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I was at a minor league game this weekend where a player had a breakaway. As he skated from one wing to the other, the goalie slid hard across the ice and made contact with the net, knocking it off the posts and pushing it several inches to one side (no offensive player made contact with the goalie or the net).
The shot happened to go wide, but it made me wonder what is the result if the puck had been shot into the net? Would it matter if such 'goal' would not have been scored if the net had not moved? Perhaps this has happened in an NHL game.
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Two separate rules can potentially be taken into account on the situation that you witnessed on the weekend. The correct application would depend on the deliberation of the goalkeeper's actions and whether the puck should ultimately enter the net.
First, if the goal post is deliberately displaced by a goalkeeper during the course of a breakaway, a penalty shot is awarded under Rule 63.5. Ashley, as you described the goalkeeper's hard slide across the crease I envisioned a normal response and reaction by the goalie to defend against the attacking player's lateral movement as he attacked the goal. In a case such as this, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the referee to determine that the goalkeeper "deliberately" displaced the goal post from the moorings. The flexible rubber pegs are designed to break away for player safety reasons and in this case, since the shot missed the goal, it would most likely be determined that the net was displace through "accidental" contact by the goalkeeper and no penalty shot would be awarded.
If, however, the puck happened to enter the net between the normal position of the goal posts a different rule application would result in an awarded goal under Rule 63.6. This rule states that in the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goal posts, the referee may award a goal. For a goal to be awarded, the puck must have been shot (or the player in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts.
The key word in this rule is "accidentally" (as well as deliberately) when the goal post has been displaced by a defending player prior to the puck entering the net. If the hard slide made by the goalkeeper knocked the net off the mooring as the attacker was in the act of shooting and the puck passed between the normal position of the goal posts, a goal would be awarded.
I was involved in two games where plays resulted in the crafting of these rules. Wayne Gretzky and the young Edmonton Oiler greats were playing against the Blues in the old St. Louis Arena. Blues goalkeeper Mike Liut was doing his acrobatic best to fend off a sustained Oiler attack as he slid side-to-side continuously to kick out the puck. One cross-crease slide by Liut took him well out and beyond his goal crease. The rebound went right to future Hockey of Famer sniper Glen Anderson in the middle of the slot with a chance to shoot on the open net and a sure goal. Seeing this Blues defenceman Tim Bothwell picked the net off its moorings and skated it a good ten feet toward the corner of the rink! As the net moved, Anderson kept repositioning himself to line up a shot at the moving target. After getting over the shock of seeing this, I blew the whistle and gave Bothwell the prescribed penalty at the time; two minutes for delay of game. A sure goal was avoided through the defenceman's deliberate displacement of the goal post and the Blues went on to kill the penalty.
Following the game I wrote a rule proposal to award a goal in situations such as this and which was adopted by the rules committee for the following season. That took care of "deliberate" displacing of the goal post.
Toward the end of my career I had a game where a defenceman dove in desperation to defend against an attacker. The D-man missed the puck and slid into the goal post, causing the net to be dislodged just prior to the attacking player shooting the puck into the net. Since the sliding action of the defenceman was not deliberately designed to knock the net off the mooring, the resulting goal had to be disallowed and no penalty was warranted.
Following the game, I submitted another rule recommendation which resulted in the word change to include "accidental" when a defending player displaced the goal post.
Enhanced player safety that has resulted from the NHL wisely adopting the use of flexible pegs some years ago far outweighs the net occasionally being dislodged in scoring situations. The referees can determine the different circumstances under which the net has been displaced and respond accordingly.