Fraser: The 'stick work' on James Neal's interference call

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Kerry Fraser
3/21/2014 2:59:59 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

Hi Kerry,
 
At 8:54 in the third period of Thursday's game between Pittsburgh and Detroit, James Neal was assessed an interference penalty on Luke Glendening for moving his stick towards the board after Glendening had lost it earlier.
 
Glendening was not trying to retrieve it and Neal's actions did not interfere with the play.
 
According to rule 53.2 it would appear that the interference call is not justified. Is there something I am missing?
 
Mathieu Benoit
Saint John, NB
 
Mathieu:

Your question was selected from one of ten pertaining to the interference penalty called against James Neal for shooting Luke Glendening's stick to the side boards with the Penguins on the power play. A very tricky rule application was created after Glendening lost his stick at the top of the Wings end zone face-off circle following an attempted poke-check on James Neal. Glendening lost his one handed grip through the check motion which caused the stick to travel 15 feet to the bottom of the circle close to the goal line where teammate Kyle Quincey was positioned.  Quincey then shot/slid Glendening's stick to a carefully placed location out into the high slot near where Glendening was attempting to defend without his stick. Herein lies the first potential rule violation on this play!

Rule 10.3 states that a player who has lost or broken his stick may only receive a stick at his own players' bench or be handed one from a teammate on the ice. A player will be penalized if he throws, tosses, slides or shoots a stick to a teammate on the ice.  Fortunately for the Red Wings, Luke Glendening was fronting Matt Niskanen who had the puck near the point. As such, Glendening was unable to pick up the attempted 'helper' from Quincey. If Luke Glendening had picked up his stick at that moment, Kyle Quincey should receive a minor penalty placing the Wings two men short for a minute and forty seconds!

James Neal, from the high slot position just behind Glendening, felt his skate contact the stick that had been illegally passed by Quincey. I am quite certain that James Neal was unaware of the potential penalty to Quincey if Luke Glendening had picked up the twig. Instead, Neal jockeyed around Glendening with a 'cute' series of deliberate skate drag maneuvers that moved the stick safely out of the reach of the Red Wing defender and effectively nullified the potential penalty to Quincey.

Even though Glendening moved away from the immediate area of the stick to defend the opposite side point, it was incumbent upon James Neal to simply step away from the stick and leave it in the position it now rested. Once Neal shot Luke Glendening's stick 30 plus feet to the sidewall he violated rule 56.2 by effectively preventing Glendening from regaining possession of it. The inability Neal created for Glendening to retrieve his stick was further compounded by the fact that the Red Wings were already a man down by virtue of the penalty being served by Brendan Smith.

The eventual outcome of this play highlights the need for players to clearly understand the rules. Just 20 seconds into a Penguins power play once Luke Glendening lost his hockey stick, things quickly transitioned from a potential penalty to Kyle Quincey that would have placed the Wings two men short; to additional freedom of end zone puck movement the Penguins enjoyed once Glendening lost his stick; to the creation of a four-on-four when James Neal was penalized for interference.

I offer the following advice to players: If you encounter a stick lying on the ice that isn't broken, think twice before relocating it.  It the stick is clearly broken, make sure any action taken to remove or discard the broken portion doesn't interfere with the movements of the puck or an opposing player!

James Neal (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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