What is interference in hockey?

The mystery that is hockey interference, tackled! Here's your guide to understanding one of NHL's most debated penalties, from its minutiae to the drama it brings to the rink.


Interference in Hockey: The Art of Unseen Penalties

Folks, gather 'round and pull your barstools closer. Let's chat about one of the most perplexing conundrums in hockey - interference. You know, the pesky infraction that pops up when you least expect it, leaving you screaming "That's interference!" at your television (or the zebra-striped gent on the ice, if you're lucky enough to be rinkside).

Make Way for the Puck

To the uninitiated, interference may seem like a concept as elusive as a hat-trick in a goalie’s showdown. But let's break it down. In the simplest terms, interference happens when a player obstructs the opposition without being within 'stick-reach' of the puck, which in hockey terms is about the length of an adult alligator, give or take. It’s like those speed bumps in a school zone: they can't stop the flow, but they sure can delay it. 

But You Said He Couldn’t Do That…

So, you might be asking, "Isn't some of that contact just part of the good old hockey game?" You're not wrong, my astute friend. It’s the very question that makes interference one of the most debated penalties in the NHL. Fact is, hockey is a contact sport, and interference is like that awkward party guest. It's often right under our noses, but not easy to pinpoint unless it crashes into the fruit punch bowl. And boy, when it does, you can bet there will be a two-minute timeout in the sin bin.

It’s Not Just About the Body

Interference isn't just limited to body checks though. Oh no, this rule has more facets than a disco ball. Players can be called for interference for using their stick to impede the progress of an opponent or even for knocking the stick out of an opponent’s hands. That’s right, it's like penalizing petty theft, but in a thrilling, teeth-grinding, ice-cold sports context.

The Goalie’s Safe Space

Let's not forget about our masked friends guarding the goal. The crease is their fortress, their sanctum sanctorum, if you will. Any opposing player so much as breathes on them without the puck in play, and you've got yourself a clear case of goalie interference. And let’s be honest, nobody likes a home invader, especially one wielding a hockey stick.

A Game of Inches and Seconds

So, we've established that interference has less to do with the actual contact and more to do with timing and puck proximity. This means a lot of the time, whether a play is interference or a fair challenge is a judgment call made in the blink of an eye. Remember, in the NHL, you're allowed to hit a player who just made a pass, but wait too long and your well-intended check turns into a penalty. 

Interferences: The Artful Dodger of Penalties

So, the next time you're watching a game and catch yourself wondering if that was interference, remember, it's all about timing and location. Interference is a tricky beast, a jigsaw puzzle on ice. Whether it's crashing the goalie’s tea party or inhibiting a player without the puck, interference is a sin that's about as welcome as a surprise dental checkup.

So keep those eyes peeled and that beer cold, because understanding hockey interference is like catching a glimpse of a unicorn: rare, beautiful, but often fiercely contested. And isn’t that why we love this game?