For months now, there has been reporting indicating that the league was going to put a new focus on cross-checking this season, penalizing it more strictly. Today, the league even released a video announcing its new, stricter enforcement guidelines, giving examples of the kind of plays that will now be expected to draw penalties. Examples along the boards, in front of the net and in open ice on the rush are shown. Though the league is clear this is not a rule change, it is a change to the interpretation of rule 59 which currently reads:
Cross-checking: The action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent.
The wording is not being changed, but the video explains that it is a judgment call made by an official that will be done differently this season.
Although not a change to the rule, beginning in the 2021-22 season, there will be a stricter enforcement of rule 59.
Officials may allow players to use the shaft of the stick to guide or push an opponent without assessing a penalty. However, if the guiding or pushing is judged to be excessive, an interference penalty may be assessed.
Players and coaches alike have long cried out for change to the cross-checking enforcement, given the punishment that has been allowed in front of the net. If this rule is truly enforced differently this upcoming season, there may be a significant change to the way players defend, especially on the penalty kill. As with any judgment call though, it remains to be seen how strictly the officials actually call these listed offenses.