Fraser: Measuring the criteria for making a charging call

Kerry Fraser
2/26/2013 3:12:20 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!

Hello Mr. Fraser,

I have a question regarding Rule 42 - Charging. During the Vancouver/Detroit game on Sunday, Jordin Tootoo received a two-minute minor penalty for Charging (here is the video).

My question is, what exactly determines a charging call vs a regular clean big hit? The Rulebook (as I'm certain you know) states: Charging shall mean the actions of a player who, as a result of distance traveled, shall violently check an opponent in any manner. A "charge" may be the result of a check into the boards, into the goal frame or in open ice.

What exactly is too far of a distance travelled? I have heard many commentators mention that four strides without letting up would qualify as a general rule. In this case, Tootoo was striding and gliding a couple of times before gliding into the hit. (the last 25 seconds of the video show it best)

Or is the violent collision more of a deciding factor? This seems like it might be more heavily factored as it may take more speed and distance for a smaller player to create a similarly violent collision as a much larger player.

Please let me know how officials go about calling this infraction.

Love your column, thanks!


Thank you for this excellent example of how a clean hard hit can be incorrectly ruled upon as charging when a Referee is caught off guard no differently than Vancouver defenceman Christopher Tanev when Jordin Tootoo delivered this thundering shoulder check. Tenev and the Referee were in close proximity to one another and shared both a focus on the puck and a lack of awareness to their environment; specifically to the imposing presence of Tootoo.

When the hard hit was delivered it was a combination of the force which sent Tanev and his stick flying, along with the reputation that Tootoo has fostered for long, late hits that was ultimately ruled upon by the Referee without having a clear vision of the entire play.

As this play developed with a failed Red Wing entry into the Canuck zone, Jason Garrison gained puck possession in the near corner and moved toward the weak side behind the goal as his defence partner Tanev backpedaled to the opposite corner to provide an outlet. The Referee was positioned in the same corner as Tanev and their body position and visual focus were clearly on the puck as it was passed by Garrison to Tanev.

Tootoo, on the other hand, demonstrated great vision of the ice. He read the play perfectly on the forecheck, skating and gliding from inside the blue line on the near side to seal off Tanev's outlet and to finish a check if and when the Canuck defenceman received a pass from Garrison. By the time the puck arrived on the stick of Tanev, Tootoo had taken two hard quick strides to gather speed and then glided into the Canuck defenceman with a perfectly placed shoulder-to-shoulder hit. 

Had both the Referee and Tanev demonstrated a similar vision of the ice neither would have been so surprised by Tootoo's impending body check. While Tanev saw Tootoo the instant prior to impact, the hit looked far worse to the Referee from his close proximity and surprise of the moment.

There are certain players in the League who are known for finishing checks long, hard and sometimes late. Jordin Tootoo is one of those players. Opposing players and Referees need to be aware of the presence and position on the ice of players such as Tootoo so they are not caught off guard.

In direct response to your question Tony it is generally accepted that a player can take three strides to make a hit on an opponent with the puck. There is also a glide factor which is taken into account to determine a legal check as opposed to charging. This should be interpreted when a player must travel a considerable distance with speed in order to place himself in a position to make the check but glides as opposed to strides well in advance of making legal contact.

Another form of charging is a late hit or finish of a check made on an opponent two to three seconds max after the player has given up the puck. This is especially true if the check is delivered from a blind side or a player is unsuspecting of the hit.

Any time a player's skates leave the ice to make a hit, charging should be assessed. It drives me crazy when a call is not made to a player who leaves his feet to make the hit because it usually results in a high hit or contact to the head. If charging was called every time a player left his feet to make a hit I believe it would serve the game well in reducing hits to the head area.

As we have also seen the velocity/impact of the hit generated by a player who travels a considerable distance can certainly have a bearing on the Referee's judgment as to whether a charging penalty is warranted. Open ice hits of the "train wreck" variety with excessive force will usually be called charging. This is especially true when the recipient is unaware of the impending contact. Most will say the player should have his head up and always expect to be hit. The speed of the present game makes it even more important to have your radar on and aware of where everyone is on the ice. The bottom line is to keep your head up at all times!

How and where the player makes contact with his opponent can be factored into the charging equation when some distance was travelled to determine charging. Elevated checks near or above the neck, hands held high at point of impact or used to finish high will likely cause the Referee to raise his hand as well. Does anyone remember the era where a check was delivered to separate a player from the puck and not his head from his shoulders?

The overriding factor in determining a charging infraction will be the Referee's position from which he views the hit along with his aforementioned awareness and vision of the play from start to finish. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone, least of all the Referees.

Scott Hannan and Jordin Tootoo (Photo: The Canadian Press)


(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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