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When a penalty isn't a penalty

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Getting a boatload of trade deadline-related questions, but, seeing as it’s unlikely many deals will be made before then, we’ll leave those alone for a couple weeks and delve into a typically mixed bag of your inquiries.


Greetings. I would like to know why referees never call interference penalties in the following situation, even though it occurs frequently. Here's a typical scenario: From the left side just past center ice, Team A left winger dumps the puck across the ice into Team B's far corner. Team B left defenseman turns to retrieve the puck as Team A’s right winger bursts in to forecheck. Neither Team B defenseman nor Team A right-winger has touched the puck since it was shot in, yet both bump (or hit in some cases) one another forcefully on the way to the corner, each trying to knock the other off balance and prevent the other from reaching the puck first. Why are these players both not called for interference? Each obstructs an opponent who has not touched the puck. The NHL Rulebook says: "A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who interferes with or impedes the progress of an opponent who is not in possession of the puck." It seems to me both players should be sent off for two minutes. What's your impression?

Graham Young, Ottawa


I know what you’re getting at, and technically, you’re probably right.

But, much like you could call a foul – or traveling – on every possession that takes place in the NBA, you could call interference on nearly every NHL shift.

Still, it’s clear that, yet again, the NHL’s latest crackdown on obstruction has slowly ebbed away.

Last week, I watched three games and saw about 30 plays where holding could have been called, yet not a single one was. And yet again, you can blame the league for not having the stomach to see their plan through all the way to the end.


I've heard of it and it seems I hear it a lot, but can you please explain what goals-against average is?

Jeff Clark, Cincinnati


I sure can. Goals-against average is, as the name hints at, the average number of goals any particular netminder allows during a 60-minute span.

The numbers are arrived at by dividing the total number of goals allowed by the number of minutes a goalie plays, then multiplying that number by 60.


I am an avid reader of your column. Even if I don't agree with all you say (about fighting), I find your opinions both insightful and always well researched. My question is about the All-Star Game: Has there ever been a backup goalie sent to the game before? This is the first time I've ever heard that happen. I know Osgood is the backup in name only and has actually played an almost equal number of minutes to the Dominator. My co-worker and I have a small bet on whether this has happened before and how many times if it has. Could you settle it for us? Also, with the Winter Classic being such a success, and the All-Star Game usually being such a dud, what are your thoughts on having an outdoor All-Star Game? Would that make it a little more interesting?

Aaron C.


Thanks for the niceties. Glad you enjoy my stuff. And no need to agree with everything I write; I don’t hold it against anyone who wants to be proven wrong eventually.

To my knowledge, Osgood is the only goalie to start the season as a backup and make it to the All-Star Game. And I see a couple big problems with an outdoor All-Star Game.

Firstly, there’s the weather factor to worry about. The league can always re-schedule a regular season game if the weather doesn’t agree, but it can’t do the same with that type of corporate love-in.

More important, though, is the injury factor. There’s always a chance a superstar can get hurt during a regular season game, but those odds rise exponentially when the game features nothing but superstars.


What is the rationale for continuing the use of points versus a straight won-loss record now that there aren't any ties? You can't hide with a win-loss record. A team like the Maple "Griefs" should be focusing on a 16-28 record instead of 40 points.

John S., Houston


What’s the rationale? You’ve got me. But then again, there are many aspects of the NHL I don’t understand.

I mean, this is a league where, for example, they didn’t count Buffalo’s recent streak of 10 games without a win as a “losing streak.” Instead, they insisted, it was a “winless” streak.

Talk about damning with faint praise. The NHL has become one of those soft-touch Montessori schools where kids don’t receive grades, lest it hurt their dainty hearts.

At this rate, I half-expect them to insist all individual awards be shared between players from each of the 30 teams.

Ask Adam appears Tuesdays and Fridays only on The Hockey To send us your question or comment, click HERE.


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