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C'mon Ref Kerry Fraser reviews the Mighty Ducks

Kerry Fraser with Mike Hetherington (@Mjheth) May. 5, 2014 10:49 PM
In this special Bardown edition of C'mon Ref, former NHL referee Kerry Fraser reviews plays from the 1992 classic, The Mighty Ducks. Enjoy as Fraser breaks down key plays from the movie and answers the oft-asked question; was the Flying V offside?



As the team then known as "Division 5" plays their first game under coach Gordon Bombay, the opening sequence appears to be filled with infractions. Which one's, in your opinion, should have been called; the racial comment prior to the drop of the puck? The apparent interference after the draw? The illegal helmets being worn by District 5? How about knocking an opponent's helmet off during a goal celebration?



Being assigned to this game would have been a ref's worst nightmare!

The majority of the Mighty Ducks players would be disqualified from participating in the game even prior to the opening face-off based on various equipment violations; Rule 9.1--all players of each team shall be uniformly dressed with "approved" design and color of their helmets, sweaters, short pants, stockings and skates. Any player or goalkeeper not complying with this rule shall not be permitted to participate in the game.

Prior to the opening puck drop I would have firmly addressed the highly inappropriate, racially charged "Oreo Cookie line" comment by assuming the role of a "Political Correctness Police Officer." I would have immediately insisted upon a sincere apology be delivered by the Hawks player with the threat of ejection from the game under rule 23.7 (ii) racial taunts and slurs. If I was satisfied with a sincerity of the apology I would have escorted the Hawks player to his bench and placed the Coach on notice that any further such episodes from any of his players would result in a game misconduct. (In my book, The Final Call, Hockey Stories From a Legend in Stripes, I describe two separate incidents where I forced a player to provide a sincere apology during a stoppage in play for 'trash-talking' his opponent with comments that fell way below the line based on my moral compass. Matthew Barnaby wounded Claude Lemieux of the NJ Devils in a Stanley Cup Playoff game with inappropriate comments made about Lemieux's wife.

On December 20, 2000 in a game at Madison Square Garden, Tyson Nash of the visiting St. Louis Blues made reference to Theo Fleury's recent return from the NHL imposed substance abuse program that deeply hurt Fleury. Following a very powerful apology, Tyson Nash, to this day claims the event was life altering and career changing for him to recognize that no matter how badly he wanted to win certain things and comments were completely "off-sides"! Tyson Nash credits me as the referee in that game for "playing Dad" in providing him with an epiphany moment.)

Back to the Hawks-Mighty Ducks game. After issuing a non-negotiable warning to both the Hawks player and his Coach I would have quick-triggered a penalty for interference immediately following the opening puck drop (Rule 56--Interference; rule 76.6--violations--In the conduct of any face-off at any of the nine (9) face-off spots on the playing surface, no player facing-off shall make any physical contact with this opponent's body by means of his own body or by his stick except in the course of playing the puck after the face-off has been completed. For violation of this rule, the Referee may, at his discretion impose a minor penalty or penalties on the player(s) whose action(s) caused the physical contact.)

Following the celebration of the Hawks goal a minor penalty for roughing would be warranted and assessed to Hawks player for striking the Mighty Ducks player in the head and knocking off his helmet. (Rule 51--roughing is the punching motion with the hand or fist, with or without the glove on the hand, normally directed at the head or face of an opponent.)

In their final game of the regular season, the Ducks find themselves two points out of a playoff spot. Knowing a tie would end their season, the coach Bombay pulls the goaltender to add an extra attacker. After the Ducks win the face-off Fulton Reed turns the puck over, he chases down the man and hits him to take the puck and score the game winning goal. Kerry, do you view Fulton's hit on the back-check as a hit from behind? Had the penalty been called the Ducks likely would not have another chance to score and therefore would have fallen short of the playoffs.



Fulton Reed executed what is typically deemed to be a "legal open-ice push" with his glove even though the shove occurred from behind. A play of this nature generally occurs in cycle battles down low and the shove executed by the player on the chase is allowed so long as the puck carrier isn't launched into the boards or goal frame. What makes Fulton Reed's push on this play more difficult for a referee to allow is the fact that the shove results in a takedown and change of possession during the course of a breakaway. The ref would be hard-pressed however to come up with an appropriate foul terminology on this play since it doesn't fall under the specific language contained in the rules for a hit from behind, cross-check, trip, hook, slash, high-stick or even roughing which is defined as "punching motion". It is simply put, a "push"! If a push/shove with a glove from behind is deemed to be legal in the corner of the ice it should be consistently applied in this area of the open ice as well.

Besides, what referee would ever want to deny Coach Bombay and the Mighty Ducks a shot at the playoffs in this made for Hollywood play!

Do you believe the player who hit Adam Banks from behind on a breakaway should have been ejected from the game? A two-minute crosschecking minor was assessed on the play. We want to know is, can a referee call a minor penalty if a goal is scored on the play?



