On Morgan Rielly, helmets, and the blame game


Morgan Rielly lost his helmet along the boards with about two and a half minutes left to play. It happens. He changed, the Leafs moved into the offensive zone, the helmet stayed in the corner. He prayed for a stoppage in play, or a helmet he could wear. He got neither, and Brad Marchand soon scored the game-winning goal.

The Hockey Night in Canada broadcasting crew immediately placed the blame on him.

“The guy who should be out there is sitting on the bench without a helmet,” said Craig Simpson as the Bruins celebrated.”I mentioned that they needed to get him one, and they brought him Frankie Corrado’s. It didn’t fit. They couldn’t get it on, and so on a shift, Marincin ends up going out and what happens? The puck follows you around. A turnover, and a potential game-winning goal with 47 seconds [remaining]. All because Morgan Rielly couldn’t find a helmet that fit.”

That would be a fine description of the unfortunate events if it stopped there.

“Just wear it.” Simpson said of Corrado’s helmet. “Even if it doesn’t fit, get out there. Instead, far too long, he could have taken another player’s, bad mistake. Head down, as Marincin had to play forever, turns the puck over, and gives the go-ahead goal.”

Well, not actually. Rielly absolutely went a long time without stepping on the ice, but this didn’t mean that Marincin was in the midst of an extended shift. In fact, he had just got on the ice, subbing on for Dion Phaneuf at 1:01, just 14 seconds before the goal after a rest of about 1:40. It’s not the most opportune scenario, but not overly unusual; especially if you’re on one of the two penalty killing units like Marincin is.

Glenn Healy sided with Simpson on the issue. “I gotta tell you, I put that one on Rielly a bit because Josh Leivo next to him offered him the helmet.” said Healy. “You gotta be a little more aggressive and say ‘I’ll take anybody’s on the bench’. The one that came out there from the room didn’t fit, but you gotta get out there and get playing.”

Taking a look at the footage, however, I don’t think there was much time for that.

Rielly (he’s on the bench, directly at the blue line) first receives Corrado’s helmet at 1:08, seven seconds before Marincin hops on the ice. The close-up clip they showed us, which one would presume was the second attempt to put on the helmet, shows Phaneuf getting on the bench, meaning it happened after Marincin had already got on; at this point. Rielly gets the helmet for a second time as Phaneuf is being seated, meaning there’s no time to replace Marincin.

Can you say that Rielly should have tried on Leivo’s helmet? Perhaps. But at that point, it probably wasn’t as much  “I give up on trying on helmets” so much as it was “he’s already on the ice, no worries”.

With all due respect, what I found particularly concerning, were the options that the broadcasters suggested Rielly should have taken. “Put a helmet on to skate out there, and get rid of it, if it doesn’t fit properly,” said Simpson, while Healy eventually countered with “I wonder if he could get on the ice without one? What’s the recourse? A whistle? A penalty?” 

Out of curiosity, I consulted the NHL Rulebook to find out, and found this nugget in Section 9.6:

A player may continue to participate in the play without his helmet.
However, if he goes to his players’ bench to be substituted for, he may
not return to the ice during play without a helmet
(nor may a player
exit the penalty bench during play without a helmet). Should he do so,
the play shall be stopped once his team has gained control of the
. If the play is stopped for such an infraction in the attacking zone,
the ensuing face-off will take place at the nearest face-off spot in the
neutral zone of the non-offending team. If the play is stopped for such
an infraction in the defending or neutral zone, the ensuing face-off will
take place at the nearest face-off spot to the location of the puck in
that zone when the play was stopped.

One can imagine that Mike Babcock will, moving forward, keep this rule in his consideration if he hasn’t already. With that said, the Leafs were on the counter-attack searching for a game-winning goal at the moment that the Phaneuf/Hunwick pairing switched out for Polak/Marincin, so I doubt that the team would strategically negate that.

Because Simpson and Healy were unaware of the rule, however, the suggestion was that Rielly go out there with the intention of playing without a helmet, either immediately or “by accident” once on the ice. The NHL hasn’t had a player go without a helmet on a non-accidental basis since 1997, and helmets have been mandatory for all players who have entered the league since 1979. Recently, they expanded that to include visors or cages as a mandatory accessory?

