Fraser: How are assists handed out on the scoresheet?

Kerry Fraser

10/21/2011 1:14:05 PM

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at!

I was hoping you could help settle a long and heated office debate over secondary assists.

One party contends that assists are given out to the last two players who touched the puck, regardless of how long ago or if the player who scores the goal touches it in between; as long as those three maintain possession of the puck, they can skate all over the ice and will still be awarded the three points on the goal.
The other party interprets the rule (that assists are awarded to players taking part in the play immediately preceding a goal) more literally, feeling that they must directly be a part of the scoring play and if, for instance, a defenseman passed the puck to Forward A in his own zone, then Forward A and Forward B played give and go up and down the ice for something like 30+ seconds before scoring, that the defenseman isn't awarded an assist.
Clearly Rule 78.3 is open to interpretation and the referees must make a judgment call and, as we all know, second assists are given out like candy. However, what was your own personal criteria for awarding an assist in this type of situation? Is there a rule of thumb amongst league officials?
Ryan Miyagishima

Ryan: The referee in a National Hockey League game does not award assists but reports the goal scorer to the Penalty Time Keeper who relays that information up stairs to the Official Scorer. From that point it is the job of the Official Scorer and his crew to award the goal and assist(s) through use of replay if necessary. More on the extended duties of an NHL Off-Ice crew but first let me settle the long heated debate around the office water cooler.

The scenario that the first party presents is the correct answer.  As long as the attacking (scoring) team maintains possession/control of the puck, assists would be awarded to the last two players, excluding the goal scorer that touched the puck.  To provide an extreme example for you let's consider that Leafs defenseman Carl Gunnarson wins a battle in the corner and gains possession of the puck. Gunnarsson then throws the puck behind the net to Dion Phaneuf.  Phaneuf initiates the end zone breakout with a pass up the left wing sideboards to Joffrey Lupul. Lupul quickly hits center Tyler Bozak in the neutral zone and the two players pass the puck back and forth three times on the attack up ice before Joffrey Lupul puts the puck in the net. The scoring would read: Goal by Joffrey Lupul; Assists by Tyler Bozak and Dion Phaneuf.
Consider the same breakout scenario except that in the neutral zone the puck goes from Bozak to Phil Kessel breaking down the right wing, then back to Lupul who takes a shot on goal that rebounds to Kessel who scores. Goal by Phil Kessel; Assists by Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Bozak. (Dion Phaneuf is obviously not credited with the second assist.)
Let us also look at 'puck touch' versus 'possession and control'. If a player shoots the puck and it 'deflects' off his teammate and into opponents net, the player that deflected the puck (accidental or deliberate but legally) is credited with the goal. The same is true on an assist. If an intended pass accidentally deflects off a teammates skate to another teammate that results in a goal, the player hit with the puck is credited with an assist. If the deflection resulted in the second assist being awarded then the player that actually initiated the intended pass would not receive credit with an assist on the scoring play.

A shot block is not deemed a change of possession nor is a deflection off of a defending player's stick or body or a save by the goalkeeper. If any of these scenarios were to happen and a goal was scored without the defending team gaining legitimate possession of the puck then two assists could be awarded on the subsequent scoring of a goal. A poke-check or deliberate re-direct of a puck by a defending player would constitute possession of the puck similarly to the referee stopping play on a delayed penalty.  I hope this creates harmony around the water cooler Ryan?

If any of you are interested in the duties of every NHL Off-Ice Crew, please read on.

The Off-Ice Crew for every NHL game is comprised of approximately 16 individuals that are hired by the NHL as part-time employees. They receive a small stipend for each game they work. The crew is under the direction of a Crew Chief in each NHL city who manages the group and assigns them to their respective posts for each game. Their various titles and responsibilities of the crew members are as follows:

Located upstairs in the arena press box area.

1 Official Scorer: To determine and award the accurate and official scoring of a goal and assists.

4 Computer Programmers: Their duties include recording each players respective shift time on the ice and a running record of who touches the puck for scoring and assist award; players + and -; face-off wins/losses and which linesman drops the puck for every face-off; shots on goal (type of shot slap shot, wrist, snap, backhand; and from what location on the ice the shot was taken); body checks/hits-which player delivered hit and to whom (rub outs and penalties do not constitute a hit); blocked shots; penalties recorded and which referee assessed/announced the penalty (which is why on rare occasions you might see one referee race his partner to the penalty box if they both have their arms up for a call). This group also records at least 3 or 4 good/excellent saves make by the goalkeepers in the game to be utilized by media for game highlights.

1 Video Goal Judge is located in a secure and separate box upstairs in the press box area with a 3 way communication device to the Situation Room in Toronto and the Penalty Bench to loop in the referee. (A video technician is located in the booth as well and hired by the team to operate the equipment. If an Officiating Manager/Supervisor or Hockey Operations person is in attendance they would generally sit in this location as well.)

1 Spotter:  His job is to assist the computer programmers by shouting out puck possession and other stats that will be recorded as listed above.

1 ATC (Arena Technical Coordinator) that makes sure the computers, real time scoring and timing devices work correctly.

Located down at ice level:

1 Penalty Time Keeper

1 Game Time Keeper

2 Penalty Box Door Openers

1 TV Commercial Timeout Coordinator (signals game participants when television commercial takes place and when to return to action utilizing a light system located in the penalty bench area.)

2 Goal Judges (in modern day with use of Video Review the Goal Judges have been relocated from directly behind the net/glass in most buildings to a lower section of the press box or catwalk. They turn the goal light on when the referee points to signal a goal. The two or more seats that replaced their glass cage behind the net are sold for premium seating.) 

While this information might be of interest to some and of absolutely no interest to others, it certainly demonstrates one aspect of what goes on behind the scenes in every NHL hockey game. These fine men from the Off-Ice Crew take their job very seriously. Beyond just ensuring accuracy in awarding goals and assists they record extensive game statistics that immediately become available to all factions of the game through Real Time Scoring. Beyond our professional interaction over the many years we worked together I am proud to call them all my friends. Keep up the good work, gang!