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Last night, I was in an discussion with the referee in my adult league game. He called me once for a "cross-check" during a situation where I pushed a player out of position using my stick. I never actually "checked" him with my stick, as there was no impact, and I never stiffened my arms. It was a simple position battle. This, to me, is not a cross check.

Later, I removed a player from in front of the net in a similar fashion, but made sure I contact the player using my hands (despite having both hands on my stick). I was given a warning for this.

Later, he and I discussed the events, and I maintain that it is not illegal to push or shove an opposing player out of position using your stick, as long as the action is not a "check." In other words, you cannot shove the player into the boards, you cannot shove the player onto the ice, and you cannot "hit" the player with your stick.

Under USA Hockey Rule 609, which states

(a) A minor or a major penalty shall be assessed to a player who delivers a check to an opponent using the stick with both hands on the stick and no portion of the stick on the ice (cross-checking).

(b) A major plus a game misconduct penalty shall be assessed to any player who injures an opponent as a result of crosschecking.

I believe I am correct. Am I?

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    You are correct. Although it seems to be very rare to see a player try to get positioning using his both hands on his/her stick. Don't you agree that you usually gain position using either your shoulder (shoving) or with your off hand (try not to get called for holding)?
    – Zack
    Sep 10, 2012 at 18:05
  • I was behind the player, removing him from the net-front.
    – Emily
    Sep 10, 2012 at 18:25

2 Answers 2

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From the information you provided, you are correct. I dug up some rules that had to do with your description. You would only be penalized if you committed one of the following...

  • NHL Rule 59.1

    Cross-checking - The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.

    You did not commit this penalty because you did not initiate a "check".

  • NHL Rule 58.1

    Butt-ending – The action whereby a player uses the shaft of the stick, above the upper hand, to check an opposing player in any manner or jabs or attempts to jab an opposing player with this part of the stick.

    You did not commit this foul because again, you did not initiate a "check".

  • NHL Rule 56.1 Interference

    Stick: A player who does not have body position on his opponent, who uses his stick (either the blade or the shaft, including the butt-end of the shaft) to impede or prevent his opponent from moving freely on the ice shall be assessed a hooking penalty.

    Although I was not there, this is the only circumstance I can see the ref having an edge on you. Some refs will make a call if you are fighting for position and you use your stick against the body, even if you don't check. Refs want to see you fight for position by shoving the other player and using your stick to tie up the opponent's stick, not the opponent's body.

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    The NHL rules are slightly different than USA Hockey rules, which is what the league operates under. However, your assessment is much the same as my own. I don't think interference is callable, because I'm not really preventing free motion of the player -- namely, I was not preventing the player from making a free play towards the puck.
    – Emily
    Sep 11, 2012 at 12:49
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I'm a USA Hockey official. In addition to the rule book the officials also receive a casebook (usually the same physical book) to help clarify the intent behind the rules. Let me quote one of the situations from the casebook on Cross-Checking

Situation 2

Two players are physically engaged in front of the goal and competing for body position. The defensive player uses the stick – with no extension of the arms – to “steer” the attacking player in a desired direction. May this be considered cross-checking?

No. Rule Reference 609(Note).

Even though two hands are on the stick and the blade may be off the ice, the fact that the arms have not been extended and no check is being delivered means that cross-checking has not occurred. Of course, if a competitive advantage is gained and there is no puck in the area, an interference penalty may apply. However, if at any time the arms are extended and deliberate contact is made with the opponent by the stick with both hands on the stick, a cross-checking infraction has occurred. This most often occurs in front of the goal when a player believes the officials are not watching or along the boards when a player is protecting the puck by having their back CASEBOOK – PLAYING RULES 234 USA Hockey turned to center ice. In this instance, the opponent will extend the arms and make contact to the back of the opponent with the stick, but not use enough force to be considered a check from behind. This action should still be considered a cross-checking violation.

So the main point of emphasis is the extension of the arms. Even if the stick doesn't contact the opponent if your stick is between hands and you push someone it is still cross-checking. You can use your stick to steer someone from out in front of the net as long as you don't forcefully extend your arms into them. The whole idea here is it is ok to "body up" on them to move them, but you can "hit" them if they don't have the puck.

Same idea with interference. You can body up on them to force out from in front of the net, but if you hit them meaning a forceful motion into them and they don't have the puck that is interference.

There are also videos on the USA Hockey referee site that show the difference between a body check vs body contact (now called competitive contact starting September 2021). You can find these on USA Hockey's YouTube channel.

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