Fraser: Just what is a 'distinct kicking motion?'

Kerry Fraser
2/7/2013 2:24:11 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

Hi Kerry,

The league seems to be at a point again whether a goal is allowed or disallowed based on a 'distinct kicking motion.' On Monday night, Tyler Bozak of the Maple Leafs scored a goal in the second period against Carolina that appeared to be deflected in by his skate. After review, it was disallowed because of a 'distinct kicking motion.'
The following night, Jason Pominville of the Buffalo Sabres scored against Ottawa and it appeared to have more of a kicking motion that Tyler Bozak's the night before!
Can you clarify what a kicking motion is?
Thank you,
Craig Maclaren

Kicking (Rule 49.1) is defined as, "The action of a player deliberately using his skate(s) with kicking a motion to propel the puck or to contact an opponent." As it pertains to goals (rule 49.2); "A goal cannot be scored by a player who uses a distinct kicking motion to propel the puck into the net."

The terminology, "distinct kicking motion" conjures visions of a field goal style attempt to boot the puck between the uprights. A kick of this nature is the most obvious foot/skate action that would result in a potential goal being disallowed.

A goal is deemed legal when, "A puck deflects into the net off an attacking player's skate who does not use a distinct kicking motion. A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player's skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident."

A puck that is "directed" into the net implies that a deliberate action by an attacking player is utilized to place his skate in such a position to alter the path of the puck in some form. For this to be deemed legal the skate must remain stationary or planted prior to contact with the puck.

As an attacking player moves his skates toward the net it can be a difficult task to determine if there was some form of deliberation by that player to contact and propel the puck toward the goal. The men in the Situation Room in Toronto utilize various criteria to differentiate between what they deem to be an illegal kicking motion as opposed to a legal deflection or direction of the puck. 

I can assure you Craig, that any deliberate action or unnatural alteration of a player's foot/skate immediately prior to contacting the puck causing it to be propelled into the net will result in a disallowed goal. Acceleration in the puck's velocity toward the goal is also taken into account to determine if it was propelled into the net by a skate.

This was evidenced in the Tyler Bozak play as he entered the goal crease in a stopping motion. As the puck was shot into his feet, Bozak turned his back skate in an unnatural movement (video link) relative to his stop, moved the skate in a slight forward motion which propelled the puck into the net. Tyler Bozak's back skate action could only be correctly detected from various camera angles available through the video review process.

Jason Pominville on the other hand played the centering pass with the toe of his stick causing the puck to deflect off his shin pad and then contact his skate in a natural continuation of Pominville's stride toward the net.

If some separation of time occurs from when a player turns or positions his skate prior to contact with the puck there is a much better chance that this would be deemed a legal direction or deflection.  (Try and visualize here folks!) Similarly a planted skate that has been strategically placed to change the direction of the puck should also result in the legal scoring of a goal. Conversely  some forward motion with a skate that is deemed to be outside of the normal and expected motion a player would make in his skating stride or path to the net will likely be judged an illegal act should the puck enter the net.

A player's visual focus during the time immediately prior to the puck contacting his skate can also be taken into account as to deliberation of his actions and intent.

The bottom line Craig is that this call, no differently than interference on the goalkeeper, can be extremely difficult for the Referees to get right on the ice in real-time. As we have seen it can also be a daunting task to determine if a distinct kicking motion was utilized through video review. On the two plays that you referenced I am full agreement that the decisions rendered by the guys in the Situation Room were bang on.

I hope this information assists you with your personal review of pucks kicked into the net.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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