What’s That Call? A Whistle After the Save

At a tournament this weekend, the opposing team’s parents were quite sure that the referee was blowing the whistle “too early” when their players were scrambling in front of our net. (One belted out, “How can we ever score if you keep stopping the play?!”) The parents on our team, of course, were sure the referee was trying to keep control of the game by keeping players from hacking at our goalie. Other times it seems like players are allowed to whack away in front of the net until the puck finally goes in. So what’s going on?

Now You See It...

As part of Rule 630: Puck Out of Sight on page 86 of the 2009–11 Official Rules of Ice Hockey, the referee should blow the whistle when he or she loses sight of the puck. When players are scrambling in front of the net—some working to keep the puck in, others working to keep it out—the referee blows the whistle because (ideally) the goalie has caught or covered the puck. A faceoff then occurs at the nearest circle.

...Now You Don't

As a spectator, and sometimes even as a player on the ice, it’s hard to tell where the puck is—let alone what the referee can see. This makes it difficult to determine why play stops when it does. We asked experienced player and coach Jeff Schneider for his take on the situation: “As far as when they blow the puck dead, anytime referees lose site of the puck, they blow the whistle. In practice, refs keep an eye on the goalie. If the goalie is flopping around, the puck is probably loose in the crowd somewhere. If the goalie stays still (for instance the catching glove is on the ice like he has it covered, even if he has no idea where the puck is), the whistle will probably come quicker.”

Note that play does not have to stop because the goalie catches or covers the puck. He or she can quickly pass the puck off to a teammate rather than ending up in a faceoff in which the team has only a 50% chance of winning the puck.

Check out this scramble and see for yourself whether this whistle blew before or after the goal.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton, Managing Editor of Grow The Game, for this story.
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