There’s not much that OS hasn’t hit on over the past few years, but after a full month of Canadian beer league tournaments out here in my neck of the cactus, it is clear that the concept of a hand pass is ripe for complete examination.
Here’s what commonly occurs – a “C level” defender wrists a shot from his zone, the puck strikes the glove of a teammate and then flops to the ice right onto the tape of another teammate who’s cherry-picking at the offensive blue line.
Naturally, OS doesn’t whistle this down. And more times than not, a scoring opportunity results for the team creating the “infraction.” Abuse of officials quickly follows. Let’s analyze.
Rule 618 | Handling Puck with Hands
(b) A player or goalkeeper shall not be allowed to “bat” the puck in the air, or push it along the ice with his hand, directly to a teammate unless the “hand pass” has been initiated and completed in his defending zone, in which case play shall be allowed to continue. If the “hand pass” occurs in the neutral or attacking zone, a stoppage of play will occur and a faceoff will take place according to last play faceoff rules provided no territorial advantage has been gained.
OK, for you law-school applicants, the mens rea, or intent of the player, is key to rendering a decision. We know this because through definition, the rule utilizes the word “bat” as a prerequisite for a hand pass.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “bat” is defined as follows:
1. A stout solid stick;
2. A usually wooden implement used for hitting the ball in various games;
3. To strike or hit with or as if with a bat.
Now, as any competent test-taker knows, you throw out all of the impossibilities to obtain your answer. And in the above analysis, the two nouns can be properly disposed of, which leaves definition 3, the verb as the correct choice. Thus, to bat, means to strike or hit.
Back to our example. Striking or hitting an object requires intent. It means to direct the puck in a desired direction. But when a butcher league hoser wrists a clearing shot three feet off the ice which accidentally caroms off a teammate’s glove, you do not have a player batting the puck.
You do not have a hand pass.
Even USA Hockey agrees with OS in this scenario. Check out Situation 8 in the casebook for Handling Puck With Hands:
A hand pass occurs with the front or back of an open hand and the puck is simply batted in a desired direction.
Got it? Desired means intended. Accidental contact does not meet that definition.
There you have it. And for those coaches, parents, low-level JV players and even referees who think the game is all about blowing their whistles, make sure to re-read this column prior to next season.