Fraser: Why the Kings could pick the Richards' penalty

Kerry Fraser
12/3/2011 11:17:53 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!

Happy Holidays Kerry!  I enjoy reading your column.  It gives great insight for us fanatics that want to know why. 
My question: I am an avid Los Angeles Kings fan and I was watching the Kings vs. Panthers game Thursday night. In the second period the Kings' Mike Richards took a slashing penalty after a hit by Florida's Bergenheim.  A scrum ensued, Richards and Jarret Stoll took roughing penalties and Bergenheim also took a roughing penalty.  So that left Florida with a two-minute penality and the Kings had four minutes to Richards and two minutes to Stoll. The Kings had a choice of a two man disadvantage or a 4 minute double minor disadvantage.  Why did the Kings get a choice? Is seems like Florida should have gotten to choose.  How is it in the rules?  Thanks!
Dan Hauptman
Palmdale, CA
At 16:52 of the second period on Thursday - Florida Panthers and LA Kings.
Kings forward Mike Richards took exception to a hit from Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim.
Richards gave Bergenheim a slash and followed him up ice to rough him up some more.
On the play, Bergenheim ended up with a roughing minor. Richards got a slashing minor and roughing minor. The roughing penalties occur seconds apart, not 'coincidental.'
According to the in-game announcers, the Kings were given the choice of:
1) A two-minute 5-on-3
2) A four-minute 5-on-4
Didn't realize this happens, what is the background on why teams are given a choice - and when does it apply?
Thanks Kerry,
Phil Ross

Dan and Phil:

I'll take you through some of the history of the coincidental minor penalty rule but first let me quickly clarify Phil's question regarding the "real time" difference between infractions/incidents that are treated as "coincidental."

Even though Mike Richards' delayed slashing minor occurred during play and the minor penalties to Jarret Stoll, Sean Bergenheim and additional minor to Richards resulted from the ensuing scrum after play was stopped, the time on the clock is the determining factor with regard to application of rule 19—coincidental penalties.  The penalties were all assessed at 16:52 and therefore treated as "coincidental."

The coincident minor penalty application changed back and forth during my 30 year NHL career. When the Edmonton Oilers were dominating during the early 1980's, their power-play could often be a game breaker with the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey and so on.

Being the intelligent coach that he was and hockey man that he is, Glen Sather recognized that near the end of regulation time in close or tied games his best weapon (beyond a power-play) would be to open up the ice for his young guns by creating a four-on-four situation.

At times like this an Oiler player would engage an opponent (usually in a scrum after the whistle) and a face-wash would result in a push or punch back and forth that escalated to minor penalties being assessed to a player from each team. While "Slats" never said thank you for making this call his lack of protest and usual grin was a signal that the rules were working to his team's advantage.

You might suggest that the other team just needed to be disciplined and not get drawn into the battle but that didn't usually happen. An "Oiler Rule" was created where these penalties were treated as coincidental and not served for a few years just like major penalties causing the teams to play five-on-five.

The aspect of the rule eventually returned to what we currently operate under which states, "When one minor penalty is assessed to one player of each team at the same stoppage of play, these penalties will be served without substitution provided there are no other penalties in effect and visible on the penalty clocks. Both teams will therefore play four skaters against four skaters for the duration of the minor penalties." 

If a team was to perfect the art of drawing an opponent into mutual roughing minors like the "Oilers of old" it could be a huge benefit to certain teams. Just think of the teams with personnel that thrive when a four-on-four results in OT.

The coincidental penalty rule was expanded to include not just major penalties and majors where minor penalties were attached but to include multiple minor penalties as well. Rule 19.1 in the current rule book states, "When multiple penalties are assessed to both teams, equal numbers of minor and major penalties shall be eliminated using the coincident penalty rule and any differential in time penalties shall be served in the normal manner and displayed on the penalty time clock accordingly."

Rule 19.5 attempted to make it less complicated by stating:

(i)  Cancel as many major and/or match penalties as possible.
(ii)  Cancel as many minor, bench minor and or double-minor penalties as possible.

