Hockey Central
Inside the NHL S-Z
Salary, Arbitration
Salary arbitration is a process pursuant to which a club and a player may resolve a salary dispute by presenting their respective cases to an independent arbitrator in which they seek to establish the value of the player's contract. After each side has presented its case, the arbitrator makes a determination as to the appropriate salary for the player to be paid.
A player is eligible to elect salary arbitration if the player meets the qualifications set forth in the following chart:
First Contract Eligible for Salary Arbitration After ...
Signing Age
18-20 Five years professional experience
21 Four years professional experience
22-23 Three years professional experience
24 Two years professional experience
25+ One years professional experience
Salary, Cap
The only salary cup currently in place is for entry level players (See Entry Level System, Compensation).
In the league's formative years there was a salary cup, beginning in 1925-26 when the salary limit for a 12-player team was set at $35,000. That team cap grew to $70,000 (14-man roster plus goalies) in 1932-33 with the further provision that no player's salary could exceed $7,500. The cap was eliminated by the late 1930s after the Great Depression had ended.
Salary, Minimum
A minimum player's salary of $7,000 was first introduced for the 1958-59 season.
For each of the 1998-99, 1999-00 and 2000-01 seasons, the minimum NHL salary is $150,000; 2001-02 $165,000; 2002-03 $175,000; 2003-04 $180,000; 2004-05 $185,000.
Salary, Minor League
The minimum minor-league salary for a player is $25,000 (American Hockey League) and $27,500 (International Hockey League) for an entry level player; the maximum compensation $75,000 (50% of the NHL minimum salary for 1998-99 through 2000-01. The maximum compensation payable to a player who is playing major junior hockey is $8,500.
Supplementary Discipline
In accordance with NHL Rules (Rule 33a of the Rule Book), an NHL club general manager has 24 hours following the completion of a game to request a review of an on-ice incident. A review may also be initiated by the NHL based on the game reports of the officials or supervisor of officials. A match penalty is automatically reviewed by the NHL.
After an initial screening of the videotape, the incident is either deemed not to warrant further action or to be "under review." Before a player can be disciplined he is entitled to a hearing, which may be conducted either in person or by telephone conference call.
All player suspension are without pay, meaning that a club must remit the player's salary for the period in which he is suspended to the league. Player fine money goes to the NHL's Emergency Assistance Fund to benefit former players. The NHL calculates the amount of money the player must forfeit due to the suspension. This is calculated on the following basis:
a) For first offenders (first incident requiring supplementary discipline in the form of a game suspension), player to forfeit one day's salary for each regular-season game lost (one divided by the total number of days in the season measured from the date of the NHL's first regular-season game to the last, irrespective of the player's club's schedule.
b) For repeat offenders (second or subsequent incidents requiring game suspension), player to forfeit one game's salary for each regular-season game lost (one divided by the number of regular season games for each regular season game suspended).
A player may also be fined up to $1,000, the maximum permitted under the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The use of scoreboards in all NHL arenas to show scores from out of town games became mandatory in February 1955.
Stanley Cup, Engraving of Names
The Stanley Cup is the oldest trophy competed for by professional athletes in North America and is the only trophy that provides for each player from the winning team to have his name engraved on it. Prior to the 1976-77 season, only those players who completed the Stanley Cup playoffs were eligible to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup. In January 1977, however, the NHL changed the criteria to allow players competing in 40 regular-season games or one final-series game to have their names on the Cup. Since 1944, the league has allowed exceptions to this rule in the case of players who, by reason of injury, do not appear in the sufficient number of games.
Prior to 1968, all broadcast revenues were divided according to international borders. With the exception of local market revenues that were reserved for the home team, all U.S. broadcast rights revenue was evenly distributed among the U.S.-based member clubs, while all Canadian broadcast rights revenues were evenly divided among the Canadian-based clubs. In 1968, the first version of the Trans-Border TV Rights Agreement was devised which saw the Canadian broadcast rightsholder (Molson) pay the U.S. broadcaster (CBS) for the right to air playoff games between two U.S.-based clubs within Canada. Molson, who owned the rights to cover games that involved two Canadian-based member clubs, did not have the right to cover any playoff games that involved two US-based clubs. The TBA was formed to allow Molson to cover the playoffs, in the event that no Canadian-based teams advanced to the Stanley Cup finals. The sum that would be paid to the U.S. broadcaster was evenly split among all U.S. member clubs.
