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Fraser: Determining varying degrees of boarding

Kerry Fraser
5/21/2011 2:58:04 PM
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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!

Dear Mr Fraser,
I am confused a little. What was different between Ben Eager's hit on Daniel Sedin that resulted in a mere 2-minute minor penalty and Jamie McGinn's hit on Aaron Rome that got McGinn thrown out of the game with a 5-minute major and game misconduct?

Hi Brad:

Great question and let me attempt to clear up some confusion over the difference in assessment.

The referee is called upon to exercise an enormous amount of judgment to determine varying degrees of boarding.  Once a boarding infraction is identified the assessment options are a two-minute minor; five-minute major; five-minute major plus an automatic game misconduct (where injury resulted to the head or face as a result of the player struck); or a match penalty for deliberate attempt to or deliberate injury.

Several factors are taken into account for this purpose, including the degree of violence with which the player is thrown into the boards, if the player checked was aware of the impending hit (or should have been), and even the method used to execute the boarding such as a player that jumps/leaves his feet to launch upward into his opponent thereby creating increased velocity and a higher point of impact. In the end, the severity of the penalty is determined by the "degree of violence of the impact with the boards" at the referee's discretion.

A player struck on the back part of the body and unaware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself (get a hand up in front to cushion the resulting impact with the boards or glass); then a checking from behind penalty can be assessed if he is thrown violently into the boards.  All of these options are available to the referee when a player is driven hard into the boards.  It is viewed in real time from whatever angle he has in the moment.  No excuses or cop-outs here gang; just something for you to envision as we dissect the different assessments on the Eager vs. McGinn hits.

I wrote in a previous article that I believed Ben Eager should have received a five-minute major penalty for boarding Daniel Sedin based on the degree of impact with the boards.  The fact that no apparent injury resulted to Sedin is why a game misconduct would not have been imposed under my assessment.  In the referee's judgment, from his perspective and vantage point, he deemed it to be a two-minute minor penalty.  We can agree to disagree or he might have changed his opinion once seeing a replay of the hit from a different angle. Either way, he exercised his judgment on the play.

In the Jamie McGinn hit on Aaron Rome, after factoring in all of the above criteria "under the current standard," it would have been a two-minute boarding penalty at the point of contact.  The criteria I speak of is relative to McGinn's attack speed and angle, method of hitting (feet on ice, straightened up and turned and utilized his back to make contact vs. launch and elbow - all good and acceptable measures were employed). 

Additionally, Rome appeared to be aware of the impending hit by making eye contact with McGinn well in advance as Rome pursued the loose puck in the corner.  The two-minute minor status of this penalty for boarding changed when the injury (cut) resulted to Rome's face from hitting the glass.  It then would become a five-minute major penalty which is accompanied by an automatic game misconduct where injury to the face or head results. 

Rome didn't put his own face into the glass; it was a result of the impact of the hit. Even though, in this particular case, upping the penalty would be result oriented, it is the reality of the decision making process.
Through the evidence of injury, (blood leak) the referee would be vilified if he didn't assess a major penalty.  Brad Watson made the correct assessment on this play.  Conversely, if Rome had taken the hard hit, dusted himself off and NO evidence of injury resulted, many of those same critics would have vilified Watson for assessing a major penalty at that point.  It was a two-minute penalty that had a bad ending.

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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