Fraser: Why Lupul's catch-and-drop goal was allowed

Kerry Fraser
2/7/2012 6:03:30 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!

Hi Kerry,
I'd really like to hear your thoughts and opinion on last night's "allowed" Joffrey Lupul goal during the Leafs/Oilers game. Seems like the general media agreed those were two bad calls!
Mitch Ethier
Hey Kerry,
I would just like some clarification on the definition of hand pass and closing hand on the puck. I do not understand how Joffrey Lupul's goal Monday night against the Oilers was a good goal as he caught Phaneuf's point shot on the right side of his body, then turned, took half a step and dropped the puck onto his own stick and put it in the net. Is this not closing your hand on the puck and should the play not have been blown dead? Any clarification would be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Thanks Kerry,
Hey Kerry,
Just watching the Leafs/Oilers game and saw a goal by Joffrey Lupul that to me should not be allowed. In my humble opinion, he appeared to glove the puck and place it down as opposed to batting it down, then after gaining position in the slot on the goalie, from that move, scored a goal.
How is it possible for this to be allowed? I think that having gloved the puck in this manner certainly warrants some sort of stoppage if not a penalty. I can't see how a goal could be allowed.
Can you explain this rule? And maybe give us your opinion on this call (or non-call)?
Harry Maltby

Mitch, Andy and Harry:

The play that Joffrey Lupul made with his hand catch - release of the puck onto his stick and into the back of the net is practically identical to the play and question I answered on January 25.

On that play Benn Ferriero, the Boston College graduate, scored the game winning goal for the San Jose Sharks in a 1-0 victory over Calgary Flames. You might recall Ferriero was moving through the crease behind Miikka Kiprusoff when he caught an airborne puck that was positioned a little bit behind his body. Benn continued in his natural glide motion for a half stride, brought the puck from back to front and settled it onto his stick before depositing the puck into the open side of the goal no differently than Joffrey Lupul. Check out the Ferriero video and the Lupul video here on both plays.

Rule 67.2 — Handling the Puck says, "A player shall be permitted to catch the puck out of the air but must immediately place it or knock it down to the ice. If he catches it and skates with it, either to avoid a check or to gain a territorial advantage over his opponent, a minor penalty shall be assessed for closing his hand on the puck."

I know many of you will get stuck on the verbiage, "if he catches it and skates with it...or to gain a territorial advantage" in relation to the goals scored by Ferriero and Lupul.

In the practical application and real time interpretation of the rule a "catch and release" philosophy is utilized in the standard of enforcement. The referee will determine if the catch and drop is legal based on the body position of the player catching the puck (static or moving — if moving how far is the puck carried), where the catch was made (inside or outside the players' wheelhouse to allow an immediate drop down of the puck); whether an attacking player is approaching and if a delay in dropping the puck is utilized or moved significantly from one side of the body to the other to protect the puck from an attacker.

With the airborne puck located behind Ferriero and Lupul in varying degrees they both had to twist and reach back to catch the puck. From this posture, with their skates already in motion and as they continued to move, it was a natural motion and reaction to twist forward and drop the puck to the ice onto their stick.

It would take a Michael Jordan manoeuver to bring the puck from behind the back or through their legs which would also involve a closing of the hand on the puck. As a matter of fact my daughter Jessica, a four-year point guard at Manhattan College in N.Y. could dribble two basketballs at one time, bringing both behind her back and through her legs. She of course wasn't wearing hockey gloves at the time! Travelling in the modern game of basketball is pretty much non-existent as well.

What I'm suggesting here is that neither Ferriero nor Lupul could catch the puck and drop (or "place" it as the rule states) behind them nor would it be reasonable to expect that any player would do so.

Everything that Ferriero and Lupul did on these plays; from the instant they caught the puck to a brief moment later that they dropped/released the puck was within the acceptable standard of enforcement of this rule.

While Ferriero and Lupul's actions might have appeared to be in violation of the letter of rule 67, the referees in each case enforced the spirit and the acceptable standard of handling the puck as they have been instructed.

The rule was changed to allow players to "catch" the puck which involves closing one's hand on the black disc and then drop it to the ice. When I began officiating in the NHL players were only allowed to "bat" or "knock" the puck to the ice with an open palm. While the language of the rule and the interpretations has changed, perhaps some of our mindset has not. "Closing the hand on the puck" as written in the rule is not interpreted literally. The phrase is, at the very least contradictory to the premise of "catching" the puck as it is impossible to catch the puck without closing a hand on it. It just becomes another one of those "good hockey plays" that has evolved in the game.

Under the current standard of enforcement both of these plays that occurred in two separate games that resulted in goals are deemed to be legal. Fans often bemoan NHL officiating as being inconsistent. At least in the application of Rule 67 — handling the puck, no such charge can be claimed in this catch and release theory.

It works well in basketball and baseball; why not in the NHL? I nominate Benn Ferriero and Joffrey Lupul for Golden Glove Awards. Do I have a seconder?

Joffrey Lupul (Photo: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)


(Photo: Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)
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