Fraser: Blowing the play down on a player injury

Kerry Fraser
6/25/2013 1:13:21 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

Hey Kerry,
The question I have is about injured players. During Game 6, Corey Crawford told the referee his helmet was loose and the ref stopped play while the Bruins had possession in the Hawks' end. I've seen a regular season game where Rask had to play without a helmet for what seemed like an eternity before play was stopped. What is the ruling on goalies and helmets and when should a referee stop play and also what constitutes a 'serious' injury?
Andrew Shaw blocked a shot and went down so the ref stopped play immediately while the Bruins had the puck. He got stitched up and came back that game. When Campbell blocked a shot and went down, he was forced to play almost a minute (killing a penalty) with a broken leg.
In my opinion, that is a far more serious injury then a little cut on the cheek!
I'd love to hear your feedback - as a hockey fan of 30 years, some calls or non-calls just seem inconsistent, especially when there is so much on the line.
Thanks Kerry,
Ryan Boyce

Hi Ryan:

Thank you for submitting the final 2012-13 question of the day on C'mon Ref. The person whose question is chosen for the first and last column of the season is always rewarded with a signed copy of my book, "The Final Call," along with a personalized message of gratitude. I will be forwarding yours along shortly.

In response to the first part of your question and with regard to a goalkeeper losing his mask Rule 9.5 states, "When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and /or face mask and his team has possession of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity." 

This rule is designed to provide safety for the goalkeeper and as the rule states even if the attacking team has possession of the puck (in this case the Bruins) play would be stopped at once unless there was an immediate and impending scoring opportunity.

If play was allowed to continue during a regular season game when Tuukka Rask had lost his helmet I can only assume (and would hope) that the opposition maintained multiple scoring opportunities on the same play. Typically one immediate or impending scoring opportunity should be allowed completion prior to the Referee blowing his whistle.

In the case of Cory Crawford notifying the Referee that his mask was broken it would be prudent of the Referee to stop play as a precautionary measure since the Bruins did not have an impending scoring opportunity. It takes a special breed of player to stand in front of 100+ mile an hour slap shots on a continual basis. There is also no doubt that goalkeepers are provided special treatment in the rules and by the Referees under many different situations. This is just another example. 

Aside from any safety issue that could result from the goalkeeper continuing with a broken mask there is also a penalty that could be assessed if the goalkeeper was to deliberately remove his face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play.  Once a goalkeeper had taken a shot to the head I would always check to make sure he was able to continue. If his mask was broken from the impact of the shot I would also stop play at the first opportunity and prior to a larger problem or injury resulting.

In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately as per rule 8.1. When a player is stuck in the face with a shot or deflected puck it would become immediately apparent to the Referee (and everyone watching) that a serious injury might have resulted and medical attention would be required immediately. A player's face is virtually unprotected unlike his lower extremities.  When the face is struck by a puck evidence of excessive blood quickly materializes or in the case of Andrew Shaw the player might seemed dazed or even knocked out. The potential of head trauma, eye damage or facial fractures will dictate that the Official should stop play immediately.

In a previous article I wrote what an old school warrior Gregory Campbell was for attempting to defend while hobbling on a broken leg. The extent of Gregory's injury was not immediately revealed since his huge heart took over and he refused to lie down and wait for a whistle. Given the protected area where Gregory blocked the shot, along with his Herculean effort, we can't fault the Referee for not stopping play. Likewise we should not fault the Referee for stopping play immediately when he determined a serious injury might have resulted when Andrew Shaw was struck in the face by a puck in last night's game.  Fortunately, Shaw was able to return to the game after being stitched up.

I want to congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks on their amazing season and Stanley Cup victory last night.  We must also thank the Boston Bruins for a great effort in providing an extremely entertaining final series.
Finally I would like to thank each and every one of you for the thought provoking questions and comments provided to C'mon Ref. Please enjoy a very safe but short off-season with your family. I hope to connect with you once again in some capacity when another exciting NHL season starts back up in October.

C'Mon Ref!

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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