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C'Mon, Ref! - Fraser on penalty shots, icing and...1993

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Kerry Fraser
4/26/2011 6:53:33 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!

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Hey Kerry,

Two tripping incidents over the weekend where the referees made different calls. On Saturday, Sopel tripped up Bergeron in front of the Montreal net in overtime and the Bruins got a power play. Last night, Hamhuis takes down Michael Frolik on a break and a penalty shot is awarded. What are you looking for when you're calling it a tripping call or a penalty shot?

Alex,

Toronto

Alex:

Rule 57.3 states "When a player, in the neutral or attacking zone, in control of the puck (or who could have obtained possession and control of the puck) and having no other opponent to pass than the goalkeeper, is tripped or otherwise fouled from behind, thus preventing a reasonable scoring opportunity, a penalty shot shall be awarded to the non-offending… The intention of this rule is to restore a reasonable scoring opportunity which has been lost. *If, however the player fouled is able to recover and obtain a reasonable scoring opportunity (or a teammate is able to gain a reasonable scoring opportunity), no penalty shot should be awarded but the appropriate penalty should be signaled and assessed if a goal is not scored on the play."

When a play develops that has the potential to fall into the above criteria for a penalty shot to be call I always started a mental checklist (sometimes even verbal). I would do a play by play to myself, "Frolik has the puck in the neutral or attacking zone, he has possession and control of the puck with nobody to pass but the goalie and has a reasonable scoring opportunity…" At this point my checklist is intact with the exception of the final criteria - "fouled from BEHIND" (not the side). When the final ingredient is added to the mix I pop the cake in the oven and raise my arm announcing to myself, "we have a penalty shot!" The only thing that would alter the call at that point was if a reasonable scoring opportunity had been regained.

In the two plays you reference it was obvious that both Patrice Bergeron of Boston and Michael Frolik of Chicago, by virtue of the verbiage contained in the rule, fell under the criteria to be awarded a penalty shot when they were ultimately taken down from behind. The only question I can assume that came into the judgment of referee Greg Kimmerly in Boston for not awarding a penalty shot was that Patrice Bergeron, while laying on his stomach as a result of the takedown, took two swipes at the puck, both of which were saved by Carey Price. The spirit of the rule, however is that the recovery of the scoring opportunity should be as reasonable as the one that was lost! In my judgment, these two swipes at the puck by a player lying on his stomach do not fall into this category and while admittedly it is a tough call to make in overtime, a penalty shot would have been the appropriate call.

Similarly in Chicago, referee Wes McCauley had a narrow margin of error to make the correct ruling on this penalty shot call. With Michael Frolik having with no opponent to pass but goalkeeper Cory Schneider, the desperation slide and sweep check by Dan Hamhuis contacted the lead skate of Frolik first and then made contact with the puck as Frolik fell to the ice. If the order of contact had been reversed (puck first, skate second - resulting in trip) it would have been deemed a good defensive play. No penalty would have been assessed let alone a penalty shot. While in both scenarios, Frolik would have been taken down on the play, one would result in a penalty shot while in the other case the referee would simply say, "play on!"

Rule 24.2 Penalty Shot Procedure: "…The puck must be kept in motion towards the opponent's goal line and once it is shot, the play shall be considered complete…The spin-o-rama type move where the player competes a 360 turn as he approaches the goal, shall be permitted as this involves continuous motion."

Your question leads to another interesting call relative to penalty shot procedure on an attempt awarded to Chris Conner of Pittsburgh in Game 6 of their series with the Tampa Lightning. As Connor enters the zone over the Tampa blue line on the penalty shot he takes a look up at Dwayne Roloson and over skates the puck thereby clearly losing possession. Since the puck must be kept in continuous motion toward the goal and a player can't cycle it backwards (other than the continuous motion of the spin-o-rama) the attempt would be considered complete. Conner would not be allowed to skated back to retrieve the puck that was lost well behind him. While this was an anomaly, if it were to happen again the referee should blow his whistle, raise his hands to kill the play and avoid a potential controversy should the puck enter the net following a shot on a dead play.

So in Game 6 in Buffalo, Tim Connolly had the inside position, and as Mike Richards came in after the puck, he wrapped his arm around Connolly and rode him into the boards. Connolly went head-first in and Richards got two-minutes for boarding. How would you have called it and why?

