Since its inception in 2007/08, the Euro Hockey League has been well known for its innovation as well as its exciting brand of top class hockey. The self-pass rule, own goals, shootouts and 2 minute suspensions for green cards have all come out of the competition, but this year we have seen some interesting innovation of a different kind.
Jeremy Gucasoff, the Racing Club de Bruxelles goalkeeper has made something of a name for himself as a specialist in the new style shootouts, pulling off saves in numerous big competitions to help his club and his country to enjoy some historic wins. He was up to his tricks again in the KO16, saving three times in the shootout to give Racing a 3-2 win over Rot Weiss Koln, setting up a clash with fellow Belgian outfit Waterloo Ducks in the KO8. What was noticeable, apart from his skill at what is becoming a key component of the modern goalkeeper’s game, was that before the shootout started, Gucasoff headed to the bench to collect a different, much longer stick to use. All three of his saves, including the vital third one from Joshua Delarber were made using this stick.
Whilst I hate to do the goalkeeper a disservice it is fair to say it seemed to give him a significant advantage with the increased reach ensuring he was able to get vital touches to keep the ball out, in particular on Delarber’s strike that ultimately clinched the tie.
Sport is decided on very small margins and coaches everywhere often talk of gaining that extra couple of percent wherever you can to ensure you make large gains overall. It is clear to see that there have been some large gains in this case off the back of the goalkeeper’s cunning. There is nothing to say Gucasoff cannot use the stick in question, either. The rules restrict the bow of a stick, the diameter and the weight but not, at the moment at least, the length, meaning that what the goalkeeper did is perfectly legal. I understand the win at all costs mentality that is prevalent in top level sport and I can only applaud the goalkeeper on exploiting the rules to their fullest to get his side over the line. The question I keep coming back to, though is whether or not it is in the spirit of the game and whether or not it is fair. So, what do you think? Vote below.
You can see pictures of the stick in question at the bottom of this page on the EHL website.