Kate Shefte: Hockey's unwritten rules: Here's why you don't snow the goalie

Kate Shefte, The Seattle Times on

Published in Hockey

SEATTLE — The goal is tantalizingly close. Endorphins and emotions are high. But according to hockey etiquette, there's just no need to hit the brakes suddenly, sending a wave of accumulated ice shavings over and into the helmet of the goaltender.

At first glance, "snowing" the goalie appears perversely satisfying — what anyone might do if they were capable of skating at high speeds. But it's happening right in someone's face.

It's disrespectful, and it doesn't feel great, as Kraken goaltender Philipp Grubauer described:

"It's like dumping cold water. It takes a couple of seconds to take your vision back, and sometimes you need to go to the bench to flush it out. There are small pieces of ice, shards, stuck in your eyes until they melt."

As his blurry vision clears, he sees his teammates descend, referees hot on their heels. An unwritten rule of hockey has been tested or even broken.

"If [the offender] is coming in at the same time as the defenseman, it's a little different story," Kraken alternate captain Adam Larsson said.


"If you look like you're intentionally spraying him, it's probably going down."

In the uncommon event it's too egregious, snowing the goalie can lead to an unsportsmanlike penalty. More often than not, this matter is left to players to police. A shove, some colorful language, maybe a good, long, forced sniff of your opponent's smelly hockey glove. Or a firm strike of the stick to send the point home.

Sometimes they let the aggrieved party handle it himself. In a March 16 game against the Predators, Nashville forward Jason Zucker grazed Grubauer's crease. The Seattle netminder had endured enough. He dropped Zucker with a cross-check to the collarbone. The officials let it slide.

In those instances, Larsson will look on in approval.


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