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Fraser: Rule interpretation on goal against Mike Smith

Kerry Fraser
12/31/2013 3:20:45 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,

It's taken me a while to get up the guts to write you - when you were reffing, I didn't have very kind things to say about you. After religiously reading your column I have to admit I was quite wrong. Your knowledge of the game and the concise way you explain issues shows me you really knew what you were doing out there, officiating the most difficult game in the world to officiate.

My question - the world has seen the goal scored by Phoenix's Mike Smith, where the puck went over his head, lodged on his jersey/in his pants, and then he backed into the net.  I'm curious as to why the whistle was not immediately blown when this happened.  While from some angles, the puck IS visible, I would have to argue that it wasn't really 'playable' - without potential injury to the goaltender.  A Buffalo forward's stick to his back while dangerous, would also have resulted in immediate retribuition from his teammates.
 
I've seen similar issues where a puck inadvertently goes in a skater's jersey or glove, and play stopped immediately.
 
While I'm definitely not a Mike Smith fan, I think Phoenix got jobbed on that call. What's your view?

Thanks - and keep up the good work.  And my apologies for all the bad comments while you were working the game!

Mark McBride
Springfield, IL
 
Mark:

Thank you for the "courage" it might have taken you to send me this terrific question. The respect that you extended to me is the best New Year's gift I could have ever hoped for. Wayne Gretzky wrote in the foreword of my book, The Final Call, "As any player does, I had a few run-ins with Kerry over those years. In fact, it was probably more than a few. I don't think he was always right, but I know I wasn't either. Players and refs often don't see things the same way in the middle of a game. But one thing Kerry always had from every player was respect." 

Respect from the hockey community (players, management and fans) is the most that any Ref can hope to achieve. I thank you Mark for your offering here.

The truth is I have a real problem with allowing a goal on this play once the puck became lodged and concealed in the sweater and pants of Phoenix goalkeeper Mike Smith well outside of his goal crease. Let me explain why.
If we go strictly by the book, rule 85 provides some clear direction as to the Referee's actions when a puck becomes unplayable or out of sight:

85.2 Puck Unplayable - When the puck becomes lodged in the netting on the outside of either goal so as to make it unplayable, or if it is "frozen" between opposing players intentionally or otherwise, the Referee shall stop the play.

85.3 Puck Out of Sight - Should a scramble take place or a player accidentally fall on the puck and the puck be out of sight of the Referee, he shall immediately blow his whistle and stop the play.

I can support a goal being counted when a potential save is made within the goal crease and the goalkeeper doesn't completely control or freeze the puck prior to it crossing the goal line.  Likewise, a goal should count if the uncontrolled momentum of the goalkeeper quickly carries the puck across the goal line in the act of making a save similar to when this same goalkeeper (Mike Smith) slid the puck into the net under his goal pad on a shootout goal awarded to James van Riemsdyk.

This play was completely different. Phoenix goalkeeper Mike Smith was well outside of his crease when a high "jump puck" took place between Smith and teammate Martin Hanzal that resulted from an over the head rebound. Both Smith and Hanzel had their sticks raised above their heads as Hanzel batted at the airborne puck with his glove. The actions of these two players, along with their location on the ice and that of the puck, have significant bearing on what the Referee should have been focused on; namely the puck! There was potential for the puck being struck with a high-stick or possibly batted into the net by either defensive player; both of which would require a decision by the Referee.

From the Ref's position deep in the corner below the goal line, with his back against the wall, on the opposite side of the ice to where this series of events took place, the referee did not react to the puck dropping into the sweater and pants of Mike Smith. Worse yet there was slow, gliding movement by the referee toward the scramble in the goal crease as Smith attempted in vain to locate the puck; which the goalkeeper ultimately carried across the goal line concealed in his equipment and partially visible to the overhead camera through replay. The referee was unable to render a decision from his position as was evidenced by his lack of decisiveness and uncertainty once play finally stopped. A conference was immediately convened by the officiating crew prior to the implementation of video review. This might have been a perfect time to institute rule 31.2, intent to blow the whistle! All video review could share was that the puck was visible across the line.

Now let me tell you what should have occurred on this play. The referee should have anticipated the shot and rebound that took place on the opposite side of the net to where he was standing and quickly moved along the goal line half way between the net and the side boards. From this location he would be in position to have seen the puck drop into Mike Smith's equipment and become "unplayable."  An immediate whistle would have blown in advance of the goalkeeper's return to his crease and well in advance of the puck entering the net in Smith's 'back pocket'!  

All of us at TSN offer you and your family the very best wishes for a safe, healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

No C'Mon Ref question tomorrow as we all enjoy the Winter Classic from the Big House!

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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