Over a decade ago, one of the most controversial goals in hockey history was scored when Dallas Stars forward Brett Hull beat Buffalo Sabres goaltender Dominik Hasek in triple overtime of Game Six to win the Stanley Cup.
The controversy stemmed from Hull's skate being inside the blue goalie crease while the puck was outside the crease.
According to NHL rules, the goal should not have counted per the recent changes to the rule book which stated:
"Unless the puck is in the goal crease area, a player of the attacking side may not stand in the goal crease. If a player has entered the crease prior to the puck, and subsequently the puck should enter the net while such conditions prevail, the apparent goal shall not be allowed."
In my opinion, the NHL got the call on Hull's goal correct.
The problem was, they had strictly enforced this new rule all season long, including overturning similarly scored goals like Hull's.
The NHL issued statements saying:
"A puck that rebounds off the goalie, the goal post or an opposing player is not deemed to be a change of possession, and therefore Hull would be deemed to be in possession or control of the puck, allowed to shoot and score a goal even though the one foot would be in the crease in advance of the puck."
"Hull had possession and control of the puck. The rebound off the goalie does not change anything. It is his puck then to shoot and score albeit a foot may or may not be in the crease prior to."
It was not exactly the best explanation, but given the circumstances, it is just about all you can explain.
Like I said, in my eyes it was a good goal. While watching the replays it is evident that Hull had possession of the puck, had his first shot stopped by Hasek, after which he collected the rebound, had the part of his left skate blade enter the crease at the same time the puck left the crease, and he jammed home the game-winning goal.
The NHL did the right thing in allowing the goal to stand. It is not as if someone ran over Hasek to score the game-winning goal or as if Hull was firmly entrenched inside the crease long before the puck made its way to the goal.
But again, the problem was that the NHL was not consistent with its rule book on this particular goal.
Yet, the biggest problem of all was the rule itself in the first place.
Can you think of a dumber rule that has taken away so many seemingly harmless goals from hockey games?
I remember watching game after game during this era and wanting to pull my hair out at the ridiculous amount of goals being disallowed because a quarter-inch of someone's skate blade was in the crease.
The worst part is that in the future we will have such a hard time explaining this rule to future generations. Could someone in the future watch the replay of Hull's infamous goal and be able to point out why it should not have counted?
Once we tell them what the rule was, they will find it the silliest rule ever.
That's the way I have always looked at it.
The other problem I had with the rule was the way in which they changed the size of the goalie crease.
I mean look at that picture!
Hasek has spread out practically his entire body and he's still not covering the length of the crease. Who thought it was a good idea to change the goalie crease to mammoth proportions and then not allow any goals if an attacking player has a minuscule part of his body in the area?
Luckily, the NHL was smart enough to realize its mistake and remove the rule and shrink the goalie crease back to normal proportions.
So, perhaps we could say the Hull goal was a gift in disguise because it forced the league to change one of the dumbest rules in North American sports history?
I do not think I could have watched many more games if the rule had been kept and honest and hard working players were stripped of goals from such a stupid rule.
Unfortunately for Sabres fans, the scars still remain for a Stanley Cup championship that could have been theirs.
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