Fraser: The take on Miller, Carlson and the Hawks-Blues

Kerry Fraser
12/5/2011 4:46:37 PM
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Hi Kerry,
As a coach, player and fan I am looking to understand how Ryan Miller does not get at least a two-minute minor during the altercation that took place when Jordan Tootoo made contact with Miller. I get the protection of the goalie, but how does Miller get away with his retaliation?
I look forward to your explanation,
Bill King
Oshawa, Ontario 
Why didn't Brendan Shanahan have a hearing with John Carlson for his hit on Matt Cooke from last Thursday?
Sean Ferris
So every week, the rules are redefined by Brendan Shanahan! Now, it seems that elbowing somebody in the head, as John Carlson did to Matt Cooke at the end of the Caps/Pens game is legal! Last week, it wasn't legal? Where's the consistency? No call on or off the ice for it. Bizarre.
I love the column. All of us fans love to complain about the officials, so it's been very interesting to get the perspective of a real NHL official!
I'm asking about the Toewes-Backes scrum during Saturday night's game in St. Louis. The penalties as called were roughing to Backes and a double for roughing to Carcillo, who came in very late in the scuffle. I have two questions: Why was Toews not given a roughing penalty when he was obviously involved in the altercation with Backes? Why was Carcillo not given a game misconduct under rule 46.16 for being the third man in?
Pekin, Illinois
Howdy Ref,
I was hoping that you could help me to understand the ruling on the ice in Saturday night's match between the Blackhawks and Blues. With a scrum behind the Hawks' goal, David Backes became involved in a wrestling match with Jonathan Toews. They moved away from the pile and Toews dropped his gloves and grabbed Backes with one hand and had his right cocked to unleash a punch. Backes dropped his gloves, but before any punches could be thrown by either party, Carcillo entered the fray without his mittens missing as the obvious third man in. They all went to ground in a heap, and Toews was actually upright with Backes on the bottom of the pile and Toews threw a couple of punches. The ruling was two to Backes and four to Carcillo. Now, how did Carcillo not get the third-man-in, and how did Toews not receive anything?
Thanks for your help, and have a great weekend!
Dear All:

This is Rapid Fire Monday! After viewing the attached visuals on the questions you submitted my judgment on each play differs from the penalty assessment imposed in the game. I provide no stories or entertaining anecdotes today; just the straight up answer as to what I believe should have been assessed under the prescribed rules.


I watched the Buffalo-Nashville game (video) live and saw Jordin Tootoo charge into Ryan Miller. Even before Miller used his catching glove to pound Tootoo several times I had imposed a five-minute major and game misconduct to Tootoo in my mind. I agree totally with the referee(s) decision in this initial assessment on the play.

What I disagree with is the fact that Ryan Miller was given a free pass for his retaliation in the punches that he threw to the helmet of Tootoo with his catching glove. At the very minimum Miller should have received a minor penalty for roughing (if you bought into Miller's justification for self-defense which isn't at issue.)

Based purely on Ryan Miller's response for being hit in his goal crease a double minor for roughing was warranted for the number of shots he delivered in retaliation (Had Miller used his blocker a 5 minute match penalty would have resulted under rule 51.3).

An old-fashioned rugby scrum ensued and Paul Gaustad was singled out for a double roughing minor plus 10-minute misconduct for persisting to get at Tootoo and some minor resisting of linesman, Mark Shewchyk who did a very good job containing Gaustad. I found the assessment excessive and when a minor penalty would have sufficed to Gaustad.

Looking for a Nashville differential in the final penalty assessment, I would have assessed a roughing minor to Shea Weber for grabbing Paul Gaustad around the neck and wrestling him off the pile of players on top of Tootoo. My final assessment would have not differed in the one-minute power play time differential that Buffalo received but in identifying players deserving of penalties.

For Nashville I give Jordin Tootoo five and a game misconduct for charging; Shea Weber gets two for roughing; Buffalo Ryan Miller a double minor for roughing and Paul Gaustad two for roughing. This sets up the Buffalo captain's choice — play 4-on-3 for two minutes before receiving a three minute power play from Tootoo's major, or play 4-on-4 for four minutes prior to receiving a one minute power play differential. 


Sean and Rich:

The feed I watched (video) never went to an isolated replay due to the game timing out just after the elbow delivered by John Carlson on Matt Cooke as Carlson cleared a path for himself to jump into the rush. I caught enough of a quick look in real time that I believe this play was one that not only deserved an elbowing penalty, but a second look by Brendan Shanahan as Carlson extended his elbow outward and contacted the head of Cooke. This play appeared to be much worse than the contact delivered by Wojtek Wolski to the head of Daniel Alfredsson.
I can appreciate the intense scrutiny and pressure that Shanahan receives from team owners, general managers, player agents and even perhaps the NHLPA when players are suspended. You and I don't have to deal with it nor do we understand it.  It is real and does exist.

If there is one area where consistency is not only required but demanded is relative to illegal contact to the head. Perhaps all he had to look at was the same one that I saw in real time. If there was no tight camera shot on this their play it would be a hard one to rule on.  We need consistency however.


I deem Daniel Carcillo to be the third man in the altercation between Backes and Toews.  Here are the rule definitions and applications. You make the call.

Rule 51 - Roughing: Roughing is a 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. Roughing is a minor altercation that is not worthy of a major penalty to either participant. (*An altercation is a situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized.)

Rule 46.3 - Altercation: An altercation is a situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized.

Rule 46.16 - Third Man In: A game misconduct penalty, at the discretion of the Referee, shall be imposed on any player who is the first to intervene (third man in) in an altercation already in progress except when a match penalty is being imposed in the original altercation. This penalty is in addition to any other penalties incurred in the same incident.

The first scrum occurred at the stoppage of play behind the St. Louis goal after Russel and Patrick Kane shoved each other with their sticks.

Jonathan Toews attempted to intervene as a peacemaker and was promptly dragged away and engaged by David Backes.  As the gloves came off and they grabbled, Toews gave Backes a pretty good pop in the jaw with his sweater holding hand.

If there wasn't going to be a penalty assessed prior to this point in the 'situation' I would have to say that this was the ice-breaker and coincidental minor penalties would result if nothing further developed. So we now have a situation with at least one player going to be penalized. The definition of an altercation is satisfied.

Daniel Carcillo jumped into the altercation without his gloves on for the purpose of protecting his captain.  I can commend his thought process but in doing so he became the third man in the altercation. Just because Jonathan Toews was not penalized for his part in the original situation does not negate the fact he was involved with Backes in an altercation and deserving of at least a minor penalty.

What Daniel Carcillo did prevent was a scrum where minor penalties were going to be assessed from escalating into a fight between David Backes and Jonathan Toews. For that, Carcillo should have received a minor penalty for roughing and a game misconduct as the third man in. Backes and Toews should have received minor penalties for roughing.  A St. Louis power play would result for two minutes.

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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