Fraser: Possible that referee called Karlsson a diver?

Kerry Fraser
1/23/2012 8:36:52 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!


Great blog, I learn something new every time.

My question is in reference to the Ottawa vs. Anaheim game on Saturday when referee Dan O'Rourke allegedly called Erik Karlsson a 'diver.' Whether or not it is true I can't say, but Karlsson did seem genuinely surprised and in fact offended by the supposed comment. If those comments were in fact true - didn't the referee cross the line? Doesn't it show a bias? Or do you believe that 'calling' a player out can be useful down the road...... basically saying "I have my eyes on you, smarten up!"

Much obliged,

Robert J Tobin, Berwick, NS


Below are the post game comments and allegations made by Sens coach, Paul MacLean following the Ryan Getzlaf non-call on Erik Karlsson.


ANAHEIM - This time, the Senators' comeback bid fell short.

But their coach had plenty to say about referee Dan O'Rourke's explanation after Ryan Getzlaf was not penalized for chopping down Erik Karlsson with just over a minute left in Saturday's 2-1 loss.

"The referee informed us that Karl was a diver. We were a little bit disappointed," said Paul MacLean. "Erik Karlsson leads the league in points by a defenceman, he's an elite skater in the league and to this point in time I never remember him taking a dive. If it's not a penalty it's not a penalty, but accusing someone of diving, I think, is serious."

Trailing 2-0 with 20 minutes to play, the Senators threatened to increase their league lead in third-period comebacks to seven. Chris Neil celebrated his 700th NHL game with his eighth goal of the season with 11 minutes to play.

But they couldn't put another past Jonas Hiller and saw their road winning streak end at five games.

"It's definitely disappointing," said Neil. "We obviously let down in the second period and they took advantage of it. You can't just expect to play 20 minutes in the third and win a hockey game."

The Senators gave up the first goal for the fifth straight game. This one came six minutes into the second, due partly to a Karlsson brain cramp.

With Filip Kuba slow getting back to a puck in the corner, Karlsson left the front of the net to try to help out. Bobby Ryan beat both defencemen to it, however, and sent a pass out front to an unattended Corey Perry. He pulled the puck to his backhand and flipped it over Craig Anderson.

"They knew we were going up the strong side and we won (the faceoff) clean," said Karlsson. "Their guy jumped past Kubs and one guy hung around the front of the net. They were first on the puck. They did a good faceoff play that we didn't expect."

The Senators fell behind 2-0 later on in the second and again Karlsson was guilty of a poor decision.

When Anderson stopped Lubomir Visnovsky's point shot, the puck flipped in the air. Rather than grab it or swat it out toward the blue line, Karlsson batted it straight up. On the way down, it deflected off Anderson's arm, while he was falling backwards, and bounced into the net.

Eric Karlsson is a very talented young player but judging from this article it sounds as though he was victimized a couple of times in the 2-1 loss. You might say that Karlsson just couldn't catch a break.
As we watch the video of the play with 1:01 remaining in regulation Karlsson steps up on the play and Getzlaf takes a wild one handed swing with his stick and makes contact to Karlsson's shin pad. The Senators defenceman did a bit of a toe pick and fell awkwardly to the ice. This gave the referee(s) the opinion that the force exerted by Getzlaf was not sufficient to take Karlsson down but instead was used in an attempt to draw a penalty.

I would prefer to avoid any debate as to whether a tripping penalty was warranted but instead focus on the slash that Getzlaf delivered.  Even though it was a one handed swing, Getzlaf brought the stick from above his head, swung it in a downward motion and hit Karlsson in the leg.

Eric Karlsson had the lead lane ahead of Getzlaf and was advancing in open ice toward the high slot.  I would have identified the stick swing as slashing and assessed a penalty to Getzlaf. It was a desperation play made by Getzlaf given his deficient body position as Karlsson moved into a better scoring area. We don't want players raising their sticks over their heads and swinging them at their opponents even with one hand.

Once the slash had been identified, if the referee felt that Eric Karlsson had embellished his fall then a diving penalty could also be assessed. I would prefer not.

What is really important to note here is what Paul MacLean reported referee Dan O'Rourke said to him or what he thought he heard O'Rourke say.  (That is where "alleged to have said" enters the equation.)

I find it difficult to believe that the referee would openly make a statement to label or brand a player as a "diver." 

What I could believe is when questioned by the coach as to why a penalty was not called on the play a response such as, "I felt your player fell down easy, did a toe pick, embellished the light contact in an attempt to draw a penalty or (more directly) I thought your player took a dive."

Any of these types of responses would be appropriate as opposed to branding the player a "diver". The referee has to make decisions all the time based on criteria such as this to determine when an infraction occurred.

In the emotion and intensity of any game a statement can sometimes be misinterpreted. Words of explanation must be chosen wisely by game officials so as not to be construed as offensive or inflammatory. The job of the referee is to always be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

When a discussion of this nature takes place it is advisable to have another official alongside to provide support if necessary and act as a witness to what was actually stated.

Lastly Robert, if by any remote chance something inappropriate was accidentally stated by the referee, I am confident that a direct apology will be made in a private conversation to right the ship.

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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