Player safety was not a priority on Friday night in Dallas, Texas, according to Connor Hellebuyck.
The Winnipeg Jets netminder spoke with the media on Saturday afternoon just hours after what ended up being an overtime victory over the Dallas Stars from American Airlines Center on Friday.
“Plain and simple, when a goalie’s mask gets knocked off, the play needs to get blown dead,” Hellebuyck said.
After already having a goal called back via a coach’s challenge from his former bench boss Rick Bowness earlier on the night, Stars’ scoring phenom Jason Robertson fired his third of the game into a wide-open net with just 19 seconds remaining to tie the game late in the third period.
Making it easy for Robertson to find his hat trick marker was the fact that Hellebuyck was laying on his stomach with his exposed head in his glove and blocker after having his helmet knocked off his head four seconds prior.
After review, it's a good goal and he sends this one to OVERTIME with his 18th of the season! pic.twitter.com/gFcZIcSUSE
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 26, 2022
“There was not an immediate scoring chance after there,” Hellebuyck added. “There were two passes made and a shot from the point. Those refs made a mistake, but I feel like the rule needs to change so that the war room and the refs have the opportunity to realize they made a mistake. They put me in danger. A lot of bad things could have came from that.”
There was no whistle to stop the play, however, the officials did gather and review the play prior to announcing their reasoning for ensuring the game-tying goal stood.
“When a goalie’s mask is knocked off or comes off, and it’s not an immediate — and I mean, like, puck’s going in, getting tapped in — that whistle needs to be blown,” Hellebuyck said. “Just like a player who loses his helmet has to go to the bench. He’s allowed to finish the motion of the play, but he has to go to the bench. The same thing should apply for a goalie. Toronto is not able to replay the stoppage of play because that is on the refs, for their [discretion].”
Hellebuyck was reaching down to cover the puck at the side of the net, when Stars captain Jamie Benn ran him over en route to racing around behind the net and dishing the puck off to a teammate, all while Hellebuyck dove for cover in an instance that would typically call for a stoppage in play.
“What I saw was, I made a save, I’m in the crease. I leaned maybe a hair outside the crease — the crease isn’t very wide — maybe I leaned a hair outside, but my balance and my weight was in the crease. [Benn] was coming right by my face, and maybe he wasn’t going to hit me, but he was close enough where any play on him forced him into my head. I think Josh did hit him — I don’t know how hard he hit him, that’s not for me to judge because I’m not the one who put the hit on him. But he hit him.”
The resulting play ended up with the Stars tying the game fours to send the Central Division matchup to overtime, giving Dallas a point it likely shouldn’t have earned. Winnipeg did end up with two of the three points awarded, but in a divisional contest where every point matters, the referees’ (in)discretion very well may have affected the overall NHL standings.
That's the worst video review call against Connor Hellebuyck and the Jets since James Neal broke his stick over Hellebuyck's face mask and they allowed that goal. BRUTAL
— Joe Pascucci (@Pascucci015) November 26, 2022
The explanation from the on-ice officiating crew was that Josh Morrissey had pushed Benn into Hellebuyck, which saw his helmet come off his head. But it didn’t provide clarity as to why the play was not blown dead.
“The way the play goes, they’re expecting me to get up, go to the post and square up to a point shot? For me, that’s just way too long and no one’s going to do that with no mask on,” Hellebuyck added. “So four seconds. I’m pretty sure we could have got a shot on the other net in four or five seconds. That tells you how much ice you can cover. Immediate is, like I’ve been saying, the puck needs to be going in the net or on its way into the net or a guy is in the act of finishing a puck and there was none of that.”
For reference, Josh Morrissey needed just four seconds to carry the puck the length of the ice and score the game-winner just 32 seconds into the extra period.
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Earlier in the game, Dallas netminder Jake Oettinger lost his pad when a defender happened to come down on one of his straps, causing the pad to come off in the process. The play was immediately whistled down by referee Garrett Rank.
“I think there (were) two passes and I don’t even know if Jamie Benn got a point on that play (he didn’t). And that was the initial guy who hit me and got the puck.”
Hellebuyck, a member of the NHL’s Competition Committee, and Adam Lowry, the Jets’ NHL Players’ Association executive board representative both voiced their confusion on the eventual game-tying goal.
“I’m the goalie on the committee, I get my voice out. I hate complaining without doing something about it,” Hellebuyck said. “We talked about it last meeting. We talked about how we need to protect the goalies’ heads. How we’re getting hit there and nothing is being done about it. So, the refs are supposed to be looking for it.”
Not only did Hellebuyck deem the actions of the on and off-ice officials incorrect, he also called for a rule change after what he considered to be a very dangerous play on-ice.
“The amount of force that went into my head was very scary,” he said. “The feeling in my neck was very scary. I’m glad I’m OK, I’m glad I’m having a maintenance day. But the force that went into my head is a no-brainer for me that it needs to get blown dead and looked at… No one’s going to do that with no mask on. We don’t want any goalie in this league [doing that] — we don’t want that for us. We don’t want to see that anywhere in this league. So, the fact that that happened last night is very eye-opening and hopefully we can get better, and get this rule changed.”
Lowry put everything into perspective quite well:
“It’s a scary situation when your team’s MVP goes down and is laying motionless on the ice with no helmet and pucks are coming to the net,” Lowry said, a day after picking up three points in the team’s overtime win. “I just think in these situations, there’s always going to be one side that’s upset. At the same time, we remember just how dangerous it is if someone gets a puck in the head, just how fast that things can change. Whether you’re the team that kind of feels like you get screwed out, you want player safety to be at the forefront. That’s going to be something that is going to get brought up and hopefully dealt with.”
The text from the official NHL rule book reads as follows:
“NHL Rule 9 – Uniforms – 9.6 – Helmets – When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has control of the puck, the play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask.
When the opposing team has control of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity. This stoppage of play must be made by the Referee. When play is stopped because the goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask, the ensuing face-off shall take place at one of the defending team’s end zone face-off spots.
When a goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play, the Referee shall stop play as outlined above and in this case assess the goalkeeper a minor penalty for delaying the game. If the goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask when the opposing team is on a breakaway, the Referee shall award a penalty shot to the nonoffending team, which shot shall be taken by the player last in possession of the puck.”
“We disagree with the call, it’s as simple as that,” coach Bowness said. “You can’t ask a goalie to get in there and make a save without his mask on. Anyways, that happens. We’ve moved on. I don’t talk to the league about those things. Chevy does. Chevy has been in constant contact with the league. That’s all we can do is voice our opinion and go from there.”
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