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Fraser: A question on Kovalchuk's hand pass in Game 6

Kerry Fraser

4/25/2012 3:54:18 PM

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Kerry,

As a former official and now a supervisor, love to see your comments on the blog and I believe your insight into the official's thought process on many calls is both interesting and educational for the average fan of the NHL.

One comment however on what I saw as a blown call by the officiating crew tonight during the overtime between New Jersey and Florida. Approximately 4:30 into the period I believe it was Kovalchuk who hand passed the puck from the neutral zone back to one of his defencemen in the defending zone.

The back linesman blew the play down for a hand pass and the puck was dropped in the New Jersey end. There was no comment by anyone on the ice or from the TSN commentators but if the resulting faceoff had of led to a goal then the officiating crew would have had some serious egg on their face.

The fact that the puck was played in the defensive zone of the team committing the hand pass negated the need to blow the play down. This seems to me an obvious error that I would not expect from the guys I supervise in minor hockey here in Nova Scotia let alone from a crew working the NHL playoffs. Did I miss something here or did the crew just blow this call?

Jeff Conrad in NS

Sorry Jeff, but you did miss something here! At least in the difference between NHL rules and those employed by Hockey Canada. The linesman that stopped the play for a hand pass in NJ was bang on. Would you like your eggs over easy or hard?

There are two rule references in the NHL rule book that support the call made by the linesman when Ilya Kovalchuk caught the puck with both skates in the neutral zone and threw it back to his defenceman who was positioned well inside the Devils defending zone.

First, Rule 67 - handling the puck states that, "a player shall be permitted to stop or "bat" a puck in the air with his open hand, or push it along the ice with his hand, and the play shall not be stopped unless, in the opinion of the on-ice officials, he has deliberately directed the puck to a teammate, or has allowed his team to gain an advantage, in any zone other than the defending zone, in which case the play shall be stopped and a face-off conducted (see Rule 79 - Hand Pass).  Play will not be stopped for any hand pass by players in their own defending zone. 

We now have to follow the reference to Rule 79.2 to determine what actually constitutes the defending zone for the player initiating and receiving a legal hand pass which states: "Play will not be stopped for any hand pass by players in their own defending zone. *A hand pass in the defending zone is considered to have occurred when both the player making the pass and the player receiving the pass have both of their skates inside their defending zone."

The resulting faceoff would take place at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the offense occurred, unless the offending team gains a territorial advantage. If that were to occur then the face-off is conducted at the nearest face-off spot in the zone where the stoppage of play occurred.

For this to have been deemed a legal hand pass as specifically noted in NHL Rule 79.2, Ilya Kovalchuk must have both of his skates inside his defending zone. The correct call was made by both the linesman on the ice and the exceptional TSN broadcast tandem of play-by-play man Gord Miller and analyst Ray Ferraro.

In fairness to you Jeff, there is a distinct difference between the NHL hand pass rule and Rule 9.10 -handling the puck found in the Hockey Canada Referee's Case Book/Rule Combination 2010-2012 edition.

Rule 9.1 (d) [page 108] - A player shall be permitted to stop or "bat" a puck in the air with her open hand, or to push it along the ice with her hand and play shall not be stopped, unless the player has directed the puck to a teammate in the neutral or attacking zone…Play shall not be stopped for any hand pass by players in their own defending zone.

The specific play that occurred in NJ with Kovalchuk and the difference in the Hockey Canada application can be found in 9.1 - situation 7 (pg. 109-110): "Where a player in the neutral or attacking zone hand passes the puck back into her defending zone and a teammate gains possession and control of the puck, play would continue.

Note: For the purpose of this rule, the position of the puck and not that of the player's skates determines which zone the player is in when the hand pass is completed.

Jeff, I thank you for the opportunity to point out just one of the differences between the NHL rules and Canadian Hockey and USA Hockey rules that the vast majority of readers of this blog must operate under either as officials, players, coaches or parents/fans. It is imperative that all of you know the differences.

Great question Jeff; keep up the good work of instructing the officials as a supervisor in NS without allowing the NHL rules to adversely influence them.

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