Section 4 of the National Hockey League's official rulebook outlines the different types of penalties that may be called over the course of your standard NHL game -- minors, majors, matches, and everything in between. It's a highly detailed section.
But, for all its detail, it skimps in one particular area. Within that section is Rule 29, which breaks down the various signals for the NHL's different infractions. Appropriately, Rule 29 demonstrates 29 different signals. But what's curious is that there are 34 penalties listed.
That's right. There are five penalties in the NHL rulebook listed with no signal, and looking at it, there's just no reason these have to be without. Sure, in a few cases, the penalty might call for a slightly more demonstrative approach to officiating, but in this writer's humble opinion, NHL officials could stand to be a little more animated. Maybe they'd remember to turn their microphones on before calling penalties if they had to be a little more dialled in when signalling infractions.
The five signal-less penalties are as follows.
1 | Rule 29.13 - Head-butting
You can understand why the league might not see a need to give this one a signal, since it doesn't happen all that often. But it happens. Just ask Patrick "The Rhino" Kaleta:
What the Hell.
Admittedly, in most cases, a head-butting penalty is self-evident enough that no one is looking to the official afterwards to figure out just why the whistle blew. But still. There's no reason for this to be without a signal. It's easy enough to mimic. Why can't officials just throw their head to one side like Steve and Doug Butabi they make the call? Is it fear of breaking the glass? Do it away from the boards.
2 | Rule 29.21 - Kicking
Just like head-butting, this one seems like a no-brainer. The kicking motion isn't exactly a difficult one to perform. But, just like head-butting, it isn't called all that often, probably because the players wear knives on their feet.
Still, we see them occasionally. Back in 2005, Martin Havlat was suspended five games for kicking Hal Gill in the groin -- yes, that happened.
Another thing that happened as a result was this fun piece of writing from Don Brennan, titled, "Havlat did what he had to do", and subtitled, "Big Bruin was pushing Senator around". In the article, Havlat asks what you would do if Hal Gill was pushing you around. Brennan: "My reply: The same thing."
Sometimes you have to kick Hal Gill in the groin. That in mind, another kicking incident could be just around the corner. The NHL needs to cook up a signal before they're caught unprepared.
3 | Rule 29.23 - Match penalty (NO SIGNAL)
The match penalty, which is effectively just throwing a player out a game, has no signal. Of course, it can be assessed for just about anything, so unlike head-butting and kicking, there isn't a specific motion to mime. But still. This one isn't rocket science.
Major League baseball effectively has match penalties, and their umpires really get into doling them out. They point a finger at the offending party, then sort of "throw it" out of the stadium. It works. Heck, here's an umpire throwing out an organist.
Hockey recently adopted Major League Baseball's union head. Now they need to adopt the sport's gesture for giving out match penalties. If it's good enough to toss the kid playing the organ, it's good enough for hockey players.
4 | Rule 29.29 - Throwing equipment (NO SIGNAL)
Here's a scenario I suspect we'll one day see: a defender breaks his stick, and is rushing back to turn a potential odd-man rush into an even-man rush. On his way past the bench, one of his teammates hands him a stick... but he botches the handoff.
You don't see a lot of botched handoffs in the NHL, but here's the thing to consider: it's against the rules to throw a stick onto the ice to a player who has lost or broken his. Hence, if during that handoff, the player misses it and the stick falls to the ice, that player could be penalized.
But there's no signal for it. The piece of equipment lying on the ice may speak for itself, in a sense, but I can't understand for the life of me why NHL officials don't have an overhand throwing motion in this case. They already have an underhand motion for the hand pass.
5 | Rule 29.31 - Too many men on the ice
And finally, there is no signal for too many men on the ice, and frankly, there needs to be. How often does the whistle blow for this call, only to have everyone looking around wondering what the deal is?
That wouldn't happen if there was a signal.
Part of me suspects that this infraction is without one simply because the league has yet to come up with one. But it's not that hard. Have the official show six fingers. Simple as that.