Henrik Zetterberg discusses a play with referee Kelly Sutherland. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)
It’s as much a part of the playoffs as overtime, line-matching and face-washing.
Every spring, as NHL games get magnified, the spotlight shines more intensely on referees as they stride to the timekeeper’s bench, pick up that antique known as a land line and chat with the boys in Toronto about controversial plays.
And every year, there’s confusion surrounding “distinct kicking motion” no-goal calls.
Clarity should come from the NHL rulebook, where the boundaries are defined in two sections.
Rule 39.4 (iv) A distinct kicking motion is one which, with a pendulum motion, the player propels the puck with his skate into the net.
And Rule 49.2 A puck that is directed into the net by an attacking player’s skate shall be a legitimate goal as long as no distinct kicking motion is evident.
The problem is, what’s a distinct kicking motion? What’s a pendulum motion? And if it’s so clear, why are we so frequently left guessing on video reviews?
Daniel Sedin’s disallowed goal during the first round of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings befuddled most observers, including the play-by-play team.
A few nights ago, Henrik Zetterberg also had one called back when it was determined he kicked the puck and propelled it forward. The announcers on the play, albeit Red Wings broadcasters, were of the opinion it would be allowed, but acknowledged “the rule is so vague” it could go either way.
From my perspective, I didn’t see a pendulum motion on either play, but perhaps I don’t understand what a pendulum motion is.
In my world, the one Todd Bertuzzi scored in the regular season (identified by the TSN panel a couple nights ago), was a pendulum motion. And, alas, the call on the ice was overturned and the goal was allowed. Again, it had the TV crew fooled.
Clearly, things aren’t clear.
So how about this for a solution? Go back to the days of black and white TV, to make the call black and white for the men wearing black and white. Any puck that makes contact with an attacking player's skate and goes in should be disallowed.
The intent of the rule was – and still is – to protect vulnerable goalies and players who’ve fallen to the ice from being carved by skate blades. While the notion of allowing goals to stand provided the skate blade remains in contact with the ice is intriguing, it could open a Pandora’s box. It’d likely entice players to more frequently kick at the puck in the hopes their foot remains on the surface. And inevitably, blades will fly more frequently.
By going back to the past, there’d be no room for interpretation and the crease would remain a safe zone. Some may squawk at first, but just like the puck-over-the-glass rule we’d all get used to it. We’d just have to find something else to complain about.
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Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears regularly.
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