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What Is the Trapezoid Behind a Hockey Goal for?

By Steve Silverman

The goaltender's ability to stop shots and direct rebounds out of the prime scoring areas is vital for any team's chances of winning. However, the goaltender has to do more than stop shots to be proficient at his job. A good goaltender has to handle the puck confidently and start offensive plays for his team. However, National Hockey League rules don't allow a goaltender to skate into either of the two trapezoid-shaped areas behind the goal lines.

Goaltender's Restricted Area

The National Hockey League imposed restrictions before the 2005-06 season on where goaltenders could skate to play the puck. According to NHL rules, the restricted areas are behind the endline in the shape of a trapezoid. They begin 5 feet outside the goal crease with a diagonal painted line that is angled outward toward the boards on the sides of the ice surface.

Goaltender's Penalty

If the goaltender leaves his crease to play the puck in the restricted area behind the endline, he receives a two-minute penalty for delay of game. When the goaltender gets a penalty in hockey, he does not leave the ice. A teammate serves the penalty for him and the team is short-handed for the duration of the penalty unless the opposing team scores a goal.

Rationale

The National Hockey League instituted the trapezoid rule before the 2005-06 season. The reason for the rule was to help offensive teams generate more scoring opportunities. Goalies who handled the puck well could easily skate into the area behind the endline and fire the puck out of the zone. The trapezoid rule prevented the goalie from short-circuiting these offensive forays.

Controversy

Before the institution of the trapezoid rule, scoring in NHL games was down and the league's rule makers wanted to open the game up for goal scoring. Toronto Maple Leafs president Brian Burke explained that goaltenders would skate quickly into the corner and send the puck out of the zone in a matter of seconds after a "soft chip." "The game was turning into a tennis match," Burke told USA Today. "You'd dump it in and the goalie would throw it out. Now with soft chip in the corner, it turns into a puck battle and a forechecking opportunity, and that's what we wanted." However, many goaltenders don't like the rule. New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, the league's all-time winningest goalie, is among the most outspoken critics of the rule. ''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,'' Brodeur told the New York Times. ''It's just part of me, playing the puck. So, definitely, you can't be happy."

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