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Fraser: Breaking down the Ballard penalty in Game 1

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Kerry Fraser
4/30/2011 2:32:17 AM
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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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Hi Kerry,

Just wondering about the clipping call on Keith Ballard last night when Vancouver played Nashville. I've never seen a clipping call in hockey before (it's common in football). What is the criteria to call clipping on what appeared to be a clean hip check? Surely the opposing players' height cannot be a criteria!

Cheers,
Nathan Veenstra

Nathan:

Clipping is in the rule book although it infrequently happens or is called during the course of a season. The point of contact and not the height of a player is the determining factor as to whether a hit is determined to be clipping. I saw the play along with you and in my judgment this was a classic old fashioned hip check and not a clipping infraction. Here's why.

Rule 44.1-Clipping: Clipping is the act of throwing the body, from any direction, across or below the knees of an opponent... An illegal "low hit" is a check that is delivered by a player who may or may not have both skates on the ice, with his sole intent to check the opponent in the area of the knees. A player may not lower his body position to deliver a check to an opponent's knees."

Historically a dangerous low bridge hit (clipping) was often delivered by dropping one knee low or to the ice just prior to impact and then sliding directly into the knees of the intended receiver! Hilliard Graves, who spent parts of nine seasons with four different NHL clubs in the 1970's was one of the most feared hitters with low hip checks that took the knees of several players. While the Ballard check on Jordin Tootoo might be termed "old school" it didn't fall below the line (or knees).

As Tootoo came down the side wall with speed, Ballard bent over at the waist and swung his hip to seal off the lane and timed his hip check perfectly. Tootoo saw the lane closing and left his feet in anticipation of the impending contact. Ballard's hip struck Tootoo in the thigh area above the knees. Since Tootoo was already airborne, his elevated forward momentum caused him somersault over the back of Ballard when contact was made. Jordan's leap and acrobatic tumble might have given the perception that Ballard clipped the Predator with a low hit but this just wasn't the case.

Ballard hits Tootoo (Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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