Retired referee Don Koharski, now a rules analyst, dropped some salty language after taking a look at the Colorado Avalanche’s overtime winner against the Edmonton Oilers in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.

Colorado forward Artturi Lehkonen tipped a puck that deflected off Oilers goaltender Mike Smith. The rebound landed in the crease where Lehkonen fired it home to win the game – and the series – for the Avs.

The NHL, though, had to step in to make sure the goal was legal.  In overtime or the final minute of regulation, the league’s Situation Room automatically reviews plays eligible for a Coach’s Challenge: offside, goaltender interference, or a possible missed stoppage.  It was the latter that was under consideration.  That’s where Koharski comes in.

It was a close one, hence Koho’s unfiltered reaction.

“Holy… shucks,” Koharski offered as a quick correction. “That’s gonna be — that’s close.”

The league evaluated the goal to see if it was a high stick. First, they needed to figure out what kind of high stick they’re looking at, and what standard would be applied.

For pucks tipped directly into the net, the puck must make contact with the stick at or below crossbar-height.  Since this was a deflection that generated a rebound, the play would instead be evaluated for a puck played with a high stick. The standard for that, per Rule 80, is shoulder height.

Batting the puck above the normal height of the shoulders with a stick is prohibited. When a puck is struck with a high stick and subsequently comes into the possession and control of a player from the offending team (including the player who made contact with the  puck), either directly or deflected off any player or official, there shall be a whistle.

When a puck has been contacted by a high stick, the play shall be permitted to continue, provided that […]  the puck has been batted to an opponent (when a player bats the puck to an opponent, the Referee shall give the “washout” signal immediately. Otherwise, he will stop the play).

The league defines ‘shoulder height’ as the normal position of the player’s shoulders in an upright position. A player leaning over, as Lehkonen was, may have his shoulders positioned lower than usual and still have puck contact be legal.

The puck contacting the goaltender would not be sufficient to negate the high stick, as Smith would not have been deemed to have possession and control of the puck.

After a brief review, the Situation Room confirmed that the puck was not played with a stick above the shoulders.  No missed stoppage on the play.  Good goal Colorado.  Game, set, match.


Referees for the game were Chris Rooney (#5) and Jean Hebert (#15); linesmen were Jonny Murray (#95) and Ryan Gibbons (#58).


Koho’s looking to celebrate this moment with some merch!  You can get your own t-shirt or hat – complete with donut and ‘Koho’ stick – to celebrate Don’s NSFW slip.