Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marty Turco

An elimination of the Trapezoid would allow goalies like Marty Turco to show off their puck-handling skill, but it doesn’t mean goal scoring will decrease (InGoal file photo)

The trapezoid rule (#1.8) came into effect for the 2005–2006 National Hockey League season.

The NHL rulebook states that. “a restricted trapezoid-shaped area behind the goal will be laid out as follows: Five feet (5’) outside of each goal crease (six feet (6’) from each goalpost), a two inch (2”) read line shall be painted extending from the goal line to a point on the end of the rink ten feet (10’) from the goal crease (eleven feet (11’) from the goalpost) and continuing vertically up the kick-plate.”

The purpose of the trapezoid was to restrict the ability of goaltenders like Martin Brodeur, Marty Turco and Mike Smith playing the puck, thereby neutralizing dump-ins and fore-checks. It was hypothesized this would increase the amount of scoring chances.

Personally, I am not a fan of the Trapezoid. In fact, when it came into the league I decided that the very small number of goaltenders whom I train would continue to learn passing options and transitional situations requiring a goaltender to play the puck from the now forbidden areas.

The rule does not exist in minor hockey and therefore these kids could develop a very important skill set and become comfortable with many situations as their NHL idols did before the rule existed there. Also, when it comes to goaltender selection, all else being equal, the goalie with these skills is of greater value to a hockey club. So I decided to be a rebel and assume that one day the trapezoid rule may be overturned. I assume I am not alone in this regard.

As a goaltender it’s frustrating that competitive restrictions are frequently placed on the position we play.

In an interview with the New York Times in 2005 Martin Brodeur echoed these sentiments when he said, “You can’t be happy, taking away something I’ve worked on all my life to do and help my teammates and help my defense. Its just part of me, playing the puck. So, definitely, you can’t be happy.”

Those who would like to see this rule overturned make the argument since its inception the nature of the pro game has changed. With players stronger and faster, and the neutral zone “clutch and grab” tactics no longer tolerated with the obstruction rule, today’s goaltender no longer has time to stand unpressured in the quiet zones and decide to where the puck should be moved.

In fact, at the 2011 NHL research and development camp the trapezoid was removed to assess if the perceived goaltender advantage still existed. The removal of the trapezoid made no difference in the eyes of the decision makers, including Brendan Shanahan.

Another valid argument relates to defensemen safety and no-touch icing. Allowing the goaltender to move the puck from restricted areas would, at times, take pressure off defensemen and likely eliminate some violent headshots, broken ankles and legs in the fast race for the puck.

The point should also be made that professional ice hockey is entertainment and therefore should be entertaining to the fans.

The Goalie Guild founder, Justin Goldman, presented an interesting perspective to this effect in his article titled The Inverted Trapezoid. Goldman suggests changing the dimensions and configuration of the trapezoid and essentially eliminating puck play purely behind the net. Since goaltenders most commonly play the puck in this location they would be forced to move faster and further from the net to engage in puck-handling activities. I believe it would be exciting to see goaltenders moving the puck in all directions from the corners. Skilled puck-handlers would go back to what we enjoyed seeing from Marty Turco.

Both good plays and bad would bring unpredictability back to this part of the game and should make for more excitement for the fans; however, I will merely suggest that overall puck play could potentially decrease since goaltenders neither comfortable nor having the mobility or skills to get there quick enough would never leave the blue paint.

This would not be a change from the status quo; however, the strange and sloppy plays occurring behind the net would be eliminated from a spectator point of view since even weak puck-handling goalies venture behind the net. These types of plays are great conversation pieces at the water cooler or lunchroom the following morning.

The issue of “no contact” or “incidental goaltender contact” is also related to whether or not the trapezoid exists. I personally have no problem with contact between goaltenders and other players. Is our fraternity so frail physically that we cannot withstand some grinding and bumping? I am certain I am in the minority on this point. I understand that top tier goaltenders are difficult to find and that coaches and general managers therefore want them protected. I nevertheless believe we can both give it and take it. The problem is that the degree of contact is a grey zone issue and not likely to be resolved any time soon.

