Sunday, August 26, 2012

Revisiting The NHL Rules Of Old: Goaltending

Beginning this Tuesday, the NHL will be digging through some video of hooking, holding and interference penalties that were administered last season.

The goal for Colin Campbell — Director of Hockey Operations — as well as some select general managers and coaches is to try and determine a standard on the implementation of interference penalties.

As the "think tank"— as Campbell calls it —gets set to tighten up ship, I thought I'd take a brief trip back to some interesting rules of old.

In considering our penalties and the tweaking of them, would we do well to take a page from the history books?


In regards to netminding, the very first change to the original rules was in the 1917-18 season. Originally, a penalty would be called on the goalie for dropping to the ice to make a save at any time. It wasn't until that season that they were permitted to do so.

Could you imagine? Carey Price would be giving Steve Ott a serious run for his money in the PIMs department.

Concern of a decrease in action and goal scoring goes as far back as the early twenties. One of the first examples of this was in 1921, where goalies were finally allowed to pass the puck up to a player, but only as far as his own blueline.

This may or may not have coincided with defense becoming the lazy man's first choice of position in beer leagues.

A more direct approach came with the first limit set for a goalie's pad width. Starting in the 1925-26 season, twelve inches was as thick as you could have them, and it was further reduced to ten inches in 1927.

The nineteen-thirties saw some familiar first incarnations of rules we see today, including penalties for doing the Sean Avery and obstructing a goalie's vision or movement.

What's more interesting though are the strange ones, which included things like the goaltender cannot advance more than one foot from his goal-line when a shot is taken (1934-35) or each team must have only one goaltender playing at one time (1931-32).

And rightly so! Imagine two Dominik Haseks flopping all over the place? It'd be absolute mayhem.

That's using the old noodle, fellas. The NHL: always a step ahead of everyone's tricks.

As for the 'one foot from the goal-line' rule, I'd like to imagine that goalkeepers were doing all kinds of outrageous things to stop attackers from even getting shots off in the first place.

Though I suspect it was mostly frequent rushing and challenging of the shooter that lead to the rule.

More chances, more breakaways, more shots, more goals, more fans, more money.

Perhaps the most interesting item I came across in regards to goalies was that they used to serve their own penalties. So, if Price delays the game, Peter Budaj gets thrown in nets for a penalty kill— this of course being when teams were eventually required to dress two goalies, which wasn't always the case.

How interesting would that make games, especially in the playoffs ?

As goalies were penalized a lot more often then, the back-up would see more action, and on a game-by-game basis.

Oh, but there's one tiny catch...

As a rule implemented in 1939 states, if you were the back-up, you were only allowed to use a goaltender's gloves and a stick. That's it.

Food for thought!

Next up, the Attackers and Rearguards portion of our trip back in time.
Amos is freelance writer and columnist who covers prospects for You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook or email him at

(Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images North America)


Good Stuff Amos! A real fun read.

Now, if only the Trapezoid could become a rule of old...


Thanks my man!

Agreed. The trapezoid is one of the best examples of a rule that isn't accomplishing what it was put in place to accomplish.

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