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Fraser: What happens if the puck splits in two during a game

Kerry Fraser
11/22/2013 2:12:52 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 cmonref@tsn.ca!

Hi Kerry,
 
I was timekeeping a AAA minor midget game last week when the following happened. A player was skating down the wing and then wound up to take a huge slap shot. When he took the shot, the puck actually split into two pieces with both halves of the puck entering the net for a score. Should the goal be allowed or not?
 
Has anything weird like that ever happened to you in the pros during your career? One ref at the game actually thought a goal should be allowed but after all three officials got together, there was a ruling of no goal with the faceoff inside the zone.
 
Thought maybe a weird situation would put a bit of a change of pace to your column.

Cheers,
Edward Sherr

Edward:

As weird as it sounds, I do recall a hard shot ring off the goal post in an NHL game I worked that caused the puck to break in half. Neither chunk of vulcanized rubber entered the net but instead split off in different directions. One piece travelled toward the end zone corner while the other portion found its way into the slot. Players scrambled in both directions, instinctively chasing the black disc that was nearest their position. 

I recall the look of shock on each player's face after recognizing only half a puck existed in two different locations on the ice. I blew my whistle to halted play for this unusual situation. A discussion then ensued as to who caused the stoppage of play with regard to the resulting face-off location.
 
The defending team protested that the attacking team had caused the stoppage with a shot that broke the puck. They rationalized their position no differently than shooting or deflecting the puck over the boards. I settled on the claim that it wasn't "who" (which team) but "what" (a faulty puck) that caused the stoppage and the resulting face-off was taken in the end zone corner where half the puck had come to rest.

The fact is, Edward, that the entire puck must completely cross the goal line to count as a legal goal. Half a puck just doesn't cut it. The officials in the AAA Midget game, therefore, made the correct call; including the resulting end zone face-off location.

Amendment/Addition:

You have correctly noted from Edward's question that both halves of the broken puck entered the net. While there is nothing presently in the NHL Officiating Case book or anything that I could find in the Canadian Hockey Case Book or playing rules on the subject, we need to look at rule 13 - Puck. The puck shall be made of vulcanized rubber, or other approved material, one inch (1") thick and three inches (3") in diameter and shall weigh between five and one-half ounces (5 1/2 oz.) and six ounces (6 oz.). All pucks used in competition must be approved by the League.

A puck that has broken in half does not conform to this rule in specified size or weight, nor is it approved for legal play. No goal would result should a puck that was broken in half and therefore deemed unfit for play (illegal) enter the net. This would include the case where separated halves found their way into the net.  

During the season, I had the puck split in half. Inglasco (the official puck supplier to the NHL) was having some quality control issues. You might recall that routine shots were causing the protective glass behind the goal to break at an unprecedented rate. I was told that there was a component in the puck that was causing this to occur. While that problem was quickly rectified, it brought special attention to the puck and particularly the inconsistency with which it settled or bounced on the ice.

A study, conducted by an NHL-hired consultant with a PHD specializing in the field of rubber, revealed the ideal temperature at which frozen vulcanized rubber provided the optimum density to slide across the ice and minimize the bounce effect. Following the study, game puck supplies were to be kept in a special temperature controlled freezer that were installed in every NHL arena. Pucks that previously were kept cool in a bucket of ice at the penalty timekeeper bench were secured in a mini-freezer by an off-ice crew member that was in charge of pucks. Memos were sent to the head of each Off-Ice Crew on the new puck handling policy and optimum temperature that must be maintained. Linesmen were instructed to change out the pucks on a frequent basis. I will tell you first hand that the density of the frozen puck was noticeable when on occasion I was struck by one. Even a glancing blow provided an extra sting not previously experienced!

With all this hoopla of information being circulated over the ideal puck temperature, Jeff Weintraub, head of the NY Islanders Off-Ice Crew (and a dear friend of all the NHL Officials) decided to have a little fun with us. Prior to a game I worked in Nassau Coliseum, Jeff entered our dressing room with a very serious look on his face and asked me if I would check the temperature of the game puck. Confused, I asked how the heck he expected me to do that. From behind Jeff's back he exposed a NY Islander puck with a hole drilled in it. Inserted in the hole was a "rectal thermometer!"  What a 'ball-buster' Jeff was.

The bouncing puck also led to snow buildup being scrapped from the goal crease and around the dasher boards during commercial time-outs. Very quickly through the scraping process guys in sweat suits were replaced by scantily clad "Ice Girls."

It's truly amazing the 'progress' I witnessed during my 30 years as an NHL referee.

If we're lucky, we might even see the results of a study that can stop players from hitting each other in the head?

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 cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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