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McElhinney leaves bloodied, sparks debate over mask shot

Curtis McElhinney's blocker is bent back by a shot Wednesday, but the puck did worse things to his mask and face later in the game. (Click on photo for full size)

It was hard not to feel bad for Anaheim backup Curtis McElhinney.

Not only was the blood pouring from his forehead after a rising slap shot by Vancouver defenseman Christian Ehrhoff hit him flush in the mask (video below), but the goal light was glowing a matching red behind him after Daniel Sedin put the rebound into an empty net as he crumpled to the ice.

It would be the turning point in a game McElhinney had to leave to get stitched up, and the focal point of a heated rant by Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle after the Canucks tied it on a bad-angle goal off the paddle of hard-luck replacement Jonas Hiller’s stick with 21.5 second left, and won in a shootout.

Carlyle insisted play should have been stopped before Sedin scored.

Curtis McElhinney and the toothy duck on his mask as he leaves the morning skate Wednesday. He left the game later that night without his mask after a shot off it left him bleeding badly from the forehead.

“What’s the call when a goalie gets hit in the mask with a slap shot?” Carlyle asked reporters.

When the response was another question about that being just in international hockey that play is stopped, Carlyle said no: “It is in this league. It is in this league,” he insisted.

“They said it was too quick,” continued Carlyle. “Four sets of eyes out there. There are two linesmen that are supposed to make the call out there and that clearly is cut and dried.”

Perhaps Carlyle, caught up in combative post-game back-and-forth with reporters, meant play should have stopped because his goalie was hurt, because there isn’t anything specific to goalie getting hit in the mask in the rulebook.

Rule 8.1 states: “When a player is injured so that he cannot continue play or go to his bench, the play shall not be stopped until the injured player’s team has secured possession of the puck. If the player’s team is in possession of the puck at the time of injury, play shall be stopped immediately unless his team is in a scoring position.
“In the case where it is obvious that a player has sustained a serious injury, the Referee and/or Linesman may stop the play immediately.”

As for injured goalkeepers, the only references have to do with substitution, or actually losing their mask, in which case the play is supposed to be stopped immediately. That didn’t happen to McElhinney, though he clearly dropped straight to the ice rather than make any attempt at the rebound.

Jonas Hiller actually had the eye hole in his cat eye cage reduced after a puck got through and left him with a nasty gash and in need of stitches a month ago.

Even Hiller, who is no stranger to getting hurt by a shot in the mask, had a tough time arguing his coach’s case, though he agreed none if it seemed fair to McElhinney, who was playing brilliantly before getting hurt.

“In this situation as I understood it, it was part of the play and that’s why it kept going,” said Hiller, who still has a scar over his left eye after a shot in practice a month ago actually went through his cat eye cage and split him wide open, requiring stitches. Despite that, Hiller doesn’t the rule should change.

“If they blew the whistle right away goalies would just start laying on the ice,” added Hiller, who has since made the holes in his cat eye cage smaller. “How often does it happen that it hits somebody so bad he is bleeding? It used to be like that in Europe that they blew it as soon as you got hit in the head, but goalies started making saves with their head just to have the whistle blown.”

As for McElhinney, other than his save percentage and goals-against average getting dinged along with his face, early reports out of the Ducks room indicated he’d be okay. Hiller was told it was a pressure cut and said he had “a couple of stitches” but looked “all right,” and an Anaheim spokesperson said he’d fly home with the team after the game, ruling out any concerns of a concussion from the high, hard slapper.

“He’s got quite a gash in his forehead there but that’s life of a goalie I guess,” added Carlyle.

On that the Ducks coach will get no argument.

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.


  1. Seattle757

    As a LA Kings fan I hate the ducks, but that play should have been blown down the moment McElhinney went down. He didn’t even attempt to try to stop the rebound, he just went straight down. The play should have been whistle dead.

  2. Ben Jones

    I totally agree with you. I think that reffing is ridiculous. They should have called the goal off immediately.

  3. Glenn Michaels

    As a goalie myself, I can see both sides of the story. It is a dangerous position as I sit here with typing with a concussion. There are times, and they are very few, that a goalie is helpless and in great danger of being hurt. This certainly seems to be the case here. I also agree with Hiller that you don’t want goalies falling down like soccer players do all the time and then stand up as if a miracle has just taken place. In this case, the Ducks did not have a goalie. Being on the ice, he was in danger of further serious injury. When a player’s head goes into the board in a hit, which needs to be addressed further in my opinion, play is often stopped stopped. And rightly so. It is much more visible and clear cut than when a goalie gets injured. That was the case with my injury. Very few people saw it actually happen. How hard does a puck hit the mask? We all deal getting hit in different ways. Our masks are all made differently out of different materials. Cages are different sizes and openings. I could go on. It is a tough call. But in a tough sport, the rules need to be clear cut. It will be interesting to see if anything shakes out of this situation.

  4. Grant

    ..being an eyewitness (was at the game)..the play should have been stopped immediately..the second I heard the shot hit the mask I knew it had cracked it..he went down immediately and was open to further injury. I know of the rule and play goal myself. The ref has the option for a judgement call on an obvious injury. If both of them (refs) don’t know what the sound of a shot cracking a helmet and one deflecting off of it is ..better go back to minor hockey ref school.

  5. NotEnoughTime

    There isn’t enough time between when it hits his mask (happens all the time) and when the rebound is put in…it was right afterward….he hadn’t even hit the ice yet…you can’t stop play just cuz a puck hits a mask. You don’t stop play when a player gets checked really hard and falls down….same idea