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Fraser: The call on Tim Thomas losing his mask

Kerry Fraser

5/18/2011 4:27:47 PM

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!

Kerry,

Last night watching the Bruins-Lightning game, Tim Thomas lost his mask but play went on. I am curious what the official ruling on this is, as I have seen play stopped much quicker earlier in these playoffs even and twice was for Dwayne Roloson having loose straps on his mask. I understand the play is only supposed to be whistled down if it has a potential to injury the goalie in question, but Thomas scrambling to be in position as a shooter is preparing to aim for the back of the net seems to fit this scenario, and Thomas did end up taking it off his head after it deflected it appeared. How would you have handled this call?

Steven MacDonald, Nova Scotian in Texas

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Kerry,

I have a question about what the call should be when a goalie's helmet comes off during play. I've seen refs blow the play dead when this happens. Last night in the Bolts/Bruins game, Tim Thomas' helmet came off. The ref did not blow the play dead. The puck was actually then shot off of Thomas' exposed dome and into the net. What was the appropriate call? By the way, what seemed like a makeup call against Tampa came a minute later when one of their players was called for goaltender interference when it was actually a Bruins player who drove into Thomas.

Best, Rick Tolstrup - Ipswich, MA

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Hello Kerry,

In Game 2 of Boston/Tampa Bay in the third period, Tim Thomas' mask gets knocked off inadvertently. The referees/linesmen never blew the play dead.  The referees are supposed to protect the goalies when this situation occurs. Play is to be blown dead immediately. Unfortunately the commentators don't understand the rules as they claimed "Boston has to have control of the puck before they blow it dead". How is that protecting the goalie? That's like saying Tampa could have blasted a slapshot at the net. Ironically earlier in the TSN broadcast, the commentators mentioned how Roloson is notorious for "knocking off the net, mask falling off, just to get a whistle".

Please clarify that rule as it was a definite missed call by the referees.

Thanks - Louie from Whitby

We got a whole lot of net and goalie crease questions regarding Tim Thomas having his mask knocked off when his own defenceman (Adam McQuaid) fell directly on his head.  The fact that Tim's own player's actions caused him to lose his mask is immaterial as to if or when the referee should stop play. 
Here are some of your questions and the answer.

First, let me assure you that the referee absolutely made the correct decision to allow play to continue in this case.  While stopping play when a goalie loses his mask is designed to provide safety the rule is very clear in when the whistle must be blown by the referee.

Rule 9.5 Protective Equipment states that all players shall wear an approved helmet but allows a player that has had his helmet knocked off to continue to participate in play until he goes to his players' bench.  At that point he is not allowed to return to the game without a helmet.

Pertaining to the goalie losing his mask this is what the rule clearly states:

"When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has possession of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask."

Now comes the portion of the rule that is pertinent to last night: "When the opposing team has possession of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity." There you have it, gang. Tampa had possession of the puck at the side of the net and still in the act of completing a reasonable scoring opportunity.  If Tampa had the puck in the corner or even behind the net play would have been stopped due to the lack of an immediate or impending scoring opportunity.  Some of you might choose to argue that the side of the net does not constitute an immediate/impending scoring opportunity. I beg to differ with you - it is.

While it might add insult to injury that the puck was banked off Tim Thomas' head (eyebrow) but I have seen many times when a goal is scored when a shot or rebound deflects into the net off an attacking player's face.  The goal was good.  The referee showed patience in not blowing the whistle quickly and in utilizing the correct application of the rule. I wouldn't have handled any other way.

Other specifics of your question:

Rick Tolstrup from Ispwich, MA:  I didn't like the goalie interference penalty called on Ryan Malone either. Malone was giving way to the goalie while attacking the net and the Bruins defenceman ran out of real estate and made contact with Thomas. Malone did not bump the D-man into Thomas so no penalty should have resulted.  The referee was on the opposite side of the net and from his view would have thought Malone made contact with the Boston defenceman and/or Tim Thomas.  It all depends on the vantage point but none the less a tough call at a key time in the game.

Louie from Whitby:  Dwayne Roloson is a cagey veteran goalkeeper and playoff performer. He knows when and how to use his "faulty" equipment to gain an advantage. It has to be blatantly obvious that he removes his mask before a penalty would be assessed but here's what is also found in Rule 9.5.

"When a goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play, the Referee shall stop play as outlined above (possession/immediate scoring opportunity) and in this case assess the goalkeeper a minor penalty for delaying the game."

If "Rollie the Goalie" was to deliberately remove his mask (I think a head flip would apply here) in the course of a breakaway a penalty shot would be awarded.  If it occurred during a penalty shot or shootout attempt (regular season) a goal would be awarded.

I am going to veer off the specifics of Tim Thomas' mask coming off last night and share with you a play I had in the mid ‘80s that resulted in a lost scoring opportunity and ultimate rule change with regard to the concept of immediate or impending scoring opportunity.  This might lend some credence to play continuing last night; if not I hope you enjoy the story.

The Edmonton Oilers were playing the Blues in the old St. Louis Arena.  Late in a tie game (but with more than two minutes remaining) the Oilers were all over the Blues in the end zone.  Mike Liut was sliding side to side and made one stop after another during the barrage of shots.  As Liut made another sliding save from close in, the rebound kicked out to the low slot and right onto the stick of Glenn Anderson.  Liut's slide on the save had taken him completely outside his goal crease and left his net totally unguarded.  

Just as Glenn Anderson was about to shoot the puck into the open net Blues defenceman, Tim Bothwell grabbed hold the goal frame, removed it from its moorings and shoved the entire net past Liut and into the corner. A confused look came over Anderson as shuffled his skates in the direction of the net as it continued to slide out of range.  I blew the whistle and gave Bothwell a delay of game penalty for his very creative play  (Had there been insufficient time to serve the delay of game penalty - less than two minutes remaining or by reasons of penalties already imposed - a penalty shot would have resulted).

This rule didn't seem fair not only to Glenn Anderson; it didn't seem fair to me. At the end of the season I submitted a rule change recommendation (which officials are entitled to do) and it was accepted and put in the book.  It has evolved to be part of rule 63.6 Awarded Goal which allows for a referee to award a goal if the goal post is displaced, either deliberately or accidentally, by a defending player, prior to the puck crossing the goal line between the normal position of the goalposts.

The rule says, "In order to award a goal in this situation, the goal post must have been displaced by the actions of defending player, the puck must have been shot (or the player must be in the act of shooting) at the goal prior to the goal post being displaced, and it must be determined that the puck would have entered the net between the normal position of the goal posts."

Now you have the case history as to where this rule came from.