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Fraser: A look at Paul Gaustad's delay of game penalty

Kerry Fraser

2/11/2013 1:59:47 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!

My question is about the ending of the Nashville-Minnesota game Saturday night. Paul Gaustad was sent to the box because the puck bounced off the ice and hit his hand on the face off. In the explaination from the NHL (below), they imply it is the correct call because Gaustad "batted" the puck
 
ST. PAUL, Minnesota  - Below is an email response to The Tennessean from the NHL Situation Room on Paul Gaustad's Face-off Violation penalty in overtime in the Predators' 2-1 loss to Minnesota. The question to the Situation Room asked for clarification on why it was deemed a penalty.
 
"The referee deemed that rule 76.4 applied because as it reads "Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off." That rule applied because the puck was batted by Paul Gaustad's left glove off the face off."

Now is there a difference between batting and coincidently touching the puck or was rule 76.4 applied correctly?

Ben Womack,
Tennessee
 
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Hey Kerry,
 
During the Predators/Wild game on Feb. 9, Paul Gaustad was called for a faceoff infraction, delay of game penalty - Rule 76.4.
 
Can you explain this call as nobody has offered an explanation yet?
 
Thanks,
David Smith

Ben and David:

The exact wording of Rule 76.4 (new hand pass portion) states "both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off. Any attempt by either center to win the face-off by batting the puck with their hand shall result in a minor penalty. This penalty shall be announced a "Minor Penalty for Delay of Game -- Face-off Violation."

The two players involved in the actual face-off (the centers) are not permitted to play the puck with their hand without incurring a penalty under this rule until such time as a third player (from either team) has at least touched the puck. Once the face-off is deemed complete (and a winner of the face-off is clear), hand passes shall be enforced as per Rule 79."

While wording of the new rule sounds very hard and fast, the NHL officials have been instructed to utilize the same standard they employed under Rule 79 in determining if a "hand pass" has been made. A hand pass results when a player deliberately stops or bats a puck in the air with his hand or pushes it along the ice with his hand. A deliberate "bunt" of the puck with the back of a player's glove is also considered a hand pass.

In reviewing this tough penalty call in overtime let me first state that linesman Ryan Galloway is not only a terrific person but very conscientious and professional in the discharge of his duties. I would take him with me on the ice in any big game. Before you start bashing him for his decision on this play, you need to not only be aware of his strength of character and his perspective of the play but also a question that was recently posed to the entire staff in their weekly rules test that might have been directly related to his penalty assessment.

The specific question in the weekly rules review was: should a face-off violation infraction apply to a center that "bunts" the puck with the back of his hand. The answer and instruction to the group was that "yes" this would be deemed a hand pass and result in a penalty under Rule 76.4. The seed was now planted!

 In reviewing this face-off several different times (a luxury the linesman did not have) I noticed an upward movement in the left hand of Nashville center, Paul Gaustad, as the back of his glove contacted the puck. This motion caused the puck to be "bunted" toward the side-wall hash marks. The linesman standing over the face-off spot would have witnessed this glove movement to determine in his mind that an illegal hand pass had been executed. Lineman Galloway didn't invent the hand movement by Gaustad since it did occur.

Additionally, the linesman was watching the puck as it contacted the back of Gaustad's moving glove. From his close proximity to the play any hand motion, contact with the puck - including the distance the puck travelled from the immediate location of the face-off - were magnified in the lineman's perception.

After breaking down this play multiple times, let me share with you what actually happened.

On my first look I saw the slight upward motion of Gaustad's left hand just prior to contacting the puck. Further evidence revealed that Paul Gaustad utilized a reverse grip and bent over posture with his top hand (left hand) slid well down the shaft of his stick in an attempt to draw the puck back into the corner.  The puck was thrown down hard by the linesman, which caused the puck to bounce upward. As Gaustad moved his stick blade through the face-off dot, the butt end/knob of his stick contacted the ice creating a "bounce" which caused his left to elevate upward in the direction of the puck. The opposing center, Mikael Granlund attempted to push at the airborne puck with his stick and in doing so made contact with Paul Gaustad.  This contact resulted in some additional hand motion from the Nashville player. A perfect storm of events gave linesman Ryan Galloway the impression that Paul Gaustad bunted the puck with the back of his glove similarly to the answer acquired from the rules test.

Even though I have attempted to provide a reasonable explanation as to why the linesman felt Paul Gaustad's actions resulted in a hand pass, I do not believe this interpretation to be correct.  In observance of the spirit and intent of Rule 76.4, I deem that incidental contact of the puck resulted to the back of Gaustad's glove from his natural hand motion in an attempt to win the draw and that a face-off violation did not occur on this play. There was no deliberate attempt by the Nashville center to play the puck with his hand.

Instead, this is what should have taken place following the linesman's exuberance to get the puck down quick and hard and resulted in a "bounce" which adversely affected the integrity of the face-off.  The best course of action was for the lineman to immediately blow his whistle, touch his chest and say "my bad" for the bouncing puck and then to conduct a fair face-off once the clock had been reset.

Clarification of Rule 76.4 with video of this face-off should be sent out to the officiating staff for future reference.