Fraser: Discussing Letang's goal and Pacioretty's hit

Kerry Fraser
11/28/2011 4:18:32 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!

Hello Mr. Fraser,

As the Habs posted another overtime lose Saturday night against the Pens, shouldn't the ref be taking the blame for this one? The ref was clearly on the other side of the action and was unable to see that Price had the puck tucked under his glove until the Pens forecheckers were able to hack enough until the puck was freed. Price had the puck under his glove for at least 1-2 seconds and usually with that much traffic in front of the net, or in this case, the side of the net, the play is whistled dead. Isn't there a rule that if the ref loses sight of the puck that a whistle should blown? Shouldn't the refs come out and explain their actions? Can you explain on their behalf?

Danny Greenspan,
Montreal, Quebec


The C'Mon Ref mailbag was overflowing with questions relative to the overtime game winning goal scored by Kris Letang, the Max Pacioretty hit on Letang that broke his nose and even as to why Letang was allowed to return to the game with traces of blood on his jersey. Let me pick them off in order.

Check out the attached 'viz' here (video link) and here (video link) and you will see that Montreal Canadiens goalkeeper Carey Price clearly had the puck covered sufficiently for the whistle to blow.  It is also obvious that the goal line referee on the opposite side of the net was unable to determine if the puck was frozen from this vantage point. No different than the rule of Real Estate it's all about location, location, location.

There have been times when I blew the whistle prematurely (especially early in my career) thinking that the puck was frozen only to see it squirt loose and enter the net after I had killed the play. In times like that I wanted to suck the air back out of the whistle but it was too late - the sound had already escaped and permeated the arena.
From experiences like this I learned to be more patient and make sure that the puck was in fact frozen. If I was in a position on the opposite side of the net I very quickly moved around the back of the net to gain a proper sight line in a scramble around the net prior to blowing the whistle.

In the two-referee system it is incumbent upon the referee at the blue line (and in this particular case on the same side of the ice with a view of Carey Price freezing the puck) to step up on the play and assist his partner by blowing his whistle at the instant the puck was dug out of the frozen grasp of goalkeeper Price and prior to a goal being scored.

While somewhat unorthodox, there is precedent and guidelines for this to actually take place within the two referee system. Both referees share equal authority in all matters pertaining to the enforcement of the playing rules.

The referee closest to the play does not always have the best sightline as we saw in this case. When that occurs on an infraction of the rules his partner can make a long-distance call from that vantage point to stop play and assess a penalty.

When the puck is frozen down the wall on the side the back referee is standing you will often see him stop play.  The same is true in the event of a hand pass or puck that has been struck with a high stick.

If a goal is scored where there has been goalkeeper interference that went undetected by the referee on the goal line (often during a goal-mouth scramble) then the back referee can insert his judgment, disallow the goal and if the contact was not deemed incidental assess a penalty to the offending player. 

When the puck is shot by a defending player over the glass from within his defending zone there is often a huddle of officials to determine if the puck was deflected out of play prior to any assessment.

With all these examples there is nothing that can prevent the back referee from stepping up and stopping the play if he sees that the puck was frozen.

I called a penalty shot one night on Long Island from the blue line during a scramble around the net. My partner was on the opposite side of the net looking through the backs of multiple players attempting to find the location of the puck.  I moved inside the blue line and from this vantage point opposite to my partner I clearly saw a defenseman in the goal crease pick the puck up with his hand and throw it in the corner. I immediately raised my hand, blew the whistle and assessed a penalty shot. The right call was made.  When calls of this nature are made from a perceived longer distance the onus is on that back referee to be sure that he is correct but should not be avoided.

While a decision will be announce sometime later today, Max Pacioretty knows firsthand the result of a devastating hit to the head.  I am positive that Max feels complete remorse for his blindside hit to the head of Kris Letang.  These plays must be dealt with swiftly and harshly to stop the bleeding from continuing.

Speaking of bleeding, we also got a question from Andree-Anne Godin who asked why Kris Letang was allowed to return to the game with traces of blood on his jersey in violation of rule 8.3 which states, “A player who is bleeding or who has visible blood on his equipment or body shall be ruled off the ice at the next stoppage of play. Such player shall not be permitted to return to play until the bleeding has been stopped or the cut or abrasion covered (if necessary). It is required that any affected equipment and/or uniform be properly decontaminated or exchanged.”

Andree-Anne, the highly skilled and professional trainers and equipment managers that each NHL team employs operate under strict guidelines regarding this issue. While there might have been a stain on Letang's jersey that you could detect, I can assure you that it was properly decontaminated with chemicals prior to his return to the game. Given the extent of his injury I was surprised to see the small amount of blood that found its way onto the neck area of Letang's jersey as he was assisted to the dressing room for treatment.

I would have preferred to hear the whistle blow prior to Kris Letang digging the puck out of Carey Price's glove and putting it into the net than any concern that his jersey wasn't sanitized. I guarantee the jersey was fit for play.

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!

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

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