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Fraser: Outlining the perks of home ice advantage

Kerry Fraser
6/2/2014 2:51:04 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hey Kerry,

Thanks for taking time to read my question.

So here goes...

I understand that throughout the playoffs, the relative rankings in the regular season determines which team gets home ice advantage as they move through each round. I completely understand the logic regarding this rule and it makes total sense...more points earned = home ice advantage. And with this advantage, the home team benefits by having the energizing and supportive participation of their home crowd, whereas the visiting team is disadvantaged by having 19,000 fans who desperately want them to lose.

But what I don't understand is why a visiting team must automatically submit their lineups first? Obviously this knowledge provides another strategic advantage to the coaching staff of the home team. Specifically, what has the home team done to EARN receiving this information/advantage first, other than simply being the home team? My question also applies to the stick-to-the-ice requirement on faceoffs by the visiting team first. Why is this so?

Wouldn't it be more fair for the teams to call head or tails on the flip of a coin for these two issues, like they do in football for the kickoff? Couldn't they flip a coin five hours before game time - one coin flip for the lineup submission, and a second flip for the faceoff stick placement? It seems that these two additional 'unearned' benefits bestowed to the home team in the playoffs need re-examination, unless I'm missing something here.

Thank you very much,
Bill
Laval, Quebec

Hi Bill:

The 'founders' initiated a policy that since one team had to submit their starting lineup and playing roster first.  Given that the season schedule was balanced the visiting team coach was ultimately designated in the rules as the one required to 'blink first!'

Recognizing that over the course of the regular season a team plays an equal number of games at home and on the road Rule 33.3 outlines the process as follows:

It is the policy of the National Hockey League that the coach of the visiting club provide to the Official Scorer, a list of eligible players, his starting line-up and designated Captain and Alternates, within five (5) minutes of completion of the warm-up twenty (20) minutes prior to faceoff. These twenty (20) minutes gives the Official Scorer time to obtain the completed home team line-up, return it to the visiting Coach and provide a copy of both line-ups to the Referees. The Official Scorer must file a report to the Commissioner or his designate if either Coach fails to cooperate within these recommended guidelines. (Report to be forwarded to NHL Toronto office).  

The starting lineup is simply a 'one-time' event during the course of a game. Matching lines against key players can become an issue throughout the entire game for the visiting team Coach since the home team has the benefit of last change. Changes on the fly can become an integral part of the strategy employed by both teams and when not executed cleanly can result in scoring opportunities. We have seen situations where the line matching process can even take place immediately following the opening puck drop whereby the visiting team might dump the puck deep and then head to the bench for a designated line change.

In a playoff series that goes the full seven games, the team that won the right to host the deciding game (and it was won over the long haul and not arbitrarily bestowed) also receives the full bundle of rights associated with home ice advantage; recording starting line-up last, centre stick down last in faceoffs and most importantly, the last line change.

Over the course of my career I encountered more than a few glitches with team starting lineups and rosters that were submitted prior to the game. I assessed a bench minor for the incorrect starting line-up on more than two occasions when an appeal was made prior to the next face-off by the non-offending team. I also removed players from the game once I was informed by the official scorer that those players were not listed on the roster that had been submitted by the Coach. The most bizarre situation occurred when I had to enforce rule 5.2 to take away a goal that had just been scored by a team with an ineligible player on the ice. It didn't matter that the ineligible player was not involved in the scoring but simply that he had been on the ice at the time the goal had been scored and it was brought to my attention at that stoppage of play.

When I showed the Coach the copy of the roster in my back pocket he admitted that he had entrusted the team trainer with filling in the roster sheet prior to the game!

Near the end of my career I had a game in Madison Square Garden and Ken Hitchcock was coaching the visiting Philadelphia Flyers. Once we added a second referee to the crew I always entrusted the starting line-up sheets to my 'junior' partner. In other words I never put them in my pocket because every other referee was junior to me. This night I was working with Bill McCreary so he held the roster sheets. Following the national anthem, Coach Hitchcock called McCreary to the Flyer bench. I saw him take the roster sheets out of his pocket, examine them briefly and then wave me over and to the bench. Upon my arrival, McCreary attempted to hand me the sheets and said 'Hitch' wanted to make sure he had the correct players circled for the starting lineup.

I refused to take the roster sheets and told McCreary to check them himself. The more McCreary persisted in trying to hand the sheets to me the more I resisted taking them.  Finally as this Keystone Cops routine went back and forth the Flyers' Coach intervened and asked what the 'F' we were doing?

We admitted that neither one of us carried our reading glasses onto the ice nor could we see the fine print or the players that were circled! McCreary handed the sheets to 'Hitch' and said who are you starting? Coach Hitchcock rolled his eyes and said, "Man, we are in trouble tonight with you two out here. You're both F-n blind!"  (My contact lenses worked great on the long shots, however)

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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