The NHL Instigator Rule Explained: Key Points and Impact!

In ice hockey’s fast-paced and physical game, players take on various roles to contribute to their team’s success. One such role is that of an instigator. This article will delve deep into the concept of an instigator in ice hockey, exploring their responsibilities, impact on the game, and the controversy surrounding their role.

What is NHL Instigator Rule?

The NHL has the “instigator rule,” which aims to stop players from starting fights to get an opponent kicked out of the game. According to this rule, if a player is seen as the one who started the fight, they will get an extra minor penalty, adding up to 10 minutes of penalties.

The instigator rule is defined as follows:

A player who is deemed to have instigated a fight is one who by his actions or demeanor demonstrates an intent to fight before his opponent has done so. A player who is deemed to have instigated a fight can be identified by one or more of the following:

The instigator rule is defined as follows:

  • Throwing or attempting to throw the first punch.
  • Removing his glove(s) before his opponent.
  • Taunting or verbally abusing his opponent.
  • Aggressively charging his opponent.

If a player is deemed to have instigated a fight, he will be assessed a minor penalty for instigating and a major penalty for fighting. This will result in a total of 10 minutes in penalties.

Instigator Rule Penalties

Here is some additional information about instigator penalties:

  • A player assessed an instigator penalty is not eligible to participate in the next five face-offs.
  • A player who has assessed an instigator penalty in the final five minutes of a game (or in overtime)¬†will instead be charged with a game misconduct and given an automatic one-game suspension. The length of the suspension would double for each additional incident. The player’s coach will be fined $10,000, a penalty that would double for each recurrence.

The instigator penalty is a complex rule with a lot of nuances. It is essential for players, coaches, and fans to understand the rule to avoid being penalized.

The Responsibilities of an Instigator

  1. Physical Intimidation: The primary responsibility of an instigator is to intimidate and disrupt the opposing team. By engaging in physical altercations, the instigator aims to provoke a reaction from their opponents, distracting them from their gameplay and potentially altering the dynamics of the match.
  2. Protecting Teammates: Another role of an instigator is to protect their teammates. When a player on their team is subjected to rough play or targeted by opponents, the instigator may step in to defend their teammate and deter further aggression.
  3. Generating Momentum: In certain situations, a team may be trailing in the game or struggling to gain momentum. An instigator can help shift the energy on the ice by initiating a fight or confrontation, motivating teammates, and potentially turning the game’s tide.


In conclusion, the role of an instigator in ice hockey is complex and multifaceted. While instigating fights may seem contradictory to the spirit of fair play, it serves strategic purposes within the game. Instigators intimidate opponents, protect teammates, and can generate momentum for their team. However, it is essential to acknowledge the penalties and disciplinary actions associated with this role. Understanding the impact of instigators on the game provides valuable insights into the dynamics of ice hockey and enhances our overall appreciation for the sport.

Austin Taylor

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