The Finer Points: NHL Rule 69 – goalie interference

Tim Kolupanowich, Executive Editor

(Tim Kolupanowich/CM)

In a pretty wild overtime session that saw his first goal disallowed because he kicked it in, Flyers center Danny Briere scored another that held up, but the Devils still had a problem with it. Winger James van Riemsdyk was right in front of the crease and Martin Brodeur and the Devils wanted this goal overturned as well due to goalie interference.

There’s so much traffic in front of the net these days that goalies are bumped into nearly every play. There’s at least one power forward on each team whose main job is to screen the goalie, but goals will stand as long as the player doesn’t interfere with the process of making a save. Goalies are supposed to be protected by the crease, but goals will be allowed if they have the ability to attempt to stop the puck.

It used to be that a player couldn’t have a skate in the crease at all, but that rule changed right after the 1998-99 season ended when Brett Hull of the Dallas Stars scored the overtime, Stanley Cup clinching goal with his foot in the crease, one of the most controversial plays in the history of the NHL.

Of course goalies are protected outside the crease as well. Contact is allowed as long as it’s incidental. Milan Lucic steamrolled Ryan Miller earlier this season when he came out to play the puck, a play that is definitely not legal and should have ended up as a suspension.

Sometimes you will see the goalie completely run over in his crease, but it is up to the referee to determine if crashing forward was pushed into the goaltender by a defenseman or if they simply ran over him. There has to be an effort made to stop and avoid the netminder. For a full explanation of what is and isn’t acceptable, you can check out the goaltender interference rules here.

The main thing about goalie interference is that it often ends of being a reputation call. Players who spend most of their time in front of the crease are more likely to be called and have a goal waved off. Tomas Holmstrom of the Detroit Red Wings, arguably the best net-front presence for the past decade, has had this call go against him seemingly more than any other player, even if he doesn’t do anything different. Check out the overhead view on Briere’s overtime goal that was allowed to stand:

Now here is a goal by Pavel Datsyuk from the 2008 playoffs that was waved off because Holmstrom was ruled to be in the crease:

It’s clear that both players were on the very edge of the crease, but it’s James van Riemsdyk, not Holmstrom, that makes contact with the opposing goaltender and yet it’s Holmstrom that gets penalized.

*Editor’s Note: Hockey is a very fast-paced game and the large number of sometimes-complicated rules can make it hard to follow for a casual/new viewer. The Finer Points is a weekly column that will explain the subtleties and complexities of hockey in an easy-to-understand manner so fans can spend more time enjoying the game and less time trying to figure out what is going on.  

Is there a facet of the game that has you scratching your head? Send an email to to get a clearer picture of what is happening on the ice.


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