HIGH STICKING THE PUCK

In order for hockey players to feel safer on the ice and to minimize head injuries caused by hockey sticks, there is a rule that states that if the puck is located above the shoulder level of a player, you are not allowed to contact the puck with your stick in order to knock the puck down in an attempt to gain an advantage for your team.  If you do commit such an infraction, the only time the play will be allowed to continue is if your team gains no advantage from the infraction.    

Rule 62 (d):

“Contacting the puck above the normal height of the shoulders with the stick is prohibited and when it occurs, play shall be stopped and the ensuing face-off shall be at the spot where the offense occurred, unless:

(1) a player of the non-offending team obtains possession and control of the puck, in which case play shall continue.

(2) a player of the offending side shall bat the puck into his own goal, in which case the goal shall be allowed.

(3) the offending team gains a territorial advantage, then the face-off shall be where the stoppage of play occurred, unless otherwise stated in the rules.”  (Canadian Hockey Referee’s Case Book/Rule Combination, 2001, pg. 173).           

 

The purpose of this rule is to keep players’ sticks down on the ice as much as possible.  If this rule was not in effect you would see a lot more incidences of players swinging their sticks high up in the air and there would be more injuries and penalties assessed for high sticking.

If a player swings his stick at a puck in the air and contacts an opponent above the shoulder level after either hitting or missing the puck, a high sticking penalty will be called. It could also result in Match penalty if an injury occurs. In some minor hockey jurisdictions, the act of swinging at the puck with the stick above your shoulders will be penalized itself. 

If a player contacts the puck above his shoulders with the stick and the very next player to gain possession and control of the puck is a teammate, then the whistle will be blown and the face-off will take place at the spot that penalizes the offending team the most.  For example, if the player who high sticked the puck did so at his own blue line and then a teammate received the puck up by the red line, the face-off will take place at the spot near the blue line of the team where the person who high sticked the puck was standing.  The intention of this rule for face-offs is that a team should not be rewarded for violating the rules of hockey; therefore the face-off will either go where the high sticked puck was received, or where it was contacted, whichever spot is closer to the offending team’s goalie or end zone.

If a player contacts the puck above his shoulders with the stick and the very next player to gain possession and control of the puck is a member of the opposing team, then the play will be allowed to continue.

DIFFERENT RULES IN THE NHL

One of the most misunderstood high sticking the puck rules occurs when an offending team is on a power play.  In the NHL, an attacking player who commits a high sticking the puck infraction in the offensive zone causes a face off all the way back in his team’s end zone beside his goalie. However, in minor hockey, the face off merely comes outside the blue line of the defending team.

This misunderstanding has lead to some heated exchanges between coaches and referees. Since it happens so seldom, in the heat of battle, coaches forget that the NHL rule is different. Parents see the coach getting upset and they too remember what they saw on television with the NHL. Then you have everyone yelling and screaming at the referee who has actually made the correct call but must still listen to the abuse of fans who are ignorant of the minor hockey rule.

HIGH STICKS AND GOALS

Here is a tricky situation. What happens if the player has his stick pointing above his head, but the puck hits a spot on the portion of his stick that is below his shoulders? 

The answer is that this would not be considered a high stick.  Even though the stick was high up in the air, the actual puck contacting the stick was below the shoulders; therefore play shall be allowed to continue.  If the puck happens to enter the net after such a play, the goal would count.

Speaking of goals and high sticks, the rule is very simple. Any goal scored from a high stick will not be allowed, unless the puck enters the player’s own net.

The rule is very self-explanatory, but as always in hockey, there are a few weird situations that may arise with every rule. 

So what would happen if after high sticking a puck out of the air in the hopes that the puck will deflect down and into the net, it hits the goalie and goes into the net? 

The answer is that no goal will be awarded in such a situation and the face-off would come outside the defending team’s end zone into the neutral zone at the face-off dot closest to the blue line of the defending team.  The goal will not be awarded because the goalie did not have control of the puck.  Sure, the goalie had possession of the puck when it touched him, but at no time did any member of the opposing team (including the goalie) have control of the puck.  Therefore, the puck is still considered to be illegal and no goal can be scored when the puck is not legally in play.

It is important for you to understand the difference between “possession of the puck” and “control of the puck”. Possession simply means that you were the last one to touch the puck. Control means that the puck is actually in contact with your stick or another part of your body, being propelled in some manner. These two definitions are extremely critical to understanding many of the rules of hockey.

The other side of this situation is that if a player high sticks the puck out of the air into his own net, regardless if it hits anyone else, the goal will be awarded and it will be credited to the player of the opposing team who last touched the puck.  In this case, it may be the player who shot the puck high into the air.  Also, no assists will be awarded on such a goal.

SUMMARY

In summary, no player is allowed to contact the puck with any portion of his or her stick that is above his or her shoulder level.  Not only is this illegal, but it is dangerous and can seriously injure someone if they are accidentally struck by the stick.  This rule is an attempt to get players to use their hands to knock the puck out of the air as opposed to swinging their sticks high in the air around other player’s heads.