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The Stew: Sticks, Stones, Hands and Bones

January 21, 2020, 11:31 AM ET [3 Comments]
Paul Stewart
Blogger •Former NHL Referee • RSSArchiveCONTACT

The other day, after barely grazing the puck at the center ice dot and skating away without it on a game-ending shootout attempt in Philadelphia and then fumbing the puck on a breakaway attempt the next game, Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand put out a self-depracating APB on Twitter. It read: "ATTENTION…hands have been lost or stolen, If found please return to TD Garden…thanks.”

I have not found Marchand's hands. However, I can get Brad a good deal on a replacement pair. Portland Cement manufactured mine throughout my playing career. My custom-made mitts stayed true to my abilities as my two goals in 21 NHL games and three breathtaking tallies in 65 World Hockey Association games would attest. My hands were such that I found it easier to try to hit Dave "Killer" Hanson or Terry "Taz" O'Reilly than hit the net.

Give me a holler, Brad. I'll get you set up.

All joking aside, while I do not recall seeing a puck travel so little before on a penalty shot or shootout attempt at the pro level, I am actually surprised that it doesn't happen a bit more often. If you've ever looked at the bevelling on many sticks, there's not a lot of surface area touching the ice. It's not all that unfathomable to miss or barely graze the puck with the heel.

I may or may not have sent a few shots about that far with a pool cue over the years late at night after a game. Wouldn't admit it if I did, though.


I don't recall commenting on this before, but I were the general manager of an NHL team, Vegas forward Mark Stone would be the prototype of the sort of player that I would covet. Although he's not the fastest or prettiest skater around, that's just about the only thing he lacks. Whatever his feet lack, he more than makes up for between the ears.

Stone is one of the smartest hockey players of the contemporary era; takes great routes to the puck. Very strong off-puck and never stops working to get possession for his team. He is outstanding at finding the seams in the defense, and getting to the scoring areas. Can score from different areas. Steps up in big games. Protects the puck as well as anyone in the game. Brings good size, but plays a clean game. I also thought he was outstanding in the playoffs last year against San Jose.

While superstars drive our sport in the public eye, and are great for the game, it's the players such as Stone, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron and Philadelphia's Sean Couturier that I inevitably find myself watching and admiring for their hockey intellect. Common sense isn't common and neither, at a truly elite level, is the sort of hockey sense these players possess even their pure talent level is a half-step down from the Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid level superstars.

Hands (part two)

Contrary to popular belief, not every puck that goes into the net off a glove should be disallowed nor every puck outside the defensive zone that goes from one teammate to another off a hand, should be blown dead. What determines this is how the energy was supplied. In other words, did the player in question move his hand (such as by batting at or shoveling the puck) or was the energy supplied before it reached the player in question and the puck simply deflected to its destination off his stationary hand?

I have seen quite a few officials -- at many different levels , right up to the NHL level -- fail to make this distinction. In a few cases, it done willfully, and becomes what I'd describe as a "CTA call".

What's a CTA call? It stand for Cover Thine Arse. It's a lot easier to defend a whistle for a hand pass or a disallowed goal on the basis of going in off a hand than to try to argue it scientifically with an angry coach or Hockey Operations deparment on the basis of the physics of the play. Nevertheless, the rules are NOT intended for any and all pucks (outside the defensive zone) that go off a hand to a teammate or into the net to be whistled dead. It's simply a convenience to make it more of a blanket call.


Did you know that the first-ever whistle documented to have been blown by a refeee in a sporting event dates back to 1879? The first time that officials used a whistle was in a soccer match hosted by the Nottingham Forest football club against Sheffield. An English toolmaker named Joseph Hudson fashioned a brass instrument with a pea on the inside. Previously, officials waved handkerchiefs.

However, the use of whistles long predated this invention.

Scientifically, it's the movement of the small ball enclosed in the whistle's air chamber that produces the familiar sound associated with American police and referee whistles. The pea whistle remains the world's largest-selling variety.

The NHL has a standard for whistles. The most important aspect is that they must deliver a consistent shrill blast to be heard in difficult situations in noisy surroundings.

Before metal whistles, most were made either from animal bones or fashioned from wood. They had practical, military, nautical and musical/entertainment uses, dating back thousands of years.

At any rate, four generations of Stewarts -- my grandfather, my dad, yours truly, and my sons when they've officiated youth games -- owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Hudson, who passed away in 1930. I would hate to have had to frantically wave a handkerchief to put a halt to the action or to start play at center ice.

For one thing, a few of those pranksters would have blown their noses with the damn thing any time I dropped it, or bled on it. For another, my buddy Doc Emrick would have to say, "There haven't been a lot of handkerchiefs so far in this game." Lacks the same pizzaz as "whistles."


A 2018 inductee into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Paul Stewart holds the distinction of being the first U.S.-born citizen to make it to the NHL as both a player and referee. On March 15, 2003, he became the first American-born referee to officiate in 1,000 NHL games.

Visit Paul's official websites, YaWannaGo.com and Officiating by Stewart.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulStewart22
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