Why? Because playing hockey without a helmet, especially at the highest level with the fastest and strongest players, is extremely dangerous. 

Look next to Morgan Rielly in the first GIF. You’ll find Jake Gardiner, who suffered a significant concussion in 2012. He even appeared to rush himself back, playing well below his standard for weeks on end afterwards. It wasn’t fun to watch; it was scary. He had a helmet on that was fitted to himself. It wasn’t enough that time, but it had probably saved him before.

He’s not the only one on the Leafs to have at least one concussion during their career that the public knows about. Nazem Kadri. PA Parenteau. Shawn Matthias. Michael Grabner. Leo Komarov. Roman Polak. Joffrey Lupul. James Reimer, who was backing up in goal. Even Leivo, who offered up his helmet, suffered a pretty notable concussion when playing in the OHL with the Sudbury Wolves. That’s ten of his 19 teammates tonight, who in more optimal circumstances, still suffered traumatic head injuries over their careers. Of the nine who didn’t, three (Hunwick, Phaneuf, and Richard Clune) have accidentally ended players careers with a check or a bunch that ended in something worse than anticipated.

If you’re Morgan Rielly, a super promising, already brand-name young player who has no history of head injuries, do you want to take the risk? Especially when you’re going to be rushing to score a goal? Especially when you’re facing the Boston Bruins, one of the most physical teams in hockey? If you’re Mike Babcock, do you want him doing it? If you’re Leafs management, who are currently watching over William Nylander as he recovers from a hit to the head from nearly a month ago, do you want to see Morgan Rielly out there?

Is it worth maybe getting two points when you’re near the bottom of the standings? No way.

Here’s the big-picture reality of the situation. Morgan Rielly lost his helmet and the play lasted longer without a whistle than anybody expected. The equipment staff, not expecting to have to fetch him a helmet, didn’t grab one for a while. By the time Rielly could even get Frank Corrado’s helmet on his head, Marincin and Polak went out in front of him. Once he got it on his head, he didn’t feel safe with it and hoped for the play to pause.

At that moment, Martin Marincin made an atrocious dump pass that negated his otherwise decent-ish night and Brad Marchand fired a puck into a net left empty by Jonathan Bernier, who stopped the puck for Marincin to give away. Does the situation change of Rielly’s out instead? Maybe. Or maybe a helmetless Morgan Rielly gets to the puck faster than Marincin did, decides to attempt to rush it out, and gets dummied by Marchand. To be honest, I’m okay with having not found out. In my eyes, nobody did anything wrong.

Well, other than Marincin. He probably wants that pass back more than Mo wanted his bucket.

  • Gary Empey

    The CBC crew were wrong. Bernier (tweedle Dumb) should of stayed in the net. Martin Marincin (Tweedle Dumber) picked the worst time to turn the puck over. I shouldn’t have thrown that beer at the TV.

  • Gary Empey

    That was a horrible no look backhand up the boards by Marincin with 43 seconds to go.

    Leafs spent too much time in their zone at times but found a way to come even and make it a decent game before Marincin’s error. I’m hoping Corrado gets more games in soon.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Agreed. They jump on a blame-the-victim storyline to create sensation. The hero-in-waiting (Rielly) enacting his hidden character flaw (the narcissist picky about his helmet) to bring down the team. When in fact, it’s a less interesting narrative: a mediocre player (Marincin) making a bad move at a crucial time.

      They want a Greek tragedy, when it’s just the Leafs’ being a fallible team playing at their capacity.

    • CMpuck

      Kipper is so played out, can’t even watch sportsnet anymore, PJ Stock isn’t funny or charming in the least, Healy is somewhat entertaining in the train wreck way, the ‘social media guru’ doesn’t work, Kevin Weekes looks like a 5 yo trying to read a school project in front of his peers, Cassie Campbell has been arguably the worse television ‘talent’ since her days on TSN2 she got her spot by being the best looking member of 90s team Canada women.

