What is the NHL's Emergency Rehabilitation Plan?

NHL Bylaw 16C

With the recent tragedy occurring in Russia with the loss of an entire hockey team, it has come to light that the NHL has a set of bylaws and a specific section listing exactly what to do if such an event happened here in the homeland.

I’ve seen many websites post the same article covering Bylaw 16C of the National Hockey League. Looking high and low for some other article covering Bylaw 16C, I came up empty. After some good old fashioned detective work, I found a copy of the NHL’s constitution and bylaws, settled in for a lengthy read, and lost 60 minutes of my life to translating a legal document into fan language.

I wanted to know what the NHL had in mind for an Emergency Rehabilitation Plan (ERP). It was quite interesting what I found. 

Bylaw 16C - Part 1

Bylaw 16C - Part 2

Bylaw 16C - Part 3

Bylaw 16C - Part 4

Bylaw 16C - Part 5






Reading over the complete details of Bylaw 16C, albeit boring and very much like poorly translated bicycle assembly instructions, visions of the unthinkable were burnt into my eyes. What if this actually happened in the NHL?

What is Bylaw 16C and the Emergency Rehabilitation Plan?

This particular bylaw covers the ERP in the event of death or disability of five or more active players of any club as the result of a covered accident. It provides money from an insurance policy funded by the league as a salary structure to restock a team after such a loss of players.

The first option for any affected team is buying players contracts from other clubs using the insurance money. The front office of the NHL has veto power over the acquisition of a player if it deemed his contract price too taxing on the balance of the insurance funds.

The next option is for the disabled team to add players from its own farm system to get the roster number up to 14 players and 1 goalie.

If after harvesting the farm system of the disabled club its roster number still has not reached 14 players and 1 goalie, a draft is the next step.

A draft from the other 29 clubs…

While the very idea of this happening to a club is terrifying for players and owners alike, GM’s would wet themselves repeatedly until they were slapped out of it. The front office of the NHL is not stupid completely stupid and set up rules for such a draft.

The other 29 clubs would be able to protect 10 players and a goalie and the disabled club would pick replacements much like an expansion draft. The key stipulations would be no rookies or players under age 20 could be taken and replacements must be picked only on the basis of positions that needed to be filled on the disabled team.

Teams could not lose more than one man and, if they offer a suitable player to the pool prior to the draft, they would be exempt.

“It’s meant to make sure that a team in that situation isn’t just given the worst player on every other team,” a former NHL general manager said.

So back to the question, what if this happened in the NHL? What if the Boston Bruins were forced to make the tough choices?

Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been blessed with the easy decisions of who to chase in the free agent market and who to trade for from talent-blind teams. How would he handle the decision making process of protecting 10 players and 1 goalie on a team he has built, and letting the rest fall to a chance of risk? Here is how I see it.


Notable from the list above:

Tim Thomas

Zdeno Chara

Johnny Boychuk

Brad Marchand

Brad Marchand

Chris Kelly

Rich Peverley


Unprotected – Tim Thomas

As a GM and according to the rules of Bylaw 16C, you can only protect 1 goalie. Looking towards the future, Chiarelli would know and understand the best viable decision for the club is to protect the low price acquisition from Toronto in Tuuka Rask and let the aging Vezina/Conn Smythe winner tempt the disable team. It would be likely that a disabled team would ignore Thomas in the draft due to his high salary and age unless they could be an immediate contender in the playoffs.

Unprotected – Zdeno Chara

With the limited insurance money a disabled team would receive, it is likely that the NHL front office would step in and veto the draft of Chara and his whopping $8.5m salary. I would intentionally leave Chara unprotected knowing this fact in order to protect another on the team. In the unlikelihood he was lost to the ERP draft, Chara is 34 and expensive. It would not be a total loss as his salary could be used to acquire other talents via free agency or trade.

Unprotected – Johnny Boychuk

Although Boychuk is young compared to the average defensemen’s age on the Bruins, his talent is overrated and inconsistent against all forward lines of other teams. Unless Boychuk improves his consistency, he is likely trade-bait this year. A disabled team’s GM, if he is doing his job, would know this information as well. Although losing him in an ERP draft would not hurt the Bruins, it wouldn’t make sense for a team to take an unprotected Boychuk.

Protected – Brad Marchand

The new youth movement is led by Marchand and his Sean Avery style of peskiness. The Bruins need Marchand in the line-up in order to be competitive and to get dirty when the job requires it. The difference between Avery and Marchand is exactly why the Bruins want this style of player. Marchand has an attitude that is appreciated and respected by most players because he doesn’t cross into unmarked territories of the hockey code of player conduct.

Protected – Chris Kelly

Kelly was acquired by Chiarelli from Ottawa at last year’s deadline for a good reason – the common underappreciated 4th line talent. Kelly proved his worth and Chiarelli’s foresight by finishing the season with consistent strength and adaptation in many roles. That bled over into the playoffs where you didn’t see the new member of the team choke up on assignments and flew under the radar with his two-way coverage. Kelly has afew good years left in him at a fairly low price. Chiarelli would make a mistake if he left Kelly unprotected.

If I had to predict which player on the above list has the biggest chance of being selected in an ERP draft, the smart money goes on Rich Peverley. His 41 points and +/- of -17 would be very appetizing to a rebuilding club, especially with Peverley’s low salary and age of only 29. For the Bruins, Peverley is an unrestricted free agent after this upcoming season and if he has another career year, it will be too expensive for Chiarelli to keep him in town.

Interested in sharing your thoughts on this list? Feel free to comment below.

Follow me on Twitter @FanSidedDerekC

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Tags: Boston Bruins Brad Marchand Bylaw 16C Chris Kelly Emergency Rehabilitation Plan Johnny Boychuk KHL Crash NHL Rich Peverley Tim Thomas Zdeno Chara

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