Hockey is widely acknowledged as one of the toughest, most brutal of all pro sports. The NHL even goes so far as to allow players to engage in fist fights. A special set of rules known as “The Code” lays out the guidelines for fighting. Each team also has an unofficial “enforcer,” according to the National Post, who takes care of any necessary roughhousing.
Of course, the NHL’s unwritten rules don’t just govern things like fighting and bullying. They also benefit players by securing humane working conditions. The perfect example of such a rule is the NHL’s holiday roster freeze. Let’s break down what the holiday roster freeze is and how it saves NFL players unnecessary stress compared to atheltes in other sports.
The NHL’s holiday rule
The holiday roster freeze is just what it sounds like: a moratorium on any roster transactions during the heart of the holiday season. Specifically, this roster freeze begins at midnight on December 19 and lasts until midnight on December 27. These parameters have been set since 1993. (In 1995, the NHL officially included it in its Collective Bargaining Agreement.)
The roster freeze prohibits trading, waiving, or loaning players during this timeframe. However, teams still have the ability to call up players from the minor league. Similarly, any players placed on waivers before December 19 may still be claimed by teams during the holiday roster freeze.
The NHL’s respect for family time
The holiday roster freeze is deliberately designed to minimize NHL players’ stress and uncertainty during a busy time of year intended for family time. Prior to the freeze, it was common for players to get traded just before and after Christmas. This kind of transaction hurt players and their families as they scrambled to move to new locales.
The freeze isn’t the only way the NHL gives players a little breathing room during the holidays. Following the 1971 season, the league stopped scheduling games on Christmas Day. Starting in 2013, the league extended this break to December 24 and 26, too.
Notorious holiday trades in other sports
The NHL’s holiday roster freeze is unique in the world of American pro sports. In fact, the sports world is rife with notorious trades that went down on or around Christmas Day. Perhaps the most notorious of all came in 1919. On December 26, the Red Sox sold a 42-year-old Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees — a transaction that began the 86-year “Curse of the Bambino.”
Both the NBA and NFL allow teams to trade or waive players on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And plenty of teams have exercised that option in recent years. On Christmas Eve 2011, the Houston Rockets waived point guard Jeremy Lin to get enough cap space to sign center Samuel Dalembert. In 2015, the Pelicans traded back-up point guard Ish Smith to the 76ers.
Jumping to the world of the NFL, veteran running back Daryl Richardson knows a thing or two about holiday transactions. The Cleveland Browns released him on December 28, 2015. Then the following year, the Pittsburgh Steelers waived Richardson on December 24.
While no holiday roster freeze clauses seem forthcoming in either the NBA or NFL, you can bet players in both leagues would be grateful for this provision. It just goes to prove that, despite the black eyes and bloody noses, the NHL really is ahead of the curve in terms of player empowerment.