The TBA was altered a few more times, beginning in the early 1980s when Carling O'Keefe acquired the rights to cover home games between Canadian clubs and U.S. teams in Canada, while Molson continued to broadcast all home games between the Canadian teams. Since all broadcast rights were controlled by the clubs and not the NHL, it was possible to sell non-exclusive rights to a variety of broadcasters. However, this was changed in 1986 when it was announced that the league would sell the exclusive rights to broadcast coverage. The home team would reserve the right to provide its own exclusive coverage of home games within its local market, but the league's rightsholder would provide coverage to the rest of the nation. The division of each revenue would follow the previous guidelines of international boundaries.
The agreement was once again altered in accordance with the rise of U.S. cable. The NHL negotiated agreements with the emerging cable companies in the U.S. and revised the TBA so that all broadcast revenue from the sale of exclusive rights to both Canadian and U.S. networks and cable companies would be pooled and equally divided among all member clubs. This process of pooling and equal distribution of national television revenue remains in effect in today's NHL.
Third Jersey
Third jerseys of five NHL teams – Anaheim, Boston Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Vancouver – were introduced for the first time on January 27, 1996.
Tie-Breaking Procedure, Regular-Season Standings
At the conclusion of the regular season, the standing of the teams in each conference shall be determined in accordance with the following priorities in the order listed:
  • a) The higher number of points earned by the club.
  • b) The greater number of games won by the club.
  • c) The higher number of points earned in games against each other among two or more clubs having equal standing under priorities (a) and (b).
NOTE: For the purpose of determining standings under priority (c) for two teams that have not played an equal number of games with each other, points earned in the first games played in the city that has the extra game shall not be included. However, when more than two teams are tied, the percentage of available points earned in games among each other shall be used to determine the standing.
  • d) The greater differential between goals scored for and against by clubs having equal standing under priority (c).
A tie breaking formula was first introduced in 1928-29 (most wins followed by better goal differential). In 1940 the criteria was changed to most wins; followed by fewest losses; most goals for; and fewest goals against. In 1970-71, the NHL adopted head-to-head results as the second criteria ahead of goals for and against. The current criteria were adopted beginning in 1984-85.
In 1969-70, the tie-breaking formula led to a bizarre regular-season finish. The New York Rangers, after leading the NHL standings for much of the 1969-70 season, found themselves in a must-win situation on the last day of the regular season in order to have a chance to qualify for the final postseason position in the East Division. They trailed the Montreal Canadiens by two points heading into the final day and also had to overcome a five-goal Montreal advantage that the Canadiens owned in the goals-for criteria. The Canadiens had scored 242 goals as compared to 237 goals for the Rangers heading into the final day of action, Sunday, April 5.
Playing an afternoon game at Madison Square Garden against Detroit, the Rangers gave themselves a chance, scoring nine goals in a 9-5 win, while outshooting the Red Wings 65-22. They pushed their points total to 92 and number of wins to 38 to tie the Canadiens for the last playoff spot and their goals-for total to 246, four better than Montreal.
Montreal still had one game to play – an evening encounter versus the Black Hawks at Chicago Stadium – where any of the following scenarios would get them into the playoffs ahead of the Rangers: a win, a tie or five goals scored.
A wild evening ensued. The Canadiens, trailing 3-2 entering the third period, fell behind 5-2 with less than 10 minutes to go in the game. Canadiens coach Claude Ruel, sensing his team would not get the tie or win, pulled goaltender Rogatien Vachon for an extra attacker at the 11:40 mark of the third period in the hope of scoring the necessary five goals. Five goals were scored ... but all by the Black Hawks into an empty Montreal net.
The Canadiens lost the game 10-2, and by failing to score five goals, were eliminated from participating in the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 22 years. During the off-season, the NHL adopted head-to-head results as the second criteria (after wins) for breaking a tie between two clubs in the standings.
