Fraser: Anisimov's celebration, Downie off the bench

Kerry Fraser
12/9/2011 3:30:45 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!

Mr. Fraser,

At 6:37 in the second period of the Lightning and Rangers game on Thursday, Artem Anisimov did a celebration that led a scrum - which then led to a total of 40 minutes in penalties handed out. I am not here to talk/ask about what Anisimov did, but about how the whole situation was handled.  After watching the replay multiple times, I still can't understand how the refs gave him four minutes in roughing (where he threw no punches and was basically a punching bag!) and a 10-minute game misconduct.  And people are talking about how "classless" Anisimov was but in my opinion, Steve Downie jumping off the bench to just get into the scrum was much more "classless" when there was already five skaters on the ice. Why did the refs call nothing against Downie for jumping of the bench as the sixth skater and how did the Lightning end up with a power play after the scrum? It looked like more punches were thrown by the Lightning players than the Rangers players! Also do you believe Downie's antics will get looked at by the league and warrant a suspension?

Tim Szivos

Tim: Artem Anisimov's inappropriate celebration following his short-handed goal created a nightmare for the referee and linesman once "gang warfare" was employed by the Tampa Lightning players.

In situations like this there is generally so much infighting from close quarters that the primary objective for the officials becomes protecting the primary recipient (Anisimov) by keeping the wolves at bay. Some minor infractions can be missed while others overlooked to keep the end result as simple as possible.

I partially agree with you Tim and don't believe Artem Anisimov deserved one of the minor penalties for roughing he was assessed when he became a lightning rod for the majority of punches thrown.  The altercation was provoked with Arti's rifle shot (video) which in and of itself is worthy of two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Because the gesture incited a riot I would have likewise assessed a misconduct penalty under rule 75.4 (iii) Any player who persists in any course of conduct (including threatening or abusive language or gestures or similar actions) designed to incite an opponent into incurring a penalty.  You might think this is a stretch of the rule since we can assume that Anisimov's intent was to celebrate the goal. I'm telling you I would absolutely "stretch" the rule and apply it here to teach him a lesson and allow justice to be served!

My best guess here is that since pretty much everyone, including his coach John Tortorella, agrees that Artem Anisimov's actions crossed below the line of acceptable behavior; if there was an opportunity to create a differential in penalty time Arti was going to get an extra minor. That's how it played out.
I must tell you that I agree totally with John Tortorella's character description of Artem Anisimov in post-game comments.  From my personal experience with this player on the ice many times, I know him to be nothing but respectful and a real classy individual.

Artem simply made a mistake in his jubilance of celebrating his shorthanded goal.  A valuable lesson was learned that I can guarantee will not happen again.
Steve Downie's charge into the altercation (video) from his players' bench creates some considerable discrepancy in the letter of the law as opposed to the spirit and intent of rule 70 - leaving the bench.

It is my opinion that Steve Downie did not violate the spirit of the rule and should not be suspended for 10 games.

Understand that the intent of this rule was crafted to eliminate bench clearing brawls - plain but not so simple.  The consequences of violating rule 70 (10-game suspension) is the second most severe in the rule book behind rule 40 - Physical Abuse of Officials - category 1 (20 game suspension).

The letter of the rules clashes with the intent. It's the intent and spirit of the rule that I want to apply in this case even though I don't think that Steve Downie should necessarily escape with a free pass. 

Rule 70.1 states that no player may leave the player's or penalty bench at any time during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation.

Rule 70.6 calls for a game misconduct penalty to be assessed to the first or second player to leave the players' bench or penalty bench during an altercation or for the purpose of starting an altercation.

There is some wiggle room in rule 70.2 - Legal Line Change, should Brendan Shanahan wish to impose supplementary discipline if he deems a fine or suspension is appropriate. 

The language of 70.2 makes reference to a player entering the game while play is in progress from his own players' bench (Downie's intended substitution for injured teammate Connolly) or on a legal line change during a stoppage of play (after the Anisimov goal). In these instances, should the player entering the game either start or participate in an altercation he may be disciplined in accordance with rule 28 - Supplementary Discipline.

Let's examine the merits of a Tampa Bay "legal" line change after Brett Connolly was injured by Steven Stamkos' hard slap shot in front of the Ranger net. Connolly limped to the bench as the Rangers went on the attack. The replay shows that Connolly was within 5 feet of the bench (distance for a legal line change, rule 74.1 - too many men) and Steve Downie was his intended replacement sitting on the boards with both feet dangling above the ice when Anisimov scored his goal.

Tampa was entitled to place 5 players on the ice by virtue of the legal distance Connolly was to his bench just prior to or simultaneous with the scoring of the goal. One thing that clouds the issue is the fact that Steve Downie's skates failed to touch the ice until after the altercation started. He would have felt that there was no rush to hit the ice at this point.

I would like to consider Downie as completing a legal change through intent if nothing else and entitled to be on the ice.  Rule 56.2 - interference might not support this claim.

While the rule penalizes an identifiable player on the players' or penalty bench that impedes the progress of an opponent on the ice, it also offers clarification as to a player being considered legally on the ice and eligible to participate in the play.  ("In addition, should a player about to come onto the ice, play the puck while one or both skates are still on the players' or penalty bench, a minor penalty for interference shall be assessed.") This means that said player was not deemed to be legally on the ice unless both skates were in contact with the ice. In Downie's case the play was stopped.

My final assessment on the play is that the intent of rule 70 - Leaving the Bench was not violated and should not apply in this situation. 

Tampa was entitled to have five players on the ice with Brett Connolly clearly at the players bench and his substitute, Steve Downie slow in placing his skate blades on the ice with the scoring of Anisimov's goal. When play stopped with the scoring of the goal Tampa was likewise entitled to place 5 players on the ice.

There is certainly some onus on Steve Downie and should not absolve him from getting involved in an altercation that was in progress when he finally bolted from his replacement position sitting on top of the boards. As such, I believe that Brendan Shanahan is justified in invoking supplementary discipline to fine Steve Downie for becoming involved in the altercation and receiving a minor penalty on the play. I see it as a minor offense and certainly not a 10-game suspension.

Please just raise your hands in jubilation the next time you score a goal, Arti! It's all in the spirit of the game and the rule. 

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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