Hockey Premature Substitution Rule

ice hockey premature substitution

A premature substitution in ice hockey is an illegal substitution violation specific to a situation in which a goalkeeper is leaving the ice. This violation occurs when the player coming into the game enters the ice before the exiting goaltender has reached the allowed substitution area within five feet (1.5 meters) of the bench.


Definition

Premature substitution in ice hockey is an illegal substitution violation that occurs only when a goalkeeper is leaving the ice as part of a substitution. Skaters are allowed to enter and exit play at will for most of the game, provided they maintain a maximum of six players on the ice (five skaters plus a goalkeeper in most situations). One player coming into the game in exchange for another leaving is called a substitution.

In front of each team’s bench, a substitution area exists which extends five feet (1.5 meters) onto the ice and spans the width of the bench; this area is not marked on the ice. When making a substitution, the skater entering play may come over the bench wall and put their skates on the ice as soon as the exiting skater is within the substitution zone. If a goalkeeper is leaving play in substitution for another skater, and the entering skater touches the ice before the exiting goalkeeper is within the substitution area, a premature substitution has occurred. If the same situation occurs, but the exiting player is any position other than the goaltender, then the violation is too many men on the ice, rather than premature substitution.

When a premature substitution occurs, a referee will stop play. If the team committing the premature substitution violation is in possession of the puck when the violation occurs, play will be stopped immediately. If the team opposing the one which has committed the violation is in possession of the puck at the time of the violation, then play will proceed until that team loses possession, at which time play will be promptly stopped.

Result

The result of a premature substitution penalty being called is a stoppage in play, followed by a face-off. If the stoppage of play occurs when the puck is in the half of the ice belonging to the offending team, the face-off will take place at the face-off spot nearest the puck at the time of the stoppage. If the stoppage of play occurs when the puck is in the half of the ice belonging to the team opposing the one which committed the violation, the face-off will occur at the center ice face-off spot. The result is the same in both amateur and professional leagues.

Penalty Signal

ice hockey premature substitution penalty signal

If a premature substitution takes place while the offending team possesses the puck, a referee will immediately stop play by using flattened hands to form the shape of the capital letter “T.” If a premature substitution occurs while the team opposing the offending team possesses the puck, a referee will signal a delayed stoppage. A delayed stoppage is signaled by a referee raising their non-whistle hand directly above their head, pointing upward. The referee may also point at the offending player.

Examples

  • The goalkeeper exits the ice to create an empty net advantage. The substituting skater places their skates on the ice before the goalkeeper is within the substitution area, and a premature substitution occurs.
  • The opposing team has received a delayed penalty, so the goalkeeper leaves the ice in exchange for another skater. That skater places their skates on the ice before the goalkeeper is within the substitution area, and a premature substitution occurs.
  • The goalkeeper is leaving play in a substitution but takes an unreasonable amount of time exiting, while the substituted skater entering play is already on the ice.

Similar Penalties to Premature Substitution

FAQ

What is a premature substitution in hockey?

A premature substitution in hockey is a violation that occurs when a skater enters the ice as part of a substitution. This violation only happens when the player leaving the game is the goalkeeper, and the player entering the game has placed their skates on the ice before the exiting goalkeeper has reached the substitution area. A premature substitution results in an immediate stoppage if the offending team possesses the puck or a delayed stoppage if the opposing team possesses the puck.

What are the consequences of a premature substitution in hockey?

The consequences of a premature substitution violation are a stoppage in play and a potential loss of possession, as a result of a face-off. Any momentum on an offensive drive will be lost as a result of committing this violation due to the immediate stoppage of play. A team that commits this violation on defense faces a strategic disadvantage with a subsequent face-off occurring on their home ice. Also, the strategic advantage of an empty net will be negated if this violation occurs.  

What is the difference between a premature substitution and a too many men on the ice penalty?

Premature substitution differs from too many men on the ice in that it is specific to a violation that occurs when the goalkeeping is being substituted for. When the oncoming player enters the ice before the goalkeeper is within the substitution zone, premature substitution will be called. If the same situation happens, but with any player who is not the goalkeeper, a too many men on the ice penalty will be assessed. If a goalkeeper who is leaving play in a substitution makes contact with the puck or an opposing player while the player being substituted is already on the ice, a too many men on the ice violation will occur, regardless of the goalkeeper’s location on the ice.