NHL

Fraser: Thoughts on the trapezoid - or Martin Brodeur - rule

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Kerry Fraser
5/28/2011 7:05:33 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!

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Kerry,

I'd like to know your thoughts on the trapezoid, aka the "Martin Brodeur rule". Some say it's an appropriate means to increase scoring chances via the dump in and prevent goalies from short-cutting that offensive opportunity, others say its a way of punishing a skill developed by one player/team in particular, and that the ability to start the play back up ice is in itself an offensive opportunity.
What do you say?
Thanks

Jeff Gendel

Hi Jeff:

What the advent of the trapezoid has achieved lies clearly within the question you posed. Truth is both scenarios you present have been achieved; albeit to varying degrees.
 
Let's first take a look back as to how we evolved to the restrictive trapezoid area that clearly limits all goalkeepers' ability to handle the puck.
 
In the early '90's I, along with several other referees, was invited to attend a summer meeting with team coaches and general mangers to discuss various points relative to the game. Protection of the goalkeeper was a topic on the agenda. The majority consensus from coaches and GMs was that as top goalies were getting harder to find, they could quickly become an endangered species if they weren't afforded "special protection."
 
Back then, even though a goalkeeper wasn't "fair game" just because he was outside his crease, he could be bumped – or even lightly checked – in a puck battle. Referees would call excessive or unnecessary contact with the goalie outside the paint, but the "policing" role was generally assumed by the goalkeepers' teammates. As a result of the "code," we had some pretty good "dust-ups" whenever contact with the goalkeeper occurred.
 
In the meeting, Edmonton Oilers GM Glen Sather expressed concerns about giving goalkeepers "no touch" status when they strayed from their crease. He referenced Ron Hextall, for one, who could pass the puck almost as well as any defenseman in the league. I totally agreed with Slats on this point. (Not only could Hexy snap a pass, he could shoot the biscuit with authority as evidenced by the two goals he fired into empty nets from 190 feet away during his career. Martin Brodeur falls into this category of exceptional puck handling goalies as well.)
 
Remember also that restraining on the forecheck was not only allowed, but coached. The bench would often yell "hold him up," allowing extra time and space for the goalkeeper or defenseman to field the puck and make a play. (Anybody remember "Obstruction"?)

As we moved forward with the "don't touch me" standard, goalkeepers like Dominic Hasek and Patrick Roy protected the puck and almost challenged an attacker to bump into them and draw a penalty. To this point, in a playoff series with the Washington Capitals, Dom held the puck in the corner and waited as an attacker approached him. At the last second Hasek moved the puck as the forechecker veered off after making an attempted stick check.

It looked like a yard sale after the "Dominator" threw himself to the ice with eyes focused on me expecting a penalty call. When I shook my head "no", Hasek picked up his previously discarded blocker and threw it at me as play moved up ice. My arm went up then and Hasek received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty; not the penalty that he was expecting.

Following a year off during the lock out to intensely study what was wrong with the game, the "New NHL" was invented.  It was designed to create added scoring opportunities with speed through the neutral zone and on the forecheck, to reward skill and punish those who "obstructed" this initiative. Restricting puck handling goalies like Martin Brodeur, it was thought, would help contain the end zone attack and reduce the "dump the puck in- and ship it back out" potential.
 
Given the speed on the forecheck that the game now enjoys, defencemen are vulnerable when the goalkeeper can't support them on pucks that rest in the corner or outside the trapezoid.

Here's what I'd like to see Jeff: get rid of the trapezoid and reward goalies that are mobile and adept at handling the puck, both of which are special skills. Understand that with forechecker speed there is also assumed risks to the goalkeeper. Attackers will be on him quickly; especially if he ventures too far from home.
 
I also say pull back on the "no touch" philosophy and let the goalie assume some risk for leaving the sanctity of his crease. Rule 69.4 is very ambiguous and a part of the current problem. Please tell me what is "incidental" and "unnecessary" contact as you read this paragraph of the rule:
"A goalkeeper is not "fair game" just because he is outside the goal crease. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an attacking player makes unnecessary contact with the goalkeeper. However, incidental contact will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such unnecessary contact."  (Appears to me that incidental is really unnecessary; especially if the goalie falls down or takes a dive.)

Please let me know when you figure out the difference in this depiction of the play. I'm not talking about running the goalie or even body checking him, but to allow for light contact in races/battles for the puck. If the goalie flops, then give him a diving penalty.
 
Reward the Brodeurs of the game that risk wandering far from the protection of their net. Those that aren't as skilled at it will expose themselves and stay closer to home or continue to work on their puck handling.

Get rid of the trapezoid Jeff; it hasn't accomplished what it was intended to do.

Martin Brodeur (Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
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