking team to "tag up" and become onside.
  • A1 touches the puck.

If A1 had touched the puck before A0 left the attacking zone, it is clearly offside.

Which of the following rulings is correct?

  • There is a delayed offside because A1 did not touch the puck in the attacking zone, but the delayed offside is nullified after the team tags up.
  • There is an offside immediately when A1 caused the puck to cross the blue line while his team is offside, just because A1 possessed the puck.

The linesman ruled the first one. The referees ruled the second. The NHL Senior Executive Vice President Colin Campbell later said the first ruling is correct. Who is right?

Also, how is "possession and control" defined? Is simply being the last player to touch the puck enough to be in possession of it? But this would be inconsistent with the fact that shooting the puck across the blue line such that it is far away from the player would create a delayed offside.

1 Answer 1


Unsurprisingly, Colin Campbell is right, as you'd expect.

From the 2022 NHL Rulebook, rule 83 (Off-sides), delayed off-sides:

83.3 Delayed Off-side – A situation where an attacking player (or players) has preceded the puck across the attacking blue line, but the defending team is in a position to bring the puck back out of its defending zone without any delay or contact with an attacking player, or, the attacking players are in the process of clearing the attacking zone. If an off-side call is delayed, the Linesman shall drop his arm to nullify the off-side violation and allow play to continue if:

(i) All players of the offending team clear the zone at the same instant (skate contact with the blue line) permitting the attacking players to re-enter the attacking zone, or

(ii) The defending team passes or carries the puck into the neutral zone.

If, during the course of the delayed off-side, any member of the attacking team touches the puck, attempts to gain possession of a loose puck, forces the defending puck carrier further back into his own zone, or who is about to make physical contact with the defending puck carrier, the Linesman shall stop play for the off-side violation.

The specific action the player would take that would cause the off-sides whistle to be correct is to touch the puck.

At 1:25, you can see the player at the top of the screen last touches the puck on the blue line (so, not yet off-sides). At 1:26, you can see for a brief moment all three attacking players are on-side (their skates are at least touching or over the blue line's leading edge, or the edge closest to the goal). It's very brief - less than half of a second, and by centimeters - and I could see another person seeing this differently - but that's why Campbell uses the words "could not definitively determine". In my eyes they're on-side, and at minimum clearly not definitively off-sides (which would be required for overturning the goal).

Note that your distinction is not quite right. The delayed off-sides doesn't only happen when the attacking player is not possessing the puck. It can also happen when the attacking players do possess the puck, but are clearing the zone, and don't actually touch the puck - even if it's under their control (just as long as they don't touch it, which is of course challenging).

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