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Exclusive: Penguins Speak Out on Goalie Interference

Kris Letang and Others Frustrated by Inconsistency



Pittsburgh Penguins, Kris Letang
Kris Letang By Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 ]

Kris Letang had the facial expression, body language and words of a frustrated human. Beyond frustrated, even. The Penguins defenseman has had it with the NHL’s inconsistent enforcement with goaltender interference calls.

“It doesn’t matter what the players say, apparently,” Letang snapped to Pittsburgh Hockey Now.

The topic has reached a tipping point and is part of the agenda at the ongoing general managers’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla. Coach Mike Sullivan and Toronto coach Mike Babcock have publicly let off some steam over the calls, which seem to lack cohesion.

The rule is intended to help protect goaltenders, both physically and from being impeded from fairly having a shot at making a save. Yet even the most objective eye reviewing various calls – some goals standing, others being overturned – can easily find similar plays being called differently.

For example, what happens if a player interferes with a goalie, but only because one of the goalie’s teammates pushes that player into the goalie?

“If it’s a guy who gets pushed in, it’s the defender’s fault,” Letang said.

It doesn’t always get called that way, however.

“Yeah, that’s the problem,” Letang said, adding that game officials don’t seem to all be on the same page.

“It seems like the rule is clear for certain games, like we know that referee will call it that way,” he said. “And if you get another game, different referee, they see it a different way.”

Kris Letang Not Alone

Other Penguins players are just as lost over what they are allowed to do, including when and whether they are in the blue paint of the crease, whether they make incidental contact with a goalie, or how long after they touch a goalie they are still liable for an interference call.

“I don’t even know, to be honest,” winger Jake Guentzel said. “I don’t think anybody knows what’s going on and what’s goalie interference. It will be interesting to see what comes out of the meetings.”

Guentzel is going the bottom-line route. That is, he’s not lobbying for the rule to be locked in in one direction or another – just to be locked in, period.

“Just that it’s firm and everyone knows what it is,” he said.

Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, as usual, did his best to be a voice of reason and understanding.

“It’s tough. There’s so many elements that go into it,” Crosby said. “The more clear-cut the rule could be, the better it is for us. Rule changes are always a big thing. It’s always a big step when there’s a rule change. We’ve always shown that we’re able to adapt, and we’ll find a way.

“As far as things like that go, you want to have an idea of what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do. The more clear that can be, I think the better it is for everybody.”

But even Crosby has seen enough inconsistency in enforcement to be perplexed.

“The hardest part is just how you watch games and you see (a challenge on the basis of goalie interference) and you think you’ve got it figured out, and it goes another way,” he said. “It’s tough for everybody. It’s tough for players. It’s tough for officials. That’s why we’re talking about it. It’s not an easy thing, especially at game speed.”

Put Crosby in the camp that suggests the calls might best be reviewed by the league’s “war room” in Toronto on a regular basis, taking the calls out of the referees’ hands.

“Maybe there’s another element where Toronto’s more involved in making those decisions, having seen as many as they do on a nightly basis,” Crosby said. “I don’t know what the exact cure for that it, but the fact that we’re talking about it, hopefully, we can figure it out.”