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Fraser: Breaking down Orpik's hit on Toews

Kerry Fraser
4/1/2014 2:31:27 PM
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Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca.

In Sunday's Blackhawks-Penguins game, Pittsburgh defenceman Brooks Orpik laid a huge hit on Chicago's Jonathan Toews. Now in my view, Orpik can be clearly seen leaving his feet while delivering a moderately high hit.
 
Why wasn't there supplemental discipline, and should there have even been a penalty? I thought anytime you leapt or left your feet, a penalty is called!
 
Am I missing something?
 
Stu Alderson
 
Stu:

You and I are not the only ones missing something here as players continually elevate their posture and leave their feet at impact to deliver devastating hits.  Dangerous and significant contact to the head of their opponent almost always results whenever a player leaves his feet to make a big hit. In the here and now, these hits are deemed "legal."

With an eye firmly set on the end game, which I hope still remains to greatly reduce contact to the head and resulting concussions, it is irresponsible to continue down this path any longer. While each camp can passionately debate their respective position on whether to allow or eliminate high hits where significant contact to the head of an opponent results, I respectfully submit this issue should no longer be a matter of personal opinion.

Instead, it should only be about "science." Through irrefutable medical evidence, we now know the short and long term effects of blows to the head. This road map can provide us with a clear picture of the end game!

Brooks Orpik set up to deliver a body check as he slowed and glided toward Jonathan Toews in the corner. Toews' sole intent was to advance the puck around the end wall. In doing so, Jonathan Toews lowered his body posture to place him (and particularly his head) in a vulnerable position and must share the responsibility for the location of where he was hit. The onus of "how" the contact was delivered and the "degree of force" utilized is exclusively on Brooks Orpik and taken into account by the referee to determine the legality of the check.

No differently than the vast majority of current players, Brooks Orpik finished his hit on Jonathan Toews with considerable force as demonstrated by his upward launch with skates high off the ice. This intensified the velocity and violence of the hit regardless of whether Toews was in a vulnerable position or not. In many cases I would even suggest that an opponent's apparent vulnerability is something a player will capitalize on to enhance the degree of force exerted through a hit. We certainly don't see many players let up!

Rule 42.1 tells us that a minor or major shall be imposed on a player who "jumps into" an opponent. The "jump" element of this rule was once applied when a player's skates lost contact with the ice. Charging is seldom called in the current era of the game, where players leave their feet with far more frequency in the act of delivering a body check than ever before. The most common "excuse" for not calling this infraction is that a player's skates did not completely leave the ice prior to initiating body contact. This generous and liberal interpretation is extended to include times when the toe tip of one skate remains in contact with the ice at impact. 

Referees should be directed to impose a charging penalty in every case when a player's skates leave the ice in the act of delivering a body check, period. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see the end game; just a medical scientist!  

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 cmonref@tsn.ca!


You can also follow Kerry Fraser on Twitter at @kfraserthecall!

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