Craig,

Hamilton, Ontario

Thanks for your question Craig: To answer your question we need to examine the language of two rules that might have been considered on the play; Rule 41 Boarding and Rule 43 Checking from Behind.

Rule 43 - Checking from Behind: "A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to defend himself…" Stop here; this rule doesn't apply because Tim Connolly not only should have known he had the potential for back pressure in that situation but felt the hand contact from Mike Richards some distance from the boards. At this point Mike Richards applied a push (as opposed to driving Connolly right to the boards with arm pressure as we saw in the one game suspension to Jarret Stoll hit for his hit on Ian White.). Evidence of the fact that Tim Connolly was able to raise his right arm to "defend" against the blow, even though his head contacted the boards clearly takes this hit out of the Check from Behind category which would have resulted in an automatic five-minute major penalty and game misconduct.

Rule 41-Boarding: "A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of he penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee.

There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the referees. The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule."

So the judgment to be exercised here by the referee will take into account all of these factors along with the distance from the boards where the contact was initiated along with the degree of violence that resulted to determine whether a minor or major penalty will be assessed. Given the distance from the boards allowing for an arm to raise in defense against contact with the boards along the position that Tim Connolly placed himself in (straight vs. angle to boards) in addition to the push by Richards vs. a driving finish of the check to the boards I would concur with the minor penalty that was assessed on the play.

Kerry, not sure if you can answer this...in overtime of Game 6 in Chicago, the Hawks got called for icing. It was about midway through the period and instead of dropping the puck right away in the Hawks zone, why did the clean-up crew come out? That bought the Hawks on the ice a couple of minutes to rest instead of taking the faceoff right away! Why not save that for an offside, hand pass call, etc?

Cam

Kamloops

Cam: It is a very astute observation that you bring forward here. A distinct advantage was gained by the Hawks midway through the overtime on an icing play when the ice crew came onto the ice. While you won't find this in the rule book it does appear in the Officials Playoff Manual. The Hockey Operations Department approved the provision for a mandatory ice scrape at the first stoppage after the 10 minute mark of Overtime, regardless whether icing caused the stoppage or not!

In my opinion, this decision kills the integrity of the icing rule which can catch the offending team on a long shift with the inability to change for fresh troops. There are ploys that teams utilize to drag out the faceoff in order to catch their breath following an icing. We saw Sean Avery wisely snap his stick just prior to the puck drop on an icing to gain some rest time for he and his teammates in the Rangers-Capitals series. A decoy centre will also line up slowly and improperly with the assurance to be ejected from the faceoff to gain a breather. None of these ploys are required if the pressure is on in your end zone when the clock reads just below the 10-minute mark of an overtime period. At that point the smart play would be to keep one eye on the clock, ice the puck and have at least a minute or so of rest. The players can also go to their bench for instructions from the coach and hydration. While the offending team still won't be able to make a line change, at least fatigue shouldn't be an excuse for not getting the puck out of the end zone on the ensuing faceoff.

Hi Kerry,

First off, it would be nice if you will still reffing, but enjoy your retirement and thanks for all the great years. There was a call in Game 4 of the Canucks Hawks series for too many men against Vancouver, but it looked like Salo had one foot on the bench already. I don't usually see them called that tight and have seen many this playoffs much worse that weren't called. What is the criteria for that call? They seem to be pretty sporadic at times.

Cheers,

Steve Watson

Steve: Thanks for the "shout out." I enjoyed every one of those 2,165 NHL games I worked (well, almost all of them!).

The linesmen exercise wonderful judgment in this regard and work with the benches to ensure they keep their line changes within the spirit of the rule. The exception to a strict of application of the rule is when a player entering the game from the bench or the retiring player plays the puck while his replacement is also on the ice. This is what happened in Game 4 for the Canucks. As Vancouver attempted to get the puck deep on an entry into the attacking zone, both Canuck defencemen - Keith Ballard and Sami Salo - moved along the centre red line toward the bench for a change. Since Vancouver had puck possession inside the attacking zone at the time along the far side half way neither player skated hard to the bench for the line change. It was actually a lazy change. The puck was turned over and cleared the Hawk zone towards the Vancouver bench. Alexander Edler made a clean change for Ballard but Christian Ehrhoff played the puck at the bench with his replacement, Salo still physically on the ice, albeit at the bench and about to step through the door that was still blocked by Ballard! The only way that a "Too Many Men" infraction would have been avoided in this instance (with Salo still physically on the ice) would have been for Ehrhoff to have abstained from playing the puck.

