Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the Pittsburgh/New York Islanders game last night, a goal was reviewed in the third period. The referee made no indication of a goal, he just blew the play dead. We assumed that it was no goal because he had intent to blow the whistle, but he didn't signal no goal either. He made no call, just blew the play dead, after the puck crossed the line. There was a gathering of officials, and the war room initiated a review, and called it a goal. The explanation was odd. It said the puck crossed the line legally, but it wasn't a reviewable play. But they did review it, and make a call where the referee didn't. I am confused. Can you clarify this?
You weren't the only one that appeared to be confused on the play. The rookie referee that you referred to is gaining experience and learning his trade primarily in the AHL this season. He is also earning his stripes in every NHL game that he is assigned to work. While the AHL is a tremendous training ground for players and officials alike, things happen much more quickly at the NHL level. The speed and skill demonstrated in the best league in the world requires an adjustment and a quick learning curve to take place.
Beyond just being a question and answer forum, I am aware that this C'mon Ref column is utilized from time to time as a teaching tool for fans, officials and even players. I sincerely hope our young referee friend learns from his experience in last night's game and in the constructive advice that I am about to offer beyond just answering your question, John.
This was clearly a "good goal" that was correctly determined through a lengthy conference with all four officials on the ice. The other three officials on the crew assisted the young referee and provided their perspective when they saw that he was uncertain what had taken place. The expected protocol was handled perfectly in this situation both on the ice and by the Situation Room personnel, who initiated a call following the officials decision to confirm that the puck crossed the line in a legal manner. (No distinct kick, glove, etc. occurred during the crease crash of players from both teams.) The official response from the Situation Room posting reads:
At 10:55 of the third period in the Penguins/Islanders game, the Toronto Situation Room initiated a video review because the puck crossed the Penguins goal line. The officials on the ice discussed the play and determined that the puck had crossed the Penguins goal line in a legal fashion. This is not a reviewable play. Good Goal New York Islanders.
Now the lesson for the young man in stripes! On a red line dump-in by Matt Donovan of the Islanders, the puck travelled past our young referee as he backed into the zone and came to a resting spot against the end boards to the left of Pens goalie Jeff Zatkoff. Brooks Orpik was the first Penguin on the puck and as he attempted to make a play, a quick forecheck and active stick by John Taveres forced the puck in front of the net. Kyle Okposo quickly threw the puck at the Penguins net, catching Zatkoff by surprise. The puck rested between the goalie's pads and unfrozen as players quickly attacked the goal crease. Pittsburgh defenceman Paul Martin attempted to protect the puck and freeze it under Zatkoff's pads but instead, his stick caused the puck to accelerate and cross the goal line. The puck was clearly in the net before Thomas Vanek crashed the net and pushed Zatkoff's pads into the net.
As quickly as these series of events took place, our young ref delayed his movement toward the goal and remained stationary at the sidewall. As the action in the crease intensified, he began drifting slowly toward the goal and was forced to avoid players that stood in his path. By the time the referee arrived in a position behind the net, the puck was visible to him inside of the goal frame but he was uncertain how it had arrived there. His hands in the air were not to waive off a goal but only to signal play stopped. His body language signaled uncertainty and a cry for help. Fortunately, the cavalry arrived in the form of two linesmen that charged to the net to offer their assistance. His referee partner needed to be just as quick on the scene to lend assistance instead of waiting at the ref's crease to hold a conference.
This is what you need to do the next time a play like this happens, 'kid'. When players attack the net or a goal-mouth scramble results, you should "sprint" toward the net like a starving dog chasing a soup bone to find that puck! I found the best attack angle is just ahead of the goal line so you end up looking into the net and not through the back of players.
Whenever you position yourself in the end zone, have your legs in a flexed (knees bent) and ready position to move quickly. Do not stand "stiff-legged" because your reaction time is greatly inhibited. Face the puck squarely, adjust and angle your skates in the direction of the puck as it continually moves about the end zone. In doing so, you are set up to either attack or retreat from the puck location!
Finally, don't beat yourself up over this. You are the 'nameless rookie referee' in this column that worked the New York Islander-Pittsburgh Penguins game last night on Long Island. I know how exciting it must be for you to step on the ice with Crosby, Tavares and all those great players. Enjoy each moment of it with every opportunity you are given.
See the play quickly and remain in the moment, even if you have to engage in a Gord Miller—"Doc" Emrick style play-by-play in your head as I did on many occasions, to sustain the quick visual pace required at the NHL level. Embrace each experience as part of your learning curve and file it in your memory banks so that everything you do correctly becomes part of your "muscle memory."
Above all, have fun doing one of the greatest jobs in the world! Work hard every game to find a better way. Best of luck and have a great career, 'kid'!