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Absolutely love your column and love your answers. My question is in the Tuesday night game of Red Wings v. Blue Jackets, Cam Atkinson clearly scored Columbus' third goal after the net was dislodged. I'm confused how the referees were able to decide that the goal was scored before the net came off when it seemed to clearly come off before the goal crossed the line. I'm just wondering how the refs came to their conclusion and if it was correct.
How can a player score when the net is clearly off the mooring> When the net is off the moorings you can't allow a goal. Maybe get a penalty for moving the net, but no goal. Obviously that was the wrong call, and could mean a missed playoff. Are Referees demoted from the playoffs for these terrible calls?
Thanks for your answer.
Jacob and Jim:
Thank you for your questions on this unique situation that caused many fans to scratch their heads in amazement as to how a goal can be scored with the net clearly off the moorings. I have two personal experiences to share with you that resulted in the formulation and eventual amendment of rule 63.6 which I hope will clear up any confusion. It was under this specific rule that Referee Chris Rooney correctly awarded a goal to Cam Atkinson of the Columbus Blue Jackets after Atkinson's body contacted the post and knocked off its moorings. I provide you with the history of the rule and the correct application.
Rule 63.6—In the event that the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts, the Referee may award a goal.
In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of a defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts.
Now for your first history lesson as to how this rule came about. In the mid 1980's I was assigned to work a game in the St. Louis Arena between the Blues and the Edmonton Oilers. On a particular shift the Oiler stars were sustaining incredible pressure in the Blues end zone. It looked like a shooting gallery against Blues goalkeeper Mike Liut as he slid from side to side making one incredible save after another. That is until one stacked-pad-slide by Liut took the tender well outside of his goal crease. The rebound came right onto the stick of Glenn Anderson standing all alone in the middle slot. As Anderson was about to trigger a shot into the unguarded cage for a sure goal, Blues defenceman Tim Bothwell lifted the net completely off its moorings and began to skate it toward the corner of the rink! Anderson looked puzzled and continued to reposition his feet toward the moving target. I blew the whistle and assessed a delay of game penalty to Bothwell. The Blues killed the penalty and a "sure goal" by Anderson had been averted.
I made a rule proposal that was adopted to allow the ref to award a goal if the net was deliberately displaced by a defending player and the attacker shot the puck (or in the act of shooting) and the puck passed through the normal position of the net. The initial rule only applied when the net was "deliberately" displaced.
Fast-forward to the modern day NHL and a game I worked in Vancouver between the Canucks and the Sabres. Buffalo created a two-on-one attack with the second Canuck defenceman giving chase. As the attackers approached the net the trailing D made a desperation diving poke-check attempt. The defending player's out of control slide knocked the net off its moorings just prior to the shot entering the net. The sure goal had to be disallowed and no penalty could be assessed since the action of the defending player that knocked the net off the mooring was accidental.
Due to the fact that a sure goal had been denied through the "actions" of a defending player in both situations (deliberate in St. Louis ('80's) and accidental in Vancouver (2000's) the language of the rule was amended to include "accidentally" whenever the specific criteria of rule 63.6 was satisfied.
In Tuesday's game Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson took flight on a two-on-one break with Niklas Kronwall defending and his defence partner, Brendan Smith giving chase from behind. Jimmy Howard made a left pad save on Calvert's shot but could not control or freeze the rebound. Atkinson attacked the net from the opposite side and initiated a hard stop at the top-inside of the crease with an opportunity to put the loose puck into the net for a sure goal. As Atkinson was positioning his stick to play the puck (act of shooting) Smith made physical contact with his stick and hip on Atkinson that moved the Blue Jackets player into the goal post and knocked the net off of the moorings.
Some will say that the contact exerted by Smith was minimal and insufficient to knock the net off the moorings without some responsibility placed on Atkinson. The replay shows that Atkinson's momentum and forward progress was altered significantly and he accelerated from his initial stop inside the top of the crease after the contact by Smith was initiated and completed. It is also evident that Atkinson attempted to push back and stop following the contact by Smith with a second, separate spray of snow from his skate blade.
Referee Chris Rooney made an excellent, quick decision when he correctly applied rule 63.6 to award the goal to Atkinson following the actions of Smith that "accidentally" caused the goal post to be displaced prior to the puck crossing the goal line.
Watching this play I saw history repeated.