NHL: Give us Clarity on Goaltender Interference

It’s one of the most frustrating things to see when watching a hockey game. A man in a black and white striped shirt potentially determining the fate of your favorite team’s game. It’s not as frustrating when the right call is made, but when it’s pretty clear what the call should be, and that call is ignored, it gets infuriating. This is the case with goalie interference. As a fanbase, we need clarity on goaltender interference because it seems like the NHL is reading from a rulebook that we can’t see.

The NHL rulebook states in Section 9, Rule 69.1 “Interference on the Goalkeeper” that a goal will be disallowed under the following circumstances: “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 an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease.” Sounds pretty simple, right? Well unfortunately, nothing in life is that black and white. This was a goal that was ruled a good goal in a game between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues on February 1.

This review took two minutes. Watching this video, it’s pretty clear that Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Spooner end up pushing Jake Allen out of the crease completely giving David Krejci an empty net. There’s a few things to break down here.

Is the contact incidental? For DeBrusk, yes. He got tripped up and slid into Allen, but Spooner was not. He wasn’t shoved or forced into Allen in any way. That being said, based on the wording of the rule: “impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal,” this should be disallowed because Spooner ends up pushing Allen outside the crease. The final ruling of this play was a good goal.

Allen himself even expressed his disbelief postgame after watching the replay with John Kelly and Darren Pang of FOX Sports saying: “Unless I’m supposed to have a 10-foot stick, I don’t think I make that save.”

If that’s not goaltender interference, what is? Well, this is, apparently.

There’s no argument against Antti Raanta being poked with Zach Hyman‘s stick. But he recovers, and gets in position to make the save once Auston Matthews takes the shot and scores and there’s no one impairing Raanta’s ability to make that save besides himself. But, this goal was disallowed due to goaltender interference followed by a very upset Matthews.

The main issue with all these allowed and disallowed goals is that there’s no consistency. A goalie gets pushed out of the crease and it’s a good goal, but a goalie gets poked with a stick two seconds before a goal is scored and it’s goaltender interference.

Let’s take a look at one final play.

This goal is reversed for goaltender interference. Connor McDavid taps the stick of David Rittich, but in no way does this impair his ability to make the save off the rebound. There’s not much to say there besides the fact that it took an overtime game-winner away from a team because no one can figure out what goaltender interference is.

If a goalie getting pushed outside of the crease isn’t goaltender interference, according to the referees, how can those same officials look at the goals from Matthews and McDavid and say that there is indeed blatant interference. There’s no consistency and there doesn’t seem to be any basis in the rulebook for when a goal should be disallowed or not. There are words written down in the rulebook regarding the subject but it doesn’t seem like they’re listened to because if they are, Krejci’s goal would not have remained as called and Matthews’s and McDavid’s would have remained goals.

NHL’s general managers have taken note of the issue and as of Wednesday, March 28 (before all three of these goals took place) the NHL has moved any review for a coach’s challenge for goaltender interference to the NHL situation room in Toronto as opposed to on-ice reviews.

Will this change be successful? Only time will tell. But the NHL better hope it is with the playoffs right around the corner and the stakes getting higher and higher.

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