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Fraser: Examining Kunitz's hit on Bailey

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Kerry Fraser
4/2/2013 1:35:46 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,

I would be interested in your opinion of the Chris Kunitz hit on the Islanders' Josh Bailey in Saturday's game. Kunitz was assessed a five minute major, a ten minute misconduct and a game misconduct for launching bailey into the boards.

From my perspective, it looks to me like after Kunitz took a shot on goal, and the goalie deflected the puck into the corner, Bailey was the one who initiated the contact. Unfortunately for him, he was slightly in front of Kunitz and Kunitz caught Bailey at the rear of Bailey's shoulder, propelling him forward.

Given that the contact was initiated in front of the goal line, and the goal line is 11 feet from the end boards, I'm not sure I agree with the call, and certainly not with any additional discipline as some people are calling for. I would be interested in your interpretation of this call.

John Foust
 
Kerry,
 
What are your thoughts on the Kunitz hit in which he received a five-minute major and a game misconduct. It seems to me that the penalty was only that harsh because Bailey was hurt on the play. Every "expert" who has reviewed has said it was shoulder to shoulder and didn't warrant a penalty, let alone a major. Thoughts?
 
Marcus Macino

John and Marcus:

From an officiating perspective my call is that Chris Kunitz deserved a major penalty for interference (56.4) based on the degree of violence with which he eliminated Josh Bailey prior to playing the puck. A game misconduct would also be assessed to Kunitz (56.5) as a result of the injury that Bailey sustained on the play. The definition of interference (56.2) that applies to this play is, "an attacking player who deliberately checks a defensive player, including the goalkeeper, who is not in possession of the puck."

Although the push/pressure exerted by Kunitz was more to the back of Bailey than from the side in this race for a loose puck, a "check from behind" is to be assessed when a check is 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. Josh Bailey fronted Chris Kunitz as the Penguin player shot the puck on goal. As such, Bailey was fully aware that Kunitz was his closest opponent once Bailey turned and became engaged in a race for the rebound turned aside by Islander's goalkeeper, Evgeni Nabokov. Once Bailey was thrown off balance and went hard into the boards from some distance out he was also able to raise his left arm to provide a degree of protection from the impact.

For any contact between Kunitz and Bailey to be determined as a legal battle or strength on strength maneuver (not interference) prior to reaching the puck both parties would have to be knowingly and willingly engaged with one another from a shoulder to shoulder position. Bailey's intent was to play the puck and not actively engaged in a physical battle with Kunitz. Since Chris Kunitz eliminated Josh Bailey with a hard push prior to playing the puck interference is the correct call.  As previously stated, based on the degree of violence and subsequent injury a major penalty and game misconduct were warranted.

John, I do not believe that any further discipline to Chris Kunitz was warranted as you suggest some people are calling for.

Since we at TSN will be closely monitoring the NHL Trade Deadline and bringing you all the up to minute results there will be no C'mon Ref column on Wednesday.

I'll be back to answer your question of the day on Thursday.

Chris Kunitz (Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
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