NHL

Fraser: The referee's role in fights like Emery vs. Holtby

{eot}
Kerry Fraser
11/4/2013 3:46:51 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

Got a question on rule clarification, comments on rule enforcements or some memorable NHL stories? Kerry wants to answer your emails at cmonref@tsn.ca!


Hey Kerry,
 
The Emery-Holtby debacle. What's your take on the ref giving up on his (half-hearted?) intervention between the two? It was quite obvious Holtby had no interest in the fight. Not only that, while Holtby is still trying to get away, with his back to Emery and Emery raining blows to the back of Holtby's head, the ref waves off anyone who might be coming to intervene. It obviously looks bad for Emery, but I have to question the ref's actions on this one as well.
 
Eric Stone
 
---
 
Hey Kerry,
 
I'm sure you're getting a lot of e-mails and attention in regards to the brawl between the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals.
 
My question to you is in regards to the referee François St Laurent.  How and why did he allow that one-sided "fight" go on for such a long duration? It actually became uncomfortable to watch.  Did he actually follow protocol? Or should he had intervened?
 
Thanks!
TC
 
---
 
Hi Kerry, love your column and appreciate your contribution over your long career as NHL referee.
 
I'd like to set aside the fighting debate here and ask: Under the current rules and regulations, would you defend the refereeing in the Flyers/Capitals game on Nov 1?  In particular, I'm focused on the ref (right next to the fight) allowing Ray Emery to pummel an unwilling Holtby even after he was in a defenseless position.  I'd be curious to know your thoughts and what you'd have done differently?
 
Thanks,
Matt
 
---
 
Hey Kerry,
 
I don't think I need to elaborate on the absolute insanity that was the Capitals/Flyers line brawl on Nov 1st, 2013.
 
But what in the name of all the hockey gods was referee Francois St. Laurent doing by allowing Ray Emery to just pound on an unwilling and defenseless Braden Holtby? I understand that he probably didn't want to get hit by Emery (I wouldn't either) but he was even preventing Holtby's teammates from coming to his defense while Emery perpetrated what I can't even call a fight, but only call assault.
 
I think I understand the third man in rule, and that St. Laurent was threatening the Caps with that, but wasn't there something else St. Laurent could have done instead of letting Emery just violate Holtby?
 
C'mon Ref!
 
Rama Sriharsha,
Orillia, ON.
 
---
 
Hi Kerry,

During the Philly-Washington game Emery skated the length of the ice and went after Holtby.  From watching the replay it was obvious that Holtby did not want to fight BUT was force to defend himself.
 
What are the responsibilities of the referees when a player (Holtby) can't defend himself in a fight?
The referee (No. 38) allowed Emery to repeatedly strike (Holtby) in the back of the head.  The NHL is concerned about concussions to player, injuries to the brain and the NHL has created rule to help protect the players.  What if any responsibilities does the NHL have in addressing the actions of the referee (#38) on how he handled the Emery-Holtby fight.  If so why aren't the public informed of these corrective actions?
Jeffrey Kalles
Whitehorse, Yukon
 
---
 
Hi Kerry,
 
I'm sure your InBox is full of questions about Friday's Caps/Flyers game, but I'm adding another one. To me, a suspension for Ray Emery is a given, but I'm curious about any possible discipline for the referee and linesmen who allowed the fight to continue. It was obvious that Holtby wanted no part of the fight and that Emery was the clear winner.  Why didn't any of the officials break it up after Holtby was defenceless and Emery continued to throw punches? It looked like several Caps players wanted to step in and help Holtby, and I understand why they were waved off, but why didn't the officials step in at that point and stop it? Can the officials face discipline for allowing a one-sided fight with an unwilling opponent to continue?
 
Thanks!
 
Amie Anderson
 
 
 
Dear All: (The list is too long to mention you all by name):

C'Mon Ref's InBox is overflowing with questions surrounding "Sugar Ray" Emery's unanimous decision (just short of a knockout) over Braden Holtby. If this happened in the ring I am confident the Referee would have stopped the bout when Holtby was on the ropes, no longer able to defend himself and as the back of his head was being used as a speed bag. The same response should have been implemented by the Ref on the ice.

Score one for the proponents of old-time hockey; but for many a "black eye" to the game and whomever was responsible for selecting enforcer/goalkeeper, Ray Emery the third start of the game with stats of 4 goals against on 15 shots (11 saves) and 29 PIM's in 22:47 just minutes played!

So long as fighting is allowed to remain in the game of hockey and punishable under the rules with a five-minute major penalty; an additional minor and misconduct when an instigator is identified; or up to and including a game misconduct imposed to an aggressor (all of which Ray Emery incurred), line brawls and incidents such as this can and will occur. 

Let's first remember there were three other fights that erupted during this stoppage of play beyond Ray Emery charging the length of the ice to engage Braden Holtby; (Wayne Simmonds vs. Tom Wilson; Braydon Shenn vs. Alexander Urbom; Vincent Lecavalier vs. Steve Oleksy). Once all the fights got rolling and we do the math there were a total of eight fighters and four officials to attempt to break them up.

