Tuesday, July 29, 2014 Repeatedly cutting small amounts of the lap distance short, which together add up to a significant portion of lap distance having been cut short over the course of the game.

Today’s rule is a Skating Out of Bounds penalty that is new to the rules in the March 1, 2014 edition. It is the second of two examples listed for 5.12.16, which states that significantly cutting short the lap distance while skating out of bounds is a penalty.

This rule says that repeatedly shaving off lap distance is a penalty. This is most commonly in the case of a jammer who zips around the apex so closely to the inside of the track that one foot goes out of bound. On its own this is not a penalty -- skaters can voluntarily adopt a straddling position if they wish. But each time the skater does so they trim a bit off the lap distance. Once, twice, perhaps three times are no big deal. But as those bits of shaved distance add up, the skater becomes increasingly likely to be generate a Skating Out of Bounds penalty.

Many skaters (and referees) dislike the rule because it’s so variable -- how does one define a “significant” portion of a lap? Yet it’s understandable why the rules leave this up to referee discretion. If the rules specified that a penalty is warranted after the skater cumulatively shaves, say 10 feet off the lap distance, there would be complaints that it takes trigonometry to determine when the threshold is met. Yet if there was no penalty for cumulatively shaving off lap distance, jammers may start regularly shaving the apex to increase their speed around the track. So don’t expect “significant” to be defined anytime soon.

By far, the best way of avoiding this penalty is to stay in bounds while skating around the apex by yourself. Or at the very least, minimize how much of the lap distance is trimmed. Shaving lap distance with a skate one inch over the track will add up slowly. But skating around the apex with one skate in bounds by only an inch will become “significant” fast.