Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad is having a great season. He’s tied for second on his team in scoring. His 10 goals and 25 assists are fifth-highest among NHL defensemen.
He’s doing it all with illegal gloves.
Ekblad’s mitts aren’t exactly compliant with the NHL rulebook.
12.2 Gloves – A glove from which all or part of the palm has been removed or cut to permit the use of the bare hand shall be considered illegal equipment and if any player wears such a glove in play, a minor penalty shall be imposed on him.
When a complaint is made under this rule, and such complaint is not sustained, a bench minor penalty shall be imposed against the complaining Club for delaying the game.
NHL officials can spot the violation and call it themselves.
A crafty head coach could also wait for an opportune moment and call for a glove check in hopes of getting a power play at a critical time.
Hopefully those bench bosses are taking notes.
Why would a player want to remove the palm of his glove? Sometimes it’s for the feel on the stick. Sometimes it’s comfort, with a worn palm on a well-broken in set of gloves. Sometimes it’s superstition.
Other times, it could be for a specific advantage. Here’s a New York Times article from 1972 that looks at a call against the Rangers’ Glen Sather – back when he was a player, he apparently favored the distinct advantage of a palmless glove.
With a big enough hole in the palm of his glove, a hockey player can poke his fingers through the opening and pull some dirty tricks, like grabbing an opponent’s jersey, pants or stick. And because the top of the glove is intact, it hides the action.
What’s the advantage of grabbing a jersey or stick? Hawley Chester, assistant to the vice president of the National Hockey League and an amateur player himself, explained it yesterday:
“Say you go into a corner with some guy, or you’re standing next to him in a face‐off. When you grab his pants or sweater he can’t go anywhere. It doesn’t look like holding, but actually you are holding. You can break his rhythm, his momentum, or even put him into the boards.”
“In a face‐off, say, the puck is drawn near your man. You don’t want him to get at it or take a shot. You just pick up his stick in your bare hand, enough to break his stride. I do it whenever I am protecting the net. You need only an instant.”
“Two weeks ago, in Vancouver, the Canucks challenged Sather’s glove. John Ashley, the league’s senior referee, ruled the hole was not big enough to permit the use of fingers. But on Wednesday Referee Art Skov considered the hole large one, and he penalized Sather.
Well, had the hole got bigger in those two weeks?
“Easily,” said. Chester of the National Hockey League.
Ekblad’s not the only one Boston’s Brad Marchand has been known to go palm-free as well. Not that he’s been penalized for it.
Brad Marchand still wearing those illegal palm-cut gloves. Hilarious pic.twitter.com/zJchnpmESS
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 7, 2016
But, man, what a penalty that would be. It’s just a matter of time.
(Stick-tap to /r/hockey’s green_desk for catching this one)