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I see there are a couple of new rules regarding using your hands to move the puck/closing your hand on the puck. I saw a penalty called in the faceoff circle because it appears that the player used his hand to move the puck. Can you explain this rule(s)?
Thank you for your question relative to new rules that will penalize players in very specific situations for handling the puck with their hands. The referees have already had occasion to enforce them in the first week of this 48 game schedule. Let me explain the rules, how they are to be applied and the reasoning behind them.
Nothing has changed in the first part of Rule 67.2 - Handling Puck which states, "A player shall be permitted to catch the puck out of the air but must immediately place it or knock it down to the ice. If he catches it and skates with it, either to avoid a check or to gain a territorial advantage over his opponent, a minor penalty shall be assessed for "closing his hand on the puck".
To summarize, when no advantage over an opponent is gained the "catch and release" philosophy remains in effect and allows the play to continue. The new amendment follows below.
*NEW - Anytime a player places his hand over the puck while it is on the ice in order to conceal if from or prevent an opponent from playing the puck, a minor penalty shall be assessed for "closing his hand on the puck."
In the past we have seen battles take place for the puck, particularly against the boards deep in the end zone, where a player is knocked to the ice and/or loses his stick. Since a defending player in his defending zone is allowed to legally hand pass the puck to his teammate in that zone, the downed player often covered the puck with his hand and played a 'shell game' sliding the puck back and forth looking for an outlet and preventing his opponent from playing the puck.
Whenever this occurred the referee would shout commands at the fallen player to "move the puck" and provide a more than reasonable time to sustain play. Now, anytime the puck is concealed while it is on the ice by a player's hand, the referee is instructed to stop play immediately and assess a minor penalty. It is important to note, for a penalty to be called for concealing the puck, the puck must be on the ice! Players are still allowed to move the puck off the dasher board and off the back of the net without fear of incurring a penalty under this new rule.
*NEW - Rule 76.4 Face-off Procedure—Centers; 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. The penalty shall be announced as "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 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.
It can't get any clearer than that Louise. In past seasons a tactic has been implemented to tie up the opposing center and with the puck resting on the face-off dot a hand was used to scoop it to a teammate thereby winning the draw with what is now deemed to be an illegal advantage. It is important to note that unlike the previous concealment rule, a center is not allowed to play the puck with his hand whether it is in the air or on the ice. When a Face-off Violation of this nature occurs the referee will immediately stop play and assess the penalty to the offending center. Teams would be allowed to make line changes and the clock is to be reset to the time of the previous face-off.
Aside from an unfair advantage through the use of the hand, when the puck was resting on the ice it also created a safety issue. Both center men are now forced to utilize two hands on their sticks and attempt to win the draw with quickness, strength and leverage. My guess is we will continue to see tie-ups on the draw but at least the hands can no longer be used to move the puck. The centers will adapt and use their feet/skates instead!
I see the value in both of these rule changes to provide better game flow. Good job rules committee. It is now up to the referees to enforce these rules in the language and spirit with which they are written.