I'm going to try to periodically post some information about some rules from time to time to keep everybody informed.
Understand that opinions on what actually happened in a specific situation can vary from person to person based on a variety of variables including (not exclusively) focus, proximity, and sight lines. The on-ice officials are regularly educated on how specific rules are to be applied through annual certification and supervision.
The information contained here will include actual rule references as written in the Hockey Canada Rulebook (2018-2020).Boarding & Body Checking - Rule 6.2
The 1st thing to note is that the rule doesn't mention body contact. There are situations where bodies will come into contact with each other where no infraction is applicable.
The actual rule...
In divisions of Pee Wee & below and Female Hockey, a Minor penalty for Body Checking or, at the discretion of the Referee, a Major Penalty and a Game Misconduct penalty shall be assessed any player who, in the opinion of the Referee, intentionally body checks, bumps, shoves or pushes any opposing player. If a player in injured, a Major Penalty and a Game Misconduct must be assessed. When an offensive player is skating towards the defensive player, the defensive player may not hit the offensive player by going in the opposite direction to the player. The body contact must be as a result of the movement of the offensive player. There must be no action where the offensive player is pushed, checked, or shoved into the boards. Where, in the opinion of the Referee, accidental contact has taken place, no penalty shall be assessed. A Match Penalty could also be assessed under this rule.
Situation 1 (6.2 b)
The situation of a player steering or directing an opposing player into the boards, without actually touching him, is acceptable. The most obvious example of this may be seen when a player is coming down with the puck and he has to make a move or play on the defenceman. Quite often the puck carrier will try to go wide along the boards. In this case, we say the defenceman has the right to close off the boards, in order to force the puck carrier to slow down or towards the middle of the ice. The principle that must prevail is that no player is entitled to use his body to intentionally body check, bump, push, or shove an opponent.
You will notice phrases such as "At the discretion of the Referee", "In the opinion of the Referee", throughout the Rulebook. The referee will make his decision based on the information he/she has at the time. This is not a poll the audience type situation.
Most infractions will come with the same wording about injury. Injury is not specifically defined in the Rulebook. It will determined by the official before play resumes. There will be times when a player is deemed to be injured by the official and the player will be able to resume playing relatively quickly. There will also be times when it is deemed no injury has occurred and the player will not be able to resume play either in that game or potentially games in the future. The referee will do his/her best to get it right at the time but it is something that is difficult to determine. Also note that "At the discrection of the Referee" a Major Penalty and a Game Misconduct can be called even if no injury results.
So what are referees looking for...
- Was the contact the result of the offensive or defensive player
- Was the defensive player moving in the opposite direction of the offensive player
- Did the contact result in the opposing player going into the boards
In real time the referee will determine if a play should be penalized based on the 4 criteria above.
Also note that just because an action may not be penalized under this rule doesn't mean another rule may not cover that situation (ie Checking From Behind, Interference, Head Contact, etc).
Hopefully that helps.