We received this new rule at training camp the year it was instituted. As was often the case, the guys that were most familiar with rule application and consequences one rule might have on another (the officials) started posing various "what if" scenarios.  We came up with a whole bunch where a team could end up being forced to defend a five-on-three situation. Some concern was expressed that a minor penalty might be overlooked to avoid putting a team in this spot (even though deserved). The referees did not want to be perceived as "accountants" balancing the books as so often was the case. (Did I just hear someone say "even-up"?)

It was then our recommendation and sent up the chain of command for approval that a team should have the choice as to which minor penalty they wanted cancelled against that could result in an option of a five- on-three for two minutes or five-on-four for four minutes. That "choice" was a no brainer even though I had one coach tell me he needed a minute to think about it and the present application was approved.

Please don't get wigged out by the math but here are just some of the scenarios from Table 17 in the rule book that provide for a Captain's Choice and the refs have to know and apply:

Team A            Penalties        Team B      Penalties
A3                         2+5              B10                2  
A5                           2                B12                5

Team A will play one player short-handed for 2 minutes. Team A Captain's Choice to determine which penalty would go on the clock. Should A3 be chosen, then an additional team A player must be placed on the penalty bench to serve the minor penalty for A3.  

A3                       2+2               B10                2
A5                       2

Team A Captain's Choice to play one player short-handed for four minutes or two players short-handed for two minutes. Should he choose the latter, an additional team A player must be placed on the penalty bench to serve the minor penalty for A3 (*Mike Richards situation)

A3                     2+5                 B5                 2+5
A4                  2+2+5               B7                 5+5

Team A will be short-handed either one player for four minutes, or two players for two minutes (Captain's Choice). Team B will be short-handed for five minutes (Captains Choice which major serves.)

A3                   2+5                  B5                 2+2+5
A4                     5                     B7                 5+5

Team B will be short-handed either one player for seven minutes or two players, one for two minutes and one for five minutes (Captain's Choice)

A3                   2+5                  B5                  5
A4                   5

Team A will be short-handed, either one player for seven minutes, or two players, one for two minutes and one for five minutes (Captain's Choice)

While these are only a small sampling from the Coincidental Penalties Table that the referees must know, it is my hope that you will take this as a weekend homework assignment and memorize each one of these situations.

Try and appreciate how you would need to recall each of them in an instant while under pressure in a game with 20,000 people in the Staples Arena in Los Angeles looking on.

TGIF!  Have a wonderful weekend everyone and Happy Holidays to all. 

Post Weekend Update on Ryan Getzlaf double minor in OT:

It appears as though everyone is either busy completing the homework assignment by studying Table 17, could care less about the captain's choice or is suffering from mathematical hangover. Whatever the case, I hope you now recognize that rules can sometimes be complicated and the referee's task not all that easy.

In response to the questions back at Supermanpaulsson and perma-dissapointed-Torontonian with regard to Ryan Getzlaf's untimely and undisciplined outburst in OT, I provide you with the following answer.

Rule 39-Abuse of Officials is intended to provide for the assessment of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to any player that challenges or disputes the ruling of an official. "A player, goalkeeper, coach or non-playing person shall not display unsportsmanlike conduct including, but not limited to, obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures, comments of a personal nature intended to degrade an official, or persist in disputing a ruling after being told to stop or after being penalized for such behavior."

The officials apply a graduating scale from unsportsmanlike conduct to a misconduct followed by a game misconduct if the player persists in abusive conduct.

So in the first instance, a minor penalty is assessed Getzlaf as spelled out in rule 39.2 and includes a player who bangs the boards with their stick: "A minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be assessed under this rule for the following infractions: (iii)  Any player or players who bang the boards with their sticks or other objects at any time, or who, in any manner show disrespect for an official's decision."

This penalty is elevated to an additional misconduct if the player persists in his dispute of the referee's ruling under rule 39.3—Misconduct Penalty: (iii) Any player or players who bang the boards with their sticks or other objects at any time, showing disrespect for an official's decision, for which they have already been assessed a minor or bench minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Ryan Getzlaf received the appropriate penalty (an unsportsmanlike conduct minor) for his dispute of the initial penalty call. Had Getzlaf persisted in his abusive actions, the next step would have included the assessment of a misconduct penalty.

I trust a valuable and costly lesson was learned by Ryan Getzlaf


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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