Introducing our new column, Breaking the Ice — Hockey Talk

Dave Kaufer

Whether you’re a longtime hockey fan or new to the sport, you may have questions about the rules or strategies of the game. In this new column, Dave Kaufer — an Edmonds business owner, hockey fan and beer leaguer (the name for a rec hockey player) — will explain the sport so you can cheer on our new NHL franchise Seattle Kraken.

We’ll start with two recently submitted questions:
Q: What is the thinking behind leaving the goal open late in the game when a team is behind, thus allowing the opposing team to score at will?
A: Late in a game you’ll often see the team that is trailing in the score “pull” their goalie and bring an extra skater on the ice. Usually this happens when it’s only a 1-2 goal deficit and a chance for a tie (which would force overtime and provide new life for a win).
It’s obviously a risky move to leave the net empty but the extra skater in the offensive zone can make a big difference as the defense can’t cover each player. You’ll see some crisp passing among the players looking to shoot when they see an opening — or try to poke in a rebound off a goalie block. But once the defense gets the puck and moves it out of the zone you also often see an “empty netter” goal that usually seals the game (as what happened to our Kraken in their first home game Saturday night).
Q: Occasionally I notice that in a faceoff, the ref will expel a player from the puck-drop and another player from the same team will take the job. Why does the ref kick the player out ?
When there is a faceoff, there are rules the players are supposed to follow regarding their positioning — and especially the placement of their sticks.

Winning the faceoff is key to gaining possession of the puck. If a player is trying to gain an improper edge at puck drop, the official throws that player out of the faceoff circle.

Given how ultra fast NHL players are, even a microsecond head start can be the difference in winning a faceoff.

There is a “five-second rule” with faceoffs. When an official skates to one of the nine faceoff circles and is prepared to drop the puck, the players (usually centers) have five seconds to position themselves for the faceoff. If a player is not in position because he is talking to his teammates or for any other reason, the official can drop the puck anyway. If the player is in the circle, but doesn’t have his skates in the proper position and is at an angle, he is tossed from the faceoff circle and a teammate must take the faceoff.

— By Dave Kaufer

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