Fraser: The breakdown on Clutterbuck and Pacioretty

Kerry Fraser
3/2/2012 12:55:01 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!

Hi Kerry,

First off I want to thank you for this blog, the first one I look for when I get online, excellent work.

My question has to do with a referee's mind set as opposed to a rules question.

On Thursday, Minnesota and Montreal squared off at the Bell Centre and there were two calls (actually one call and one non-call) that had me wondering what would go through a ref's mind in the aftermath.

The first was in the first period when Cal Clutterbuck was moving in on Tomas Kaberle. Kaberle whiffed on the holdup attempt and Clutterbuck either fell or dove. There was clearly no contact but Kaberle was given a two-minute interference penalty. I'm sure the referee knew before he got to the scorer's box that he blew the call. No real harm was done as the Wild failed to score - but it still looked bad.

The other on occurred late in the third when the Canadiens were holding on to a 4-3 lead and the Wild had the net empty. Max Pacioretty starts up ice towards an empty net and was repeatedly hooked by Kurtis Foster. The referee was in perfect position and had to have seen the hooks and either thought they didn't rise to the standard of an infraction (he shouldn't be refereeing NHL games if he didn't) or didn't want to penalize the Wild and effectively end the game (should not be a consideration) or felt Pacioretty embellished (why he would do that with an empty net in front of him I have no idea).  So of course, the Wild went back up ice and tied it!

So what goes through your mind after incidents like these and would the first affect the second?

Thanks for all the great work.


Hi Kerry - just got back from the Habs-Wild game and fans were really upset that no penalty was called at the end when Max Pacioretty fell on his way to an empty net. There was a distinct slashing motion on the play and even though Max might of oversold it, was it a penalty? And with the net empty making it a clear scoring chance, maybe a penalty shot?

Also curious as to what happens if an infraction requiring a penalty shot happens while the net is empty.

Thanks for your input and love your column!

Patrick L.L.


Hi Kerry,

I love reading the perspective you give us on the different situations. I really respect your opinion, and hope you can clarify something for me. Watching the final minutes of regulation in the Habs' match against Minnesota, Pacioretty was on what was looking to be a clean break to bury the puck in the empty net. He was taken down from behind, in front of the official, and no call was made. It went back the other way where the Wild tied the game up for overtime. It was my understanding that if a player is fouled with a clear shot at the empty net and lost possession, it would be awarded a goal. I tried to take an unbiased look, but it seems that he was fouled just the same.

From your point of view, do you believe he was, and if so, is it possible the ref just didn't want to have to use that rule?

Patrick B.

Shawn, Patrick L.L. and Patrick B.

Shawn, you asked about a referee's mindset when suspect calls are made. Referees - like players - have nights where they struggle. If the individual is open and honest with his performance he should know in the moment when his judgment was less than perfect on a call. An overwhelming negative reaction from the player(s), fans and of course confirmation on the replay screen that hangs high above centre ice can provide the ref with some instant feedback. I have overreacted on a play, snapped my arm up and then wanted to chew it. Of course at that point it was too late.

When one referee patrolled the ice and was having a tough night he had to dig deep and attempt to pull himself out of the funk and the fog that clouded his reaction and judgment. Some athletes are mentally tough and have the ability to battle through adversity (and negativity) to put the brakes on their destructive slide in a game.

Whenever I found myself in this bad air space, I would bear down and intensify my focus of attention on the play, attempting to block out all outside interference. I found myself relying on this inner strength when I ejected Blackhawks coach Orval Tessier in a game at Chicago Stadium one night. The fans threw everything at me that wasn't nailed down; including folding chairs from the lower section. I took refuge under the big clock at center ice until Orval left the bench via the ice and the debris was cleaned up to resume play. Now that was some bad air to deal with!

When I found myself in a funk I would do a play-by-play commentary in my head (and sometimes even out loud) to remain in the moment with a heightened awareness knowing I had some self-imposed obstacles to overcome. My audible self-talk was kept positive in nature to regain my composure, put my performance and the game back on solid ground. I would never resign myself to the mindset that this is just one of those bad nights and fold up the tent. Instead, I would dig deep, clawing and scratching my way the finish line doing whatever was necessary to be the best that I could be for the players, coaches and the game given the situation that I had created.

Once the league added a second referee to the crew, you would hope that the other guy would pick up the slack. The truth is that each referee in this system has his primary area of responsibility with equal authority. If one referee misses a penalty we have seen a long-distance call made by his partner to cover up. In cases such as this the back referee needs to be absolutely sure he saw it correctly from his vantage point. We have also seen incorrect calls made from a long distance away.  Mostly though all a referee can do when his partner struggles is attempt to talk him through it during commercials and stoppages of play with positive dialogue and provide support. You just better hope both referees aren't having a struggle on the same night!

It would be unfair of me to speculate what was going on in the minds of the veteran referee crew that worked this game in Montreal. What I will comment on are the plays that you have reference in your questions and provide my assessment. Those are fair game.

Tomas Kaberle did not interfere with Cal Clutterbuck. Kaberle stuck his rear end out to hip-check Clutterbuck after the Wild forward chipped the puck past him entering the Montreal zone. Kaberle made a thoughtful decision to straighten up and avoid the check given the delay of time that would result in an interference penalty if contact had been made. There was no contact and Clutterbuck fell as he stepped around the Montreal defenceman.

Initially at least, referee Dave Jackson felt contact had been made or he wouldn't have put his arm up. If it were me, I would want to chew my arm off at that point. His partner had a better look at the play from behind and on the same side of the ice and did not raise his arm.

The front view on a play is generally the best view to have when determining a foul; especially a hook or hold. From this perspective the ref can generally gain an unobstructed view of the contact and determine the degree of force exerted.

Max Pacioretty broke past Kurtis Foster at the Montreal blue line chasing a loose puck with Minnesota goalie Josh Harding on the bench in favour of an extra attacker. Foster's initial engagement at the blue line was not worthy of a penalty. As Foster continued to chase Pacioretty two solid tugs to the midsection of the Canadiens power forward were worthy of a hooking penalty; especially the one to the mid-section that caused a slight alteration to Pacioretty's stride and pull-back. I have seen calls made for less.

This is not a good or legal defensive play. Foster was in a deficient position behind Pacioretty and used his stick in a restraining fashion. Foster was beat on the play and the net being empty magnifies his need to regain control and position on Pacioretty.  With a good view on the play, this is when referee Joannette should have raised his arm to call a hooking minor penalty. Following this missed opportunity, once Max Pacioretty took a leap at the end of the play his fate was sealed.

Rule 25.1 (Awarded Goal) - A goal will be awarded to the attacking team when the opposing team has taken their goalkeeper off the ice and an attacking player has possession and control of the puck in the neutral zone of attacking zone, without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal, and he is prevented from scoring as a result of an infraction committed by the defending team.

Marco Scandella was back on the play from the other side of the ice and had the lead lane to the net thereby removing an awarded goal from the penalty option as per the rule; "without a defending player between himself and the opposing goal."

Give Minnesota credit where credit is due. The road team dug deep, never gave up and clawed and scratched their way to the finish line even when down by three goals with four minutes remaining in regulation time. Now that's the mental toughness I'm talking about.

Next Week's Update:

Hold your questions for next week. C'mon Ref is taking his wife on a Caribbean Cruise as she continues to recover from recent surgery. In place of the question of the day you will be entertained with interesting stories and excerpts from Kerry's book, The Final Call. 

Max Pacioretty (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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