Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org!
After attending last night's Lightning/Flyers game, I was looking for some clarification on hitting the puck with a high stick. Late in the third period, it seemed as though the Lightning took a two-goal lead after scoring a power play goal.
The puck was up in the air behind then net when a Lightning player hit the puck with his stick to pass to a teammate. The height of the puck (on replay) seemed to be higher than the crossbar, but below the player's shoulders. The puck went directly to a Lightning player in front of the goal who shot past the Flyers' goalie. The ref behind the net immediately waved the goal off and called the puck hit with a high stick, faceoff in the Lightning defensive zone.
I was under the impression that the shoulders were the determining point for playing the puck with a high stick for passing to a teammate, while the crossbar was the determining point for scoring a goal. Since the puck was played between the crossbar and the shoulders, should this play have been legal and the goal counted?
As a follow up, I told people in my section that this play would not be reviewable since the high-stick call was not on the shot that went into the net. Is that correct?
You are correct in stating that the crossbar is the determining factor for a legal goal when an airborne puck has been struck with a stick and then enters the net either directly or through a deflection. The final determination as to whether the puck was struck below the crossbar will be made through video review. On the other hand when a puck is batted to a teammate the "normal height of the shoulders" becomes the yardstick in determining the legality of the pass. It is the Referees exclusive call on the ice and video review cannot be utilized in this case to verify if the pass was legal.
Cory Conacher is listed in the media directory as being 5'8" tall. That might be a stretch even with his skates on judging how close his shoulders appeared in relation to the crossbar as he batted the puck out of the air from behind the Flyers net (video link - starts at 4:10). I share in this "vertical challenge." Whenever I stood on the goal line and there was the potential for a puck to be struck into the net with a high stick I would slightly bend my knees so that my eyes were on the same plane as the crossbar. From this visual height I was able to more accurately use the crossbar as the reference point when the player struck the puck.
I shared my 'crossbar yardstick philosophy' with a player after disallowing a goal due to a high stick and he told instead of bending down for my eyes reach the crossbar height I should be standing on my tip-toes to make the right call!
The crossbar height remains constant but the "normal height" of Cory Conacher's shoulders are far below those of Zdeno Chara. Each individual player's shoulder height become the reference point for the Referee to determine a puck that has been passed to a teammate with a high stick.
It appears on one replay angle that Conacher dipped his left shoulder while elevating his stick blade to contact the puck slightly above his shoulder. The referee had very good position on the play and made the determination that the puck was struck with a high stick, thereby waving off the goal immediately.
Without drawing a line just below Cory Conacher's neck and across the "normal height" of his shoulders this one is too close to call in real time. With the 'tip up' of Conacher's stick I have to give the benefit of the doubt to the Referee on this call. It can be a game of inches or in the case of "Big Z" several feet on determining a high stick.
Brian, you made the correct call to the section last night when you told them that this player was not reviewable since the puck did not enter the net directly from potential high stick call. I might suggest in the future that Cory Conacher consider standing on his tip toes to provide added elevation to his normal shoulder height and to keep his hands above the tip of his stick blade when contacting an airborne puck.