Every Friday I answer my mail bag in "Ask The Hockey History Blogger." Feel free to ask me your hockey questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regular reader Bryan asks: When was the forward pass legalized?
It is a very good question seeing as that it is one of the most important rule developments in the history of the game. The only rule change that may trump it was the allowing of goaltenders to fall to the ice to make saves.
The common answer of the birth of forward passing is the 1929-30 season, but as is often the case the rule actually evolved over time.
In the early days of hockey and of the NHL, hockey was much like rugby, in that forward passing was not allowed. You pass backwards or laterally, but to advance the puck you had to skate it forward.
In 1918-19 the two blue lines were added, creating three distinct zones on the ice - the defensive, offensive and neutral zones that we still have today. Forward passing was now allowed in the 40 foot neutral zone only. No forward passing was permitted in either the offensive or defensive zone, although in the 1921-22 season goaltenders were granted the right to pass the puck forward in the defensive zone.
In an effort to further increase scoring, in 1927-28 the NHL allowed forward passing by all players in both the defensive and neutral zones.
A year later in, 1928-29, forward passing was permitted in defensive and neutral zones and now also into the attacking zone so long as the pass receiver is in neutral zone when pass is made. No forward passing allowed inside attacking zone still.
In 1929-30 the modern offensive game was formed as forward passing became legal inside all three zones, although it was not permitted across either blue line. Players had to skate the puck over each blue line. This was essentially the birth of the modern day off-side rule.
Finally the NHL achieved the offensive explosion it was seeking.
Creating the forward pass can not be credited to the National Hockey League, however. The Pacific Coast Hockey Association, created by Frank and Lester Patrick, had used forward passing first.