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Fraser: How I handled players who tried to trick me into calls

Kerry Fraser
5/15/2011 11:22:26 AM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!

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Hey Kerry,

Thanks for doing this Q+A! I know I and many others are really enjoying your answers and learning from them as well!

Just wanted to know if you have any stories or examples of a time a player got high-sticked and attempted to bite his lip (or some similar attempt at drawing blood) to get an extra two minutes of power play time? In your experience, have you ever caught guys doing this and scoffed and just handed out the correct two minutes instead of a double minor?

Thanks,

Mike De Paoli

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Hi Kerry,

Unfortunately, diving will always be in hockey and there will always be players who are known divers. Did you as referee become less likely to call a penalty when the person being tripped or interfered with had burned you in the past with diving or embellishing?

Thanks for answering,

Dan Boucher,

Waterloo, Ontario

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Mike & Dan:
Both questions relate to players attempting to fool the referee and draw penalties in a win-at-all-cost effort. Fool me once; good for you. Fool me twice; shame on me. Let me provide examples to your questions as requested.

I saw one player attempt to bite his lip on a play. That's not to say it didn't happen more often but the play I am going to describe shocked me as more from the player that attempted it than from the attempt itself. In the end a lighter moment resulted with the would-be carnivore.

Murray Craven was a stellar player in the NHL for 18 seasons and a tremendous guy to deal with from my perspective. One night in the Philadelphia Spectrum when Murray was playing for the Flyers, he was attacking the net with the puck. A defenceman defended against him and brought his stick up in the direction of Craven's face. I was on the goal line looking directly at the play with a front view and saw that the stick missed Murray's face by a good foot. Craven kept the puck on his stick but proceeded to chomp on his bottom lip with his teeth. Murray wasn't able to draw blood and continued to bear down even as he shot the puck. The goalie made the save and I blew the whistle to stop play.

Through his continued efforts, a small puncture wound on Craven's bottom lip revealed some blood. Dabbing his hand to the bite mark, Murray presented the evidence to me with an appeal for a high-sticking penalty. I laughed at him and said "Murray, if you want the blood to flow at first bite, you need to get the trainer to sharpen your fangs when he sharpens your skates. There just isn't a penalty I can give the D-man for you biting yourself so in the future, I suggest you donate your blood to the Red Cross." 

Craven grinned and said, "You can't blame me for trying."

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In the mid 1980's, Tony Tanti enjoyed the best years of his NHL career as a sniper with the Vancouver Canucks. He could, without question, put the biscuit in the basket but I often found Tony trying to swim on the frozen pond of Pacific Coliseum following a spring off the high board. Back then, we didn't have an unsportsmanlike penalty to assess for diving. Our only deterrent was to make extra sure that repeat offenders didn't fool us. In the process, I am quite sure that some legitimate fouls might have been overlooked as well. 

Some players were really good at taking a dive and making it look like a natural fall that could result from a legitimate infraction.  Tanti wasn't very proficient at this part of his game, even though he attempted it often.  While I should have taken diving attempts by players in stride as part of the normal ebb and flow of a game, I regarded it as a personal affront. This clearly wasn't the right approach to take and it resulted in anger and frustration that I demonstrated against Tanti in his Pacific Aquarium one time.

Tanti was having another great season in 1986-87, (scored 41 goals to go along with 38 assists) but I lost it on him this night in question. On a personal level, I was dealing with tremendous anxiety and the negative emotions associated with a marriage divorce. My personal space at the time combined with Tanti's diving to form the perfect storm for my already frazzled emotions. In the process, I portrayed myself as a raving lunatic even though I entered the game determined not to let Tanti's diving attempts negatively impact my emotions or response.  I failed miserably.

Prior to the game, I received the game sheets from the official scorer and saw that Canucks coach Tom Watt listed Tanti as his starting left winger. At this point, I visualized all the flips and flops that I had seen from him in past games and began a mental visualization exercise, complete with positive self-talk to remain calm the first time it happened.  My internal conversation went something like this, "Kerry, you know that Tony Tanti is going to attempt to fool you and draw a penalty through a dive. You never get fooled by his dives nor, do you get angry at Tony for attempting this. That is his job; yours is to determine legitimate penalties.  You are always CALM & YOU NEVER GET UPSET OR ANGRY with Tony Tanti…"  And so the dialogue of positive self-talk went.

I dropped the puck, backed away feeling calm but excited for the game to unfold since I had prepared myself well. Just 15 seconds later, with me positioned on the opposite side of the ice, Tanti had the puck on his stick and was lightly touched by an opponent. He sprung into the air and looked in my direction before landing without so much as splash on the frozen pond. Play went in the other direction while I chased across the ice after Tanti, oblivious to the puck flow, as I screamed at him at the top of my lungs for diving. He took refuge at his players' bench and must have wondered what had gotten into this village idiot.

My response was obviously inappropriate. Some of you might even jump all over me for it. Be my guest. I guess we are human after all. Admittedly it took just 15 seconds for me to come unglued at a time in my life when a dive in a cold pool would have served me well. Oh, if only Tony Tanti had have invited me in for a swim. I'm sure the water was just fine.

P.S. Dan.  I'm quite sure Tony Tanti didn't get the benefit of any calls that night.  

Kerry Fraser

Kerry Fraser


Kerry Fraser is an analyst for the NHL on TSN and That's Hockey 2Nite on TSN2. As one of the league's most recognizable senior referees, he's worked 1,904 NHL regular season games and 261 playoff games during his 37-year career.


Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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