NHL alters offside rule, releases COVID protocols for 2020-21 season

The NHL has made an adjustment to the offside rule that has been a hot topic for years, and it will come into effect for the upcoming season.

The change to rule 83.1 was announced on Tuesday by the NHL and its Players’ Association as part of a return-to-play package that also included COVID-19 protocols, travel rules and a critical dates calendar.

Starting in the regular season set to open Jan. 13, a player’s skate will no longer have to be in contact with the blue-line in order to be onside.

Under the old version of the rule, if a player’s skate was raised off the ice but still within the boundaries of the opposition’s blue-line, he would be offside. Now, however, as long as a player’s skate has yet to break the “plane” prior to the puck crossing the leading edge of the blue-line, he is deemed to be onside for the purpose of the offside rule.

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A player is now offside only when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue-line involved in the play.

Back in March at the general manager meetings, GMs voted to amend the interpretation of the offside rule so that a player’s skate off the ice, but above the blue-line, would be considered legal — much like the goal line in football. The league had looked at the issue before, but it was pushed through this time and received final approval from the board of governors.

Meanwhile, a 54-page document was released covering a wide range of topics and featured health and safety rules that will be in effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic. All teams will be following local regulations.

Every club will have a “Club Compliance Officer”, who will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing all COVID-19 protocols including but not limited to the follow through of daily symptom screening and temperature checks for players, as well as making sure players and all other club personnel wear face coverings properly and at all times required, which includes coaches wearing masks during games.

All 31 teams will be in training camp by Jan. 3, with puck drop on the regular season 10 days later.

This season’s trade deadline is April 12, with the regular season ending on May 8.

The Stanley Cup playoffs will begin May 11, with the last possible day of post-season play set for July 9.

The Seattle Kraken expansion draft is scheduled for July 21, followed by the NHL draft July 23.

Free agency for both unrestricted and restricted players opens July 28.

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