What is an Empty Net Goal in Hockey?

When you are watching an ice hockey game, you probably have wondered about the scene when the team goalie leaves the net empty. Many questions have been swirling through your mind. Where is the goalie going? Why is he leaving the net empty? Will any other player replace the goalie? And why is it called an empty net goal?

Empty Net Goal in Ice Hockey

The coach and the team pull out the goalie as an extra attacker in an attempt to score and put pressure on other teams. But sometimes, instead of exerting pressure, the opposition scores an empty net goal when the goalie is pulled out. Therefore, when the goalie is away from the net and the opposition scores a goal, it is called an empty net goal.

Why Does The Goalie Leave The Net Empty?

Hockey games are all about goals and affairs – typically one goal. This means that at the end of the game, there is always a tussle of one goal fight because, at the finish time of the game, the score usually is like 4-3, 2-3.

So, when a team trails behind one goal with a few minutes left. They go for a strategy to tie up the game before the regulation time up, that is, to pull the goalie back to the bench.

When the goalie is pulled up, he returns to the bench, and another skater replaces him and comes onto the ice as an extra force to attack. This is done to overload the other team with manpower. As this extra player expectantly will create mismatches in the offensive zone giving his team a suitable zone to create the scoring opportunity.

But, there is a catch in pulling up the goalie. When the goalie leaves his place, the net becomes empty with no guard to protect, allowing the opposing team to score the goal easily. And it is a hazardous catching point for the team with no goalie.

It is risking strategy to apply as it is not easy to keep the puck for long from the opposing team because as soon as the other team lays their hands on the puck. They will catch the empty net opportunity and shoot the puck deep into the net to score the goal.

Although players try their best to prevent the puck from reaching their net, the defensemen even turn themselves into goalies to block the puck. But somehow, nothing works out, and the other team scores the goal on an empty net.

How Much Are The Goals Scored When Goalies Get Pulled Out?

Check out the 2018-19 season stats to see the scoring results.

Empty Net OpportunitiesGoals Scored With Empty NetGoals Allowed on Empty NetNo Goals Scored
892153392347
Percentage Totals17%44%39%

When a team pulls out the goalie, the expectation of getting scored is half of 44%. Usually, teams scored with an extra attacker and the empty at almost 17%. And the rest, 39%, is when neither an empty goal is scored nor a goal to tie up the game.

Scoresheet Empty Net Goals

When looking at the goal score sheet of the game, you will notice that the empty net goals have an unusual designation on the scoresheet. For example;

The above abbreviation line shows that Gaudreau scored the 35th goal of the season, assisted by Monohan and Lindholm, who has 40 and 45 assists of the season, respectively. In the end, the ‘en’ in the brackets indicates an empty net goal.

  • Shorthanded – (sh)
  • Power play – (pp)
  • Empty net – (en)

Player’s Career Empty Net Goals

Empty net goals always count in players’ statistics, and players get huge scores throughout their careers by this. The list of top five empty net goal scorers is:

PlayerCareer Empty Net Goals
Wayne Gretzky56
Marian Hossa40
Mario Lemieux33
Alex Ovechkin33
Jarome Iginla32

Delayed Penalty Empty Net Goals

When one team calls on penalty and the other team still have their sticks on the puck, the referee will not blow the whistle. The game’s rule allows non-penalized teams to keep trying to score until the penalized team lays their hands on the puck. And why should not the non-penalized do this? They should do this because they haven’t done anything wrong, so it’s their right not to stop the game and lose the scoring chance.

Hence, when a penalty is called on a team, the referee will raise his hand but not blow the whistle, as everyone gets that a correction is right there. Since the team on a penalty has limited scoring chances, the other power play team will use this opportunity to their advantage by pulling out their goalie instead of an extra attacker.

And this firm organized a move by the power play team to seize this opportunity, and most of the time, they succeeded. But sometimes, luck goes to their side, and instead of getting a score, they score on the empty net during a delayed penalty.

The most suitable scoring scene on the empty net is the forward pass to the defensemen, and he will try to take on the shot, but if the pass misses the defensemen, it will go straight into their empty net.

Technically, this does not come under the particular designated empty net goals; instead, it counts as a strength goal. The penalized team player who scored the goal will add to his credit.

Empty Net Goal – Forever Famous!

As always – Wayne Gretzky’s empty-net goal is the far best goal till now.

In December 1991, Gretzky was doing his best to become the first player who scored 50 goals over 40 games, and in the season’s 39th game, he already sat on the rooftop of 45 goals. Then playing against the Philadelphia Flyers that night – he did it! And the last one is the empty net goal and how brilliantly he scored that goal – WOW!

He successfully achieved 50 goals in 40 games as he desired and dreamed. Since then, no player who will do this again has shown up on the stage.

Here is the video of Gretzky breaking the record:

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