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Fraser: Applying Rule 40 to Carcillo's abuse of an official

Kerry Fraser
5/23/2014 1:23:18 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.

Kerry,

As many have mentioned, Dan Carcillo can get three, 10 or 20 games for hitting linesman Scott Driscoll on Thursday night. Why such a range of suspendable games in the NHL rule book? Also, have you ever been hit by a player like Driscoll was last night? Or did someone come close?

Jason,
Markham, ON

Jason:

It's unacceptable and intolerable for a player, under any circumstance, to deliberately apply physical force in any manner against an official!

Daniel Carcillo subjected himself to an automatic suspension under rule 40 when he crossed the line and clipped linesman Scott Driscoll with his elbow. Rule 40 is very specific and unique in that it provides authority for the referee (officials) to impose a player suspension; including a varied range of game numbers.

The history of this rule is also unique and was implemented following a hard line taken by the NHLOA in 1982, when players that physically abused an official were given a mere slap on the wrist by the League. This is how it all transpired and as I documented in my book, The Final Call.

In my second year in the league, there was more than a growing concern that player violence and disrespect against on-ice officials had escalated beyond anything that could be tolerated by the members of the NHLOA. Referee Andy Van Hellemond was the most high-profile target of player abuse, having been crosschecked in the back by Barclay Plager of the St. Louis Blues and then punched in the chest by Paul Holmgren of the Flyers. Van Hellemond, along with Dave Newell, president of the NHLOA, and legal counsel Jim Beatty, pulled NHL president John Ziegler away from the annual office Christmas party in Montreal on Dec. 23, 1981 in an attempt to convey how serious our concerns were.

It was felt that if stronger suspensions were imposed, players would refrain from what had been taking place. The league seemed to prefer the status quo.

Beatty then wrote a letter to the NHL, which he released to the media, advising that, because the officials feared that their safety was not being adequately provided for (as the league was obligated to do under the CBA) we would begin "working to rule." The letter clarified what that meant: if a fight broke out, the referee and two linesmen would retreat to the safety of the officials' crease by the penalty box.

When the combatants had finished fighting, they were to make their way to the penalty box and take their respective seats, at which time the referee would assess the appropriate penalties. This "work to rule" lasted one
weekend only and quickly got the attention of the league. In my game in Winnipeg that weekend, Jets tough guy Bryan Maxwell fought an opponent behind the net under the big picture of the Queen. I blew my whistle and the linesmen and I went to the officials' crease and waited. The punches eventually slow as the players looked for the officials to step in. When that didn't happen, they stopped fighting, picked up their gloves and sticks, and, obeying the commands of my waving arm, took their places in the penalty box for five minutes.

By the time the weekend was over, the NHL agreed to act, and, to the satisfaction of the NHLOA, a "blue-ribbon committee" was created to discuss and implement changes. The panel consisted of general managers, coaches, referees, NHL executives and NHLPA Executive Director Alan Eagleson.

The group was given the task of fashioning a rule change to take effect, subject to the board of governors' approval, at the beginning of the 1982-83 season. Before the current season finished and the panel got to craft a new rule, Van Hellemond was punched again. This time, Terry O'Reilly hit him with a wicked right cross to the side of the head during a playoff game against the Quebec Nordiques on April 25 (O'Reilly was suspended for the first 10 games of the next season and fined $500).

After its deliberations, the blue-ribbon committee put forward a tough policy known as Rule 67. This rule called for an automatic 20-game suspension for any player who, "deliberately strikes, or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official."

It also specified an automatic three-game suspension for any player who "physically demeans" an official or who "deliberately applies physical force" to an official while being restrained during a fight with an opposing player. In both of these cases, the penalty and automatic suspension were to be imposed by the referee immediately after the game, and the player had no right of appeal! Conventional wisdom at the time was that due to the severity of the consequences there would never be another case of physical abuse against an official.

That was until the night before Halloween 1983 when Tom Lysiak was playing for Chicago against Harford and he was ejected from a faceoff by linesman Ron Foyt. After the puck was dropped Lysiak skated through the faceoff circle and deliberately tripped Foyt from behind. The referee in the game, Dave Newell, suspended Lysiak for 20 games. All hell broke loose.

Lysiak went to court and got a temporary injunction. Ultimately, the suspension stuck. Unfortunately, Ron Foyt was terminated at the end of the following season, in what many of us considered a case of retribution over the Lysiak affair.

The rule evolved into what we now know as rule 40 to differentiate between varying degrees of physical abuse applied toward an official (There was wide gap between 20 and three games). Following the Lysiak court injunction, an appeal process was also added to provide the player with his "day in court."

In this case, if Daniel Carcillo is suspended under rule 40 by the officials working the game Thursday night in NY, the League will hold a conference call with the NHLPA to review the Referees application of this rule, and
will refrain from issuing public comment affirming the Referees application of Rule 40 until that call is complete.

The player (or the officials) may request the Commissioner to review, subject to the provisions of this rule, the penalty imposed by the Referees (Must be filed in writing within 72 hours following notification of the penalty). A hearing will be conducted by the Commissioner on an expedited basis before the second game missed by the player due to the automatic suspension.

For Category lll offenses only, the Commissioner may conduct the hearing by telephone. For Category I and ll offenses, the hearing shall be conducted in person.

After any review, the Commissioner shall issue an order that:

(i) sustaining the minimum suspension, or

(ii) increasing the number of games within the category, or

(iii) changing to a lower category, or

(iv) changing to a lower category and increasing the number of games within this category, or

(v) in the case of a Category lll suspension only, reducing the number of games of the suspension.

Note rule 40.6 provides that in the event that the player has committed more than one offense under this rule, in addition to the penalties already imposed under this offense, his case shall be referred to the Commissioner of the League for consideration of supplementary disciplinary action.

This would be Daniel Carcillo's second violation of physical abuse of an official and while that would not have been taken into account by the officials last night, Commissioner Gary Bettman should already have this case moved to his desk.

This column is already very lengthy Jason, so I will save player attacks that I personally endured for another time! 

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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