The whistle blows halting an offensive drive in its tracks forcing a faceoff. Why? An attacking player skated over the blue line into the offensive zone before the puck – making the play offside. The offside rule was not necessary until hockey began allowing forward passing – first in the defensive and neutral zones in 1927 and then in the attacking zone in 1928. At that point, players would camp out in front of the net waiting for a teammate to pass the puck down to them. Naturally, scoring shot up – just much more than officials intended. At a meeting in Chicago on Monday, December 16, 1929, the NHL Board of Governors voted to establish the offside rule to go into effect that Saturday.
On the day of the meeting, John J. Hallahan of the Boston Globe shared a few opinionated observations concerning the potential rule change. In his view, “the rules were changed for this season” because “more scoring was wanted,” and “that end has been accomplished.” He continued, “Little, however did the moguls realize the game was going to develop into more or less a burlesque.” Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates would have a man offside sticking close to the goalie so that “much sloppy play, shinny and interference has developed in the scoring sector” to the point where “the goalie’s life is in jeopardy.” The new rule would not “allow any player of the attacking team to cross the blue line into the scoring zone ahead of the puck carrier. Under such conditions they feel the defense would have an excellent change to form, and protect the goalie.” Hallahan could “hardly believe a 10-foot radius zone in front of the nets . . . would help the conditions.” At the end of the day, he bragged, “It will make little difference to the Bruins what changes are made in the rules. They have accustomed themselves to the rules as none of the other teams have done, and are able to make their play confirm with any style. They stand out as the leaders of the league.”
The Bruins faced the Chicago Blackhawks to test out the new rule decided at the Chicago meeting. Hallahan noted that the team practiced with the new rule but that it was “not looked upon as anything that will handicap the Boston aggregation.” He predicted that the game would require more defense and noted that the Blackhawks had speed and “the best defensive team in the league as measured by the number of goals scored against them.”
The Bruins defeated the Blackhawks 4-1. After the game, Hallahan began his recap with quite the statement:
“The amendments to the National League Hockey rules may or may not have been aimed indirectly at the mad rush of the world champion Bruins, but if other National League clubs believed that the Bruins’ spectacular forward passing would be stopped under the new code, they may be due for a surprise.”
He went on to explain, “It took the Bruins a period to discover the possibilities of the new rules . . . but as the game went on the ability of the various lines to blend their forward passing into the new game was more pronounced. The Bruins were getting over the line well together, and then the forward passing was clicking.” Even so, “The rule called for the blowing of the whistle many times, at one time the spectators feeling that a factory town had been let off work. In justice to the officials it must be admitted the players have not had time to work under the change.”
Although, it was too soon to say “just how well or how poorly the rule is going to work,” Hallahan urged “a fair trial is needed before arriving at conclusions.” Considering that as of next December, the rule will have been in use for 90 years, it has certainly been given its fair place in the rulebook.
- John J. Hallahan, “May Change Hockey Rules at Chicago Meeting Today,” Boston Globe, 16 Dec. 1929, p. 20.
- John J. Hallahan, “Speedy Hockey Due at Garden: Change in Rule Not in Effect Until Saturday,” Boston Globe, 17 Dec. 1929, p. 27.
- John J. Hallahan, “Speedy Hawks Tackle Bruins,” Boston Globe, 21 Dec. 1929, p. 8.
- John J. Hallahan, “Blackhawks Meet Champions Tonight,” Boston Globe, 21 Dec. 1929, p. 13.
- John J. Hallahan, “Fast Traveling Bruins Too Good for Rivals,” Boston Globe, 23 Dec. 1929, p. 17.
- John J. Hallahan, “Trio of Games in Four Days,” Boston Globe, 23 Dec. 1929, p. 20.