When Adam Banks was struck from behind by McGill, while on a breakaway and thrown violently into the goal post thereby sustaining an apparent serious injury, the referee erred in assessing a minor penalty for cross-checking. Aside from the fact that the Mighty Ducks goal scored on the play would have negated the assessment of a minor penalty, the very best judgment would be for the referee to impose a major penalty and game misconduct to McGill for either a check from behind (rule 43) or for cross-checking (rule 59).

Rule 43 — checking from behind — a check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. A player who cross-checks, pushes or charges from behind an opponent who is unable to defend himself, shall be assessed a major penalty. This penalty applies anywhere on the playing surface. A game misconduct penalty must be assessed anytime a major is applied for checking from behind.

Rule 59 — Cross-checking — the action of using the shaft of the stick between the two hands to forcefully check an opponent. A minor or major penalty, at the discretion of the Referee based on the severity of the contact, shall be imposed on a player who "cross-checks" an opponent. When a major penalty is assessed for cross-checking, an automatic game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on the offending player.

Aside from the force and location of the blow (on the back of Banks), the referee must also consider if Banks was aware of the impending hit and if he had the ability to defend himself. It is reasonable to expect that Adam Banks was incapable of either one of these conditions. While judging the illegal act on its merit the referee can't help but factor in the resulting injury.

In the final assessment McGill delivered an aggressive cross-check directly from behind that caused Banks to crash into the goal post and sustain an injury. C'mon Ref would impose a 5 minute major and game misconduct to McGill for cross-checking. The goal scored by Adam Banks would obviously stand and the Hawks would have to place a player in the penalty box to serve McGill's major penalty prior to its expiration (rule 20.3). No relief would be entitled the Hawks regardless how many goals the Mighty Ducks might score during the major penalty.

As the Ducks debut the Flying V for the first time, the team breaks formation prior to the blue line, do you believe this play offside as the wingers enter the zone? Two players may have crossed before the puck.



Upon further review the Mighty Ducks remained onside as the puck was advanced to Jessie Hall at the front of the Flying-V just prior to crossing their attacking blue line. The Flying-V moved up ice as Harry Hall of the Mighty Ducks carried the puck from a protected, safe and legal position at the back of the V. Just prior to gaining their attacking blue line, the puck was passed through the legs and onto the stick of the lead Duck in the V; #9 Jessie Hall.

After gaining possession of the puck, Jessie Hall advanced the puck across the leading edge of the blue line with his stick and then pulled up to protect the puck from defenders and to allow his wingers to attack the net. Once the puck crosses the leading edge of the blue line all attacking players are eligible to enter the zone and deemed to be on-side. It is also important to note that an attacking player's skates and not that of his stick are the determining factor in all instances in deciding an off-side as per rule 83. A player is off-side when both skates are completely over the leading edge of the blue line prior to the puck crossing that same leading edge. Jessie Hall got the puck across the leading edge of the attacking blue line and his teammates then entered the zone legally on-side.

Further to this rule a player actually controlling the puck, who crosses the line ahead of the puck shall not be considered off-side. If the attacking player is deemed to have "possession and control" of the puck he can actually skate backwards across the blue line with the puck on his stick. (In this situation the player's skates are allowed to cross the leading edge of the blue line prior to the puck!)

After Charlie Conway draws a penalty shot at the end of the regulation, the ref tells coach Bombay that "any player on the ice" can take the shot. Is that correct rule?



Our Hollywood script writer once again erred in the application of the rules when the referee informed Coach Bombay that any player on the ice was allowed to take the penalty shot after Charlie Conway was fouled from behind on a breakaway and denied a reasonable scoring opportunity.

Rule 24.3 states that in cases where a penalty shot has been awarded to a player specifically fouled, that player shall be designated by the Referee to take the penalty shot. Charlie Conway was the player fouled and as such should have been identified by the referee as the player eligible to take the penalty shot. The caveat to this portion of the rule is if by reason of injury, the player designated by the referee to take the penalty shot is unable to do so within a reasonable time, the shot may be taken by a player selected by the Captain of the non-offending team from the players on the ice when the foul was committed.

In all other cases where a penalty shot has been awarded, the penalty shot shall be taken by a player selected by the Captain of the non-offending team from players on the ice at the time when the foul was committed.

At Joe Louis Arena on February 11, 1982 in a game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Red Wings a perfect storm developed on the ice where I was called upon to impose all of the above conditions in two penalty shots I assessed against Detroit in the final period. The following is an excerpt from my book, The Final Call, as to what took place that eventful evening in the Motor City.

The Red Wings were leading 4-2 midway through the third period when Detroit defenceman Jim Schoenfeld grabbed the puck with his hand in the goal crease during a scramble around the net. I immediately blew my whistle and assessed a penalty shot to Vancouver. The shot could be taken by any Canuck player who had been on the ice at the time of the infraction. Coach Harry Neale selected Thomas Gradin, and he buried it against Detroit goalie Gilles Gilbert.

