Open in App

92 years ago, a hockey legend popularizes a still common NHL tactic

By Mike Santa Barbara,

Jaroslav Halak Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On this day 92 years ago, an NHL goaltender was summoned off the ice in favor of an extra attacker for the first time.

On March 26, 1931, hockey legend Art Ross, then the head coach of the Boston Bruins, pulled goalie Tiny Thompson, leaving the net empty during a playoff game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Red Beattie replaced Thompson to give the Bruins a 6-on-5 advantage as they searched for a game-tying goal late. While Ross's tactic ultimately came up short, it did start a trend.

In fact, not only is pulling the goalie commonplace in the NHL, it's still evolving. Coaches are choosing to play with an empty net more and more these days, and some are employing the strategy earlier than in the past.

In today's NHL, it's not unusual to see a goalie pulled before the third period when logic dictates. Earlier this season, New York Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant utilized the technique against the Ottawa Senators, removing Jaroslav Halak with 3.0 seconds left in the first period ahead of an offensive end draw.

Much like the chance Ross took all those years ago, Gallant's didn't yield a positive result. However, with the rise of analytics in sports, teams in the NHL have begun to realize that taking the chance is better than not.

Data from Hockey-Graphs in 2020 found a correlation between pulling the goalie earlier and higher scoring percentages with an empty net.

According to, only the Rangers and Dallas Stars have a success rate that isn't in the negative when playing with an extra-attacker. However, half of the NHL's 32 teams have pulled their goalie 30 or more times during the 2022-23 campaign.

Ross, a two-time Stanley Cup Champion as a player and a Hockey Hall of Famer, has enormously impacted the sport. Each season, the NHL awards the league's leading scorer a trophy bearing his name. Nevertheless, it's unclear if Ross knew his actions nearly a century ago would have such a lasting effect.

Expand All
Comments / 0
Add a Comment
Local Boston, MA newsLocal Boston, MA
Most Popular newsMost Popular

Comments / 0