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What is goalie interference, anyway?

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And at this point, why bother calling it?

St Louis Blues v Boston Bruins Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images

Hockey fans and broadcast crews have a pretty good grasp of what goaltender interference should be: if the goalie is within the blue paint, don’t impede his ability to play the puck. It sounds simple.

Even the actual NHL Rule #69 sounds simple:

Interference on the Goalkeeper - This rule is based on the premise that an attacking player’s position, whether inside or outside the crease, should not, by itself, determine whether a goal should be allowed or disallowed. In other words, goals scored while attacking players are standing in the crease may, in appropriate circumstances be allowed. Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgement of the Referee(s), but may be subject to a Coach’s Challenge (see Rule 78.7).

For purposes of this rule, “contact,” whether incidental or otherwise, shall mean any contact that is made between or among a goalkeeper and attacking player(s), whether by means of a stick or any part of the body.

The overriding rationale of this rule is that a goalkeeper should have the ability to move freely within his goal crease without being hindered by the actions of an attacking player. If an attacking player enters the goal crease and, by his actions, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed. If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. If a defending player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by an attacking player so as to cause the defending player to come into contact with his own goalkeeper, such contact shall be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, and if necessary a penalty assessed to the attacking player and if a goal is scored it would be disallowed.

69.2 Penalty - In all cases in which an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, whether or not the goalkeeper is inside or outside the goal crease, and whether or not a goal is scored, the attacking player will receive a penalty (minor or major, as the Referee deems appropriate). In all cases where the infraction being imposed is to the attacking player for hindering the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely in his goal crease, the penalty to be assessed is for goalkeeper interference. In exercising his judgment, the Referee should give more significant consideration to the degree and nature of the contact with the goalkeeper than to the exact location of the goalkeeper at the time of the contact.

69.3 Contact Inside the Goal Crease - If an attacking player initiates contact with a goalkeeper, incidental or otherwise, while the goalkeeper is in his goal crease, and a goal is scored, the goal will be disallowed.

That’s crystal clear. Right?

This is the NHL. Of course it isn’t.

There were two goals scored last night deemed good goals despite obvious goaltender interference. One was by the Vegas Golden Knights forward James Neal, who whapped Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck upside the head before scoring.

The other one was, of course, in the Blues’ 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins. David Krejci’s first period goal was deemed a good goal, confusing the entire FoxSports Midwest broadcast crew for the duration of the telecast. It also confused nearly every Blues fan and anyone who has ever glanced at an NHL rulebook.

Allen was boxed in and absolutely unable to regain his position to play the puck. What is even worse is this ignorant supposition/conclusion by the officiating crew.

Well, of course he couldn’t’ve made the save - he was knocked out of position. That is the point. The goal was scored before Allen was able to regain his mobility to get himself into position.

The NHL does a lot of dumb things in regards to interpretation of the rules, but this absolutely takes the cake. Would the Blues’ve won had the goal not counted? Who knows, but it would’ve been a significantly different game.

The NHL wants their officials to not be quite as ticky-tack when they call goalie interference? Fine. What happened last night to the Blues and the Jets, though, weren’t ticky-tack “matter of interpretation” incidents. They were pretty clear-cut violations of the letter of the goalie interference rule, and that is inexcusable.

Jake Allen offered up a sort-of defense for the officials:

“It’s a tough area to call because it puts the refs in a tough spot,” Allen told reporters . “The game’s so fast, the game’s so quick, and they honestly probably don’t have time to see everything on the ice either.”

That’s why God invented video review, Jake, though who knows what game the officials were viewing a clip of.