Opinion: Send the NHL back to school, assess delayed penalties even if a goal is scored

Photo Credit: Kelsey Lee-Violet Turtle Photography

On of the leading voices in college hockey had the following to say on the NHL’s lack of assessed power plays for minor penalties committed directly before a goal is scored.

Ben Holden said of the difference, “I really think it should be the same.. you commit the crime you do the time”

“Ice time is precious, there isn’t a lot of it, you’ve got to play the game to the edge but not cross the edge.”

Holden is a student of the game, and on this we very much agree with him.

Fundamentally, the NHL does not do enough to punish those who commit delayed penalties here. If a player violently cross checks someone and the official’s arm goes up, and a goal is scored, the cross-checked player could miss the rest of his season, or more, and the offender may not have to go even sit in the box for 120 seconds or less because a goal was scored.

In addition to this reality, this lack of called penalties deprives the game from what we all want to see, more chances for goals. At a simple level, power plays are scored at a higher rate of goals per game than five-on-five time. This imbalance can lead to lower scoring games despite an equal amount of penalties being noted, yet not formally assessed.

If the NHL wants to open up the game a bit more, and improve player safety, they could do so with this simple change next season. The next time you watch a college hockey game next season, where this rule is a reality, look at the momentum swing a scoring team gets in this scenario. They can cycle the puck with six attackers at will, score, and then score on a power play goal off of the original infraction. Right now, you cannot do that in the biggest league in the world.

And for what?

If you cross check someone, trip someone, or do anything else that would earn you time in the penalty box, that obligation should not dissolve because your team gave up a goal before you served your time. That inequity between a crime having any real heft to it chips away at what we all want our sport to have, a basic element of fairness. In this small sense, in this scenario that happens a lot throughout the season, fans get deprived of transparency. If we carried this rule over to basketball, it would get rid of the and one, and allow players to foul shooters with immunity (for non flagrant/technical fouls) if the shot goes in the hoop. Explain that reality to any new fan to this sport during the playoffs, and they will look at you with some confusion, to say the least.

There are areas that Holden brought up where the college game can learn from the pros, but this is another incident where the NHL is better served listening to the league that produces over 33 percent of its players, and would serve the sport itself well as a model for other leagues in the long run.

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