Fraser: Was Kesler offside on Torres' game-winning goal?

Kerry Fraser
6/2/2011 9:29:19 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 cmonref@tsn.ca!

There's some debate over whether Raffi Torres' goal should have counted. Replays showed that Ryan Kesler may have crossed the blue line before the puck. That would have made him offside and the game-winner by Torres didn't actually count! 
Could any of the officials pick this out on the fly like that? How much 'give' do you allow a player skating into the offensive zone to call an offside? And which games scenarios actually get a video review? 

Josh in Red Deer Alberta

I am so happy that you asked this question because I am still pumped about the play, the goal and the call that allowed it all to happen.  With just over 18 seconds remaining in regulation time I was about to grab a beer and a snack out of the fridge in anticipation of overtime.   I was so hungry from the energy I had spent at that point just watching this exciting game that I was about to bite my own finger.

The play of Tim Thomas and Roberto Luongo was nothing short of sensational.  Given the goaltenders clinic they were putting on I was digging in for the long haul.  Vancouver had mounted an incredibly energized attack in the previous couple of minutes but couldn't get the puck past Thomas or the cross bar for that matter.  One last 'Nuck' rush and a microscopic call at the blue line by linesman Steve Miller put an end to this one and sent everyone scrambling for a replay to make sure Kesler wasn't offside.

I have to admit when I saw Kesler lose possession of the puck after taking a partial hit at the blue line, one that created an awkward entry into the Boston zone, the official in me sprang to attention.  It looked painstakingly close to being offside. 

When I saw my former colleague, Steve Miller step off the boards and into the zone from the opposite side of the ice and signal that the play was good I shouted, "Please be onside!"  After Raffi Torres buried a redirect from Jannick Hansen by way of Ryan Kesler I franticly fired off e-mails to TSN personnel at the game and in studio looking for affirmation for my friend.  None were forthcoming; it was too close to call.

In a case such as this the benefit should clearly go to the official, however if there was definitive proof available I wanted to find it. Through the high quality equipment available in the TSN studios, Rick Hodgson, Associate Producer talked me through the play frame-by-frame this afternoon as we looked to make sure that Ryan Kesler's toe drag held the line as the puck crossed.  Sure enough the evidence was there.
I asked Rick to tell me where Kesler's toe was the moment that he saw the puck cross the inside edge of the blue line and where he would see white ice?  Rick said Ryan Kesler's toe was in contact with the inside edge of the blue line in that instant. "GREAT CALL" I shouted to Rick.

Josh, I thank you for your question and I would like us all to acknowledge what an incredible call Steve Miller made on this play.  He made it in real time, from the opposite side of the ice in the pressure of a Stanley Cup Final series.   Rick and I dissected it frame-by-frame in high def technology to get the answer. These guys make calls like this night in and night out.  While mistakes can be made on rare occasions the "trained eye" is most reliable.  Replay confirms this more times than not.

In Game One of the Leafs-Penguins 1999 Stanley Cup Playoff series, I was desperately looking for replay confirmation on a Penguins goal I allowed in the second period.  Replay failed us that night and I was possibly the only one in the building that saw the puck cross the goal line.  Even year's later, Leafs coach Pat Quinn still thought I had robbed him that night.

With the Penguins attacking in the Leafs zone I was in perfect position a half step in front of the goal line and 15 feet from the net as a Penguin fired a rocket shot that hit the goal post nearest to me.  After striking the post, the puck hit the ice flat and slid along the goal line. Less than half way across the six foot span between posts, the puck jumped on its edge and curled along in an upright position. In a split second, I saw the puck cross the inside edge of the goal line, leaving an inch of white between the black of the puck and the red of the goal line.  I immediately thrust my arm forward signaling a goal.  The puck then fell back to flat, once again on the line as it continued to curl and exit the other side of the goal area.  No goal light came on as it would have been impossible for the goal judge to see it from his vantage point.  I had to blow the whistle to stop play because I was the only one in the building who had seen that a goal had been scored.  At least, that is, until the next day.

I described the play on the phone at the timekeepers bench to series supervisor, Charlie Banfied seated in the video replay booth.  The camera placement in the building was not offset from the crossbar and Charlie couldn't see what I had described.  All he could see was the crossbar-- no goal line. The play came back inconclusive for me to make and I ruled the goal would stand.  The Mighty Quinn, located 100 feet away on his players' bench, roared loudly that I had cheated his team.

Confirmation came the next day for me as well.  I got a telephone call from Collie Campbell who said that footage shot by an ESPN handheld camera that had been positioned in the corner - behind me and over my shoulder - was broadcast on SportsCenter, and it revealed clearly that the puck had crossed the line exactly as I said it had.  I appreciated Collie's call of confirmation.  He also told me that Pat would have none of it, however, and claimed that the footage had been doctored.

On that particular night in the Igloo, my "trained eye," just like Steve Miller's last night in Vancouver, worked much more efficiently than the replay.

Tremendous call, Steve!

Raffi Torres beats Tim Thomas (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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