The Instigator Rule: It's the Real Problem

It’s the worst rule in NHL hockey. It is the cause of many head injuries, and the main reason so many star players get hurt. The Instigator Rule needs to go.

46.11 Instigator – An instigator of an altercation shall be a player who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates any/some of the following criteria: distance traveled; gloves off first;   first punch thrown; menacing attitude or posture; verbal instigation or threats; conduct in retaliation to a prior game (or season) incident; obvious retribution for a previous incident in the game or season. (

To make a long story short this rule protects goons. It allows some players to skate around the ice with little to no concern for their fellow players.  

Back in 1992, the NHL introduced a rule that made non-fighting, cheap-shot artists rejoice with glee. This rule was the instigator penalty, and it stated that any player caught starting a fight would automatically end up with two extra minutes in the box. Also, after a certain amount of instigator penalties, the player would be suspended.(

If the NHL truly wants to protect players:  they need to allow players to protect themselves.  It’s  not the pads, it’s not the speed of the game, it’s the players. Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu would be the poster boys for this rule. Ruutu who is no longer in the league seemed to skate around the ice looking to hurt people, and Cook just seems to through elbows. If the NHL is serious about player safety they need to charge the rule. Back in the 70’s and 80’s player policed themselves. Injuries were down, and the Cookes. and Ruutus of the world were not allowed to play their game.

You can change the pads, you can change the boards, and you can tweak the rules, but if you think for a second that players will respect each other when they are not held accountable your are sadly mistaken.

Tags: Instigator Rule Jarkko Ruutu Matt Cooke

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