Goaltender Interference: What is it?

As a Detroit Red Wings fan I have seen this all too often. A battle in front of the net, the goalie falls down and a goal is disallowed. Two examples recently come from the Red Wings.

In Saturday's 4-3 overtime win over Nashville, Tomas Holmstrom was standing in front like he usually does and screened Pekka Rinne as Nick Lidstrom blasted in one of his patented slappers. The referee immediately waived the goal off and gave Holmstrom a goaltender interference penalty for bumping Rinne. If you saw the game and the replay, you have to wonder, Red Wings fan or not, why this goal was waived off. Holstrom was outside the crease, stick on the ice and was just standing in front of the goalie. Fair play. You can see Rinne come out and bump Holmstrom right as the shot is coming. So how is that a penalty on Holmstrom?

First of all, you penalize the Wings for a good hockey play; a goal. Then you give the other team a powerplay, and you also kill any momentum they may have had. Now thankfully for myself Detroit came back and won that game, but the Preds went up 3-0. If Lidstrom's goal counts it's a different game.

The second example happened today in Detroit's 4-2 win over Minnesota. This time it was Justin Abdelkader. He was at the side of the net, and Justin Falk decides he's going to push Abdelkader into Jose Theodore. Abdelkader totally avoids Jose but ends up in the net. Meanwhile Brad Stuart unloads a slapper and scores, but they waive it off, even with Theodore in position!

I looked up the rule on nhl.com, and this it what I found:

Goals should be disallowed only if: (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 (2) an attacking player initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. 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.


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.

So this rule is being totally butchered by the NHL. Here's examples of some plays that turn a blind eye:




They show basically the same plays and one is disallowed and one is allowed. Funny thing is, the Holmstrom one was less contact then the Jokinen one! Even the announcers know something is wrong. Both goalies even seemed to take a dive, which is a different can of worms.And the last one is just terrible, he's like 5 feet from the top of the crease! It basically says that the crease doesn't matter anymore, you literally can't even brush up against the goalie or you go directly to jail because the big bad referee says you have to. Its like Meet the Fockers. You do nothing wrong and get screwed anyways:


As funny as it is, it compares to what I feel this rule is like. So what's the fix? It's actually pretty simple. Make the refs follow the actual rule and let the guys play a contact sport. I mean really, in all seriousness, do these referees know what the rule actually states? Or are they just going with what all refs are doing?

Just add this to the long list of things wrong with the NHL and what needs to fixed. Now.

Kyle Busch


George Prax's picture

I think you're totally right Kyle. But I don't think this rule can be fixed itself because, like you showed, the rule is relatively clear, it's the referees' judgement that seems to be impaired, I think the solution is in giving the coaches a challenge. I don't understand why the league is so against putting that into place. It would save so much trouble if the coaches could challenge things such as this and go to replay.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

The problem is that the refs "judgement" is based on where the goalie or player is relative to the crease. In essence, the crease means nothing on these calls because it doesn't matter where the player stands. So I would say get rid of the crease rule if it isn't doing anything. And I thought a referee could be smart enough to see someone being pushed into the goalie by a defenceman, or the goalie moving into the player and not the other way around. It's a contact sport, there should be contact. That's why I would give defenceman more leniency when it comes to moving forwards out of the way from the front of the net.

George Prax's picture

I totally agree with you. There's a fine line before we go back into clutching and grabbing, but defensemen should be allowed to protect their own goalies since the refs clearly don't know what to do. But that's also why we should have a coach's challenge as well. I think that would be imperative.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

But the thing with the coach's challenge is how are they going to get it right? They already screw up official reviews for goals all the time. Why would it be different for goalie interference? It would probably be worse to be honest.

George Prax's picture

I don't think they screw up goal calls as much as you think. I actually agree with intent to whistle for the most part and honestly they're pretty spot on with stuff like high sticks and stuff like that. A coach's challenge would be more for penalties and stuff like that, things they DON'T look at in reviews, and stuff like goalie interference is pretty easy to spot on tape. Take it out of the hands of the officials and things will get much better. Cause even with reviews, a lot of the time the decision is still penultimately in the hands of the officials.

Kyle Andrew Busch's picture

Ok I get what you're saying. A review would most likely decrease the chance of a mistake. That makes sense. But the intent to blow the whistle rule is probably the next biggest problem. There should be no intent to blow the whistle unless you actually blow it. I don't think they did that in the Gordie Howe days so why start now. Just blow the whistle. If the puck goes in before your whistle its a goal. It's a pretty simple concept.