Fraser: How referee positioning led to Carcillo's goal

Kerry Fraser
4/23/2013 2:55:38 PM
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Hi Kerry,
In the Vancouver-Chicago game last night a puck went off a referee and right to Dan Carcillo as Chicago scored. What are the rules regarding officials having a puck go off them that leads to a goal?
Does it only count if the official cannot get out in time and not deliberately in the way of the players?

Jeff Martin,
Victoria, BC


I was watching the live feed of the game last night on the NHL Network and felt badly for my friend, referee Tom Kowal when he was unofficially credited (video link) with a 'helper' on Daniel Carcillo's goal. Beyond that feeling my immediate response was, "Oh no, not again!" (Referee in a traffic lane.)

Rule 78.5 (iii) - Apparent goals shall be disallowed by the Referee and the appropriate announcement made by the Public Address Announcer when the puck has deflected directly into the net off an official.

As per the rule this goal would have been disallowed only if the puck went directly into the net after striking the Referee as opposed to directly onto the tape of Daniel Carcillo. 

Officials occupy necessary space on the ice and must constantly navigate to avoid contact with players and the puck.  Most importantly the Referee must position himself in the very best location to see the play with an unobstructed view in order to make a good judgment. That typically means out of high volume traffic areas.

I don't blame Referee Kowal or his colleagues for often standing in this high traffic area behind the goal with a less than perfect sightline and much greater risk for personal injury. They are only doing as they are instructed by their Superiors in the "new way" that is poorly thought out and defies logic and common sense. This change for the sake of change is a bad idea and results in a giant step backward with regard to Referee End Zone Positioning - 101.

Due to my diminutive physical stature, which resulted in an inability to see over or around players, I developed a positioning philosophy that works and for the most part kept me out of player traffic which greatly impairs the Referee's vision. I used the premise that I must see the play in advance based on current player position, their outlets and anticipate where the next 'chess moves' on the board would result to establish a safe location with the best view and not become part of the action.

I recognized key battle areas for the puck in the end zone which included the corners on a dump-in or cycle and behind the goal line and net from one side of the ice to the other. I knew (from bad experience) the worst place I could be caught is behind the goal line where the trapezoid line now meets the boards. From this position of deficiency players could collapse on me from each side in a puck battle and I had no place to retreat to; therefore becoming an obstruction to the movements of the puck and player battles from this location.

From a personal safety issue it also defies logic to stand in this spot when a shot is being blasted from the point or slot let alone the fact that a Referee in this position is looking through the net and the backs of players which offers an obstructed view.  I also made sure that I left space off the boards and faced the puck (skate blades pointed at puck) as opposed to standing sideways exposing the full length of blade to contact the puck as was the case last night.

In 1984, I presented my Referee Positioning Philosophy at the Alberta Elite Development Camp and following that at the Western Hockey League School of Officiating. Dennis Pottage was a top amateur hockey official, who made a major contribution as a 40 year educator, school principal in Regina and finished as Superintendant/CEO of a school division in Winnipeg and was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. Dennis was the Referee-in-Chief of the Canadian Hockey Association and in attendance as an instructor at the WHL School of Officiating. As both an educator and top amateur hockey official Dennis saw the benefits this positioning philosophy provided. He saw to it the system I developed was incorporated in the CHA manuals and is taught to all of their officials to this day.

Note to amateur hockey referees: do not emulate the current NHL Referees and stand stationary behind the goal at the trapezoid line! That high traffic area belongs to the players to battle and compete for the puck. Observe the action—don't become part of it!

Note to fans watching this seasons Stanley Cup Playoffs: when a call is missed around the net or a Referee obstructs players or puck movement first look to the on-ice position of that Referee. Odds are he will be statuesque behind the goal at or near the trapezoid line. Please don't blame him because he's simply doing as he's told.

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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