INTERFERENCE - OBSTRUCTION
  

Hooking & Holding the Stick

First off, it is important to must realize that there is no such thing as an  “Obstruction” call at the minor hockey level.  They still use this in the NHL, but in minor hockey, referees are told to simply replace the Obstruction call with Interference, holding, hooking penalty, etc.  This is why you do not see Referees give the “O” signal before another signal such as the Interference signal of the arms crossed at chest level.

When a player Obstructs or interferes with the progress of a player, it disrupts the flow of this player and usually denies the player the opportunity to get involved in a scoring opportunity, or to get in a position to stop a scoring opportunity.

You see this quite often when an attacking player is chasing a defending player who has the puck in one corner and then begins skating behind his own net in an attempt to get away from the attacking player.  There is a tendency for the defending team’s defenceman who is located in front of the net to move away from his position and try to get in the way of the attacking player who is pursuing the puck carrier. This defenceman will either use his body or stick to slow down the forward and allow his teammate with the puck to get away or at least create some distance between the attacking player and the puck carrier.  Sometimes the goalie will even try to cause some form of interference on the attacking/chasing forward.

However, you rarely see this penalty or infraction called by the official unless the defenceman who obstructed the attacking player makes enough contact to knock the player to the ice or come to a complete stop.  This is because it becomes a very marginal call if the referee calls a penalty for interference when the defenceman only nudges or bumps into the attacking player.  If the attacking player is able to continue his pursuit with a very minimal amount of contact then the referee is most likely to let this type of infraction go unpenalized. Yes, by the book it is still a penalty. However, let us remember what game management is all about.

Basketball on Ice? Not Likely! No Picking.

Hockey is not like Basketball.  In basketball, players are allowed to stand in the way of a player of the other team as long as they are not moving.  The basketball players use the “PICK” to free up a lane for their teammates to penetrate into and possibly score some points.  In Hockey, this is not allowed.  No player is allowed to intentionally skate in front of an opponent and stand still in an attempt to stop or slow down the opponent and free up a skating lane for their teammate to use.

Obstructing a player happens in just about every shift of hockey.  When two players come close to each other and the puck is nowhere near them, one player (usually the defending player) will attempt to get their stick on the other player and try to hook or hold this player in an attempt to stop or slow down his momentum.  This type of play usually goes unpenalized unless the player being hooked or interfered with is completely taken out and falls to the ice or if a pass from a teammate was about to be received by this player being interfered with and because of the interference the player was unable to receive the pass (particularly in front of the net). 

Don’t Cry Wolf!

Here is a warning for players who are reading this article. Don’t dive! Referees know when you are diving and when you have actually been taken out by an action that deserves a penalty.  If a referee notices that you dive a lot, then he may very well let actual penalties where you don’t dive, go unpenalized.  It is like the old story of “Don’t cry Wolf!”  The more you dive, the less chance that a referee will actually assess a penalty to a player who actually did interfere with you.

Butt-End Hooking

Obstruction and hooking go hand in hand.  Players like to use their stick to slow down or impede the progress of opposition players.  Hooking does not always happen with the blade of the stick. It can also happen with the butt-end of the stick. 

This most often occurs when an attacking player gets around a defenceman.  As the defenceman turns to chase the attacking player who is sometimes right beside him (shoulder to shoulder), the defenceman will slide his upper hand down the shaft of his stick and use the remainder of the stick (butt-end) to hook or slow down the attacking player.  Of course this only happens when the defending players butt-end of the stick is closest to the attacking player. 

The really sneaky players will also keep their feet moving making it look like they are in actual fact catching up to the attacking player and not just hanging on for a ride.  The penalty for this infraction is also considered a stick infraction because it is called “Butt-End Hooking”.  There have always been the regular five stick infractions (slashing, high sticking, cross-checking, spearing and butt-ending). Now this has become the sixth stick infraction. 

Most players who receive this penalty get caught because the stop moving their feet. By hooking on to the attacking player, you can actually ride along, coasting as you slow down your opponent. Most players make it quite clear that they are sliding their hand down the shaft of the stick, thus making it even easier for the referee to make his decision.

Hooking with the Blade

If an attacking player beats the same defenceman on his other side, the defenceman will usually hold out the entire shaft of his stick to hook or impede the attacking player. Referees will not often call this a penalty since it is hard to get a penalize a player for holding out his stick over the ice. However, if the defenseman uses just the blade of his stick, it becomes so obvious that the referee once again has no other choice but to make the call

The position of the referee is perhaps the most important factor in the hooking call or non-call. If the referee is skating behind the players, as usually happens with the one referee system, it is difficult to see a butt-end hook or a hook using the shaft of the stick.  The easiest of these hooking penalties for the referee to call is the hook using the blade of the stick.

Skate Through The Hook

Here is a tip for hockey players. If you find yourself being hooked by a defender, make ever attempt to fight your way through the hook. If you merely give up or look to the referee for help, you will likely not draw a penalty for your club. The harder you try to escape the hook, the more difficult it is for a referee to ignore the infraction.

Holding The Stick

Another hot topic that goes along with the Obstruction aspect of hockey is the “Holding the Stick” penalty. This penalty has been called more and more because it usually denies a player a reasonable scoring opportunity by not allowing the player to get his stick to the puck to get a shot off.

The most commonly called “Holding the Stick” penalty occurs in front of the net.  Here is an example.  Mike Peca is standing in front of the Senators’ net and is battling for position with Wade Redden.  The puck is shot at the net from the blue line and a big rebound comes out just in front of Peca.  As Peca and Redden were battling, Redden grabbed Peca’s stick around the lower part of the stick (near the blade) and has positioned the stick close to his body so that it almost looks like Peca is hooking Redden, when in actual fact, Peca is trying to free his stick from Redden’s grasp.

Since, Peca was unable to get his stick to the puck and was in essence denied a good scoring opportunity because he was in front of the net with the puck lying in front of him, a penalty is more likely to be called.

One more example would be when an attacking player is trying to get to a loose puck in the corner.  Defending players have been known to grab hold of the attacking player’s stick in order to stop that player dead in his tracks.  These are obvious penalties because quite often the attacking player will try for a couple of seconds to free his stick and then he will let go of his stick.  When he does this, the defending player is usually left standing alone in the corner with the attacking player’s stick in his hand.

Summary

Although the Obstruction call has been replaced with the normal interference and hooking calls in minor hockey,  it is still enforced, especially when the infraction may have an impact on the  final outcome of the game.

For instance, when the player in front of the net is unable to get his stick to a loose puck because the defenceman is holding his stick.  Or when a player provides a pick allowing the attacking player to gain a free lane to the net thus increasing his chances of scoring.  These are the instances when the referee is more likely to call a penalty for a player obstructing another player. 

So the next time you see a player holding onto some other player’s stick, think to yourself about the position of the referee (Was the referee able to see the player holding the stick?) and the potential impact that such a play will have on the game (Will this play deny a player a chance to score or defend a scoring opportunity?).  Don’t forget that a referee must be able to make his decision in a split second. Giving full consideration for what the referee is going through on the ice may actually help lower your blood pressure and save your vocal cords.