Can You Head The Puck in Hockey? (Real Example)


Unfortunately, you cannot purposely head-butted the puck intending to score; the goal would not be counted. But, if the puck had accidentally hit the player’s head before being propelled into the goal, the goal will be counted. 

Imagine it’s 2015, and you’ve got amazing seats to see the Chicago Blackhawks play against the Anaheim Ducks at the Western Conference final at Honda Center. Tensions are amicably high as the game enters the second overtime, Kane has control of the puck, and he’s nearing the goal with full intentions to score.

While he is barely a few feet away from the goal, he attempts to score, but unfortunately, the puck rebounds off the goalie’s stick and is tossed into the air. Everybody is holding their breath as the puck is suspended midair, its fate undecided.

Suddenly, as the puck starts to fall, Andrew Shaw attempts to head-butt it into the goal. The puck goes flying past Frederick Anderson, the goaltender for the Anaheim Ducks, and into the goal! The Blackhawks are ecstatic; they run up to each other, celebrating until the replay takes place and the referee calls it a no goal.

So what went wrong?

According to Shaw, if someone can manage to pull that off in the first place, it should still be counted as a goal. So, even though his shot was not only pretty athletic but also extremely entertaining as well, what went wrong? Let’s take a look at the NFL rule book to understand where the referee was coming from.

According to section six, rule 617-Goals and Assists (c), a goal shall not be allowed if the puck is intentionally thrown or deflected towards the goal by any surface other than the hockey stick itself.

Even if it consequently deflects off a player before it enters the goal, be it the goalkeeper, it will still not be considered a goal.

Meaning, because Shaw purposely head-butted the puck with the intention to score, the goal would not be counted. But, if the puck had accidentally hit Shaw’s head before being propelled into the goal, the goal would have been counted. 

This is because, according to the rules, a goal shall be legally scored if the puck is directed into the goal after bouncing/striking off any attacking player, whatever part of his body it may have deflected from. 

Therefore, you clearly cannot deliberately head the puck in hockey and get away with it.

At this point, you might be asking, “was Andrew Shaw the only one who attempted this and was penalized?”

Not quite. Devante Smith Pelley, who was a former player of the Anaheim Ducks, now with the Montreal Canadiens, also attempted something similar to what Shaw displayed that day, although, at the time, he was playing for Mississauga St. Michael’s.

But, like Shaw, he was fouled for the shot at the 2011 Memorial Cup. Coincidentally, Shaw was also playing at that game for Owen Sound of the OHL (Ontario Hockey League).

Are there other wacky shots that could slip through the cracks?

The question now is, if you can’t head-butt the puck, can you butt-butt the puck? Patrick Dwyer would probably say you can’t. On the 7th of October 2018, in UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League, Dwyer was playing for the Belfast Giants against Milton Keynes Lightning at the SSE Stadium in Northern Ireland.

With an already amazing lead of 4-0, Dwyer provided a net-front presence looking to score another for the team when Darcy Murphy fired a wayward shot for the goal from the right circle. The puck lifted off and ended up in the back of Dwyer’s pants.

While the other players frantically searched for the missing puck, Dwyer had quickly realized where it had landed and attempted to score by swiftly backing into the net. The plan was ingenious, but the referee blew the whistle soon after to announce the puck was dead and deemed it as a no-goal.

According to rule 85.3, “Puck Out of Sight,” in case of a scramble, or if a person falls on the puck by accident so that the puck is out of the referee’s sight, the referee will blow his whistle right away and stop the play.

To resume play, the puck will be faced off at the closest face-off point in the zone where play was stopped.

Even though Dwyer claims the whistle was blown after he had already scored, it seems this score just wasn’t one for the books. But, it is still quite memorable! “It would have been cool to tell that story the rest of my life,” said the Giant’s media team.

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The referee’s call

From this anecdote, it might seem that if a puck gets stuck in a player’s equipment, the play would be considered dead. But most situations are much more complex, and it depends on the referee present at each game as well.

In the case of Cam Ward, who was playing as a goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes, the puck accidentally got stuck in his skates while he was behind the net. With the puck disappearing from sight, he instinctively rushed back to the net and, in doing so, allowed the puck stuck in his skate to enter the goal, resulting in a score.

 The referee ruled the goal acceptable, shocking everyone. Now let’s tie it all together. Unlike Andrew Shaw’s head-butt and Patrick Dwyer’s pant goal, this was fully unintentional.

Instead of scoring for his own team, Ward ended up scoring for the opposing team, and the goal was credited to the last Coyote who had connected with the puck. So it does seem like the goal should be accepted.

However, like in Patrick Dwyer’s case, the puck had disappeared from sight and logically should have been considered dead. Instead, the referee considered it a goal even after the Hurricanes challenged the play.

This could be because the referee had not yet blown the whistle to alert the teams that the puck was dead, but so was the case with Patrick Dwyer. Henceforth, showing how the outcomes of various games can vary depending on the referee that is present. 

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