The Devil’s Trapezoid

The Devil’s Triangle is a location in Bermuda that ships avoid because of unexplained disappearances. The Devil’s Trapezoid is located behind the Goalie on NHL/AHL rinks.  It’s a restricted area behind the goal line that limits where the goaltender  can play the puck because of unexplained stupidity by the NHL Board of Governors.

Don’t get me wrong. Rules are fine-but rules also have to follow common sense or they’re not rules at all but unnecessary constraints.  All other rules in hockey make sense-well, more or less.  Offsides rules prevent cherry picking: simply waiting next to the other net for the puck to come your way so that you can get an unencumbered crack at the goalie.  Icing prevents teams from avoiding the play by dumping pucks out of their own zones.  These rules all make sense.  Now we turn to this ridiculous trapezoid behind the net.

It is true that goalies already can’t touch the puck past center ice.  I’m not sure why a goalie would want to, but this rule exists, and I can accept it because it rarely comes into play.  However, forcing a goalie to not play the puck outside the Devil’s Trapezoid happens all the time and it does nothing for the flow of the game other than to delay the game in some instances, and irritate the goalies in all instances. 

Looking back, this change was one of many made by the “New NHL” after the lockout.  It was supposed to help the game.   How does one determine whether a certain change helps or hinders? By metrics.  Changes meant to speed up the game at faceoffs have sped up the game. It’s measurable.  How can one measure the impact of having goaltender forbidden zones?  You can’t.  Problem number one.

Problem Number Two: Goalies have to play tic tac toe to themselves.  Everyone has seen occasions where goalies pass the puck to themselves, thus avoiding touching the puck in the forbidden zones.  It defies common sense.

Problem Three: With the desperation of a person trying to catch an open face peanut butter sandwich before it hits the carpeting, goalies have to race out and attempt to get the puck prior to crossing the goal line in the corners.  If he grabs it, he still has to wait in some cases for his teammate to come by and pick up the puck, or he plays tic tac toe (see Problem #2).  However, if the goalie is unsuccessful he must gaze longingly at the puck on the other side of the line with the look that a dog has after seeing said peanut butter sandwich hit the shag.  He can’t touch it, even though he could, because he’ll get slapped.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think this speeds up the game.

As a goalie myself, I’m thankful I haven’t had to deal with this rule (which is thankfully non-existent in certain amateur and international levels.)  I can only hope that the NHL will wise up to the absurdity of this rule and change it so that future generations’ only exposure to it will be the memories of the times that goalies had to live in fear of the Devil’s Trapezoid.

Explore posts in the same categories: Rules, The Future of Hockey

8 Comments on “The Devil’s Trapezoid”

  1. Jeff Says:

    Take away the trapezoid. That is okay. But I also think goalies straying outside of the crease should be fair game for checks. Trapzoid take an aspect of the game from the goalies. But the rule that goalies cannot be checked also defies logic. Maybe a larger 2nd crease or something is required where a goalie can avoid being hit.

  2. betweenthepipes Says:

    Jeff, I’d be okay with that – there would, no doubt, be those goalies that would dish it out as well and that might be fun. Although I think some of the reasoning for not checking goalies comes from the aspect that they’re easier to catch and knock down in awkward situations. Also, they’ve grown used to being untouchable so when they are touched, they go down easier (even if they don’t try and help the ref with acrobatics). Nonetheless, I totally concur that once the goalie starts roaming, he should be fair game.

    The idea of a second crease is intriguing. I think this would make more sense than the trapezoid.

    Another idea is to leave the trapezoid there, but if the goalie plays it outside the trapezoid, then he’s fair game.

    Great points to think about! Now to get someone in the NHL to start listening…

  3. davidsonsteve Says:

    Hey, how’s it goin? I like what I’ve seen of your site; I actually found it through google after trying to find the reasoning for the goalie trapezoid, because frankly I couldn’t myself come up with any logical reason why they’d come up with that post-lockout rule.

    And really, I still don’t see a point to it. I remember watching some hockey games in which the goalie would come way outside the crease to field the puck – some were good at it (Turko to name one, I believe) and some would just get themselves into trouble. In any case, in my opinion it led to more excitement during these times, some less icing faceoffs, and the occasional funny moment when the goalie would make a bad decision. But I agree, they should be able to field the puck anywhere on their half of the ice, and depending where they are should be fair game for checks and hits. Keep up the good work.

  4. betweenthepipes Says:

    Hey, thanks for stopping by and for the input! Any other ideas on rules that would help the game? (I’m not sure they need any).

  5. davidsonsteve Says:

    Well, I’ll be the first to say that hockey is truly the greatest sport out there, but I do have one suggestion: the refs need to let the players fight. Especially lately (the past season or two) I’ve seen them getting in the way more and more with fights that put themselves and also the fighting players in more danger when they jump in too early to break it up. Not that I won’t be satisfied unless there’s blood all over the ice, but I’ve seen times where the refs will try to restrain one player while the other keeps throwing punches, basically not letting him even get up an arm to defend himself against the oncoming punches and leaving him an open target. That’s what I’d change, I think.

    I mean c’mon, who doesn’t love a good, fair fight?

  6. betweenthepipes Says:

    I totally concur. Unless two guys can square off and get away from the play (and the officials) they often have a tough time getting going. Fighting is part of the game. While they’ve done a good job of eliminating bench emptying brawls (which in a nostalgic way I kinda miss-but it’s a good thing those aren’t around too much anymore) the occasional fight has its place in the game.

  7. Sue Says:

    Found this through googling. I was confused when, after SEVERAL years of not watching ice hockey I tuned into the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs and saw this bizarre “new” trapezoidal shape behind the goal. ???WHAT??? I read the NHL Rule and am still confused. Can the goalie play the puck in/from that area? Or, not? This is one of the more absurd additions to a beautiful sport that I’ve ever seen…and, with the exception of the past several years, I’ve been an ice hockey fan for upwards of 50 years…the first game I attended was a NY Ranger game in the “Old” Garden…..So, what’s up with the “Goalie Restricted Area”?

    • betweenthepipes Says:

      Hi Sue,
      Thanks for stopping by and welcome back to the great sport of hockey!
      The answer to your question is, no, the goalie cannot play the puck at all from the trapezoid. It IS absurd. All their lives, goalies are playing the puck and then they have to stop playing it as they move up? Not to mention that international leagues don’t have this either.
      I can still remember games on TV in the Old Garden. Ahhh, memories….
      Again welcome back and thanks for stopping by!!


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