Also, did the NHL hypothesis of increased scoring actually become reality? I present the league scoring averages per game just prior, and subsequent to, the trapezoid rule: 2003-2004 (5.14), 2005-2006 (6.17), 2006-2007 (5.89), 2007-2008 (5.57), 2008-2009 (5.83), 2009-2010 (5.68), 2010-2011, (5.64). On a league level this would not be statistically significant and the data may be reviewed on an individual club basis for interested readers at www.hockey-reference.com.

The league frequently continues to refine the rules. Coaches learn to adapt to rules and tactical changes like overcoming the neutral zone trap. These numbers don’t prove the benefit of the trapezoid.

There is no direct cause-and-effect relationship like cigarette smoking and lung cancer.

As a result of all the shot blocking during the 2011-2012 playoffs and many low scoring games, will the competition committee now outlaw shot blocking? If we want to punish goalies even further why not go back to wearing a polo sweater and cricket pads? Let’s get rid of the trapezoid and let great puck-handling goalies demonstrate their skills to the fans!

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6 Responses to Death of the Trapezoid? Goaltenders Can Only Hope

  1. patrick says:

    Thank you, finally someone has said it…

    “Is our fraternity so frail physically that we cannot withstand some grinding and bumping? ”

    Maybe it is just me and growing up with the likes of Ron Hextall that makes me feel that somehow goalies became wimps when it comes to body contact.

    I mean seriously come one we are willing to step in front of a puck being blasted at us upward of 60 mph (for most low level shooters) but we cannot take a bit of bumping when on the ice??

    Miller was one that pissed me off last season after being hit by Lucic…whine whine step up and prepare for the hit or dive for the puck triping the player in the process… dont expect to be skated by expect the bump… oh yes i do agree the the hit was well intended and uncalled for but Miller has to accept some preparedness on his part.

    maybe it is just me but that little spot of blue paint was your area that is where you are protected and the no touch policy lives but once out (playing puck not cutting angles) your just another skater and fair game. Maybe this is just the old school talking but that was always my unwritten understanding

    come on boys step back up to the plate and not be afraid of a “little” bump

  2. Paddy says:

    A little bump never hurt anyone, but it is our defensemen that should be lobbying. I remember one time (a long time ago, I’m 43 now) in Midget AAA when I hesitatd to play the puck and my good friend got creamed and dislocated his shoulder and missed the rest of the season…still think about that. We are not just targets! Let us play the damn puck!

    Peace

  3. Eric says:

    Agreed, a goaltender should be able to take a hit, but there is a very fine line between incidental contact between a goalie and a player, and a player preventing a goaltenders return to his crease. We have to fight to establish our position from time to time, and this is more than acceptable. But when a player prevents us from making a save by hitting us, that’s another story.

  4. Joe boutette says:

    My weight ranges from 165lbs to 175 during a season. And I have no problem with taking a bump if I’m leaving the crease, I play sr hockey and these are full grown ex pros I’m playing just about everybody has at least 20lbs on me. If you don’t want tO get bumped around go play golf!!!!

  5. Travis says:

    I think they should eliminate the trapezoid, but you’re fair game for contact behind the net (or goal line). Those that are able to play the puck and willing to take a hit can do so. Those that aren’t will stay in the crease.

  6. Brian says:

    They should get rid of the trapezoid and allow goalies who leave the crease to be fair game to be checked. If a goalie steps out to play the puck, he should be open to taking a hit as anyone else. I wouldn’t allow him to be hit if he is going back to the crease, but this would be the same rule as with anyone else on the ice, you can only hit the guy who has the puck…well only supposed to. But allowing goalies to be open to hits outside of the crease would prevent many situations where they are stepping out and playing the puck with immunity..

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