Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry Fraser wants to answer your emails at email@example.com!
In the Rangers v. Sens game Saturday, a five-minute major was called on Zenon Konopka for boarding. The hit was from the side and the primary point of contact was not the head - it was the shoulder. When Anisimov hit the glass, he turned so that his head hit the glass and he was hurt. I can see a two-minute boarding call, but why the five-minute major?
In the Senators–Rangers game, Zenon Konopka hit Anisimov into the boards, but clearly from the side. Referees were slow to call any penalty, but then the Ranger bench apparently got its way and not only was there a penalty, but it was five minutes and an ejection. This led to two goals, and Anisimov was back on the ice during the extended power play.
How often do bench complaints make and significantly alter calls? Also, how can you have a five minute major and ejection for a hit from the side, when the player who went down initially (and stayed down for a while to ensure the call) is right back at it a couple of minutes later?
Brad, Ken & All:
Prior to answering your questions on the Konopka hit on Anisimov I want to bring up a point of order. "Uncle Buck" and others have written in blog comments that I choose softball questions where I always agree with the calls that the officials make. Let me set the record straight.
First, I don't select the question of the day. It is forwarded to me by Kelvin Chow of TSN from the C'mon Ref mail bag. Please keep them coming because you make his job very difficult with all of your great questions.
Secondly, my answer to every question is based on three basic elements: Honesty, Fairness and an Opinion that has been gained from over 30 seasons as a referee in the NHL. I believe it is my obligation to take you to places that I dare say the vast majority of you have never been; behind the scenes and to ice level in an NHL game. While NHL officiating is far from perfect, the reason that I often agree with their calls is because most of the time they are right. The major and game misconduct penalty to Zenon Konopka of the Ottawa Senators for his bump on Artem Anisimov just doesn't happen to be one of those times!
In "fairness" you and I have the replay to look at. In "honesty" there is more than ample flexibility in rule 41-Boarding to have allowed for a much different assessment on the play. Either way I guarantee one side or the other would be left screaming.
Konopka has developed a well earned reputation for his aggressive play. I remember him as an honest player that always brought energy to every shift with hard body contact. Seldom did I ever see him pull up short or veer off a direct path to make a big hit. That is until I watched him adjust his angle of attack from directly behind, to the side of Artem Anisimov and then let up on the velocity that he could have in fact generated. I would even go so far as to say that the contact was more of bump than a body check.
I not only credit Zenon Konopka for attempting to make a responsible decision relative to body contact on a player that placed himself in a vulnerable position against the boards but also to Brendan Shanahan and the Player Protection Committee for planting a seed through supplementary discipline that I believe has taken root.
Boarding is imposed on a player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes that opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. While the end result was an awkward tumble into the glass by Anisimov which caused the Ranger player to lay on the ice with an apparent injury, I would like to bring forward two other pertinent components of the rule for your consideration.
1.) The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize contact. 2.) However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered.
I would maintain that Konopka certainly minimized contact through the adjustment of his initial attack angle in addition to the lighter contact that was administered on the "bump" to Anisimov. Secondly, I believe that Anisimov altered his position immediately prior to the contact and put himself in a vulnerable position facing the boards with his right arm extended upward.
If Anisimov doesn't stay down I don't believe play would be stopped to assess a penalty. Due to the awkwardness of the fall if the referee decided to call a penalty, it should be at best only a minor penalty.
A major penalty can be assessed based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards. Based on all the right things that Konopka did and the wrong things that Anisimov did I believe a major penalty on this play was an overreaction to the end result. (The awkwardness of the fall and apparent injury most likely caused the referee to err on the side of caution by assessing a major penalty.) The problem here is that when a major is assessed and injury results to the face or head of an opponent an automatic game misconduct is also assessed. I don't agree with the referee's assessment on this one Uncle Buck!
This brings me to another play in the same game that I would like to address when Wojek Wolski of the Rangers was assessed 2 minutes for an illegal check to the head of Daniel Alfredsson under rule 48. I take huge issue with the wording change to the rule and not with what the referee assessed on this play. While the NY Rangers might maintain that Alfredsson skated into Wolski I would find no credible evidence in that assertion.
The bottom line is that the prescribed penalty for an illegal check to the head is only a minor penalty or a match penalty if in the referee's judgment the player deliberately attempted to injure his opponent. (You, I and the referee's know that a match penalty will seldom, if ever be assessed.) Absent from the language of rule 48 is the provision for a referee to assess a major penalty; also gone from the language of this rule is the provision for a game misconduct to be assessed.
When I heard the language change of rule 48 prior to this season I shuddered thinking that a softening of the rule had taken place when it had become obvious that a tougher stance was required to reduce and hopefully eliminate checks to the head. It concerned me even more when I learned that the referees wanted the language change to only assess a minor penalty (or match.)
The result of these two separate incidents was vastly different and inconsistent. Zenon Konopka appeared to me to make a responsible decision and did practically everything that the Player Protection Committee would expect. Artem Anisimov, thankfully and quickly returned to his players bench and back to the action after his awkward fall into the boards. Konopka was ejected from the game in addition to his team being scored on twice during the major penalty that was assessed.
On the other play, an illegal check to the head of Daniel Alfredson was identified by the referee. Alfredson was attended to and helped off the ice by the Senators medical staff and did not return to action in the game. The only penalty that could be assessed under rule 48, (short of a match penalty which this clearly wasn't) was a 2 minute minor penalty and the perpetrator remained in the game.
"C'mon Refs", can one of you please tell me how your recommendation to lose the five minute major and game misconduct option in this rule makes your job any easier or helps to deter players from administering illegal checks to the head during a game? I know how I would feel if I assessed a two minute penalty and that player was subsequently suspended for multiple games for what was later deemed to be a dangerous hit to the head of an opponent even though you can say you did your job under the rule. We have always had the ability to deal with the severity of the act by increasing the severity of the penalty. That has been illuminated in rule 48. Worse yet, the player that remains in the game just might end up scoring the winning goal. Oh how I remember that feeling. I hope you will reconsider your position.