The NHL released information late last week about several new rule changes for the 2013-14 season, including several stipulations about how uniforms must be worn.
One mandate is that players’ protective equipment and padding – excluding gloves, helmets and goaltenders’ leg guards – must be worn under the uniform. If a referee notices a player in violation of the rule, they’ll be asked to correct the problem and a second violation would result in a minor penalty.
Here’s the additional description of Rule 9.5 from the PDF the NHL released last week, which you can find at the bottom of this post:
Players are not permitted to tuck their jersey into their pants in such a manner where the top padding of the pant and/or additional body protection (affixed to the pant or affixed to the Player’s body) is exposed outside the jersey. The back uniform number must not be covered or obstructed in any fashion by protruding pads or other protective padding.
As anyone who has ever watched him play in a game or skate in practice knows, Alex Ovechkin has always tucked his jersey into his pants. While the Capitals winger is prepared to follow the rule, he’s not pleased with it.
“I’m the guy who love that kind of stuff. I’m kind of upset about it, but most important thing, nobody talk to us, the players. They think it can be dangerous for somebody. I think it’s kind of stupid,” Ovechkin said Sunday. “My gear is not stay [near] my body so jersey always goes in. If I’m going to put jersey normally, I’m going to skate and it goes back.”
Ovechkin is far from the only player or even the only star player to tuck his jersey in. It was one of Wayne Gretzky’s trademarks and something little kids all over copied, so they could be like him. The same is true with Ovechkin, but with the new rule he’ll no longer be allowed to have that particular identifier.
Coach Adam Oates also doesn’t agree with the prohibition of jersey tucking. He does understand another portion of the guidelines, though: Rule 9.3, which states sleeves must extend into the cuff of the glove. That prevents a player’s forearm and elbow pads from being exposed, the latter getting tangled or caught in something and potentially causing an injury. He can’t say the same for the pants.
“It’s a rule. Do I like it? Well, no,” said Oates, who doesn’t believe the rule was created exclusively for Ovechkin. “I know when Gretzky had his shirt velcroed in. It was part of his identity. Superstars have identities, that’s why they’re superstars. It’s part of their makeup and their personality. It’s why they transcend the game, it’s why we advertise them, but I understand part of it. I understand the sleeve rule, for sure. That makes sense to me, but taking a guy’s individuality away is tough.”
Ovechkin has “had his identity for a while, he sells tickets. Kids love that. If it caused an injury, of course [address it],” Oates continued. “Obviously, we do what we’re told. In saying that, though, that’s the reason we went to Belleville yesterday. They want to see Ovi. They don’t want to see 20 people, they want to see Ovi.”
It will be interesting to see how the league enforces the rules. Over the course of a game, players’ jerseys sometimes get tucked into their pants unintentionally. And it’s conceivable that game-changing power-play chances will result from a uniform violation.
“Lot of guys accidentally have it happen during a game. You’re on the bench, you reach for water, maybe it gets tucked in a little bit. That would be hard,” Oates said. “Say a guy does that and he skates on the ice. We’re going to get a penalty because of that? Now we’ve got to hire extra trainers as the jersey puller-outers?”
Ovechkin has always sported a more distinctive look than some of his other NHL counterparts. When he first arrived, he wore a mirrored and tinted visor that the league ultimately outlawed. He tucks his jersey. He wears yellow skate laces. It’s an extension of his personality, and Ovechkin wants to hold on to that individuality.
“I think if NHL wants to make a show, this is a show. You can see the young kids look at the players. They do — like tinted visors or yellow laces — they do the same what the NHL players do,” Ovechkin said. “Right now, what are they going to do? Everybody going to be on the same page? We individuals, everybody wants to do their own thing. It’s stupid.”
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