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Can you score a goal by beaning a goaltender? Yes, sort of

Former referee Kerry Fraser’s mailbag columns for TSN haven’t necessarily revealed the sort of, “We make mistakes all the time, just like anybody else!” comments that one might expect, but Fraser’s at least willing to admit that referees have to interpret sometimes contradictory clauses in the rulebook on a split-second basis, as was the case when the Tampa Bay Lighting scored a goal off Tim Thomas’s left eyebrow on Tuesday:

We got a whole lot of net and goalie crease questions regarding Tim Thomas having his mask knocked off when his own defenceman (Adam McQuaid) fell directly on his head.  The fact that Tim’s own player’s actions caused him to lose his mask is immaterial as to if or when the referee should stop play.
Here are some of your questions and the answer. First, let me assure you that the referee absolutely made the correct decision to allow play to continue in this case.  While stopping play when a goalie loses his mask is designed to provide safety the rule is very clear in when the whistle must be blown by the referee.

Rule 9.5 Protective Equipment states that all players shall wear an approved helmet but allows a player that has had his helmet knocked off to continue to participate in play until he goes to his players’ bench.  At that point he is not allowed to return to the game without a helmet. Pertaining to the goalie losing his mask this is what the rule clearly 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.”

Now comes the portion of the rule that is pertinent to last night:

“When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity.”

There you have it, gang. Tampa had possession of the puck at the side of the net and still in the act of completing a reasonable scoring opportunity.  If Tampa had the puck in the corner or even behind the net play would have been stopped due to the lack of an immediate or impending scoring opportunity.  Some of you might choose to argue that the side of the net does not constitute an immediate/impending scoring opportunity. I beg to differ with you - it is.

While it might add insult to injury that the puck was banked off Tim Thomas’ head (eyebrow) but I have seen many times when a goal is scored when a shot or rebound deflects into the net off an attacking player’s face.  The goal was good.  The referee showed patience in not blowing the whistle quickly and in utilizing the correct application of the rule. I wouldn’t have handled any other way.

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Chet's avatar

if you don’t like fraser’s contribution to general fan understanding and overall nhl awesomeness, you’re dead inside.

when’s the last time an NBA ref decided to explain every foul called during a playoff game?

love it, don’t leave it. conversation over.

Posted by Chet from twitter: thegansen on 05/19/11 at 06:51 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I’d rather have it than not. I’m not complaining.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 05/19/11 at 06:56 AM ET


I like to see Fraser’s input and interpretation. Personally, I felt the shot came from behind the net and not the side so it was not an immediate and pending scoring opportunity. This is once again where the NHL rule book fails, it is either immediate or impending it can’t be both. An Impending scoring chance can be any time the offensive team has possession of the puck. Immediate, in my intepretation, means you have a direct shot on goal to score.  If Thomas’  face isn’t in the way it isn’t even a shot on goal.  It looked to me like the referee had his head down too busy looking at the goal line instead of the play in front of the net.

It used to be the job of the goal judge in the now “premium” priced seats to look if the puck crossed the line, now it is another job for the referee. It amazes me how some referees feel that calling a goal is the single most important part of the job, while others will casually wait for video replay to make the decision for them by making no visible call on the ice.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 05/19/11 at 10:21 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.


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