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Fraser: Should Alec Martinez's goal have counted?

Kerry Fraser
6/5/2012 1:18:19 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

Just finished watching the game as a hockey fan. I'm neither partisan to the Kings or Devils but came away frustrated over the officiating once again during these playoffs.

If I'm a Devils fan, the first goal of the game (by Alec Martinez) should have been whistled down. There is no way where the referee is standing, can he see the puck that at one point was under Martin Brodeur's pad and in my opinion, it was long enough to whistle down.

Only with the crowd's roar did he realize to look in the net where he did the same gesture with his right arm frantically pointing at the puck in the net!
There had to be at least a few seconds of no sight of the puck. Long enough to blow a whistle?

J. Ferraro

Dear J:

In a scramble when the referee is positioned on the opposite side of the net from the location of the puck he can often find himself caught between a rock and a hard place; either by blowing the whistle prematurely when the puck isn't covered or allow it to be dug out from the goalies grasp. I don't offer this as an excuse but let me attempt to explain the reality of the situation and how a referee can respond best to get this play right.

First let me say that Martin Brodeur had that puck covered with his left pad one the initial shot and protected it with the blade of his stick. If referee Dan O'Halloran had been on that side of the net he too would have seen this and hopefully blown the play dead.

Rule 85.3 - puck out of sight is often the catchall referenced by television commentators and hockey analysts as to when the play should be whistled dead. While that is not always the case in a practical application the rule reads: "Should a scramble take place or a player accidentally fall on the puck and the puck be out of sight of the Referee, he shall immediately blow his whistle and stop the play."

The problem with interpreting the "immediately stop play" phrase to the letter is that there are many times when the referee finds himself in a position where he will lose sight of the puck in a scramble but it remains uncovered. I can also cause me fits when I hear commentators say, "The referee was in perfect position" when in fact he is in a deficient position (often through no fault of his own) to see the puck.  In cases such as last night on the first goal credited to Alec Martinez unless the referee had x-ray vision he would not have known for sure if the puck was covered or loose. It is the referee's job to find the location of the puck "immediately" by moving quickly to gain the best sight line or trust his instinct and gut reaction on a play of this nature.

There were times early in my career when I found myself in the very same position as the referee last night and I lost sight of the puck and killed the play in error thinking that the goalie had it covered. At times such as this the puck usually found the back of the net simultaneously with my whistle. I quickly learned (the hard way) that I had to do whatever necessary to find that puck even if it meant jumping on top of the net on rare occasions. Having been victimized with a quick whistle a couple of times I developed more patience during scrambles but moved my feet as fast I could to gain the best sightline before making a decision to kill the play.

Last night it was a quick play and movement from one side of the net to the other would not have been a practical option for the referee. This is where a good read of the play and gut instinct needs to be applied. The last thing that I allowed was for a player to bang away and make contact with the goalkeeper either with his stick or body. When a player makes contact with the goalie's pad, glove or body I knew the attacker was not striking at a loose puck but making some attempt to dislodge a puck that was covered. Once Dwight King took a couple of good whacks at Brodeur's pad and the goalies position was altered the whistle would have been moving to my mouth with intent to kill the play. Should the puck enter the net following my intention to blow the whistle the goal would be disallowed.

Let me mention just a couple of examples that occurred this season and playoffs where the referee should have employed this philosophy but instead allowed play to continue.  Kris Letang scored a game winner in OT after returning from having his nose broken on a high hit by Max Pacioretty (3 gm suspension). Carey Price had the frozen puck dug out of his catching glove with the referee on the opposite side of the net and Letang fired home the game winner. Chris Neal pushed Henrik Lundqvist off a covered puck with his stick that resulted in a goal being allowed during a 2-1 Rangers win in their playoff series. While the Rangers still won the game the goal broke Lundqvist's goose egg and caused the All-World goalie to lose his mind in postgame interviews.  Mike Smith covered the puck with his catching glove and had it skewered from underneath it by an attacking player. Not only was the puck knocked loose but Smith's catching glove ended up behind the net along with the puck. Play was allowed to continue as Smith dangerously played without the protection of his catching glove. While no goal resulted a quick instinct decision by the referee would have deemed the puck sufficiently covered for a stoppage of play.

In an effort to determine frozen pucks my best advice for the referees is to quickly attack the net in a goalmouth scramble to find the puck. Move to the side where the puck is being played to determine if it is in fact covered. If that is not possible trust your instinct based on goalie position and actions of the attacking player(s). Whatever you do, don't allow attacking players to bang away at the goalie! When all else fails apply rule 85.3 when you lose sight of the puck!

Update from Kerry at 6pm et: Back at theavenger001; whatthewot; cheatermcgirljeans: I guess the second paragraph wasn't clear and concise enough for you. I can't be any clearer than this -- "The whistle should have blown to stop play therefore the goal should NOT HAVE COUNTED!"

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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