Linesmen are instructed to remain with the original combatants (Simmonds and Wilson) and enter a fight as a two-man unit so as not to give one player a free hand or advantage over another. Their job was to get those original fights to the penalty box as quickly as possible and move on to the next most aggressive fight in progress.

In theory, the Referee's first job is to clear the area of a fight by waving all players to their respective benches or at the very least to separate and assume a location well away from the altercation (Rule 46.18 - $1,000 fine to the team and $1,000 fine to the coach for players failing to clear the area). Refs are also responsible for assessing the penalties so they must watch for various infractions that could result during a fight such as third-man-in, improper jersey tie-downs, head butt, eye gouging, scratching, biting, tape on hands, etc.) Once multiple fights take place these responsibilities are not cast aside but must mesh with the overriding decision for the Ref(s) to intervene in an attempt to prevent a fight or jump in if a player is in jeopardy.

That is the exact position that Referee Francois St. Laurent found himself in once he became aware that Emery had charged up the ice and was challenging an unwilling fight participant in Braden Holtby. With all that was going on at the time the Referee appeared to be unaware of Emery's charge and as a result of this lack of awareness was slow to place himself in a good frontal position to intercept Emery. From a weak position to the side of the two goalies and with one hand and poor leverage St. Laurant could not adequately contain Ray Emery and the fight began.

Since Braden Holtby was not a willing combatant I would have been much more assertive and aggressive in gaining a position in front of Emery, placed both hands on his outer arms and flexed my knees to gain a position of leverage and strength. It is extremely important for a Ref who places himself in this position to talk Ray Emery down so that the player does not respond with aggression toward the official.

I would have said, "Ray, my friend, listen to me. Nothing good can happen for you here. I cannot and will not let you get past me. We'll be in for a rough ride and you don't want to be physically aggressive with me because I would hate to see you get an automatic 20-game suspension!" With the death grip I would have placed on him, Ray Emery would know that I meant business. None of this happened, however, and Ray the former boxer launched a barrage of punches that hit the target.

Once Emery quickly got the upper hand in this fight and Holtby was incapacitated I would have grabbed/tied up Emery's punching arm and slipped my chest and body in front of the Flyer fighter and skated him backward with my legs driving quickly and forcefully. I would immediately talk with the player to get his mind distracted and his adrenaline under control.

At no time when a player was taking a severe beating would I stand on the sidelines and allow it to happen without intervening, nor would I waive players away from coming to the aid of their teammate that was placed in a position of peril. I would assess the appropriate penalties that resulted from a third-man-in.

Some of you might suggest it's easy for me to say these things while sitting in a chair in front of a keyboard. I can assure you there were too many times to count when I jumped into altercations during line brawls and bench clearings. I jumped on the back of players and became the top layer of a three person sandwich when one guy had his opponent down and was feeding him his lunch. I remained in this position until the linesmen arrived on the scene or I was able to talk some calm into the aggressor. 

I had the occasion to ride Chris Chelios halfway across the Madhouse On Madison's ice surface until I finally took him down from behind by his suspenders when the linesmen were busy elsewhere. In Boston Garden on May 4, 1988 during Game 2 of the Wales Conference Final between the Bruins and the Devils, I jumped into an altercation between Moe Lemay and John MacLean to assist linesman Ron 'Huck' Finn. 

Our partner Gerard Gauthier was tied up with Bruin Willie Plett and Perry Anderson of the Devils at the time and unavailable. I moved around Lemay to tie him up just as John McLean unloaded his best shot with a left hand from over the top that caught me right between the eyes. It staggered me momentarily but also fired me up so much I skated Lemay out of the altercation and straight to the penalty box. My timing wasn't great but the end result was; Huck and I quickly broke up the fight as MacLean received 14 minutes in penalties and Lemay 17. Fortunately for me, MacLean had the soft hands of a scorer and not those of a puncher!

Finally on April 25, 2006 in the Eastern Conference quarterfinal in Tampa between the Lightning and Ottawa Senators, Vinny Lecavalier made the poor decision to start a secondary fight with Zdeno Chara. As "Big Z" had Vinnie on his back and ready to do some damage I dove into the altercation, covered Lecavalier's face with my body and shoved "Z" off. When Chara attempted to return I gave him the finger point and warned him of a suspension.

Until the NHL and NHLPA agree to change the fighting rule to conform with the IIHF, NCAA College Hockey and other leagues, player safety will remain in the hands of the Linesmen and on occasion the Referees to know when and how to intervene in a fight.

Engaging in a fight is about only time a player can pound his opponent in the head and not fear the threat of a suspension; even if his opponent is an unwilling combatant. 

Zdeno Chara, Kerry Fraser (Photo: Kerry Fraser)

zoom

(Photo: Kerry Fraser)
Share This

Share This

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to Stumble UponAdd to Reddit
Print this Story


TSN TweetBox
© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television