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Officially Speaking: Goal or no goal?

04/22/2019, 10:00am CDT
By Mark Lichtenfeld

An official can award a goal after shutting the play down, even if they didn't see the puck enter the net

Let’s Play Hockey photo by Mike Thill

It happens several times every season to all of us officials. 

You know, there’s a scramble in front of the net obstructing the referee’s vision of the puck, play gets shut down, and next thing you know, the puck is loitering behind the goal line inside the net.

No video replay, no goal judge behind the net, no net cam. Basically, the scenario in 99.8% of the games a veteran level 3 does.

Now the official is pretty sure the puck had to have entered the net before the whistle, but the rubber was never observed crossing the goal line.

Think. Fabricate. Create an alibi.

No problem! Thanks to USA Hockey, the solution is suddenly crystal clear. Check it  out here

QUESTION: Puck is shot on net. The official loses sight of the puck and whistles it dead. The goaltender than reaches into the net and removes the puck. The shot resulted in a clear goal but was ruled not a goal because the official whistled the puck dead. The official could not see the puck but it was in fact well inside the net. Should this be a goal?

ANSWER: A goal should be awarded any time the official is 100% certain the puck completely crossed the goal line prior to the play being ruled “dead.” This decision can occur after the whistle has been blown.

Wow! OS is going to run with this one. Like most officials, OS was sure that somewhere in the prior casebooks or officiating manuals, a section specifically required that the referee or another on-ice official actually see the puck enter the net. And for sure, OS never saw language permitting the referee to assume the puck entered the goal. But if USA Hockey is going to provide lenient scenario interpretations such as described in the above-mentioned link (Ask the Official, Volume #25 for 2018-19 season), OS really appreciates the help. 

Again, for you pre-law majors or LSAT test-takers, this is how you prepare a case. You’ve got to dig deep to find out what the law really means. No matter what the rulebook, statute or constitution says, seek out legislative intent whenever possible. If the writers of the rule tell you this is what they meant, well, that’s all you need to know. 

And if USA Hockey tells the hockey world that an official can award a goal after shutting play down, even if the zebra doesn’t actually see the puck enter the net, that’s good enough to shield the independent contractor official from the wrath of coaches, parents, beer league goons, assignors and performance review committees.


Questions and comments can be sent to, via Twitter @OSpeaking or through the Let’s Play Hockey Facebook page.

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Tag(s): State Of Hockey  News  Officially Speaking