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Fraser: Thomas deserved match penalty for tomahawk swing

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Kerry Fraser
1/29/2014 12:12:44 PM
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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.

Hi Kerry,
 
Always a pleasure; really enjoy your column. Keep up the good work.
 
In the Bruins/Panthers game Tuesday with less than 10 seconds to play, Tim Thomas - clearly frustrated - took a swipe at Soderberg with his stick.
 
He was assessed a two-minute minor for high sticking. I am curious as to why this was not a match penalty and perhaps even a suspendable action. It seems to me had a skater done a similar action, as blatant as it was, it would be deemed as such. I believe this would fall under Rule 60.4, but am not certain. Can you please comment on this play and explain what the ref/linesman saw (or failed to see), to deem it a mere minor high sticking penalty? Thank you (I was trying to work the word 'qualm' in there somewhere, since I know you like it so much)!

Dear Anonymous Friend:

I have no 'qualms' in telling you that Tim Thomas deserved a match penalty under Rule 60.4 for the one-handed tomahawk swing with his heavy goalie stick paddle to the neck of Bruins forward Carl Soderberg.

Regardless of the score or time in the game, or whether the blow was in retaliation for Thomas being contacted on the shoulder by Soderberg's stick inside the blue paint, a match penalty was warranted based solely on the degree of force and especially the location of the blow with the goal stick to the neck of Soderberg. While no apparent injury resulted to Soderberg this was a very dangerous play that should be addressed by the Player Safety Committee. At the very least, a substantial fine should be levied to Tim Thomas even if that Committee does not deem the stick swing to be worthy of a suspension.

It is acknowledged in the rules that a goalkeeper's unique equipment is not only designed to provide protection and to stop the puck but that when used in an altercation can do considerable damage to an opponent. For that reason, Rule 51.3 provides that a match penalty must be assessed if, in the judgment of the referee, a goalkeeper uses his blocking glove to punch an opponent in the head or face in an attempt to deliberately injure an opponent.

The manner in which Tim Thomas used his heavy goalie stick last night falls well within the spirit and intent of the match penalty rule.

The reason the referee most likely assessed only a minor penalty on this stick swing was based on his obstructed view from behind the goal line against the end boards. I continually state this not the best location to view plays in and around the goal crease; as a matter of fact it is often the worst position for a referee to stand!

I want you to look at the replay clip again; only this time through the eyes of the referee that made the call from behind the goal line.

Tim Thomas' swing was very quick and accelerated in real-time but most importantly, the ref, from his position, was looking directly through Brian Campbell's back as Thomas' stick made contact with Soderberg. Campbell then wrestled Soderberg to the ice so both players were now directly in the referee's sight line. There was also a minor log jam of players out in front of the net (especially Tom Gilbert and Chris Kelly) that could have prevented the linesmen and the other referee from seeing the full force of Tim Thomas' stick blow to Soderberg's neck.

As quickly as it can happen, the full effect of a play can be missed or greatly diminished without the best sightline. I have no 'qualms' admitting it, friend!

Tim Thomas (Photo: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

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(Photo: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)
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