Tie-Breaking Procedure,
Art Ross Trophy/Individual Awards
In 1979-80, Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky and Marcel Dionne of Los Angeles tied for the league lead in scoring with 137 points. Dionne was awarded the Art Ross Trophy based on his having scored 53 goals to Gretzky's 51 goals. The same situation had presented itself 18 years earlier when Bobby Hull and Andy Bathgate shared the scoring lead with 84-points. Hull was awarded the Art Ross Trophy based on his having scored 50 goals to Bathgate's 28.
Additional tie-breaking criteria were established for the 1987-88 season in the event that the tied players had scored equal number of goals. The player who had taken part in the fewest games would then be awarded the trophy, with the next tiebreaker (if necessary) being the earliest date of each player's first goal.
For the remainder of the league's individual awards, the number of first-place votes is the determining factor in breaking a tie by most second-place votes and so forth.
Timing Devices
Game Clocks: Visible time clocks were first introduced in NHL rinks in 1933-34.
Goal lights: In November 1938, the league passed a resolution requiring that all rinks be equipped with a "timing-lighting device" behind the goal, showing a green light at the expiry of each period. The new equipment made it impossible for the red light to be illuminated once the green light was on. Toronto was the first NHL club to have such a light installed in its rink – in March 1936.
Dressing Rooms: The league first required clocks in the dressing rooms to alert players of the amount of time remaining before the start of a game or period for the 1986-87 season.
Transfer of Players
Trading Deadline: A club may loan players on its reserve list of clubs of any league affiliated with the NHL at any time up to 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time of the 26th day immediately preceding the final day of the regular season.
During the period following noon of the 26th day immediately preceding the final day of the regular season no player may be recalled from loan to a member club of any league affiliated with the league, except that:
  • a) an NHL club may exercise four recalls from a member club or clubs of a league affiliated with the NHL.
  • b) players may be recalled on an emergency basis.
  • c) Players may be recalled upon completion of the regular season and playoffs of the club to which they were loaned.
Emergency Recall: A player on loan to a club of any league affiliated with the NHL may be recalled under emergency conditions at any time. Emergency conditions are established when the playing strength of the NHL club, by reason of injury, illness or by league suspension, is reduced below the level of two goaltenders, six defensemen and 12 forwards. A player may be recalled for the duration of the emergency only.
IIHF/NHL: Any player under contract to an International Ice Hockey Federation team may be signed by an NHL club through July 15 of the year in which he will begin play in the NHL (e.g. July 15, 2001 is the signing deadline for a player for the 2001-02 season). For players drafted in the most recent Entry Draft, however, the deadline is August 15. The cost the NHL club must pay to the IIHF for any player signed between July 15 and August 15 is $100,000.
Any player who is under contract to an IIHF team; signs an NHL contract; has not yet reached his 20th birthday; is unable to earn a roster position on his NHL club by the first day of the NHL season and was not selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft may not be assigned by his NHL club to a minor-league affiliate but instead must be returned to his IIHF club for the balance of the IIHF season.
Players not under contract to an IIHF team or who were selected in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft or have reached their 20th birthday may be assigned by an NHL team to a minor-league club without restriction. All other player not signed by their NHL club must be returned to their IIHF club.
An NHL club may enter into a tryout agreement with any amateur player whose eligibility for junior hockey is echausted (ie. has attained or will have attained his 20th birthday by December 31 next following). Such tryout may not last for more than eight regular-season games.
Video Replay
Video replay was first introduced in the NHL in the 1991-92 season with the following situations subject to review: puck crossing the goal line; puck in the net prior to the goal frame being dislodged; puck in the net prior to, or after expiration of time at the end of the period; puck directed into the net by hand or foot; puck deflected into the net off an official; puck struck with a high stick (this criteria was actually added after the start of the 1991-92 season on December 6). Prior to the 1994-95 season, an additional criteria was added to establish the correct time on the game clock, while the man in the crease criteria was added in 1996-97.
Experimentation into using video replay for NHL games was first done in November 1985 in a U.S. collegiate game at Michigan State. Further experiments were conducted by the NHL on February 13-14, 1986 in the International Hockey League.
Waivers were first introduced in the league in 1922. The new clause in the bylaws read: "No club in this league shall have the right to sell outright, option or otherwise exchange any of its players to any other league without first offering the services of such player to all NHL clubs at a price not to exceed $1,500." Today, waivers operate under that basic principle adopted in the league's early days.