The score was now 4-3 Detroit and with just over a minute to play, as Neale gave the signal to his goalie, Richard Brodeur, to come to the bench for an extra attacker in an effort to tie it up. With the Canucks' net empty, Detroit turned the puck over and Stan Smyl picked up the loose puck at the Vancouver blue line and raced in the other direction on a breakaway. Detroit defenceman Reed Larson chased Smyl down from behind. Just as Smyl was about to let a shot go from 15 feet out to the left of Gilbert, Larson took a two-handed swing and chopped the Stanley Steamer down, causing the Canuck forward to slide into the goalpost and injure his leg. With just 30 seconds left in the game and Red Wings up by one goal, I blew my whistle and pointed to center ice to signal another penalty shot for the Canucks.

Vancouver trainer Larry Ashley had to come out and assist Stan Smyl off the ice. The injury he had sustained on the play meant he wouldn't be able to take the shot. Once again, Harry Neale had to select one of the players who had been on the ice at the time of the infraction. Czech star Ivan Hlinka was his choice. Neale told me later that his instructions to Hlinka were very clear; "If you don't score on this penalty shot, just keep skating right out the end of the rink, all the way back to Czechoslovachia!" Needless to say Ivan Hlinka scored the tying goal with 30 seconds remaining. The moment I signaled the goal, beer cups (many of them still full) and everything else that wasn't nailed down in the arena rained down in my direction.

Had I been the referee in the Mighty Ducks championship game I would have informed Coach Bombay that Charlie Conway was the player designated to take the penalty shot. That of course would only be if Conway had not been chopped down and injured on the play; which might have prevented him from taking the shot. Should that be the case, Coach Bombay could choose any other player who had been on the ice at the time of the infraction? Hopefully Bombay's instructions to that player would not be as direct and harsh as Harry Neale's were to Ivan Hlinka!

Finally, in your experience working in the NHL and other leagues, would you say tying a goaltender to the net typically frowned upon?



As a parent and grandparent I would convene a "special meeting" with the coach if I saw one of my own 'kids' tied to a goal frame and used for target practice! After all, in these modern times even children exercise their legal rights from time to time. This type of coaching technique could quickly escalate into a lawsuit; especially in the United States.The truth of the matter is this scene in Mighty Ducks wasn't just the creative imagination of some Hollywood script writer. There is precedent on the books of goalkeepers being tied to the crossbar in practice by HHOF legend Eddie Shore as coach and owner of the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League.

Shore was known for his highly skilled but exceptionally tough play as a defenceman for the Boston Bruins from 1926-40 and won the Hart Trophy as the NHL's MVP four times. The first NHL All-Star game benefit game, played at Maple Leaf Gardens February 14, 1934 raised $20,909.40 for Toronto Maple Leaf player Ace Bailey and his family. Bailey almost died from a skull fracture following a hit from behind by Eddie Shore in a game on December 13, 1933. Following his retirement as a player Shore became perhaps even more legendary as a coach and owner of his AHL franchise in Springfield, Massachusetts.

When Shore's goalkeepers would not buy into the "standup" style that the coach/team owner insisted upon, a rope was tied around their neck and attached to the cross-bar in practice to keep them on their feet! He forced his defencemen to enroll in dance lessons to develop their foot movement and spoke with the player's wives about abstaining from relations with their husbands the night before a game.

Eddie Shore was also known as an extremely cheap owner. He often forced players that were out of the lineup to perform maintenance tasks in the arena, clean the ice surface or work menial jobs during games. When I began my officiating career in 1973 as a contracted referee with the NHL I was assigned to work games in the AHL as well as the other minor professional leagues. While Eddie Shore still owned the Springfield Indians, his son Teddy ran the day to day operations of the hockey club. Teddy was a chip off the old block; a very hands on guy. Ted ran around the arena during games doing whatever he could to keep staffing and overhead costs to a bare minimum.

One game I worked in Springfield there were no beverages placed in the officials' room. I bumped into Teddy as I came off the ice at the end of the first period and informed him that we didn't have any water, soda or ice in our room. Shore Jr. was extremely apologetic and said, "Kerry I'll get you and the linesmen something to drink right away." Teddy Shore hurried off and returned a few minutes later with three cups of ice and ONE can of Coke! It would have been too expensive for the owner of the Springfield Indians to provide the referee and linesmen with a drink each.

(from Wikepedia) It is of little wonder to me that during the 1967 season, the entire Indians team refused to play after Shore suspended three players without pay, including future NHL star Bill White, for what he said was "indifferent play." When the team asked for an explanation, Shore suspended the two players who spoke for the team, one of whom was Brian Kilrea. Alan Eagleson, then a little-known lawyer and sometime politician, was brought in to negotiate with Shore on the players' behalf. The battle escalated for months, ending with Shore giving up day-to-day operations of the club; the genesis of the National Hockey League Players' Association stems from that incident. Shore continued to be owner until he sold the team in 1976.

Even though Coach Bombay taught Goldberg to face his fear of being hit with the puck by tying the young goalie to the posts as the Mighty Ducks blasted away was just 'Eddie Shore—old school' inappropriate.