The Finer Points: The Rob Ray Rule

By: Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

Phoenix Coyotes left wing Paul Bissonnette was given a game misconduct after a fight with Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Bollig at 5:24 of the first period of Game 4. The reason for this wasn’t trash talking or an instigator penalty, rather because his jersey wasn’t tied down properly and slipped off at the end of the fight.

The rule is one of many unofficially named for a player, in this case long-time Buffalo Sabres enforcer Rob Ray.

A player taking his jersey off gives him several key advantages in a fight. Not only is it easier for him to swing at his opponent freely, it is impossible for the other fighter to grab onto his jersey, a tactic used in almost all hockey fights. The jersey can also go over the head of the opponent, leaving him unable to see and unable to dodge or land punches of his own.

As Ray explains in the article on Yahoo! Sports:

At first I was just wearing a loose sweater with the idea that I could get my arm out of it and then the guy I was going against couldn’t grab my arm and hold it down,” Ray said. “After awhile the sweater started coming off all together, and then it was my shoulder pads and it kind of went on from there.

If you watch the 1:51 mark of this video of Rob Ray taking on Mario Roberge, Ray starts taking off his jersey before the fight even begins so he can ensure he’s able to use this method of fighting.

NHL Rule 46.13 is in place to ensure a jersey stays on during an altercation between two players. It states:

A player who deliberately removes his jersey prior to participating in an altercation or who is clearly wearing a jersey that has been modified…shall be assessed a minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a game misconduct. This is in addition to other penalties to be assessed to the participants of an altercation.

A player who engages in a fight and whose jersey is removed (completely off his torso), other than through the actions of his opponent in the altercation or through the actions of the Linesman, shall be assessed a game misconduct penalty.

A player who engages in a fight and whose jersey is not properly “tied-down” (jersey properly fastened to pants), and who loses his jersey (completely off his torso) in that altercation, shall receive a game misconduct penalty. If the player  loses his jersey despite the tie down remaining intact and attached to the pants, the game misconduct is not applicable, however this must be reported to the League office so that the jersey and the tie down can be examined.

In order to prevent jerseys from coming off, a tie down, commonly referred to as a fight strap, was added to the back of the jersey. It’s a simple Velcro strap that gets attached to the top of the hockey pants that keeps the jersey securely in place. With how easy Bissonnette’s jersey came off at the end of his fight, it clearly wasn’t tied into place.

*Editor’s Note: Hockey is a very fast-paced game and the large number of sometimes-complicated rules can make it hard to follow for a casual/new viewer. The Finer Points is a weekly column that will explain the subtleties and complexities of hockey in an easy-to-understand manner so fans can spend more time enjoying the game and less time trying to figure out what is going on.  

Is there a facet of the game that has you scratching your head? Send an email to to get a clearer picture of what is happening on the ice.


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