The NHL’s cross-checking crackdown is coming.
While the league made no changes to the rulebook for the upcoming season, they have made some tweaks to the way one particular rule will be called this season: Rule 59 – Cross checking.
The stricter enforcement of the existing rule, which will apply in all areas of the ice, is designed to “promote offense and reduce injuries.” Here are the details, along with some examples from the National Hockey League.
From the NHL’s Department of Hockey Operations:
“Cross-checking, like many penalties, is a judgment made by an official and is not black and white. No two plays are exactly the same and many factors, including placement of the stick, elimination through force, and player embellishment are considered when judging cross-checking.”
“Officials may allow players to use the shaft of the stick to guide or push an opponent without assessing a penalty, however if the guiding or pushing is judged to be excessive, an interference penalty may be assessed.”
Cross-checks around the boards where players deliver low, repeated strikes when battling for position will be now subject to stricter enforcement. One example provided by the league was the cross-check by Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield that injured Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov.
The league also cited a cross-check to Edmonton’s Connor McDavid coming into the offensive zone, where a Flames defenseman opted to use his stick up high instead of delivering a body check.
Based on the examples, the league’s focus appears to be in situations where a player may be eligible to be checked, but where the opponent opts for a cross-check instead of legal body contact.
The NHL also provided two examples of cross-checks in front of the net. Both were hard shots that saw the attacking player fall to the ice. It’ll be interesting to see how this applies to offensive players at the top of the crease battling for position, where crosschecking is prevalent. No such examples were included in the video.
NHL referees recently covered the changes during their pre-season training camp. Expect Hockey Ops to continue to share additional video examples with the officials to help maintain consistency in those calls across the league.
For reference, here’s Rule 59 – Cross-checking:
59.1 Cross-checking – The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.
59.2 Minor Penalty – A minor penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent.
59.3 Major Penalty – A major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who “cross checks” an opponent (see 59.5).
59.4 Match Penalty – The Referee, at his discretion, may assess a match penalty if, in his judgment, the player attempted to or deliberately injured his opponent by cross-checking.
59.5 Game Misconduct Penalty – When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.
Last season, 261 cross-checking penalties were called – approximately once every three games. Expect that number – unlike the salary cap – to go up significantly this season.