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WHL Announces a Series of Rule Changes for 2021-22

Photo by James Carey Lauder

WHL Announces a Series of Rule Changes for 2021-22

The Western Hockey League is set to kick off its 2021-22 preseason schedule on Friday, September 10. Running 15 days through the 25th, the preseason will be the first opportunity for players and coaches alike to discern through various rule changes. The regular season kicks off with eight games on Friday, October 1.

These aforementioned rule changes will go into effect immediately and cover an array of gameplay occurrences, including offsides, face-offs, the goaltending crease, helmets, fighting, coaches challenges, video review and icing.

Opting to move closer and closer to the NHL’s style of rule calling, the WHL will see seven new rules implemented for the coming year of play. According to the league, these adjustments will help speed up the game and help improve player safety, while ensuring scoring plays are ruled correctly. The WHL General Managers approved all listed changes.

The complete list of changes can be found below:

Off-Side Plane

A player is on-side when either of his skates are in contact with the blue line, or on his own side of the blue line, at the instant the puck completely crosses the leading edge of the blue line, regardless of the position of his stick. On his own side of the blue line shall be defined by a “plane” of the blue line, which shall extend from the leading edge of the blue line upwards. If a player’s skate has yet to break the “plane” prior to the puck completely crossing the leading edge, he is deemed to be on-side for the purpose of the off-side rule. However, a player actually controlling the puck who shall cross the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered “off-side,” provided he had possession and control of the puck prior to his skates crossing the leading edge of the blue line.

Face-Off Violation

When a team commits a face-off violation, the centre will not be ejected, but the team will be warned by the linesman that they have committed their first “face-off violation” and any subsequent violation on the same stoppage by the same team will result in a bench minor penalty for “delay of game for face-off violation.”

Crease Violation

  • The NHL goal crease (ie. Calgary and Edmonton) will be used in all WHL arenas.
  • If an attacking player is in the goal crease and does not attempt to leave immediately, the referee has the option to stop the game with the resulting face-off outside the blue line. The stoppage shall occur when, in the referee’s judgement, the player’s body (or a substantial portion thereof) is within the goal crease for more than a brief period of time.

Helmets During a Fight

A misconduct shall be assessed to any player who intentionally undoes his chin strap prior to or during a fight.

A misconduct shall be assessed to any player who intentionally tries to pull or pry off the helmet of the opponent, successfully or unsuccessfully, prior to or during the fight.


The following two rules have been adopted for the 2021-22 WHL Regular Season but will not be used during the 2021 WHL Pre-Season as video goal judges are not utilized during the pre-season:

Coaches Challenge

A Head Coach can challenge a goal that he feels was off-side, with the decision to be determined by the video goal judge in consultation with the linesman. There are three possible decisions the video goal judge can make following the review:

  1. Disallow goal, reset time on score clock and face-off outside the blue line
  2. Allow goal and assess bench minor to coach for requesting the challenge
  3. Inconclusive video replays, therefore, the goal is allowed and no penalty

Video Goal Judge Reviewable Situation

When a puck legitimately enters the net by continuous motion after a shot, but the goal was waved off as a result of a quick whistle by the referee after losing sight of the puck, this can be reviewed by the video goal judge. The decision is to be determined by the video goal judge, who after reviewing video replays and consultation with the referee, can either allow the goal or support the referee’s decision of no goal.


The following rule will be tested during all 2021 WHL Pre-Season games and reviewed  prior to being voted upon by WHL General Managers ahead of the 2021-22 WHL Regular Season:

No Line Change by Icing Team on any Icing 

Please note: The WHL currently uses no line change on icings that occur behind the blue line only.

  • A team that is in violation of any icing shall not be permitted to make any player substitutions prior to the ensuing face-off. However, a team shall be permitted to make a player substitution to replace a goalkeeper who had been substituted for an extra attacker, to replace an injured player, or when a penalty has been assessed which affects the on-ice strength of either team. The determination of players on ice will be made when the puck leaves the offending player’s stick.
  • Should the icing team use any delay tactics prior to the resulting face-off, the referees have the option to give the icing team one warning, followed by a delay of game penalty should the same team use any delaying tactics again.


Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at

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