Rule 69.1: What the puck is goalie interference?

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Updated: January 29, 2013
Byfuglien Collides With Neuvirth

What the puck is goalie interference, no seriously, what is it?

Is it this:

The first goal is a deflection that Quick had no chance on, no matter how you slice it and dice it. The Phoenix player is being pushed by the Kings player and this happens outside the crease. The rule even has this part included in it “If an attacking player has been pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending player so as to cause him to come into contact with the goalkeeper, such contact will not be deemed contact initiated by the attacking player for purposes of this rule, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

Or maybe it is this:

Not sure what went wrong here.

Or maybe it was this:

Quick got tangled up with an Oilers player, Sam Gagner, and it happens because Quicks teammate Scuderi clearly stuffs him on top of Quick. Gagners skate is tangled with Quicks pad and the official in the corner rules a goal, but after the huddle it was waved off.

All of those calls have happened in the first week of the NHL. Now, just because three of those instances it happen to be with LA Kings and Jonathan Quick are probably a coincidence and have nothing to do with the fact that LA is a Stanley Cup winner that the league is trying to promptly help return to the dominant status (let us leave that theory for the truly inspired conspiracy theorists of the NHL fan base). Yet, Goalie interference calls are kind of curious and they are something that bring up heated discussions every year.  So lets look at the Goalie interference rule and what the puck is it?

The rule has to be simple cut and dry situation. It needs a strict direction that offers some concrete guidelines on each situation that referees can offer a consistent and acceptable execution of this rule. Right?

Well let us dive right in and check out this rule 69.1:

“Goals should be disallowed only if:”

That is some really good language right off the bat. You have strict and no nonsense tone. I like the fact they are telling us that goals will ONLY be disallowed IF. So let us see what these IFs are.

(1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or

Now, I already have a problem with this wording. How can you obstruct a goalie by your positioning without contacting the goalie? I understand you get in his way and have contact with the goalie as he tries to make a save and you prevent him or get in his way, but “by your positioning” is a questionable line. Basically though the rule is strictly saying that YOU CANNOT PREVENT THE GOALIE FROM MAKING A SAVE IN HIS CREASE. You can have your foot in the crease but if you touch the goalie and that touching prevents the goalie from being able to make a save, no goal. This is only if you are in the crease though, but wait there is an “or”…

 (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease.

Oh, so if you try to block the goalie on purpose in his crease or outside of his crease, that will be also a no goal situation. This already screams issues here because what exactly is “intentional” or “deliberate”. Who decides this fact? This is starting to get murky.

 Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.

Well, wait a minute. So incidental contact is okay outside the crease as long as it is incidental. Intentional contact is not okay but accidental contact is. So, what exactly is incidental contact? Is it you skating backwards into the goalie? Is it you battling in the front of the net real estate and touching the goalie during it? Is it getting pushed into him by a defender? Also, what defines reasonable effort to avoid such contact? Who gets to decide this accidental part of this rule, are there guidelines and examples? The issue here is that accidental contact could lead to the goalie falling down or just brushing up against the player, or even not being able to stick out his pad due to a players leg.

The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review.

Oh.

So it is all up to the referee.  The above rule should just say “Any contact in the crease with the goalie will result in a disallowed goal and any contact with the goalie outside of crease is up to the guy in the stripes”

Now, since the rule has more holes in it than a United States tax code, let us try to see some examples of where the rule was not called after some accidental contact and compare it to the above examples.

What about this third goal by Joe Thortnton here. There is clearly contact by a Sharks player with Varlamov that prevents him from getting over to where the puck is and making a save. In the rule it clearly states “(1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper’s ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal;” and ” (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease.

There was clear accidental contact in the crease that clearly prevented Varlamov from getting over to the side of the crease where the puck is. The player was battling for the position in front of the net, he also was being pushed by the defending player and after a rebound the goalie is a bit more fair game, but he entered the crease and didn’t exactly try to get out of there. To me this is a good goal, but when you compare it to the goal that was waved off during the Blue Jackets game vs the Blackhawks, you start to scratch your head.

This sort of inconsistency drives the fans crazy. This rule drove the Oiler fans crazy when they had to deal with the disallowed goal that seemed to occur due to accidental contact and sent the crowd over the boiling point. Throwing what seemed like thousand dollars worth of soft drinks and nachos on the ice.

I understand that some goalies may have the sympathy card going for them as Ryan Miller had last year after his incident with Milan Lucic and the concussions that followed:

But this is another example of this rule being implemented in a very iffy way, at best. We know that protecting the goalies is important part of the NHL and referees around the league. What we do not need is this broad rule that is not clearly defined and is being issued willy-nilly without any consistency.

The NHL needs to take rule 69.1 back to the drawing board, and make it clearer, so that we can all understand it.  Coaches, players, fans, and even referees who can seem confused as to what is, and isn’t goalie interference.

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Main photo credit: clydeorama via photopin cc

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