NHL

Fraser: Thoughts on the Foligno hit...and see you in 2012!

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Kerry Fraser
12/23/2011 5:14:49 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!

Kerry,

The Nick Foligno hit that got him five and a game was in my opinion, an overreaction by the officiating crew! At the game in real time my initial reaction was he was trying to avoid a full on hit and the Florida play was also trying to avoid it at the last moment by going down low (almost trying to fall on the ice backwards to avoid hit in a split second), my thought was Foligno was try to reduce the hit by spinning at the last moment (which players are doing these days when about to be hit), which caused him to lose balance and feet off the ice after hit. I was three levels up in that end and the ref was five feet away staring straight at it!

In slow motion replay after the game I noticed Foligno actually was trying to stop as both skates were sideways with an ice shower just before the hit. The other player kept coming and there was a shoulder to body hit and with Nick sideways and the other player going down which flipped Foligno into the air.

My opinion is a clean hard hit on someone with his head down until the last moment and the player doing the hitting trying to ease up and the other player trying to avoid it all at the same moment. I understand that the feet in the air could bring into question a charging penalty when viewed real time without the aid of replay, but five and a game? I believe it was an overreaction by the officiating team.

Thoughts?
Peter

Peter: A 'long distance call' was made on this play when referee Tim Peel appropriately adjusted his position up the boards as Keaton Ellerby carried the puck from the far side around the net. There was no initial reaction or call by referee Peel as his sightline was obstructed by the Panthers' No. 29, Bill Thomas at the point of contact delivered by Nick Foligno on Ellerby. Had Tim Peel seen the play with an unobstructed view I don't believe the call would have resulted in a major penalty and game misconduct.

This play (watch the video) would have looked much different from the blue line or closer to the red line where the other referee was positioned. The primary responsibility of the back referee would not have been on the puck carrier (Ellerby) defined as the 'action.'  As such he would have been focused on the 'non-action'- players in the peripheral areas away from the puck. 

It is true that either referee can call infractions regardless of primary area of coverage; especially if his partner is caught up in traffic, doesn't see an infraction or doesn't deem the play worthy of a penalty.  I have acknowledged that different angles and sightlines can give a very different perspective on some plays causing judgments to differ.

The back referee (or even linesman) most likely picked this play up late and saw Nick Foligno leave his feet.  Without following the whole context of the play it would be easily determined that Foligno went airborne to deliver an illegal and punishing high hit. I'm not saying that a guess was made here but just that it could be easy to misinterpret this play if you weren't totally focused on it from start to finish.

Factors which you accurately pointed out, Peter in your question were not taken into account on the final judgment rendered on this play when the officials put their heads together.

Nick Foligno was not attacking with excessive speed and was actually in an extended glide path as he set up for a fore-check on Keaton Ellerby.  I agree that Foligno significantly altered his fore-check in both speed (throwing snow) and body position (turn and skates leave the ice) in an effort to avoid direct contact and to minimize contact when Ellerby dropped his body position to poke the puck up the boards.  Foligno's left hand was removed from his stick and used as break fall or protection device as opposed to remaining compact to provide added 'punch' to a hit.

What I have described is what we can see from the wide angle camera that focused on the play from set up to contact. It becomes especially obvious with the different isolated camera replay angles.

Whoever made the call (individually or collectively) didn't have that benefit. Once Foligno left his feet it would be a reasonable interpretation, from a distance at ice level, that he did it to punish Ellerby with a hit and not in an attempt to avoid the Panther puck carrier.

Even Ed Jovanovski thought Foligno tried to hurt his defence partner looking on from the front of the net and made Nick pay for it by driving him in the face which caused the back of Foligno's helmet/head to strike the end boards.

Focusing entirely on Foligno's skates leaving the ice at the point of impact would constitute a charging penalty. (Remember Niklas Kronwall's airborne hit on Ryan Kessler a couple of days ago?) 

Ellerby immediately left the ice and proceeded to the dressing room with an apparent upper body injury. At this point, if a charging penalty was assessed it would be a major and game misconduct due to an injury sustained to the face or head of Ellerby.

I am not justifying the penalty assessment that was arrived at on this play. I am attempting to help you understand how the call on Nick Foligno most likely took place.

My take is that it would be hard not to give Foligno a minor penalty for charging once he left his feet no matter what we might deem his reason. (An injury to Ellerby would be as a result of his own change/drop in body posture immediately prior to contact.)

Jovo would then follow Nick to the box for roughing and the teams would play four skaters aside.

Upcoming Holiday Events:  (No more C'mon Ref column until Jan. 4!)

- Dec. 30: Our daughter, Jessica is to be married to Ryan Gano near our home in South New Jersey.

- Dec. 31: Winter Classic Alumni Game, Citizens Bank Park - I will be joined by my son Ryan (AHL referee) and son-in-law Harry Dumas (former NHL referee who worked my 1,500 NHL game at MSG , current ECAC College referee) to officiate the Alumni game played in the Phillies ball park. Former linesman, Kevin Collins will join our family crew on the ice and drop pucks. Check your local programming and catch the action.

- Jan. 4: C'Mon Ref will return after a holiday break!

The Fraser family extends the very best wishes to you and your family for a most blessed and Merry Christmas along with good health, happiness and a prosperous New Year. 

Back at you on Jan. 4!

Nick Foligno (Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Rich Lam/Getty Images)
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