Fraser: The referee's intent of blowing the whistle

Kerry Fraser
5/22/2013 2:43:44 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at!

Hey Kerry,
In last night's Kings vs. Sharks game, the Kings appeared to have scored a goal shortly after the Sharks made it 2-0 on a power play. The goal was called back because the ref blew the play dead on a premature whistle. The puck never stopped moving and yet it was blown dead. It's obvious the ref would never admit he blew it early and it was a good goal.
My question to you is, what can be done to rectify situations like this?  Also - during playoffs, when officials make mistakes like this, do they lose the chance to officiate an upcoming game. I understand the game is played at a quick tempo and these guys are doing the best they can and mistakes are made. I'm just curious as to what the repercussions are for officials. We all know what they are for players, as the league makes it known.
Rob Kitzan

The reason this goal was negated is because of something referred to as the Referee's intent to blow the whistle to stop play. Simply put, that means that once the Ref determines (in his mind) that the puck is frozen or unplayable it is a dead play in that moment irrespective of any delayed time response to physically blow the whistle.

This is referenced in the following rules:

31.2 Disputes - As there is a human factor involved in blowing the whistle to stop play, the Referee may deem the play to be stopped slightly prior to the whistle actually being blown. The fact that the puck may come loose or cross the goal line prior to the sound of the whistle has no bearing if the Referee has ruled that the play had been stopped prior to this happening.

78.5 (xii) Disallowed Goals - When the Referee deems the play has been stopped, even if he had not physically had the opportunity to stop play by blowing his whistle.

85.3 Puck Out of Sight - 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 to stop play.

As the puck was shot into Antti Niemi with Dustin Penner hovering at the crease along with Kings defensive traffic , Referee Brad Meier determined (in his mind) that the puck was sufficiently frozen and as a result was in the act of blowing his whistle. With Meier's physical action to blow the whistle taking place, the puck continued on its slide path between Niemi's pads and became exposed. Whether Dustin Penner nudged the puck over the goal line or if it travelled there under its own steam is of no consequence; nor is the sound of the Referees whistle being heard just after the puck crossed the goal line. All that is of consequence on is this play is that the Referee deemed the play stopped prior to blowing his whistle as outlined in the above rule references.

In hindsight the Referee's decision to stop play was premature.  A "quick whistle" resulted in a good goal being disallowed.  Referee Meier would likely be the first guy to tell you so along with how sick it made him feel once he saw a replay. While this is of no consolation to the LA Kings or their fans the Referee didn't have the benefit of a replay or hindsight. He had to make a split second decision at the time. It proved to be the wrong one.

So Rob, how can this situation be avoided and/or rectified in the future? You can bet that the Referee, along with the others presently working in the playoffs, will be more patient in determining a frozen puck and their intent to blow the whistle.

The other corrective measure should take place over the summer and allow for video review to take place on a play such as this, in addition to all cases where goalkeeper interference is suspected. Since the overriding factor is the moment the Ref determines the play to be dead (in his mind) no one else could review the play to overturn this thought process. This must be done exclusively by the Referee himself. Any inner thoughts he might have had in the nanosecond would most likely be clearly illuminated once he saw the replay to render the correct decision.

I maintain the same is true with goalkeeper interference. Give that call back to the Referee(s) on the ice through video review; whether through a Coaches challenge or just vest the Referee with the authority to review the goal at ice level.

As far as repercussions of calls to the Officials, all performances are evaluated and decisions are made as to who moves on to the next round. Previously assigned games would not likely be changed since Referees move from one series to another. This was a human error made by a very honest and good Referee.  

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!

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

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