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Fraser: Bigger fish to fry besides water bottle squirting

Kerry Fraser
5/12/2014 2:48:51 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.

Hi Kerry,

So Shawn Thornton gets a slap on the wrist for the 'water squirting incident' - a childish, unsportsmanlike and potentially dangerous act, but players can get two minutes for spraying the goalie with snow when sometimes inadvertently just trying to stop quickly?

In your opinion, should the NHL ever consider taking a more serious look at such actions and add them as an infraction in the rule book?

Mike Cimba

Mike:

The Player Safety Committee should be commended for their swift action to impose the maximum permitted fine under the CBA ($2,820.52) against Shawn Thornton for his childish, television viewer unsightly, unsportsmanlike and 'potentially dangerous' act of water bottle squirting at PK Subban.

I am quite sure an incident of this nature 'will never happen again' given the maximum allowable supplementary discipline and public humiliation that has been imposed against Thornton (sic sarcasm intended).
Now that this 'bug on the visor' of Subban has been wiped clean and severely dealt with, perhaps the PSC, Hockey Operations and the Officiating Department can focus their attention on more important issues that have been continually exposed to this point in the playoffs? For starters Mike, additional rules don't need to written until the ones that already exist are more consistently enforced; or even just applied.

If the referee determined that Subban had been legitimately interfered with by a spray from a water bottle in Thornton's hands (Heaven forbid) the ref could have applied a broad interpretation to rule 56.2: a minor penalty shall be imposed on any identifiable player on the players' bench or penalty bench who, by means of his stick or his body, interferes with the movements of the puck or any opponent on the ice during the progress of the play (Thornton's hands are attached to his body). Likewise, the same rule 75 - unsportsmanlike conduct, that is applied (sometimes) against a player deemed guilty of deliberately snow-showering a goalie could also be imposed in the case of a player deliberately squirting water in the face of his opponent.

With the multitude of infractions that are being let go throughout extended portions of these games I can't imagine any referee imposing a penalty for this 'squirt' of liquid. With regard to player safety however, it appears to be a serious and unwanted element of the game.

So too was diving/embellishment once upon a time. Embellishment was deemed a plague within the game and language was added to rule 64.3 that provided authority for Hockey Operations to review game videos and assess fines to players who dive or embellish a fall or a reaction, or who feign injury regardless if a penalty was called on the ice. The punishment for the first such offence during the season will result in a warning letter being sent to the player. The second such incident will result in a $1,000 fine. For the third such incident in the season, the player shall be suspended for one game, pending a telephone conversation with the Director of Hockey Operations.

For subsequent violations in the same season, the player's suspension shall double (i.e. first suspension - one game, second suspension - two games, third suspension - four games, etc.)  When was the last time you read that a player had been fined for diving/embellishment let alone suspended? I have seen some known offenders embellish as many as three times in one game during these playoffs. I'm not suggesting for a second that players should be suspended for the letter of the law that this rule empowers Hockey Operations.

What I am suggesting is to focus on the real important issues beyond a squirt from a water bottle.

Let's start with an acceptable and expected standard of enforcement from the referees throughout a playoff game that is more consistent with those employed during the regular season. The rulebook has not changed from the regular season but the application and standard of enforcement by most of the referees clearly has. Powerful stick slashes that broke a players stick was almost always called; as the playoffs progress they are seldom called and have even resulted in goals being scored.

Obvious infractions have been let go; major infractions have been let go or deemed to be a minor penalty. The latest such example was the major boarding infraction by Brandon Bollig on Keith Ballard that was deemed to be a minor penalty by the referee on the ice. Bollig was subsequently and correctly suspended for two games by the Player Safety Committee for this dangerous hit that injured Ballard. As far as I am concerned they got in wrong by not responding in kind to the chicken-wing elbow delivered by Jared Spurgeon of the Wild to the head of Marcus Kruger. Kruger was pulling his upper body back and up after shooting the puck on goal. Spurgeon was going to miss his intended check and responded by leaving his skates and extending his elbow to initiate contact with the head of Kruger. Kruger staggered of the ice and went directly to be evaluated in the quiet of the Hawks dressing room.

Spearing incidents and 'howdy-do's' between the legs have on occasion resulted in the assessment of penalties. Sidney Crosby provided a pretty good 'howdy' to Dominic Moore that went un-penalized and resulted in a scrum at the end of the second period in yesterday's Rangers 3-1 win over the Penguins. In an attempt to keep all things in perspective, it would appear that a squirt off the bench with a water bottle will result in the maximum allowable fine being levied by the Player Safety Committee. Perhaps just a letter to Thornton would have sufficed; all things being equal?

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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