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Getting to Know the NHL Rulebook: Hockey Sticks

Welcome to the next installment in our series where the WIIM authors read big, boring NHL documents so you don't have to. Today's NHL rulebook post is all about hockey sticks. Yes, that means you too, goalies.

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Jovanovski: "Where's my stick?!" MacKinnon: "Here, take mine!"
Jovanovski: "Where's my stick?!" MacKinnon: "Here, take mine!"
Joel Auerbach

NHL Official Rules 2013-2014 (PDF)

Rule 10 - Sticks

10.1 Player's Stick: Wood "or other material approved by the League" can be used for making a player's hockey stick. Over its history, the hockey stick has used wood, aluminum, fiberglass, graphite, kevlar, and most recently titanium. A player's stick cannot have any "projections," so if you thought you were going to win some style points with your spiked blade, all you're going to get is a minor penalty for dangerous equipment.

Hockey stick shafts can be a maximum of 63". Blades, 12.5" long. Players 6'6" and taller may be granted an exemption upon written request to the League. Even then, the NHL still imposes an absolute maximum length of 65" for hockey stick shafts. So, assuming Zdeno Chara uses a hockey stick 65" long, Yao Ming (7'6") would have to use Zdeno Chara's stick (or shorter!) if he wants to play in the NHL.

Blades must be within a width range of 2"-3". The maximum is set because we're playing hockey, not lacrosse on ice; the minimum is set because we want to be playing with hockey sticks, not spears. Blade curve is restricted to 3/4". It's measured like so: Find the deepest point on the blade curve; draw an imaginary straight line from heel to blade toe; draw a perpendicular line that intersects through the deepest point on the blade curve and the imaginary straight line. If blade to imaginary line is greater than 3/4", congratulations: you've pulled a Marty McSorley!

(Side note: If you didn't understand a word I just said, page 15 of the rulebook [page 26 of the PDF] has a great illustration "Stick Measurements.")

10.2 Goalkeeper's Stick: Goalies must have a "knob of white tape or some other protective material approved by the League" at the top of their goalie stick shaft. Said knob can be no less than 1/2" thick. If a goalie refuses to change his hockey stick to these specifications, the stick (but not the goalie) is "unfit for play"; changes can be made without a penalty being assessed.

Goalie stick blades cannot exceed 3 1/2" and cannot be less than 2", like the player's stick. At the point where the heel joins the shaft, it cannot exceed 4 1/2". Blade length cannot exceed 15 1/2".

We will never again see a moment like this. No longer can there be any measurement of a goalie stick during a game. Hockey Operations is tasked with making sure goalie sticks comply with the rules, and these checks are done outside of games.

The wide part of a goalie stick shaft can be no longer than 3 1/2" wide or 26" from the heel.

10.3 Broken Stick - Player: "A broken stick is one which, in the opinion of the Referee, is unfit for normal play."

All I got out of that sentence is that the referee is the arbiter of what is and isn't a broken stick. Who knows what "normal play" is supposed to mean. I don't see why they can't just let "broken stick" be self-evident (especially since they let "normal play" be self-evident), given all the other leeway and judgment calls the referees are allowed to make. It's not as if it's much of a judgment call either; either a player's stick is no longer in one piece or is snapped somewhere in its construction, or it isn't.

Players whose sticks have broken may still play, but they can't use the broken stick. The wording is "A player whose stick is broken may participate in the game provided he drops the broken stick." So based on this wording, technically, the referee is allowed to call a minor penalty just for skating around with a broken hockey stick even if the puck never comes near said player. What's normally said on broadcasts is that "players can't play a puck with a broken stick," but the rulebook says a player isn't even allowed to skate very far with a broken stick. This interpretation is actually quite consistent with Rule 9.8 about Dangerous Equipment.

Players with broken sticks may only be physically handed replacement sticks from the bench of from a teammate. "A player will be penalized if he throws, tosses, slides [emphasis mine], or shoots a stick to a teammate." I don't believe I've ever seen this rule enforced, as least from the "slides" perspective. Intentionally sliding a lost stick away from an opponent who's attempting to retrieve it is interference, but this rule also makes it a penalty to slide a stick to your teammate if he loses his.

In all cases, whether it's a teammate on the ice or from the bench, players who illegally give a stick to their teammates are given a minor penalty (or a bench minor if done so from the players' bench), not the player who received an ill-sent hockey stick.

Skaters aren't allowed to use goalie sticks. Minor penalty for doing so, for obvious reasons.

10.4 Broken Stick - Goalkeeper: Goalies can continue to play with a broken stick. If play stops and he still has the broken stick, he has to replace it. He is also free to receive a stick from a teammate at any time, but the same rules apply about throwing, tossing, sliding, or shooting a stick to him. These rules also apply if a goalie loses his stick, instead of having his original stick broken, and is attempting to retrieve it or have it handed to him by a teammate.

This next paragraph . . . ugh:

A goalkeeper whose stick is broken or illegal may not go to the players’ bench for a replacement but must receive his stick from a teammate. A goalkeeper may participate in the play using a skater’s stick until such time as he is legally provided with a replacement goalkeeper’s stick.

Yeah, thanks for specifying whether it's just in the middle of play or at all times. You just successfully made it illegal for a goalie to get a new stick from his own bench if he goes there because of a TV timeout. Oh, but it's a good thing that we know a broken stick means it's "unfit for normal play." Details, NHL rulebook writers! Details!


I've had enough. But also, we've hit a thousand words. We'll pick up hockey sticks again next time, starting with stick measurements and hopefully finishing off Rule 10.