Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at email@example.com!
I'd appreciate some clarification on when a ref is supposed to blow the whistle based on a player injury. Last night, Blues were on the power play, when a Blackhawks D blocked a puck with the side of his leg, went down, got up and skated for a bit, before going down again. Blues had possession the entire time, and the play was not near the defenseman on the ice. The referee blew the play dead (right after another Chicago player lost his stick, thus the refs turning a 5 on 2 back to a 5 on 4). Is play supposed to stop for a player who is able to skate (as he did after the shot block both prior to the whistle and again immediately following it) after he chooses to block a shot?
Regarding the play in question, we saw Hawks shot-blocker extraordinaire, Niklas Hjalmarsson rotate his body sideways, thereby exposing the unprotected area in the back of his right knee as Kevin Shattenkirk blasted a slapper from the point on the Blues power play. Taking a shot in this location causes the nerve endings in your leg to instantly go numb, resulting in "dead leg". Hjalmarsson's wounded-deer attempt to defend reminded me of Gregory Campbell's heroic broken leg defence in the playoffs last season. In Campbell's case, the Refs allowed the play to continue while last night, play was stopped in the midst of a Blues scoring opportunity as Chris Stewart threw the puck into the slot past a fallen Hjalmarsson for a one-timer by Alexander Steen.
The authority for the Officials to stop play is found in Rule 8.1: "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".
In the judgment of the Referee last night, a serious enough injury was sustained by Hjalmarsson to kill the play. My preference would be to stop the play either prior to Stewart's centering pass from the corner or after allowing the scoring opportunity on the one-timer by Steen. Perhaps the memory of Campbell defending on a broken leg had some bearing on Ref's decision to kill the play.
Brandon, I have posted two articles from C'mon Ref archives that further explain when the Officials stop play due to a player injury.
Fraser: Defining the rule for an injury stoppage in play
Fraser: Blowing the play down on a player injury
Bonus Question of the Day:
In Tuesday's game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche on TSN, whenever an Avalanche defender would be in their defensive zone with the puck setting up the play behind the net, their goalie Semyon Varlomov would be waving his hands to block the Maple Leaf player from seeing the Avalanche defender behind the net. To me, this is reminiscent of what happened between Martin Brodeur and Sean Avery in the 2008 playoffs when Avery took screening the goalie to a level never seen before by facing Brodeur and using his stick and hands in an attempt to block Brodeur's view of everything. That prompted the NHL to make a rule change: "An unsportsmanlike conduct minor penalty (Rule 75) will be interpreted and applied, effective immediately, to a situation when an offensive player positions himself facing the opposition goaltender and engages in actions such as waving his arms or stick in front of the goaltender's face, for the purpose of improperly interfering with and/or distracting the goaltender as opposed to positioning himself to try to make a play."
I realize there are some differences here. The NHL wanted to protect a classy player as much as possible, especially from the potential of a goal scoring play. In the situation with Varlomov, it's not the offensive zone and instead it's a goalie doing the screening. But he is engaging in actions, such as waving his arms, for the purpose of interfering with and distracting the opposing player. Shouldn't any kind of actions like this be deemed unsportsmanlike? It's not like Varlomov is positioning himself to make a play. Why should only goalies be protected by this kind of behaviour which has nothing to do with hockey?
The memo you referenced outlining the immediate actions Refs were to take if taunting and interference occurred following Sean Avery's arm gestures in front of Martin Brodeur applies to all players in the broader sense. Goalkeepers are not immune to any of the playing rules, including interference and unsportsmanlike conduct. In a manner of speaking, what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Since the actions of goalie Semyon Varlomov were not in any way designed to stop the puck or tend his goal but instead solely for the purpose of distracting, interfering with or inciting his opponent, I would issue one warning to the goalkeeper at the first stoppage of play. Following the warning, if the negative behavior continued, I would immediately penalize the goalkeeper with an unsportsmanlike conduct. If I deemed that Varlomov legitimately interfered with the attacker (as opposed to just being a nuisance), I would penalize the goalie immediately without warning.
There is plenty of language contained in the memo and Rule 75 to back the Referee up in making this call, including but not limited to, "Players and non-playing personnel are responsible for their conduct at all times and must endeavor to prevent disorderly conduct before, during or after the game, on or off the ice and any place in the rink. The Referees may assess penalties to any of the above team personnel for failure to do so."
Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlomov's conduct fell into the disorderly category and, in the future, if the Referees don't properly address it, I fully would expect that some tough guy from the other team just might!