Fraser: Dealing with too many penalties against one team

Kerry Fraser
5/16/2012 7:57:10 PM
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Hi Kerry,

On Tuesday night Phoenix was on the receiving end of a 5-on-3 kill and Mike Smith wound up to chop Dustin Brown in the back of the legs. Brown immediately went down and showed some discomfort getting up, but was rewarded with the first diving penalty of the playoffs. My issue with this is when Smith made the slash, you know the ref is not going to want to give Phoenix another penalty after just putting them on a 5-on-3 (one of them being the Doan five-minute hit), but it looked like Brown went down, ref's arm goes up, then L.A. continued to play for a few seconds before the ref decided it was diving. It seems like the ref made a late decision to penalize Brown after he realized Phoenix was already killing two penalties.

The thing that I most disagree with in this decision is it was the first diving penalty of a playoffs that have seen a lot of borderline calls. If this is diving, then there are 10 other dives a game, and heck, if you receive a hard slash and fall down, that's diving too! Why did the ref feel the need to impose a diving penalty on Brown when there was clearly no dive?

Thank you,

Patrick Cawsey
Saskatoon, SK


Good day Kerry,

Great column. I'm sitting here watching Game 2 of Kings vs. Coyotes. I'm sure you can figure out where this is going already. Mike Smith slashes Dustin Brown pretty hard, and they're given offsetting penalties. If L.A. isn't already on the powerplay when this occurs, is it just a penalty on Smith? Further to this, in the third period, Dwight King took a goaltender interference penalty, which was well deserved. However, when contact was made with Smith, he essentially exploded to the ice in what seemed like clear embellishment to me. So, what I'm now seeing is inconsistent penalty calling.

Do the referees attempt to even out penalty time? If there is another explanation for this sort of inconsistency, I'd appreciate it.


Chris Phillips
Moncton, NB

Patrick and Chris:

This game and series has turned pretty nasty. The slash by Mike Smith to the back of Dustin Brown's knee is a byproduct of this nastiness. Since you referenced the boarding major and game misconduct assessed to Shane Doan let me share my thoughts. It was without doubt a tough call for the referee to make given the fact that Trevor Lewis turned his body towards the boards prior to contact. But in my judgment it was the right and only call to be made.

Even though Rule 41—boarding has a caveat in the general instructions which states, "However, in determining whether such contact should be avoided (player in a defenseless position), the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered" I believe this was a "must call" for the referee to make.

Doan was on clear, unobstructed path to make a check on Lewis. I submit to you that if Trevor Lewis had the time necessary to rotate his body 180 degrees while maintaining possession of the puck, Doan should have had sufficient time to alter his intended contact prior to impact. Given the degree of violence of the impact of Lewis' face to the top of the dasher board and the resulting injury to his nose and lip it would be irresponsible of the referee if he had not called the penalty as he did.

While no suspension or review should result on this play the boarding major and game misconduct to Martin Hanzal is another matter entirely and deserving of a review and suspension. This was a dangerous push/hit from behind that vaulted Brown into the end boards from the goal line. Hanzal also left his feet at the end boards to provide additional impact. 

Now let me address the slash by Mike Smith on Dustin Brown. There isn't a referee in the world that purposely wants to bury a team when they are already two men down, especially with one being a major penalty. In situations such as this it is human nature for the referee to be more 'tolerant' of aggressive play by the team that is down. If there is a break to be given it will be received. I think most might agree that it's a common sense philosophy but only to a point!

When I saw Smith raise his paddle and swing it down hard to the back of the leg/knee area of Brown, the severity of the contact crossed the line for me from being a simple minor slashing infraction to a major penalty. This was designed to hurt a player and not just send him a minor message as to where the goal crease was. Brown had not made contact with Smith, was positioned outside of the goalie's crease and did nothing to provoke this hard swing of the goal stick to an unprotected area. It could only be described as a demonstration of frustration on the part of Mike Smith and/or that he took a gamble that a third penalty would not result so he had a 'freebie' coming his way. I guess you could say he gambled correctly when offsetting penalties were assessed on this play.

Back to back major penalties would certainly be a tough call for any referee to make but I would have applauded it in this case. This was a player safety and player accountability issue and deserved a major penalty to establish and maintain appropriate use of the stick for the balance of the series.

The referee must have seen the play much differently, however, for him to determine that Brown was guilty of embellishment on the ensuing delay. Rule 64—diving embellishment says that, "any player who blatantly dives, embellishes a fall or a reaction, or who feigns an injury shall be penalized with a minor penalty under this rule." Based on the severity and location of the contact administered by Mike Smith on Dustin Brown this was clearly not embellishment.

Chris, I don't see that referees attempt to even out penalty time so much as special consideration is often afforded the goalkeeper. Goalkeepers receive special protection under the playing rules both inside and outside of the goal crease. Any unnecessary contact with the goalie is supposed to result in a penalty even though we've seen too many goals that were allowed following goalie interference. When contact occurs within their crease and the puck doesn't enter the net, goalies are definitely cut some slack on the "salesmanship" they might employ to make sure the referee saw the contact. It doesn't make it right but it often is the way it is.

There is also some game management that goes on by the referee when one team is committing the majority of the infractions. The referee wants that team to play in a more controlled fashion and would not want to miss a penalty infraction against the other team. A legitimate power play can serve the game well at that point.

As you say, Dwight King deserved his goalkeeper interference. You are certainly justified in claiming an inconsistency between Brown's undeserved embellishment penalty and the absence of one to Smith. All I can suggest is that perhaps the referee felt the game would be better served at that point if only the goalie interference infraction was assessed.

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit The Book Keeper website.

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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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