Fraser: Checking Tuomo Ruutu's hit on Andy McDonald

Kerry Fraser
3/16/2012 2:21:42 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!

Mr. Fraser,

How was Tuomo Ruutu's hit on Andy McDonald in the second period not a penalty for boarding?  McDonald was in a vulnerable position waiting to play the puck and Ruutu made contact sending McDonald crashing head-first into the boards.  I would appreciate clarification on this.

Best, Jon

Jon: Rule 41 states that, "A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player who checks or pushes a defenseless opponent is such a manner that causes the opponent to hit or impact the boards violently or dangerously."

As Andy McDonald and Tuomo Ruutu approached the side boards (watch the video here) on a race for the loose puck the normal rules of engagement apply. This means that each player would be aware of potential legal body contact in a strength battle for position even to the point of eliminating the other opponent just prior to gaining puck possession if the battle was mutually agreed upon. The Book Keeper website.

Under this premise it would be acceptable if the two players had been shoulder to should and mutually agreed to enter a physical battle. If the stronger man won this battle play would continue so long as the opponent wasn't excessively blasted into the boards as a result.

If pressure is applied from behind or even the side to eliminate a defenseless player (one unsuspecting of a hit or focused solely on attacking the puck and therefore not agreeable to mutual engagement) then a penalty would result. In this example if body contact or a push is utilized and the player were to fall into the boards with some degree of force then at least a minor penalty should be assessed for boarding (depending of course upon the degree of violence of impact with the boards.)

If pressure is exerted to the back of the leg or skate of a player chasing a loose puck, tripping would generally be the prescribed penalty. The penalty terminology should accurately depict the action of the offending player.

In this case Jon a strong slash to the stick of Andy McDonald (stick on stick) by Tuomo Ruutu caused McDonald to go off balance (toe pick) and tumble into the boards sideways with his right shoulder making contact with the boards. As such, a minor penalty for slashing (due to the force exerted; powerful/forceful) should have been assessed. If you aren't personally comfortable with the degree of force exerted on the stick to stick contact to deem it a slash then interference could also have been called.

I provide the following rule reference as support:

Rule 61, "Slashing is the act of a player swinging his stick at an opponent, whether contact is made or not. Non-aggressive stick contact to the pant or front of the shin should not be penalized as slashing. *Any powerful or forceful chop with the stick on an opponent's body, the opponent's stick, or on or near the opponent's hands that, in the judgment of the Referee, is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing."

Rule 56, "A minor penalty shall be imposed on a player who interferes with or impedes the progress an opponent who is not in possession of the puck…A player who is behind an opponent, who does not have the puck, may not use his stick, body or free hand in order to restrain his opponent, but must skate in order to gain or reestablish his proper position to make a check…[Restrain] The actions of a player who does not have body position, but instead uses illegal means (e.g. hook with stick; holds with hands, trips with the stick or in any manner) to impede an opponent who is not in possession of the puck."

Jon, I like two minutes for slashing on this play. Whatever you wish to call it the end result should be a two minute minor. You make the final call?   

For a personally autographed copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit

For a regular copy of Final Call from TSN hockey analyst and former NHL referee Kerry Fraser, visit here.

Tuomo Ruutu (Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)


(Photo: Mitchell Layton/NHLI via Getty Images)
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