Game 5 between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings was exciting and controversial. We're not here to talk about Dustin Brown's knee and whether or not it clean or dirty. Instead, we're here to analyze an incident involving Brown and Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith. As Smith was reaching to cover a puck with his glove, Brown used his stick to pry the puck loose, dislodging Smith's glove and leaving him barehanded. Play continued with LA threatening outside Smith's crease, leaving the goaltender exposed without his catching glove.
Should play have been blown dead? What do the official NHL rules have to say about such an incident and do we need to change the rules moving forward?
According to the NHL Rules page on the NHL's official site, the play was supposed to continue until a normal stoppage in play, which is exactly what happened. Nothing in the rules says anything about a goaltender losing his catching glove, but it does mention a goaltender's helmet.
"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. When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity. This stoppage of play must be made by the Referee. When play is stopped because the goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask, the ensuing face-off shall take place at one of the defending team’s end zone face-off spots.
When a goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play, the Referee shall stop play as outlined above and in this case assess the goalkeeper a minor penalty for delaying the game."
As you can see, there is no mention of a catching glove which means play is supposed to continue as normal. However, this is flawed logic. Play continues normally when a forward or defenseman loses his helmet but it comes to a halt when the goaltender loses his helmet. For gloves, play continues when a forward or defenseman loses a glove and also continues when a goaltender loses his. This logic doesn't make sense. It's as if the NHL went halfway with their theory, suggesting that while a goaltender needs protection if he loses his lid he is not protected if he loses another piece of his equipment which could result in serious injury.
The NHL has been beating the drum of player safety all season long. Here they need to make an easy rule adjustment in order to avoid any serious injuries that could occur from a goaltender trying to stop a puck with his bare hand. If a goaltender loses his glove and it's not deemed deliberate, play must come to a hault unless there is an immediate and impending scoring opportunity. With this new rule in place the Game 5 incident would have played out with Smith losing his glove, LA failing to score on a wrap around attempt and then the play being whistled down as the puck drifted out of the area around the crease. LA would still have had their scoring opportunity, one we would judge was an "immediate and impending opportunity", but then the play would stop as soon as this chance ended.
This rule adjustment needs to be put in place. If a goaltender broke his hand trying to stop a shot early in a playoff series, the NHL would have some serious problems and some seriously angry fans. In the past, the NHL has typically been reactive in making rule changes following injuries. Here it's time to be proactive and adjust this rule in an effort to prevent an unnecessary injuries that could have dire consequences on a team's season or playoff destiny.
|Follow David on Twitter |||Email David|
|Like PDL on Facebook||Follow PDL on Twitter |||Email PDL|
very similar to the rules for stoppages for an injured player:
When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured possession of the puck. If the player’s team is in possession of the puck at the time of injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position.
In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.
I can see why they would want to try to stay away from adding this to the rules, since it's a whole lot easier for a goalie to get out of his trapper or blocker than it is his mask, potentially creating situations where a clever goaltender could "lose" one of these pieces of equipment to stop a play that was going against his team. To allow the rule to go forward, it would need some kind of judgement call caveat.
That said, a rule with proper restrictions to prevent goalies from gaming the system, while returning them their protective equipment at the earliest possible opportunity should be on the books. At least, in my opinion as a former amateur goaltender, anyway.
@miendiem There definitely would be some "slack" in the rules and problems could creep up. It'd have to be at the discretion of the official, as most other calls are. I'd guess most goaltenders like their equipment firmly in place (is this true?) and that intentional loss of equipment would be obvious if it occurred.
@David Rogers Generally, yes, and I'll admit that I can't speak for the current top-end stuff, but when I was playing regularly, my blocker, particularly, was something that I could've easily "lost" if a rule like this existed. The trapper less so, since it's on in much the same manner as a baseball glove, and you'd look awful if a puck took your glove off your hand and into the net. But the trapper, especially in a situation where you've lost your stick, and thus don't have your hand clenched on something, could easily be set up to slide right off.
I guess, given all the issues we've had with officiating this year, and these playoffs, I'm feeling a bit averse to adding in yet another official judgement call. Still, it's not a situation that should crop up terribly often, so I think it could be made workable. A goalie taking advantage of the rule would fall into the same area as players diving, at least in my mind, and that's something that the league needs to take more seriously, too.
@miendiem That is a fair point. The topic as a whole isn't very cut and dry and would leave plenty up to the official, if amended - something that the officiating has historically failed at.
It is such a rare (at least currently) event that I'm not sure a new rule would be needed. I just hope it won't be an issue that suddenly comes to light when goaltender X breaks his hand.