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Last Updated: Sep 13th, 2007 - 20:41:00 

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In stripes: The "in the crease" rule
By Paul Stewart
Nov 10, 2001, 19:41

The player in the lower left turns his leg so his skate is perpendicular with the edge of the crease, while the player above allows his skate to wander into the crease. ©BBS
The disallowing of a goal for “crease violation” impacts the player, team, coach, general manager, owner, as well as the city, the arena, the workers and perhaps a chance at Lord Stanley’s cup.

Fans? Yes even the fans sit in bewildered, confused silence as a VCR plays and replays from a myriad of angles the action around a goal crease. And in the NHL, when the play is under video review, it gets even more frustrating.

Rule 78-b of the NHL’s playing rules state:

“Unless the puck is in the goal crease area, a player of the attacking side may not stand in the goal crease. If the puck should enter the net while such conditions prevail, the goal shall not be allowed. If an attacking player has physically interfered with the goalkeeper prior to or during the scoring of a goal...the goal will be disallowed and a penalty for goaltender interference will be assessed.”

It appears that this rule is very clear, concise and pointed — there should be no doubt about it. Add to this the opportunity for the on-ice officers to have a “look” (Section 93-h) and the results should be crystal clear:

“Only at the request of the referee, to establish if an attacking player was in the crease at the time the puck entered the goal. The video-goal judge is to advise the referee of the position of the attacking player when the puck entered the crease and/or goal.”

Why then all the mystery? Why all the confusion? Why does it always fall onto the shoulders of the on-ice officials to bear the brunt of the merciless criticism that surrounds every “close” goal?

The reasons why

Past strategy applauded hard-fought goals scored by players going “to the net.” Coaching strategy rewarded players with more playing time, more dollars and a hardy pat on the back when they parked themselves on “the door step” and banged or jammed or tipped one from “the pit.”

Players such as Gary Dornhoefer of the Flyers, Peter Zezel of Toronto, Randy Burridge of Buffalo and others have tied or won big games with this close-crease scoring.

More infamous of recent memory (as in last year’s playoffs), is Nick Kypreos of Toronto. Despite being cross-checked from behind, somehow Kypreos managed to fall slightly to his right and on top of Grant Fuhr of the St. Louis Blues. Fuhr played on for a bit but then pulled himself because of a torn knee ligament. Whether Fuhr was injured prior to this play or not, only he, Mike Keenan and the Blues know for sure. The referee, yours truly, was lambasted from coast-to-coast and subsequently out of the playoffs as well.

Action starts reaction! The NHL could not afford to have goalkeepers being knocked about. Thus the reaction is the no compromises, no buts, no “what ifs” and “aw come ons” used to taint the black and white of a tough rule. If you so much as have a toe in or on the crease line and it’s there before the puck, no goal!

So you, the hockey player, are standing on the far side of the net, well away from the goalie, the puck and the play, yet your foot is clearly on the crease line and then the puck is shot into the crease and the net, no goal. If you put yourself in the place of the on-ice official who might have some doubt even though all is okay, would you not go to the video replay? Sure you would!

So now we know what’s expected. We know the rule and the reasons behind it. Will it remain the same? Should the crease be smaller or rectangular? Should the referee and linesmen have a monitor to see for themselves? As a player, those are not your concerns. As an on-ice official, they are not your concerns either. The learning curve has been tough for all of us. With more time, this rule will be accepted with nary a second glance.

As Director of Officiating, Bryan Lewis once said, “If there was a herd of alligators in there, the players would stay out.” Taking the goal away, the tying or winning goal may be worse than those ’gators. Hockey is funny though. The more things change, the more they remain the same. During the off-season though, we might be hearing, “The rule is under review!”

SIDEBAR

Goal or no goal?

NHL clarifies various “in the crease” situations

 

The “man in the crease” debate has raged on, especially in the last two playoff seasons. Like football, hockey has proven to be a game of inches. The NHL has further clarified “in the crease” situations when a goal can and cannot be allowed. These situations can help everyone understand the rule better:

1. An attacking player enters the crease prior to the puck entering the crease. He attempts to get out of the crease prior to the puck crossing the goal line. Proper ruling: “No Goal,” as he was in the crease WHEN THE PUCK ENTERED IT. Rule 78 (b) states: “Unless the puck is in the goal crease area, a player of the attacking side may not stand in the goal crease.”

2. An attacking player enters the crease prior to the puck entering the crease. The puck then enters the crease, but the attacking player is able to remove himself from the crease and then play the puck, following his removal. Proper Ruling: “Goal.” This is similar to a player putting himself “on-side” at the red line, who is then eligible to play the puck.

3. An attacking player enters the crease prior to the puck entering the crease. While the attacking player is in the crease, a member of the defending team shoots the puck into his own net. Proper ruling: “Goal.”

4. An attacking player enters the crease prior to the puck entering the crease. While that attacking player is in the crease, a member of the defending team shoots the puck off a defending player into his own net. Proper Ruling: “Goal.” There must be no deliberate contact with the goaltender. If there is, such contact would result in a loss of the goal and a penalty for goaltender interference.

5. An attacking player enters the crease prior to the puck entering the crease. While that attacking player is in the crease, a member of the defending team shoots the puck off the attacking player, into the defending player’s own net. Proper Ruling: “Goal.” There must be no deliberate contact with the goaltender. If there is, such contact would result in a loss of the goal and a penalty for goaltender interference.

 

Editors note: Be sure and check with your league and rule book regarding the “in the crease” rule.

 

As only the ninth former player to referee in the NHL, Paul Stewart’s refreshing style and unique perspective of the game makes him one of the most recognized personalities in hockey today.

This first appeared in the 08/1997 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
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