Trapezoid In The NHL

Trapezoid In Ice Hockey: History, Rules & Penalties

Have you ever heard of the term “trapezoid” or “trapezoid rule”? The NHL is constantly developing new rules to make ice hockey games more exciting and fun-filled. The trapezoid in ice hockey was only recently added to the league and is currently in use. SO what is a trapezoid?

What Is A Trapezoid In Ice Hockey?

What Is A Trapezoid In Ice Hockey

A trapezoid in ice hockey is a section of the ice at the back of the red goal line on each side of the goaltender’s net that highlights the region where a goaltender can handle the puck when he is behind the goal line. 

Why is it called a trapezoid? 

It is called a trapezoid because the section is shaped like a trapezium (a parallelogram with one pair of parallel lines). So the name was derived from the trapezium’s shape, also called a trapezoid. 

This trapezoid in ice hockey begins a few feet away from the goal net on both sides and extends to the end of the board

History Of Trapezoid In The NHL

Trapezoid History In The NHL

Before the NHL’s 2004-05 lockout season, the trapezoid at the back of the goalies net was not yet drawn. At that time, goalies were allowed to go to the back of the net and play the puck from any position

However, the player that influenced the introduction of the trapezoid into the NHL was a goaltender for the New Jersey Devils (Martin Brodeur).

In the 1990s, the NHL teams adopted the neutral zone trap that was effective for defence but gave very little offence. The neutral zone trap concentrates the entire gameplay on the neutral zone by flooding the zone with defenders. 

The role of the goalie in the defensive zone was to guide the puck and shoot the puck back to defenders. In a scenario when a player from an opposing team dumps the puck into the corner end of the opponent’s goal line, it is a normal tradition now for the opposing team players to race for the puck. 

However, this was a different case earlier in the year, as goalies could leave their net and move to the corners at the back of the goal line to retrieve the puck. This meant that anytime the puck was dumped in, it would almost certainly be in possession of the goalie, who could easily pass it to a defenseman. 

To the NHL, it made the game boring as players mostly capitalised on the mistakes of their opposing team to go for a goal. Also, the league felt there was no outstanding offensive performance by players, and there was a decrease in goals per game.

Martin Brodeur And The NHL

Brodeur is one of the best goalkeepers in the NHL and is the major reason the trapezoid was added to the ice rink.

Martin Brodeur was an exceptional goalie in his time. He wasn’t only good as a goalie but was also very good at puck handling and control. This skill he developed made him very good at retrieving and moving with the puck. 

Puck handling is a skill many goalies are not good at. Therefore, the ability to do that, move with the puck and retrieve any puck sent past the goal line led to his two Stanley cup wins with the New Jersey Devils. 

Brodeur was practically a third defenceman because of his skill. This also made the New Jersey devils very effective at the neutral zone trap. 

At the time, Brodeur was the best goalie in the NHL, and stills holds the record for most wins (691) and most shootouts (125) in his career. At that time many players had the same game play as Brodeur, but he was the best at the time.

When he trapezoid rule was added after the 2004-05 lookout season, Martin Brodeur had this to say:

You can’t be happy, taking away something I’ve worked on all my life to do and help my teammates and help my defence. It’s just part of me playing the puck. So, definitely, you can’t be happy.

Martin Brodeur (The New York Times)

The 2004-05 Lockout Season

During the 2004-05 collective bargaining agreement, the NHL brought in some extra rules to the game. One of them was the trapezoid on the rink behind the goal line and the trapezoid rule.

This became part of the rules in the NHL, and its main purpose is to increase the scoring chances and number of goals per match. Eventually, leading to a  more fun and action-packed game. 

NHL Trapezoid Rules

Trapezoid rules

The trapezoid rules in the NHL state that a goal is only allowed to play the puck at the inside of the trapezoid whenever the puck crosses the goal line. This means that the goalie must not handle the puck at the sections of ice at the back of the goal line that is not within the trapezoid.

27.8 Restricted Area – A goalkeeper shall not play the puck outside of the designated area behind the net. This area shall be defined by lines that begin six feet (6’) from either goal post and extend diagonally to points twenty-eight feet (28’) apart at the end boards.

NHL Rule Book

Read more on: NHL Fighting Rule – The Unwritten NHL Rule

NHL Trapezoid Penalty

The penalty for a goalie who plays the puck while it is outside the trapezoid zone at the back of the goal line is a 2 minutes minor penalty. However, since goalies are not sent to the penalty box for infractions, a player from his team goes to the penalty box.

This leads to a power play for the opposing team. 

Significance Of The Trapezoid Rule

The creation of the trapezoid and its rules has two main significances. 

First, the original reason for its inclusion in the NHL was that teams were not actively creating offensive opportunities and were rather waiting on the mistakes of the opposing team. 

This, in turn, meant players did not showcase their talent and exceptional skill, which is something the NHL focuses on. The fact that the own game was based on the neutral zone trap, which was more of a defensive play, gave little to no excitement for attacks. 

The second significance is that the trapezoid was the increase in scoring opportunities, increasing the excitement. Before the trapezoid, the number of goals scored per game was low. 

However, with the trapezoid rule in place, the NHL believes it will increase scoring opportunities and goals. Also, the league believes this will, in turn, increase the excitement and entertainment of its games. 

Argument Against Trapezoid In Ice Hockey

There are arguments and disputes about introducing trapezoids on the ice rink and in the NHL rule book. Some of the arguments used against trapezoids include the following:

It Is Confusing

Ice hockey spectators believe that there are already enough lines on the ice hockey rink, and adding the extra trapezoid lines is confusing to new fans and even officials of the game. 

There have been instances where the game officials had called a wrong penalty for goalies who they felt violated the trapezoid rule. Also, new ice hockey fans might not understand the relevance of the trapezoid, especially with the variety of other lines on the rink.

Increases Physical Hit On Defensemen

Since the goalie can not go after the puck when it is dumped, the defensemen must chase it down. This makes them victims of brutal bodychecking and side-boarding penalties. 

This is because as they chase down the puck at full speed, the opponent team is right behind them, also skating at full speed. If the defenseman does not move with the puck quickly, he can easily get ramped into the sideboards.

In short, it increases the injuries to defensemen.

Creates A Boring Game

Games solely based on dumping and chasing after the puck is not particularly interesting to fans. This is because it does not allow players to be creative with their offensive plays.

Unfortunately, the trapezoid rule supports the dump-and-chase strategy. Since a goalie can not go after the puck once it crosses the goal line, it encourages players to continue.

Also, since penalties are common with dumping and chasing the puck, it leads to continuous stoppages, which makes a game dull and unexciting.


This brings us to the end of trapezoids in the NHL. The NHL will continue to bring up rules and regulations to ensure that fans of the game enjoy every match. In addition, there will be implementations to ensure that the game gains popularity and expands as widely as possible.

However, the effect of these rules and their success does not always work. And this leads to changes in rules and so on.

For this reason, it is possible that the trapezoid rule can change, be abolished or maintain its current status; only time will tell. But knowing what it stands for and its rules is a plus for you as an ice hockey fan.

Similar Posts