      Imagine TSN won the bid, Duffy, McKenzie & O’Neil would have make a great passing the torch product.

      Sportsnet sucks.

  • Gary Empey

    Glenn Healy is the biggest idiot in the hockey world if he would take Carey price out of his mouth and respected the team that actually paid him at one point in time we’d all be better because of it. I agree the crew they have makes everyone who watches dumber. Always against the leafs no matter what where the hell is bob cole hughson or whatever Simpson and Healy are ANTI maple leafs get them off of leafs broadcasts listened to them hype up the damn Bruins for years now. Sad when sportsnets terrible announcers are better

  • TGT23

    I’d rather have Reilly not on the ice wearing the wrong helmet risking concussion in a meaningless game during Year 1 of a rebuild if it is all the same to everyone else…

    This was hardly the cup finals.

    The blame goes to Marincin. Goalies do this 100 times a night and almost never do they have to worry about their D-man giving the puck away 1 second later for an empty net goal. Everyone except Marincin did as they were supposed to… Oh well. Moving on.

  • jasken

    So you are saying previous NHL players and cups winners are wrong in their assessment. How many games of hockey at NHL level have any of you played? They “KNOW” who it falls on. You miss your assignment your responsible plain and simple, the person filling in takes partial blame yes, but this falls on Reilly’s shoulders. He should have a spare helmet and gloves ready in wait incase of stuff like this happening.

    It dont matter who you think it should fall it dont change the fact that when Reilly’s turn to play came up he wasn’t ready. Do you people usually blame others if you cant do your job and others have to do it for you. They messed up blame them its not my fault, I wasn’t prepared, on time, and ready for work they made the mistake not me.

    I am not saying its all Reilly’s fault he bare’s some blame though. You cant really say if Reilly was out there the other team wouldn’t have scored it’s hypothetical situtation that will never be answered.

    • FlareKnight

      I’m just going to presume you are a troll, because you are ridiculous. But of course you can’t even spell Rielly’s name properly. So maybe there is no point in commenting on this since we don’t have any guy called Reilly on this team.

      You don’t need to be a former-NHL player to know these guys are idiots. A guy doesn’t score a goal, no one blames the points leader on the team who is on the bench. That’s just stupid.

      None of it is on Rielly, literally none of it. The blame is 100% on Marincin. He is an NHL defenceman, he should be able to avoid making moronic passes that put his team in a bad position that late in a game. He should be competent enough for that.

      Rielly couldn’t get his helmet, he shouldn’t be on the ice. Your example is actually stupid. If he doesn’t have a helmet, it’s not his time to be on the ice.

      So no, none of it is on Rielly and it is actually stupid that this turned into a point of discussion. If a guy needs his skate sharpened no one blames him for not being on the ice during a goal, if a guy needs to be stitched up no one blames him for not being on the ice during a goal, and no where else other than by those idiots is a guy blamed for a goal when he has to wait for the play to stop to get his helmet.

      • jasken

        Yeah I am the dumb one Phaneuf and Hunwick came off the ice at 19:02 and goal is scored at 19:13 now that is just coming off the ice. Here’s your sign cause you need it.

        Marincin plays 3 minutes all period blame the guy who rarely played and probably has a massive build up of lactic acid from sitting so dang long and followed by extended shift, only to sit again for extended period.

        Gardiner had been sitting since 16:28 so I could get behind that sure I could say Gardiner should have been instructed to go.

        The only problem is it’s not about who we think should have been out there Babcock instructed for Rielly to get ready. You can say well he didn’t have his helmet why not where is his spare helmet this is part of equipment manager’s function to bring them to them if something happens. Where is Rielly’s spare helmet and equipment if he’s borrowing someone else’s he wasn’t prepared was he.

  • FlareKnight


  • FlareKnight

    Rielly should not be the scape goat for this. To wear the helmet that would not fit could have been a career ending accident. What happens when the helmet comes off because it didn’t fit, then Rielly falls striking his unprotected head. Then it’s “what’s Rielly doing out there with a helmet that didn’t fit!”