Waiver Draft (Intra-League Draft), Regular-Season Waivers
Parity in the six-team NHL had become of great concern to the NHL owners in the 1950-51 season when the last-place Chicago Black Hawks finished 65 points behind the league-leading Montreal Canadiens. A number of discussions ensued as to the feasibility of adopting a draft system to assist the weaker clubs with a player (or players) from the stronger clubs. In June 1952, the Intra-League Draft (the forerunner of the Waiver Draft) was adopted. It provided that each club would have the right to protect 25 professional players on its reserve list. In turn, the three lowest clubs in league standings from the previous season were entitled to draft from the top three clubs two professional players. The top three clubs were then able to draft one professional player (not included on any protected list) from any other club with the draft price for any player established at $7,500.
Each year the NHL holds a Waiver Draft prior to the start of the regular season. The Waiver Draft is organized to allow each club an equal opportunity to acquire unprotected talent from the league's other member clubs. In September of each year, NHL clubs must submit a protected list consisting of 18 skaters and two goaltenders. The order of selection is based on the inverse order of standing from the previous regular season, beginning with only non-playoff teams selecting in the first round. Each subsequent round offers each member club an opportunity for selection. The draft is concluded when a round is completed without any clubs making a selection. In the first round, a team is not permitted to claim a player from a club in its own division. When a player is claimed he must immediately be placed on the claiming team's protected list, replacing a previously protected player who is now made available for claim by other clubs. A team losing a player is granted the option of receiving a cash payment off the claiming club or the player who is taken off the claiming team's protected list. No team shall lose more than three players, however, each club reserves the right to offer as many players as it so chooses. In addition, this three-man limit will increase according to the number of additional players the team claims in the draft.
Not every player is eligible for claim in the Waiver Draft. Exemptions are based on the players' age and experience in the league. For example, a player 18 years of age will not be eligible for the Waiver Draft for five years or until he has played in 160 NHL games.
Today, the number of years a player is exempt from the Waiver Draft is outlined below. The exemption ends once the player has played in the number of NHL regular-season and playoff games set forth in the applicable column below.
Goaltenders Skaters
Age Years from NHL
  NHL Games Played Age Years from NHL
  NHL Games Played*
18 6 or 80 18 5 or 160
19 5 or 80 19 4 or 160
20 4 or 80 20 3 or 160
21 4 or 60 21 3 or 80
22 4 or 60 22 3 or 70
23 3 or 60 23 3 or 60
24 2 or 60 24 2 or 60
25+ 1 or   25+ 1 or  
For purposes of regular-season waivers and the Waiver Draft, the five-year exemption for an 18-year-old skater and four-year exemption for a 19-year-old skater are both reduced to three years commencing the first season the the 18- or 19-year-old plays in 11 games or more. The next two seasons, regardless of whether the skater plays and games in either season, shall count as the second and third years toward satisfying the exemption.
For purposes of regular-season waivers and the Waiver Draft, the six-year exemption for an 18-year-old goaltender and five-year exemption for a 19-year-old goaltender are both reduced to four years commencing the first season that the 18- 19-year-old plays in 11 NHL games or more. The next three seasons, regardless of whether the goalie plays any games in any season, shall count as the next three years toward satisfying the exemption.
The first season in which a player who is age 20 or older plays in one or more "professional games" shall constitute the first year for calculating the number of years he is exempt from waivers.
A player 25 years or older who plays in one or more professional games in any season shall be exempt from regular-season waivers for the remainder of that season.
The rights granted to assign a player who is otherwise required to clear waivers to a minor-league club expire for any player, who, after clearing the Waiver Draft or regular-season waivers:
  • is not sent to a minor-league club, or is recalled from a minor-league club (except on emergency recall) and:
  • remains on an NHL roster for 30 days (cumulative) or plays 10 NHL games (cumulative).
A marked improvement in the playing conditions of the ice surface resulted in the early 1950s with the widespread adoption of the Zamboni ice-finishing machine that replaced the old practice of flooding the rink between periods. Instead of merely coating the ice with water, the Zamboni scraped away a layer of the old surface first, resulting in a quicker and smoother freeze.
With more clubs providing fans with between-periods entertainment on the ice, the league adopted a rule in the early 1990s that requires teams to use two Zambonis to resurface the ice.