NHL referees boss says goalie interference rules haven’t changed

The National Hockey League’s director of officiating says the league has not changed the standard for what constitutes a goaltender interference penalty.

The National Hockey League’s director of officiating says the league has not changed the standard for what constitutes a goaltender interference penalty.

“It’s always a point of discussion with our group,” Terry Gregson said in a email response to The Citizen, stemming from the controversial disallowed goal Andre Benoit appeared to have scored in Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.

“Action in and around the crease to manufacture goals is a reality in our game. As for a change in the standard in this area, there has not been one. We simply discussed (last August) the various elements of incidental, intentional (contact). Does the goalie have his position established? Was the goalie encumbered? And so on.”

The Senators felt they were robbed of a sure goal when referee Brian Pochmara disallowed Benoit’s goal, which would have tied the game 2-2 early in the third period. Instead, Pochmara handed Jakob Silfverberg an interference penalty, because it was ruled he interfered with Canadiens goaltender Carey Price outside the crease before Benoit’s shot sailed into the net. Replays showed that Silfverberg lightly bumped Price as he backed up, but only seconds earlier, Price had skated out of his crease.

On Saturday, the Toronto Maple Leafs felt a similar sting. An apparent goal from Cody Franson was waved off because it was deemed that Nazem Kadri had interfered with Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. There have several other controversial non-goals due to goaltender interference through the opening three weeks of the season, but again, Gregson says referees are only applying the mandate that exists in Rule 69 of the NHL rulebook.

“The officials get one look in real time and process what they see and make their judgement,” he wrote in his email. “The officials are always to have a heightened awareness in this area, but there have been no new criteria or standards established.”

Following practice at Scotiabank Place Monday, in preparation for Tuesday’s visit by the Buffalo Sabres, the Senators were doing their best to bite their tongues about the goal that wasn’t. Nobody wanted to be slapped with a fine for public criticism of the officials.

Coach Paul MacLean originally offered nothing but a wide smile when asked about the play, but when pushed about the possibility of giving coaches the opportunity to challenge a questionable call, he took on a diplomatic tone. MacLean says he’s in favour of whatever is necessary to make sure calls are correct.

“The referees as a group are pretty professional and they have a difficult job to begin with,” MacLean said. “We’re all disappointed when some things happen like happened (Sunday), but we can’t get beyond the fact that it’s a difficult job. At some point, there are going to be some errors made. We just have to move on and play the next game.”

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says the Senators have to play the same way and “put ourselves in those situations where we do have people in front and get the puck through, which is the way you’re going to score a lot of goals.”

While there is no official change to the goaltender interference rule, there is, however, a distinct change in inteference calls among skaters.

There has been plenty of head-shaking as players, particularly defencemen, try to adapt to a new standard where players are not allowed to slow down attacking forwards when they chip the puck behind them. On top of that, referees are also cracking down on players who are perceived to “diving” in order to draw a penalty.

Gregson says that officials made a conscious decision in the summer to change the standard on both fronts.

“Officials need to be better at reacting to the play where there is a foul and then the player who is fouled embellishes. They were told at (summer) camp that we have to be stronger in the enforcement of this call.”

The players figure it will take some time for both them and the referees to figure out exactly how much interference will be tolerated. Alfredsson acknowledges the new rules make it tougher for defencemen to defend, but as time passes, he says players will discover the fine line between what’s fair and what’s a foul.

Erik Condra agrees. “We’re starting to learn what they’re calling and what they’re not calling,” he said. As long as (referees) are consistent, we’ll figure it out sooner or later.”

MacLean says players always test the boundaries of what’s acceptable.

“They know where the line is and they always try to push to see if they can get it to go a little bit farther past the line than where it is,” he said. “The more that they push it, the more they realize where the line is going to be. The players tend to figure it out way before the rest of us.”

They’re also discovering that it’s costly to show up the officials through their actions and words.

 

Tags: , ,

What do you think? Leave a comment