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In Thursday's game between the Winnipeg Jets and the Montreal Canadiens, P.K. Subban had broken his stick in the attacking zone on the power play and returned to the bench to get a new one. He hustled and made it back into the attacking zone to play the puck before it was cleared out of the zone, with two pieces of his previous hockey stick on the ice, just inside the blue line.
After making a pass to a teammate, Subban then proceeded to use his new stick to swipe both pieces of his old stick out of the attacking zone. The Canadiens then scored on the play.
I am of the understanding that it is illegal for any player to touch or move any strewn piece of equipment on the ice, including broken hockey sticks. I was also of the understanding that only a defensive player was allowed to 'get away' with certain things such as hand-swiping the puck ahead out of the defending zone or 'bumping' stewn equipment. Why was the play allowed to proceed with no penalty assessed to P.K. Subban when he was in the attacking zone? When is a player allowed to affect on-ice equipment and when are they not?
There are a few rule references that answer your question but the short answer is that, as long as the clearing of a broken stick/debris does not interfere with the puck, the play or an opposing player, it is allowed.
We know that a player is not allowed to play with a broken stick and therefore must drop the broken portion before he is allowed to participate in the play. When Subban's stick broke on the shot, he legally dropped the broken portion in his hand and retrieved a replacement at the players' bench. Upon his return to the attacking blue line after making a play with the puck, he cleared away the broken stick by shooting it back into the neutral zone.
I provide the following rule references as to when a play of this nature is deemed legal and when it is not.
Rule 53.1 - A player shall not throw a stick or any other object in any zone. 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. (Subban legally retrieved a replacement stick at his bench.)
Rule 53.2 - A minor penalty shall be imposed on any player on the ice who throws his stick or any part thereof in any zone, except when such act has been penalized by the assessment of a penalty shot or the awarding of a goal. (A penalty shot is awarded when the stick is thrown by a defending player in his defending zone and impedes the movement of the puck or puck carrier or when a player in control of the puck in the neutral or attacking zone with no opponent to pass is interfered with by a stick or any part thereof or any other object or piece of equipment thrown or shot by a member of the defending team. Awarded goal would result if the goalkeeper has been removed for an extra attacker.) When the player discards the broken portion of a stick or some other object by tossing or shooting it to the side of the ice (and not over the boards) in such a way as will not interfere with play or opposing player, no penalty will be imposed for doing so. (This is exactly what Subban did.)
Rule 56.2 - A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who knocks or shoots any abandoned or broken stick or illegal puck or other debris towards an opposing puck carrier in a manner that could cause him to be distracted. Also from 56.2, a minor penalty shall be assessed on a player who deliberately prevents a player who has dropped his stick or any other piece of equipment from regaining possession of it. This is also supported in 53.2 - When moving a stick that is not broken, no penalty shall be assessed as long as it does not interfere with the play and the player who lost said stick is not attempting to retrieve it, otherwise an interference penalty must be assessed.
Rob, you now have the do's and don'ts of moving equipment laying on the ice and clearing away debris found in a player's path. I trust this clarification will help as the final weekend of the regular season is concluded and we move into the playoffs.
I look forward to joining hosts James Duthie and Steve Kouleas in studio during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs when called upon. Catch all the exciting playoff action on TSN beginning with the NHL on TSN Playoff Preview Show on Monday at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt.