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Fraser: Looking at the hits by Myers and Malkin

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Kerry Fraser
3/14/2012 4:13:58 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,

Love reading the column and as a fellow official, I use it as a learning tool as well.

I'd like to get your opinion on two recent and similar hits involving Tyler Myers and Evgeni Malkin. Both of the hits were penalized on the ice as boarding minors, yet one player is suspended three games and the other not even a hearing.

I feel that this type of hit is one of the most dangerous in hockey as it usually involves the player being checked placed in a situation where they can't protect themselves.  In the explanation in Myers' suspension, the onus was on Myers to pull up and not make the hit from behind.  Should this onus not have been on Malkin as well and also on every other check that is delivered from behind or "in the numbers"?

Look forward to hearing you thoughts on this.

Bill Bird
Adams, MA

Bill: If either of these types of plays happens in games that you referee please assess a major and game misconduct for checking from behind. Anything less would be an error in judgment and a travesty of justice!

Relative to suspensions I wish to point out a couple of minor differences that were likely taken into account.   The check (video here) delivered by Tyler Myers would be judged more severely since Scott Gomez was no longer in possession of the puck and Johnny Boychuk had the puck on his stick. There was considerably more separation between Gomez and Myers than was the case with Evgeni Malkin and Boychuk, which would deem Myers body contact as late. When you combine these two factors Scott Gomez was not aware of the impending hit while Johnny Boychuk, with puck possession, 'should have been aware' of some type of impending contact.

For me, this is where the differences end and violently merge with the dangerous similarities of the two hits in question.   Both players were in a vulnerable position facing the boards and both were hit directly from behind on the numbers. Both Gomez and Boychuk were unable to raise their hands and protect themselves from being thrown violently into the boards face-first; which in my judgment renders them "defenseless" as described in the boarding rule.
I don't even want to go to the "injury factor" because I view the play on the potential to cause injury and not the end result if injury has been sustained.

If injury was avoided on either of these types of plays I say they were lucky. I would choose not to rely on luck to deter players from making these sorts of poor and dangerous decisions when their opponent is vulnerable.

Let's examine the two rules that could apply in hits such as these. First rule 41—boarding states: "A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously. The severity of the penalty, based upon the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee."

The rule goes on to express the enormous amount of judgment in the application of the rule by Referees but also that, "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."

There was no minimizing contact by either Myers or Malkin.

The judgment utilized by the Referee in applying the different options of assessment available to him is dependent upon the "degree of violence of impact with the boards."  A minor penalty or a major and automatic game misconduct are the prescribed options available to the Referee "based on the degree of violence of the impact with the boards."

In each of these plays in question a two minute minor for boarding was assessed.  My question to the referees is how much more impact is required for a players face to strike the glass or boards or increased degree of violence to consider a major penalty (and automatic game misconduct)? I for one, sure hope I don't see it happen!

Evgeni Malkin approached a vulnerable Johnny Boychuk and had sufficient time to turn his back and apply a reverse hit (video here) directly to the back of the Bruins player and therefore had ample time to "minimize contact" as the rule states. I would have assessed a boarding major and game misconduct to Malkin as the prescribed penalty and in hopes that he would avoid a decision of this sort in the future. I also would have suspended Evgeni Malkin for a minimum of one game or a maximum of two.

Rule 43 - check from behind: "A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed."

There is no minor penalty provision for checking from behind; only a major (plus automatic game misconduct) or a match penalty if deemed by the referee to be a deliberate attempt to injure.

Tyler Myers' hit on Scott Gomez fell under the check from behind rule and Myers deserved a major and game misconduct for his actions. This penalty would have rendered Myers unavailable to score the winning goal at 2:01 of OT assuming that Montreal hadn't ended the game in regulation on the five-minute power play.

The three-game suspension was appropriate.

David, the onus was on Myers to pull up and not make the hit Scott Gomez and for the Malkin to minimize contact on his vulnerable opponent, Johnny Boychuk.

Two minutes sends the wrong message...you send the right one when it happens.

Evgeni Malkin (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
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