The Montreal Canadiens have been haunted by helmet issues. The Habs were penalized in back-to-back games for players losing their lids.

The first infraction came against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday. Goaltender Jake Allen was given a minor penalty for removing his mask. The netminder appeared to collide with Canes center Vincent Trocheck, who was battling for position at the top of the crease. The bump apparently broke one of the straps. Allen tested it, shifting it with his glove a few times before pulling it off and tossing it towards the corner.



Referee Frederick L’Ecuyer immediately whistled the play dead. Some though it was for the goaltender’s safety. Unfortunately for Allen, it was to issue a penalty.

The NHL rulebook covers helmets in 9.6:

When a goalkeeper has lost his helmet and/or face mask and his team has control of the puck, play shall be stopped immediately to allow the goalkeeper the opportunity to regain his helmet and/or face mask. When the opposing team has control of the puck, play shall only be stopped if there is no immediate and impending scoring opportunity.

When a goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask in order to secure a stoppage of play, the Referee shall stop play as outlined above and assess the goalkeeper a minor penalty for delay of game. If the goalkeeper deliberately removes his helmet and/or face mask when the opposing team is on a breakaway, during the course of a penalty shot or shootout attempt, the Referee shall stop play and award a goal to the non-offending team.

The rule isn’t concerned with the status of the straps, only how the helmet comes off. Some goaltenders have been penalized for shaking their helmets off intentionally. In this case, there was no room for debate – Allen clearly removed his mask intentionally.

“I understand if the puck is around the net and they have a scoring chance, you have to keep it on even if it’s uncomfortable and your vision isn’t that great,” Allen said. “But when the puck’s out at the blue line, I thought I could take it off. The ref beside me [Brandon Blandina] didn’t call the penalty, but the other ref [L’Ecuyer] did.”

There’s no automatic whistle if a mask strap comes loose, nor if a goaltender loses his glove or his skate blade falls out.

And, yes, that means that there’s a chance that a goaltender can be facing shots without his helmet, assuming there’s an immediate scoring opportunity.  Allen, then with the St. Louis Blues, was forced once to do exactly that – keep playing helmetless.   That’s simply how the rule is written, where play continues.


While one rule forces a goaltender to potentially play without a helmet, another flips it around for players…


The Habs were back in helmet hell on Saturday, picking up a minor penalty when rookie Jordan Harris was given a minor penalty for playing without a helmet.   Harris, making his NHL debut, may have been unfamiliar with the specifics of NHL rule 9.6:

A player on the ice whose helmet comes off during play shall be assessed a minor penalty if he does not exit the playing surface, or retrieve and replace his helmet properly on his head (with or without his chin strap fastened), within a reasonable period of time. It is reasonable if a player who is making a play on the puck or who is in the vicinity of the puck and engaged in the play at the time his helmet  comes off, takes the opportunity to complete the play before either exiting the ice or retrieving and replacing his helmet.

Harris lost his lid during a battle with Alex Killorn in front of the net. The Bolts winger put Harris in a headlock, popping off his bucket.

Of course, that also falls under Rule 9.6; there was no call on the play.

A player who intentionally removes an opponent’s helmet during play shall be assessed a minor penalty for roughing.

Typically, these have been called when a player clearly pulls the helmet off with his glove

Instead of retrieving his helmet or heading off ice, Harris circled back on defense to try to break up an oncoming Lightning rush, while his teammates attempted to wave him off.  Referee Jon McIsaac whistled the play down and sent Harris off – to the penalty box, instead of the bench.

Tampa scored on the man advantage, but Montreal rallied to win the game 5-4 in a shootout.


Let’s home the Canadiens check those chinstraps – and perhaps a quick skim of the rule book – before the next time they hit the ice.