Fraser: Sorting out the melee between the Bruins and Canucks

Kerry Fraser
1/9/2012 7:25:02 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!

Hi Kerry,

You are probably being bombarded with e-mails in reference to Saturday's game between the Bruins and Canucks. As a hockey fan for the past 40 some odd years, I find myself having a great feel for the game and its rules. But Saturday, there were a couple of incidents that had me somewhat confused.

During the scrum that occurred in the first period, Shawn Thornton was piled on by five or six Vancouver players during his altercation with Burrows. Is there still the rule of a third man in or has that been removed from the NHL rule book? 

There was not only a third man in, but also a fourth and fifth and six man in! Should Vancouver have been called for that? Not only were they not called for it but what resulted was Milan Lucic being tossed out of the game for apparently leaving the bench to join into the scrum (which the NHL later rescinded) and the Canucks ended up with a two-man advantage! This had a major turning point in the game. Please clarify to me the third man in rule.

Kerry, if you could clarify this situation or provide your opinion on what happened that would be greatly appreciated.

Hockey Fan Forever,

Steve Cymbaluk from Oromocto, New Brunswick


You are absolutely correct that there should have been a game misconduct assessed to one of the third, fourth or fifth Canuck players that entered the altercation already in progress between Alexandre Burrows and Shawn Thorton. My pick as the third man in would have been Maxim Lapierrre as the most obvious and aggressive of the entire Vancouver player contingent.

While I have outlined the "third man in" rule and the definition of an "altercation" in previous columns, it obviously bears repeating because both continue to be misinterpreted and/or incorrectly assessed.

Let's get something straight; while rule 46.16- "third man in" appears under the Fighting Rule, the language is very specific relative to intervening in an ALTERCATION already in progress.  Some might still hold onto the old terminology or thought process of the third man to enter a "fight", and if you do, please lose it immediately! That definition was changed after Darryl Sittler squared off to fight with a Philadelphia Flyer in Maple Leaf Gardens during the Stanley Cup playoffs and was blindsided by another Broad Street Bully and knocked to the ice. (Sittler and his opponent had dropped their gloves, squared off and even though they had yet to throw a punch, they were going to be penalized.)

Rule 46.3 (still under Fighting) clearly defines an "altercation" in the simplest language; "An altercation is a situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized."

The third man in penalty was designed to allow for a fair fight between two willing combatants and to stop brawling when an unfair advantage was gained on an outnumbered opponent in an altercation.

Rule 64.16 needs to be consistently applied by the definition in the rule book as to what constitutes an altercation.

On this play, Alexandre Burrows gave either Daniel Paille a little tap with his stick as the players were retiring to their player's bench for a change. Shawn Thornton was the trailer heading to his bench and, while taking exception to Burrows cheap shot, poked his stick forward making contact with Burrows.

Burrows responded with a meat-tenderizing poke of his own on Thornton, which infuriated the Bruins tough guy. Thornton lunged forward with a glove punch to the face of Burrows and pressed forward to continue this roughing situation.

Let's freeze frame at this point and apply our above definition of an altercation; "A situation involving two players with at least one to be penalized."

We know that Burrows and Thornton received slashing minors for their stickwork on each other. Thornton also was assessed a roughing minor for his hefty, stinky glove punch to the face of Burrows. There is no doubt we have an altercation in progress!

Both Manny Malhotra and Kevin Bieksa attempted to grab hold and act as peacemakers but appeared to be pretty much blocked from doing so by the lineman, who was quick to jump into the altercation.

The player that threw gas on the fire by going airborne to jump into the upright pile of players and officials in the scrum was Vancouver Canuck Maxim Lapierre, who was able to inflict some punishment with a flurry of visible punches levied from over the top.

That's why Lapierre is my pick for the third man to enter the altercation (one in progress between Thornton and Burrows). Instead of receiving just the 10-minute misconduct that Lapierre was assessed, I would have given him a double minor for roughing (for number of punches thrown) in addition to a game misconduct under rule 46.16 as the third man in the altercation (as defined in rule 46.3).

Milan Lucic was very aggressive in his involvement and worthy of a double minor as well but would have remained in the game since he did not leave the bench.

I'm good with the double minor penalty to Shawn Thornton for slashing and roughing as well as the slashing penalty to Burrows, whose first love tap on the shin pad of Paille, if detected, was worthy of a misconduct penalty which was ultimately assessed.

The fight between Nathan Horton and Dale Weise stood alone (toe-to-toe) and the major penalties for fighting were appropriately assessed.

To recap Steve, Maxim Lapierre of the Vancouver Canucks would have been ejected from the game in addition to a double minor for roughing. Milan Lucic would have remained in the game and received a double minor for roughing as well. Boston would have played one man short (not two men short) and the B's would have captains choice as to which remaining minor would be served on the penalty clock; one of Shawn Thornton's or Milan Lucic. In either case Claude Julien would have to place a player in the penalty box to serve the minor.      

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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