Hi Kerry,

We've heard your side to the Gretzky-Gilmour incident from 1993. Any good stories about fans and well (or not so well) wishers who have confronted you about it since it happened? Can you even sit down at a restaurant in Toronto?

Jason,

Toronto

Hi Jason: Our great game has such historical value but sometimes we can be on the wrong side of history! Unfortunately for me (and Leaf Nation) it was a dark day for both us. Yes, many Leafs fans do have long memories and even some of their offspring that weren't born in 1993 have been told of the evil referee that cost the Leafs their best chance to win a Stanley Cup since the last one in 1967!

If you read my book, "The Final Call" you would have read the entire chapter on "The Missed Call" and events that plagued my family and me for some time! As time has passed, so too has some of the vitriol that often bordered on hatred towards me. I don't blame people for being upset. It was a bad miss. I am just thankful that the Leafs fan from Kitchener that drove to my parents house in Sarnia at three in the morning and was banging into the back of my father's mini motor home with his car didn't have the axe that Dad chased him up the street with buried in his skull instead of the side of his car! Dad couldn't run quite as fast the car given the fact that he had been sleeping is his favorite chair with nothing on but his "tighty whitey" underwear and bare feet!

Father (Hilt) was a former minor pro tough guy in the IHL as well as a boxer and had he caught the guy the head hit he would have laid on that poor fellow would have been beyond deserving a modern day suspension but worthy of criminal charges! Dad passed away in 2001 so not to worry, you're all safe now. My dear old mother still keeps the whistle on a skate lace hanging by the telephone just in case she were to receive one of the many obscene phone calls she used to get following the incident.

In September of 2003, I returned to Toronto for NHL Officials annual training camp held in Mississauga. We had just finished a workout at the multiplex ice rink off Dixon Road and my colleague, Rob Martell and I walked out of the arena with our track suits on and skates in hand. As we crossed the lot toward our vehicle a pickup truck loaded with sand, motor and a cement mixer pulled up. An older gentleman at the wheel rolled his window down and in a thick accent asked where that Kerry Fraser guy is? I immediately responded, "He's still in the dressing room but will be right out." The driver remained in his truck as Rob and I got into our vehicle to join three other officials that were waiting for us. As we drove by the truck I smiled and extended a hand to my "friend in waiting." In that moment I could tell that he recognized I was that "Kerry Fraser guy" he was looking for. We were out of the parking lot before he could turn his truck around and follow. I knew I hadn't a need for a cement contractor but couldn't help but wonder if he was sizing me up for a new pair of shoes!

I love the City of Toronto. I love the people and the passion that they have for their Leafs and the great game of hockey in general. The Leafs didn't make the playoffs and yet if people aren't at home watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs they are out and about town watching the game in a filled to capacity restaurants and bars. This is a Hockey City in the purist form. The Hockey Hall of Fame is a shrine that is deserving of its location in this great City.

I love to talk hockey with anyone, even if they want to revisit their upset over the missed call. I have time and patience for everyone. I don't hide from conversation and most often there is civility that is extended toward me which I greatly appreciate. The fact is that I was part of hockey history for 30 seasons in the NHL and not just one missed call! (I missed more than one) It was a gift for me to skate on the same ice with many of the greatest players the game has ever known. An added bonus is that I enjoyed a tremendous professional relationship with the vast majority of players from each decade that I worked. As I turn the page I am also thankful that I am able to share my knowledge, perspective and insights with viewers and fans through the opportunity that TSN has provided me. When it's all said and done, you the viewer want to know what it's really like from the inside! My colleagues and I at TSN can provide that to you. So please continue to enjoy the ride through the Stanley Cup Playoffs with us.

And oh yes, I almost forgot to answer your final question Jason; I do get to enjoy a good meal on occasion without interruption in Toronto; even if it is at a Tim Hortons drive-thru!

Michael Frolik (Photo: Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Canadian Press)
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